Very recently--like earlier today recently--the Xi3 Piston made something of an appearance, complete with some information about its spec loadout and similar matters. Though the Xi3 Piston isn't exactly a Steam Machine
, it's set to offer many of the same functions. Examining that spec loadout, however, reveals some distressing points that may well derail Steam Machine before it can really get chugging along.
The Piston itself is a tiny marvel of design, looking like a wonderful polygonal X-shape. Additionally, the spec loadout makes this certainly look like a little more than some kind of fluff box; it's packing eight gigs of RAM, 128 gigs of solid-state storage, a quad-core AMD Trinity processor running at 3.2 GHz. This is a fairly impressive loadout that should be able to handle quite a bit of Steam's lineup, but there are already some issues that certain spectators are noticing, particularly in the graphics card.
Forbes' Jason Evangelho pointed out that many of the bigger-name games out there aren't exactly going to be welcome on the Piston, thanks to its AMD Radeon 7600G graphics, which is in turn part of AMD's Accelerated Processing Units, making it more of a graphics core than a complete GPU. Worse, at last report, it was a big part of the last generation of APUs, not the current generation. Worse, some benchmarks against more modern games like "Far Cry 3
" and "Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
" suggest that the graphics used can't keep up.
This by itself is sort of a shot in the foot--though admittedly, this may not be too much of a problem given everything that's on steam--but if it isn't too bad today, it's a disaster tomorrow. The games will only get better in terms of graphics, and if the Piston is already having a tough time today based on some findings, how bad will it get later on?
Perhaps even worse is the price tag for the Xi3 Piston. Even if there were absolutely no graphics or performance issues here, the price tag is still patently massive, coming in at fully $999, and it's set to release November 29, fully two weeks after the PlayStation 4 and a week after the Xbox One. So not only is this going to be walking into a hotly-competitive field, it's going to walk into that field packing double--two and a half times for the PlayStation 4--the price tag and late to the party besides. That's not a combination that screams success; it's more like a combination that screams bloody murder. And that may not be the kind of combination that bodes well for either Xi3 or even the Steam Machine as a whole. We all know that there are to be multiple Steam Machines out there, and said devices need to be top-notch in order to really win the day, especially given said line will be going into an entrenched environment with well-known products.
This isn't exactly the best start for the Steam Machine field, even if this isn't really a Steam Machine. A better option is going to need to emerge, and soon, lest the field be prematurely colored against the Steam Machine as a whole.