Xi3 has just started taking pre-orders for its PISTON Console. The console is deeply integrated with Valve's Steam and its Big Picture mode that allows gamers to play their favorite Steam games on the big screen using a gaming controller. Xi3's PISTON Console is the first unoffical "Steam Box" to be announced, with Valve planning on working with more manufacturers to release their own version of the Steam Box in time for the holidays. While the PISTON Console isn't the official Steam Box that Valve is planning on releasing in the future, Valve is still helping Xi3 finance the device.
The Xi3 PISTON console comes with a 3.2GHz AMD Quad Core A10 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. You can upgrade the SSD to 256GB for $340, or 512GB for $750. The price of the console at the standard configuration is $999.99, however if you pre-order the device anytime between now and the end of March 17th (when SXSW ends), you can get the PISTON for $100 off at 899.99. The console is expected to ship by the 2013 holiday season.
Xi3 is currently showing off its PISTON Console at the SXSW Gaming Expo where attendees can see a demonstration of the device in action. The PISTON console was designed to provide a medium between PC gaming and console gaming. It's a small, compact system that looks like a console, but can be upgraded just like a gaming PC. The device received multiple rewards, including the Popular Mechanics Editors Choice award, Popular Science Product of the Future award, Men's Health Coolest Tech at CES 2013 award, and many others.
While it is appealing to have a Steam Box that lets you play the entirety of your Steam library on an HDTV, Xi3's price point can deter gamers from purchasing the console (even with the $100 discount). You can wait a little while to see the pricing of future "unofficial" Steam Boxes, or you can wait for Valve to shell out its official Steam Box. Whatever you decide on, you have plenty of time before the 2013 Holiday season rolls around before you make your decision.