Tom’s Hardware: Where did the idea to create Pandora Machine come from?
Pandora Machine: We wanted to marry the extraordinary computational power of modern PC hardware with the convenience and immediacy of “next-gen” consoles.
Fundamentally we started from zero. Since we’re all gamers, we found that current-generation consoles don't establish a clear advantage over PCs in terms of performance and efficiency. Rather, the trend is reversed in our opinion.
The advantages of PC games can be the scalability of their graphics, the possibility of using a mouse and keyboard and the price of software. We know this already. The disadvantages remain rather obvious though, including clutter, noise and complexity of use, which simply don't apply in the console world.
We floated the idea of trying to design something as powerful as a computer, comfortable like a console and able to encompass the merits of both platforms. From this was birthed Pandora Machine, a system optimized for performance: compact, silent, but above all extremely simple to install and use. Steam finally represents the beating heart of the machine. The moment we outlined the guidelines for the project, we realized that its integration and potential (the simplicity and the prices we all know about) would become a natural evolution of the ideas we were trying to develop.
TH: How did you handle the bureaucratic part with Valve?
PM: Our interest in the world of Steam goes back many years. Therefore our contact with Valve was almost natural. We initiated contact, presented the project and received a very positive response; after a period of time and overcoming the platform's challenges, we were finally invited into their program and the collaboration was born. In purely economic terms, Valve has not demanded anything (at least for now), but the procedures to obtain the license have been very challenging.
TH: Let’s move to some of the details of the hardware. What materials did you choose for Pandora Machine? How did you manage the cooling of the device?
PM: The current model “Prime” is based on a custom RVZ01 case from SilverStone, incorporating plastic and steel with a black satin finish. It can be installed in either vertical or horizontal position, and the rubber mounts are supplied for both configurations.
Great care has been taken by the manufacturer to address ventilation. Three 120x120mm vents allow the PM Prime to breathe better in all situations, aided by two low-profile fans. Another interesting detail is the kit of magnetic filters, provided to protect the air intakes.
The final result is a rather compact machine, connected by only two cables (power and HDMI), silent and well-ventilated in both positions.
TH: What hardware did you choose for Pandora Machine?
PM: For the “Prime” version, we chose a system based on Intel's CPU architecture and an AMD GPU, complemented by 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive and integrated Wi-Fi. All of this is supported by an excellent internal power supply.
TH: Hard disk: hybrid or traditional? Why not a SSD?
PM: At the moment, we're using a conventional hard drive. However, we foresee the implementation of various solutions and even better performance on higher-end iterations. We're also evaluating possible upgrades for the Prime.
TH: On your website, you write that there will be various models of Pandora Machine. Will the base model (Prime) be able to run modern titles in FullHD at 60FPS, or will there need to be some compromises (like buying a higher-end model)?
PM: As passionate gamers who know well the costs and requirements, we thought it was ideal to introduce a fair compromise. A configuration, resulting from several evaluations and tests, able to deliver high performance at an affordable price to attract players from other platforms. Of course, the Prime model, as mentioned, will be what we launch with.
Originally this was supposed to guarantee a minimum of 60FPS at 720p, but we found that it was often possible to achieve 60FPS at 1080p as well, though giving up some graphics quality is sometimes necessary. On subsequent versions, and with future upgrades, our idea is to raise the bar, keeping steadfast with our philosophy of balance between performance and price, until we reach 1080p without compromises.
Moreover, by choosing an AMD GPU, we can potentially enjoy an enormous performance advantage thanks also to the evolution of Mantle, which we hope will give us amazing results on this first version of PM.
Our idea is to start with a high-performance machine at the hardware level and offer a high level of software support from the beginning, with an evolutionary path shared as much as possible with the users, on whom we pose no limits.