what can you play on it? / Hebrew

what can you play on it? / Hebrew

More than 10 years ago, prototypes of the Steam Machine gaming device began to appear. As a result, Valve has developed several specialized devices together with partners – such brands as Alienware, Gigabyte Technology, Zotac and others. A whole ecosystem of devices, software and accessories appeared. Just a few days ago, one of the prototypes of the Steam Machine was discovered, which was studied and even played with. What kind of device is this?

Mini PC from Xi3

The company Xi3 is well known for its miniature computers. She released them both before and after cooperation with Valve. But the partnership looked promising.

Wikipedia tells us that on January 9, 2013, a solution developed by Valve and computer manufacturer Xi3 was presented at CES 2013. The computer was placed in a small case, which, according to the manufacturer, “is no bigger than a grapefruit” (well, although there were no comparisons with the stadium), and it is clear that it will compete with set-top boxes, and not with personal computers by computers The code name of the decision is Piston, the final naming was not yet ready. Piston is specially optimized to work with Steam and use Steam Big Picture technology.

At that time, it was only known that the computer codenamed Piston (after all, it is Xi3 7A) received a quad-core processor and a hard drive up to 1 TB. Power – 40 W. A little later, the characteristics of the Steam Machines model range became known (there were several devices):

  • GPU: some devices with Nvidia Titan, GTX780, GTX760, others with GTX660

  • CPU: some devices with Intel i7-4770, i5-4570, others with i3

  • RAM: 16GB DDR3-1600 (CPU), 3GB GDDR5 (GPU)

  • hard drive: hybrid SSHD (1TB HDD + 8GB flash memory)

  • Power Supply: internal 450 W, 80 PLUS Gold certificate

  • dimensions: 305×315×74 mm

Unfortunately, Valve later stopped working with Xi3, but the prototypes still remained and were kept by various people and companies. As a result, as mentioned above, a YouTuber with the nickname Bringus Studios managed to buy one of them.

What did he buy?

Unlike other Steam Machines, this Xi3-based computer ran Windows instead of the Linux-based SteamOS operating system. The PC, which Xi3 later released under the name Piston, had average gaming performance in Bringus Studios’ tests, and wasn’t even very fast at the time. Not to mention his capabilities now.

Under the hood of the Piston is an AMD Trinity processor and 8 GB of RAM. This chip is a model called R-464L, but it’s actually AMD’s 2012 A10-4600M. Even 12 years ago, the A10-4600M didn’t show anything impressive when it came to gaming. Accordingly, approximately the same success in Xi3. During testing, Bringus Studios had a hard time getting the Piston to run many games at all. Half-Life ran fine, but in the case of Half-Life 2, it barely managed to reach 60 FPS. Portal 2 was running at 30 FPS, but it still slowed down, and with Team Fortress 2, everything was bad, FPS could not be raised above 20.

For more modern games, the results were mixed. Bringus Studios was actually able to make Doom 2016 run pretty well at 480p, but Counter-Strike 2 was almost unplayable even at minimum settings, dropping texture quality and other things to a minimum.

The reasons why Valve ended its partnership (if it ever had one) with Xi3 are unclear. This may have been due to the high price or poor performance, but more likely it was because the Xi3 management planned to use Windows. With Linux, this small device refused to work – Bringus Studios failed to load either of the two distributions tested. However, the prototype worked fine in both Windows 11 and 10. Here is a video of the device being tested:

Valve eventually went ahead with Steam Machines that used Linux-based SteamOS instead of relying on Windows. Although the Steam Machine wasn’t a huge success, SteamOS continued to work and now we have SteamOS 3 on the Steam Deck. If Valve had switched to Windows instead, the PC gaming landscape might look very different today.

But, by the way, a small device was still able to surprise digital archaeologists. First, it had an interesting modular design that allowed the device to be upgraded without problems.

Second, this mini PC had a hybrid port that is compatible with both HDMI and DP. But that’s not all. There is an option in the BIOS that allows the Valve Steam Box prototype to automatically detect which cable is connected to which port.

You can also configure the mini PC BIOS so that the port works as DP or HDMI. An interesting possibility, which, unfortunately, has not yet become widespread. This is probably due to HDMI licensing and related legal complications.

Be that as it may, the small device got a second life, and probably we will hear more about it in the near future.

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