Although many have lamented that CES is becoming less and less fun as the years go on, there are still plenty of surprises to be had for consumer electronics aficionados. To be precise, gamers got to raise one eyebrow in surprise and another in delight as Nvidia and Valve unveiled new proprietary gaming consoles. Both boast powerful hardware and the ability to play Steam games. Will either of these pose a threat to the next-gen console market? Read on and find out:
The announcement that graphics card powerhouse Nvidia will be making a handheld gaming device took many by surprise as CES kicked off this week. A brand new handheld console in a market already glutted with the PlayStation VITA, Nintendo 3Ds, and tablet devices seemed like an odd move for the company, but it does boast some impressive specs. Codenamed the “Nvidia Shield,” the device is based on the also-newly-announced Tegra 4 mobile chip, sports a clamshell design similar to that of the Nintendo DS (minus the second screen, of course), and purports to offer 5-10 hours of battery life.
Running on Android, the Shield also has micro USB and HDMI outputs, a MicroSD slot, and a 5″ touchscreen capable of 720p HD display (which it refers to as a “retinal display”); the Shield can download Android games from Google Play, selections from Nvidia’s TegraZone game store, and can stream Steam games wirelessly from your Windows-enabled PC, provided that it’s equipped with one of Nvidia’s GeForce GTX GPUs. Its ergonomically designed controller mimics the dual thumbstick set-up of PS3/Xbox 360 controllers, and that’s a nice change of pace from the smaller, more compact designs typically given to handheld consoles. Will it dethrone the reigning champions of handheld gaming? It’s too early to tell, but, damn if it isn’t a bold move on Nvidia’s part.
Okay, okay, so it’s not technically called the “Steambox” yet, but it’s not called the “Gabe Cube” either, so we can’t always get what we want, now, can we? Dubbed “Project Piston,” the prototype unveiled by X13Corporation is a Valve-backed computer designed for playing Steam games in your living room. In essence, it’s a console, optimized to run Steam, which is something gamers have been waiting for nearly as long as hearing the words “Half-Life 3 confirmed” escape Gaben’s lips.
Engadget was able to get their hands on the prototype and it confirmed that the device has 1TB of storage, a quad-core AMD processor (likely from its “Fusion” series), an aluminum chassis, and surprisingly low wattage – only 40w of power required. Plus, it boasts a modular motherboard, which means that it’s upgradeable for all your PC Part Picker addicts out there. Project Piston is actually one of a number of hardware prototypes backed by Valve that will be displayed at CES, according to a Polygon report. Valve’s Doug Lombardi told them, “[Valve is] bringing multiple custom (hardware) prototypes as well as some off-the-shelf PCs to our CES meetings… We will be sharing more information to the press and public in the coming months.”
Big Picture Mode was just the beginning, it seems. In an interview with Kotaku, Valve chief Gabe Newell confirmed that living-room-ready PC packages from Valve and third-party companies would be available in 2013 (with a rumored target date of Q2, putting it somewhere between April and June). It’s too early to tell which Steam-powered console will reign supreme, but we know it’s going to be an awesome summer.
EDIT: The Verge just posted an interview with Newell in which he spills details on Valve’s Steam Box and why there are so many prototypes floating around.
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