Rumors of Valve's 'Steam Box', a console form factor PC designed specifically to support PC Steam games on big, high-definition screens for residential and LAN party gaming, came one step closer to reality at CES 2013 with Valve CEO Gabe Newell and third party partner Xi3 joint unveiling the Xi3 Piston modular PC, a small form factor PC with an upgradeable modular design. Newell revealed that the Xi3 Piston is just one of many prototype form factors for the Steam Box that Valve is currently working on with third party manufacturers.
The Xi3 Piston is modeled after Xi3's X7A line of small form factor modular PCs. The demo unit of the Xi3 Piston utilizes a motherboard split into three parts, and boasts a quad-core CPU, 8GB of RAM and up to 1TB of solid-state storage. Connectivity looks very impressive with the entire rear of the unit crammed with ports including one RJ-45 ethernet port, audio in/out, SPDIF optical audio, four USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports (with one dedicated to keyboard input), four eSATAp ports, two Mini Display Port ports and one DisplayPort/HDMI port.
No pricing has been announced yet, however, as the Piston is based on Xi3s 'Performance level' X7A PC, which is priced at $999, we can speculate that, should this prototype become the final launch version of the Steam Box, it will cost a similar amount. This, notably, would make it much more expensive than the likely retail prices of the upcoming next generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft.