The guys at Xi3 Corporation have really been doing a lot of work to push along their Piston console. We saw it back at CES in January and then again in March at GDC. Every time, the company appeared to be getting closer to launching what many in the press believed to be the ‘Steam Box’. This term was coined by many in the press as Steam’s attempt to move into the gaming hardware industry and to have their own console. Now that we can clearly see that Valve’s ecosystem does not involve one hardware device, Xi3’s Piston can no longer be THE Steam Box. Sure, it could be A Steam Box, but never the only one.
So, what about the Xi3 Piston? What makes it so special and is it worth getting? Well, one of Xi3’s biggest selling points for the Piston is the fact that it is incredible compact, upgradeable and powerful. Not to mention the fact that you can ‘customize’ it to look like you want it to. The biggest question that has always plagued the Piston was not what hardware it will have, since that was told to us back during CES. A Trinity APU, paired with HD 7000 series graphics and 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.
The problem is that all of this hardware comes out to a bill of materials of around $500. Yes, Xi3 does have their own proprietary design that allows the system to be dynamically upgradeable and easily reconfigured as you can see from the pictures above. However, Xi3 is trying to charge $999 for one of these little boxes. I’m fairly sure that their markup is nearing 100%. Sure, it’s great to have huge margins when you’re selling a product, but the problem is that Xi3 is selling their Piston console for the same price that you could get both an Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and still have money for a game or two. They even had the audacity to mention 4K resolution support in their press release even though it’s questionable if this thing can do anything beyond 4K video playback at 30 FPS.
Xi3 isn’t bundling any fantastic unique controllers with their console nor are they selling some ground breaking UI or operating system. They are quite literally selling you the hardware for $999 and then you still have to pay for the OS and controllers (if you like controllers). The whole fact that its supposed to be unique is also pretty weak when you consider that there’s essentially only one configuration available at the current moment and its already $999. What happens if you want 256 GB of SSD storage? Will that be a $200-300 premium on top of the already sky high $999? It all just seems so insane.