Hey gang, Valkor here. My brothers and sisters, we are at the dawn of a new era – a new era in gaming and the wonders of what the new, next gen consoles will bring. Sony's Playstation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One are about to be unleashed, but if you're more into PC gaming, plus you're looking for a well-rounded console… and if you have a thousand bucks to spare, then maybe Xi3's Piston PC console might just be what you're looking for.
At last night's CES Unveiled, I got the chance to meet with the reps, discuss the device and also get some serious hands on – as far as gaming goes. The Piston takes the shape of Xi3's popular modular cube design, checking in at four inches all around. Not only is the design perfect as a set top box, but it's also suitable for on the go. At the back of the device is where you'll find all of your ports – three video ports (The Piston supports three displays), 12 USB ports, digital audio jacks, and an Ethernet port. Internally, you have a quad-core 64bit processor with 8GBs of RAM and a 128GB SSD (it supports dual SSDs up to one terabyte).
The UI is a custom interface on top of Windows 7 and you can pin all of your favorite apps and games so you can have them ready at the jump. So any and all of your digital content can be accessed through this hub. And this is where I really wanted to play, but considering the Piston is being touted as a gaming device, I made my gaming selection – Batman: Arkham Origins, after agreeing to and then passing on Tomb Raider. Before I dive into the hands on, I was told that you can bring your own controller to the Piston (I.E. Xbox, PS3, or other 3rd party controller). With the PS3 controller, you'll need a separate adapter, but the Xbox will (and should) work straight away.
Back to Arkham Origins; I was expecting a much smoother experience and while the game played kinda framey, it was not unplayable. In fact the level of detail from the ripples in the bat suit, the lighting effects and I even notice tiny bugs crawling across the floor, was pretty amazing stuff. And while I wasn't used to the control scheme (I'm a PS3 guy and they used an Xbox controller), I didn't have any issues giving the baddies a Bat beatdown. There was no lag, no hang ups, and no crashes (at that moment); in short, it felt like I was console gaming and I think there's room to improve.
My thoughts: I can see potential in the Piston and I believe with future updates to the UI (give it more icons), maybe an update to smooth out gameplay then the Piston would make for a great set top box and gaming alternative. What will deter most folks from running out and snatching up a Piston of their own is the price tag – a thousand bucks is a stretch for most homes and given the fact that you can get a newer PS4 or Xbox One at half the cost, well that won't be a hard decision for some to make. However, if the price can come down, then you're in for a more robust experience in terms of gaming (not just through Steam, but endless titles that one can only get on PC) and digital entertainment. I look forward to delving further into Piston as far as how it handles smaller gaming titles, how well digital videos can play, and even how well it handles internet browsing. If you've got the cash and your interest is piqued then mark Nov 29th on your calendar to pick up one of these handsome devils.