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Xi3 – The Modular PC

January 8, 2013

The Penny Arcade Report has just run a story about the possibility of the Xi3 modular PC being the Steambox we have been hearing so much about lately. Above is a video showing and explaining the technology. The modular design is insightful, and makes one wonder why we haven’t seen this kind of thing before. As this company is separate from Valve, it is possible that they might put out several configurations.  One might offer Steam on Linux and another model might sport Windows, Steam, and EA’s Origin for the gamers that cannot live without their FIFA, Madden, NHL, or Battlefield.  “Piston” is the machine Xi3 is showing at CES.

2013 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting years ever for gamers.

After the jump, I have included the specs for another possible model though the news source is older. (Note: The Xi3 site got wanged by PA and may not be up for a day or two.)

X7A Modular Computer Unveiled (for Power Users, Gamers and Engineers)

Xi3’s new X7A Modular Computer is designed specifically for gamers, engineers and power users. Housed in the standard Xi3 chassis that measures 4.27×3.656×3.656-inches, the X7A Modular Computer packs a real wallop, especially for a machine roughly the size of a grapefruit that draws a mere 40Watts of power.

The X7A Modular Computer is available with up to

* A quad-core 64-bit, x86-based 32nm processor running at up to 3.2GHz (with 4MB of Level2 Cache),
* An integrated graphics processor (GPU) containing up to 384 programmable graphics cores (or shaders),
* 4GB-8GB of DDR3 RAM,
* 64GB-1TB of internal solid-state SSD storage (with up to 12Gbps throughput speeds),
Three display ports providing maximum resolution of 4096×2160 (including 1 DisplayPort v1.2 and * 2 Mini-DisplayPorts v1.2),
* Four eSATAp 3.0 ports,
* Four USB 3.0 ports,
* Four USB 2.0 ports,
* 1Gb Ethernet port, and
* Three audio ports (1 input and 2 outputs: 1 copper and 1 optical).

Designed to be used as a standalone machine or in clustered configurations, the X7A will run any x86-based Operating System, including Windows 8 and lower, Linux, UNIX, etc. Prices for quad-core versions of the X7A Modular Computer will begin at $1,100, with General Availability starting in February 2013.

Source: Engaget

  1. January 9, 2013 5:32 am

    Interesting, but at $500 for the base model, and $1100 for the “gaming model”, they have only sparked my curiosity. I am thinking that my core gaming mode will still be Xbox (720?) into the future.

    • January 9, 2013 4:01 pm

      Yes, really, the price of any system has to be less than $400 before I will even consider it. I really want to break away from Microsoft’s closed and limited system. Party chat, friends, desirable exclusives, and pricing are the final barrier to switching to a open “Living Room PC”. In that list, party chat shouldn’t be an issue, and exclusives are over-rated. Just look at the PS3 with some of the finest exclusives out there, yet gamers who have it and another machine use the PS3 almost solely for Blu-Ray.

    • Blankman permalink*
      January 9, 2013 4:52 pm

      Precisely, Kenai & Suns! There’s no way that I’m spending more than $400 for a console even though it’s essentially a PC built for the living room.

    • January 9, 2013 7:35 pm

      I hope to God you guys make the jump in some shape or form. It is marvelous. Battlefield on PC is unparalleled due to the large player count. And some of the titles, like Natural Selection 2, are what an Aliens game SHOULD play like. It’s amazing. Something breaks, you replace the part, not necessarily the console. Miss ya’ll. But once you see how open things are, and how you can tweak so much, you’ll never want to go back.

  2. January 9, 2013 7:37 pm

    Oh, and solid state drives are amazing. I built Bailey a top of the line gaming PC for Christmas and the SSD is absolutely jaw dropping. Load times? What were those. I plan to add one to my rig in the summer.

  3. January 9, 2013 9:03 pm

    Ty, it is funny you should mention the SSD. I would be willing to add another $100 or $200 for my own machine just for the convenience it provides (the boys could pay the extra if they wanted it for their own machine, too) – especially if that machine was multi-purpose. In fact, I want to get a Kindle Fire HD or similar device just so that I can check my e-mail without having to start up the laptop before I go to bed . It is all about time. Right now, BF3 for example, has basically a five minute load up (on top of the dashboard stuff).

    Also, I want to get digital copies of all my games next gen. Swapping out discs and loading them up has become THE barrier to my playing NBA 2K13 more often. I would play that like I play pinball, if only I didn’t have to swap and load every time. And I can’t resell them anyway, so why not?

    One last thing, it sounds like Valve isn’t aiming for a competitive 2013 release of their own hardware. I don’t mind. Every half year brings the prices down and the quality up.

    I am going to be sorely tempted to buy the first big machine that comes out (which will probably be the neXtBox), but I will be greatly rewarded if I don’t. I am very excited about the next two years because both Sony and Microsoft dropped the ball and in no way did any one company secure a monopoly this past generation. Gamers win with options galore!

    • January 11, 2013 1:09 pm

      Yeah, I’m going to pop in a SSD drive this summer. The longer you wait, the cheaper it’ll get. I really, really hope you all make the hop. I hope there’s reasonably priced options. With the boys, you all could go far. And the beauty is that you can do minimal upgrades piecemeal. Because consoles are the leading platform, they’ve set the bar graphically. Games this console generation are running at DX9, whereas BF3 on ULTRA settings does DX11. But I’d try to be patient and wait. I honestly don’t feel like Microsoft’s machine is going to be anything amazing. And for the price, you’re better looking at other options or building a PC. It’s far more versatile, and with modding, the possibilities and options for you as a gamer are limitless. On the Steam-side of things, we’re going to see more use of Steamworks, which allows you to add mods with a simple click of a button. We could actually pitch together and have our own Natural Selection and/or Battlefield servers. Far more admin options on the PC side of things.

      There’s an interesting interview with Gabe Newell up on the Verge. In it, he mentions user generated content and store fronts. We’re already seeing that in the PC side of Skyrim. Rock, Paper, Shotgun wrote a piece about the “Interesting NPC mod” in which a fan-made mod adds 100 new NPCs in-game. Over 90 are voice acted, with many offering additional quests for the player.

      Tell me that isn’t awesome?

      Companies need to understand there’s a way to milk us of our money without closing us in. We’re in an interesting time for gaming. The decisions of some developers and console makers can potentially change the course of how things have been shaping up (which in my opinion, has been largely negative for the consumer). I’m excited at the possibilities. And if I can play with my crew again? DAMN EXCITED.

  4. January 10, 2013 5:34 am

    Really recommend the Kindle Fire. Got a Fire HD for my son for his seventh birthday last month.

    It does have a pseudo-closed content network though. It’s extremely easy to get stuff from Amazon on it. Far too simple, really. My son just has to hit one button and, free or paid, it starts downloading. Added parental controls more to prevent accidental paid downloads than anything else.

    You can manually add other content through a USB cable, but it’s designed to enslave you to Amazon through convenience.

    • January 10, 2013 5:12 pm

      Thanks for the impressions, Herandar.

  5. January 13, 2013 12:18 pm

    Regarding the Steam Box, here is a really great interview with Gabe Newell.

    I think that the Xi3 definitely has a lot of potential in terms of the modular abilities. The price increase really isn’t too bad considering the cost of many net tops these days.

    That being said, there is no way I would purchase one. For the cost of entry, you could buy a much more powerful machine (just as scalable) and use wi-di (wireless display) technology — that would allow even more scalability/freedom/options. As much as windows 8 is a turd, there is a lot of great work done increasing network and remote access capabilities. Ideally, your TV will have remote access to a machine that will run as a server. RDP is already fast enough, that on a local network, you can game without noticeable lag.

    Many new high-end homes are coming with a “server closet” that is air-conditioned to host a server for home theatre and music (that is accessible on a per room basis). Ideally, you could install your own home “server” and access it from any display in the house to do what ever you want (computing, music etc). You could even create small partitions from which you could use fast (light) operating systems to do certain tasks (from the kitchen/bathroom for example).

    We are still a few years off from that, but I would find that experience much more enjoyable (and reliable) than any sort of cloud based streaming options.

    • January 14, 2013 4:32 pm

      Zos, thanks for the info, and fascinating speculation. You know we will be wanting to hear your impressions when these companies finally come clean and fully unveil their plans and offerings.

  6. January 17, 2013 5:49 am

    Hey, I could use some help. Next week, I’m buying Seth a laptop for his birthday (today is his actual 13th B-day). I’d like to be in the $700 range, and could you some specific advice / recommendation / “what’s a good deal right now”. I’d like it to be a rig that he can game on. Games like Borderlands, Farcry, BF3. Doesn’t have to have to run at super high settings, but enough for a good experience.

    I’m leaning toward this one: What do you think?

    Dell Inspiron 17R Laptop, Intel® Core™ i7-3632QM 2.2GHz, Blu-Ray Player

    • January 17, 2013 2:55 pm

      Kenai, e-mail, call, and Xbl message Zos. He is always on top of this stuff, and I don’t know when he will next be checking in here.

    • January 19, 2013 2:54 pm

      He should be able to play BF3 on mid or high settings. Decent price for good specs in my opinion, but yeah, I’d defer to Zos.

  7. January 23, 2013 4:14 pm

    Shoot, way late to seeing this. If you still need help, email me the details (xbl message steph or I if you don’t have my email!)

    • January 24, 2013 8:32 pm

      I’ll try and catch up with you this weekend on Xbox or email me your # to Want to get it Saturday, but still haven’t decided. Did you see the one I linked earlier in the post? Thx

    • January 24, 2013 9:19 pm

      Sent an email!

      That is a really great laptop. I would say that it is focused slightly more on multi-media. The blu-ray player is nice, but kind of a gimmick considering the display isn’t 1080p. I saw this laptop on there:

      It is slightly more expensive. The same very high performance CPU, a better graphics card (by a pretty good margin) and the only loss is screen size (15.6 vs 17.3) and HDD space. 750GB is a huge amount of space. AND, the 15.6 laptop IS 1080p (although no bluray lol)

      The thing with laptops: They are bought with expiration dates. With the exception of Apple (which is less than ideal for gaming), if you have a laptop running for more than 4-5 years, you are lucky. Not that you shouldn’t purchase one, but it is something to consider if it will be used for gaming extensively.

      Also, it is a good idea to “feel” the laptop before purchasing it. This is one of the most complained about aspects of buying a laptop, and hugely important considering how much time you spend typing on it. People will end up returning a laptop for one with worse specs, because it is more comfortable.

      Costco actually has really great deals on laptops. I would also check out and

      Feel free to email me any questions or models you want me to look at!

  8. January 26, 2013 7:20 pm

    Ready for some pc gaming! Thanks Zoso

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