Pandora Machine: Made In Italy
A slew of Steam Machines should start hitting the market soon, with or without SteamOS. And you'll likely see various solutions created by renowned figures in the industry. Many have identified an opportunity to venture into an unexplored territory full of potential, some of the companies are less-recognized names, but no less eager to create a competitive product. That's the case with the Pandora Machine, a device completely Italian-made by a company of the same name, a Sardinian start-up that gave us a closer look at its project.
The demonstration allowed us to preview the Xbox One-sized Pandora Machine, which can be situated in a horizontal or vertical position next to the large TVs occupying the living rooms of gaming enthusiasts. The design is based on SilverStone's Raven RVZ01 case; it's a compact solution well-suited to the Steam Machines concept.
A large part of the demo focused on the dashboard's operation, which allows Steam to run in Big Picture mode. It also launches various multimedia applications and utilities, such as an emergency recovery that can be used to restore the system without downloading installed games over again.
Those responsible for the project have also worked on compatibility with other platforms, such as Battle.net, Origin and Uplay. The future may include partnerships with Humble Bundle, Gog.com, Bundlestars and the likes, even though it’s somewhat early to speak of such affiliations. It’s also important to not forget that the heart of the device will always remain Steam, with its 75 million users and catalog of over 3000 games.
Pandora Machine naturally allows Web surfing through the use of a custom browser, which takes advantage of Internet Explorer 11 libraries. The software integrates the plug-ins necessary for online navigation and does not allow any file download.
Of course, there’s also the option to check out popular social networks thanks to sandboxed applications that take you directly to the page of choice.
In terms of media access, we’re happy to mention compatibility with the popular media center suite XBMC, presented in a more streamlined version with a little customization for security's sake. During the demonstration we witnessed the playback of an MKV file without any problems (the maximum resolution supported is Full HD). If you want surround sound, it's possible to pass the audio stream via HDMI connection or though digital optical out.
Should you want to watch a video on YouTube, all you have to do is click the appropriate icon to launch an app that takes you straight to the site, similar to browsing a social network.
Company reps explained that the Pandora Machine we previewed is a preliminary version, with higher-performance models to follow. Unfortunately, they wouldn't divulge the CPU or GPU used in the system. Though, after a bit of nagging, we did figure out that the platform employs an Intel host processor and AMD GPU.
Less secretive is the 8GB of RAM, 500GB SATA 6Gb/s hard drive with 64MB cache and internal power supply, which the company says should allow for high performance and low noise levels.
Pre-orders for the first Pandora Machine were supposed to start August 1st, with deliveries commencing in September. As of October, it still looks like the site is accepting pre-orders though, and the pricing information isn't immediately apparent. We're told to expect something between 700 and 730€. That'll get you a Pandora Machine, a gamepad, a keyboard with integrated trackball, a HDMI cable and a Windows license, as the device will use a custom interface specially made and based on Microsoft's operating system.
Those are the details we were given during the presentation by those in charge of the project. But once the preview was over, we took our time to have a chat, which allowed us to delve deeper into details about the Pandora Machine.
They said they are going with an AMD GPU.
Then its unlikely to be of any help at breaking new ground for the PC.
I was thinking along the lines of a mini 970 coupled with high capacity SSD, something that would bring size and power consumption to a new low, with performance of a full sized system. That would really put a nail in the coffin for the consoles.