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SteamOS, a Mini-ITX based Steam Machine and Controller

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Not content with building Steam, the world’s most successful games delivery platform, Valve have released the first beta of SteamOS – a “free operating system designed for the TV and the living room”.

SteamOS is effectively their own strain of Debian Linux bundled with graphics drivers and a Steam client capable of downloading and playing a growing range of games.

Valve are well positioned to create an entirely new gaming platform for big screen devices – their Steam client has been in existence for over 10 years, has 40+ million registered users and over a million users in-game at any point.

SteamOS adds playable game streaming from another Steam client and the obligatory streaming media services to the mix.

Valve do not intend to build their own hardware, instead leaving it to 3rd party manufacturers and retailers to produce their ownSteam Machines (aka Steam Boxes) running SteamOS..
The hardware specification is not fixed - meaning a Steam Machine could be just powerful enough to stream games from a Windows or Mac running Steam, or be much more powerful and be the primary games machine in a household.
In December 2013, Valve built a limited run of 300 Steam Machine prototypes. iFixit have a tear down - rather sensibly Valve decided to utilise the Mini-ITX form factor.

The minimum specifications according to the official SteamOS FAQ are very achievable with current Mini-ITX hardware:
  • Intel or AMD 64-bit capable processor
  • 4GB or more memory
  • 500GB or larger disk
  • NVIDIA/AMD/Intel graphics card
  • UEFI boot support
  • USB port for installation
A modern Mini-ITX board and any half-decent graphics card in a mid-sized desktop chassis meets these, but we expect the industry to adapt slightly and refine for the living room experience.

Almost all early Steam Machine prototypes have been Mini-ITX based, combining a range of powerful Mini-ITX boards with a graphics card.

A new Mini-ITX based console style chassis design pattern has already started to emerge: such chassis have a low profile FlexATX or SFX PSU to power a full sized graphics card whilst maintaining the pizza box shape. The graphics card is usually connected offset to the board through a PCI-Express riser card or ribbon cable, giving a case with an average volume of around 10 litres.

These console designs carve a new niche somewhere between the smallest Mini-ITX cases (around 2.5 litres) and full size traditional PC cases (20 litres and above).



Additionally, “Mini-ITX sized” graphics cards are already beginning to hit the market, packing the functionality of full-sized cards into the 17cm depth of a Mini-ITX motherboard, potentially shrinking case designs further.

To take the place of (or next to) a traditional console in front of the TV, a Steam Machine needs one final piece of the puzzle – a standardised controller.



Valve’s Steam Controller will be available for purchase separately and is a dual high resolution trackpad device with haptic feedback so precise it can play audio waveforms through the trackpad itself. A centralised touch-screen was originally planned but has been replaced by regular buttons.

Consoles are by necessity feature-locked on release. The hardware in an Xbox One or PS4 is already technically obsolete. With a Steam Machine we can simply upgrade the hardware for a better experience. We’ll be first in line for 4K Gaming with one of these machines.

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OUYA A New Kind Of Gaming Console for 32% off the regular price

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The first thing you notice about OUYA is that, unlike everything else stacked under your TV, it’s not a massive box that just sits there collecting dust. Rather, the Yves Behar-designed OUYA is a small and elegant piece of hardware that deserves to be on display.

Don’t let OUYA’s small size fool you, though – it was built using technology similar to what powers our smartphones and tablets, (with a bit of tweaking to the quad-core 1.7ghz processor) and is driven by Google’s open-source Android 4.1 Jellybean operating system. And Cult of Mac Deals has the OUYA for 32% off the regular price – only $85.

Please note: This offer is only available to customers in the continental United States. The sale price includes shipping and all sales are final.

Born out of the philosophy that you don’t need to have a big budget to create or play an entertaining video game, OUYA isn’t meant to compete head-to-head with the PS3 or XBOX 360 (or their newer siblings). Rather, they believe that everyone should have the tools and a platform to create and play games – which is why there are over 660 games (including content from game publishers such as Square Enix and NAMCO Bandai) to download and play on OUYA today with more coming all the time (and it’s only six months after launch!).

In this package you’ll get the OUYA game console with 8GB storage, 1080p HDMI 1.4, USB, 802.11b/g/n, and Ethernet, one OUYA game controller with AA batteries included, a $25 Digital Coupon for purchasing games (you’ll receive this in your user account after your purchase is confirmed), and access to a fast-moving, open-source gaming community. (Keep in mind that you’ll need a TV with an HDMI input to use the OUYA.)

The highlights of the OUYA include the following:
  • Every Game Is Free To Try: Over 660 titles at your fingertips, but only buy the ones you love.
  • Full Living Room Entertainment System: More than games, OUYA powers entertainment and music streaming apps like VEVO, iheartradio, TuneIn, XBMC, Plex, and Twitch.tv, with new games and media apps arriving every day.
  • Play Your Way: Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled so you can connect your favorite controllers, devices, etc.
Beautiful and powerful hardware aside, OUYA’s open-source platform and network of over 31,000 game developers ensures that you will literally never run out of new games to play, what else could you want from a video game system? Pick up your very own OUYA for just $85

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DragonBox Pyra Open Source Gaming with the ARM Powered Console

The DragonBox Pyra measures approximately 140 x 84 x 29 mm in size and is equipped with a 4200mAh long life rechargeable battery, together with a DPad, 4 shoulder buttons and 6 face buttons. With integrated Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity and dual SDXC card slots. Powered by an ARM Cortex-A15 (dual-core TI OMAP 5) processor, is expected to be an open source 5-inch handheld game console.

According to Liliputing’s Brad Linder, the platform will be equipped with 2GB of RAM, a 1920 x 1080 pixel resistive touchscreen display, a full-sized USB port, micro and mini USB ports, configurable notification lights, HDMI output, a backlit QWERTY keyboard and PowerVR SGX544 graphics.
In other words, the system has enough power to run a modern Linux distro, allow you to emulate a classic video game console, run newer games, or run popular Linux apps.



Unfortunately no images of the final DragonBox Pyra  games console have been released as yet but as soon as more information becomes available we will keep you updated as always.



There’s no word on the price or release date yet, but don’t expect the DragonBox Pyra to be particularly cheap. This is a niche device aimed at open source gaming enthusiasts and it will be produced in relatively small quantities, which tends to drive up the cost of consumer electronics. But there’s really nothing else quite like it on the market at this point, which could make the project worth any (fairly reasonable) asking price when it launches.

The DragonBox Pyra open source games console is currently still in development so final hardware specifications may change over the coming months. For more information on the development of the DragonBox Pyra jump over to the official website for a full list of specifications and details on its hardware

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New strides for console gamers - its about time

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For hardcore gamers weary of persistent reports about Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 sales (2 million and counting for both, by the way) two stories have been circulating over the past few days reaffirming the position of the PC as the most flexible platform on the market.

Last week, Valve released a Linux-based operating system for its Steam distribution and gaming service: Steam OS. This beta release will be followed by a range of branded ‘steam machines’ next year.

So far, we’ve seen a variety of steam machine designs from the Xi3’s outlandish $1,000 Piston PC to Valve’s more appealing $499 set-top box, to Digital Storm’s monstrous $1,469 tower. System builders will enjoy the challenge of putting together their own SteamOS PC but Valve’s strategy is to have a Steam machine for every budget - and every front room.

SteamOS will struggle to grow Steam’s user base, although it will consolidate it. Regular console gamers, however, won’t be troubled by steam machines as the experience both because of overlap (which console gamer doesn’t play occasionally on a PC?) and the lack of optional extras. While Steam, Xbox Live and PlayStation+ are vibration online communities, it’s the optional extras that have Steam at a loss.

The Xbox One’s goal of being an integrated home entertainment solution is beyond Steam at the moment, while the cross-device compatibility of PS+ accounts will show the power of using multiple devices as a means of strengthening an ecosystem.

I had hoped subscription-based streaming gaming service OnLive would have matured by now to compete as a software/hardware combination with competitive pricing. At $139 for a controller and set-top box I have a hard time figuring out why publishers aren’t embracing a Netflix-style revenue model more. Then again, given the quality of titles on OnLive compared to Netflix’s vast but weak US catalogue, maybe they are.

Getting back to my main point, SteamOS can’t compete with Microsoft and Sony in a head-on clash but its flexibility gives it an edge in third party peripherals - this is where good news story number two comes in. Good news here came last week in the announcement that virtual reality headset maker Oculus VR had secured $75m in funding for its Rift project. This is on top of the $16.4m it got from Series A funding and $2.4m from a crowdsourcing campaign on KickStarter.

Yes, virtual reality died a death in the 90s but advancements in graphics and motion control have turned a novelty technology into a sought-after peripheral. A series of viral videos showing the reaction of regular people experiencing the Rift for the first time shows just how powerful the experience can be.

We still don’t know when Oculus’ Rift will appear on the market or how much it will cost but its applications in education and media production take it beyond the human computer interaction novelty device graveyard with trackballs and early attempts at handwriting recognition. From a gaming perspective the Rift coupled with an accurate motion controller could be this generation’s d-pad and stick combination.

SteamOS in its various guises could do fine on its own and may even put some people off buying a console but the Rift will definitely put pressure on the consoles to adapt or risk migration from consoles back to PCs. For Valve and its hardware partners, that’s great news.

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The First Steam Machine from Digital Storm will be a $1,469 gaming PC

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Digital Storm has a Steam Machine too. The boutique gaming PC manufacturer has just announced its own take on Valve’s formula for a Linux-based game console, and it just goes to show how diverse these computers will be when they hit the market next year. Instead of trying to compete with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 like iBuyPower’s $499 rig, the new Digital Storm computer will start at a comparatively pricy $1,469.

“Rather than try to compete with console pricing, our system takes aim at the high end of the market and capitalizes on PC gaming’s biggest advantage, raw performance,” the company’s statement reads.

While details are scarce, it will come with liquid cooling for the CPU, an advanced thermal-management system of some sort, and can optionally dual-boot both Windows and SteamOS so gamers can play games for both operating systems. Options include a GeForce GTX Titan graphics card and a 700W power supply. At 4.4 inches wide, 14.1 inches deep, and 16.4 inches tall, it’s a good bit bigger than an Xbox One, but it should hopefully still be able to fit into a home entertainment system lying down. We should get more when Valve announces the full lineup of Steam Machines at CES 2014 next month.

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OpenPandora runs out of money and company dissolved

openpandora-runs-out-of-money-and-company-dissolved

It came to light over the weekend that OpenPandora, the manufacturer best known for its open source Pandora handheld games console, has run out of money and has subsequently applied for the company to be disbanded.

OpenPandora first started building its Pandora handheld machines around 7 years ago. The Pandora was quite ahead of its time, a sort of games console crossed with a notebook-style computer, and shipped around 5,000 units to consumers.

As the years went by, however, the team faced numerous problems, such as manufacturing defects and the intermittent failure of LCD cables, which led to drastic losses.

Now the company has been forced to admit that it “has no assets of any significant value,” in an email sent out to people who preordered the Pandora over the years.

“There is no money to pay for liquidation (it would require around £4000) and since no one has applied to liquidate us it is with regret that we have had to take this action,” reads the statement.

As a result, it’s looking unlikely that those people who pre-ordered the handheld years ago are going to receive the hardware anytime soon, nor will they be getting their money back.

However, OpenPandora Germany will apparently continue to trade, and the company advises customers who are still waiting on hardware to try getting in contact with the German branch instead.

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The Truth about Sony’s new PlayStation 4 and open source

Sony has confirmed that its newgasmic game console the PlayStation 4 - on sale today in the US - uses a modified version of the open-source FreeBSD operating system.

In a license page on Sony’s Japanese site the company lists the software used by the PEW-PEW-PEW machine, and Unix-derivative FreeBSD features prominently. The PS4’s Orbis OS is based on the tech.

Speculation had surged in June that Sony had loaded a modified version of FreeBSD 9 onto its console after images leaked online of the console’s development environment. Sony’s no stranger to the open-source world: it’s PlayStation 2 programming kits were Red Hat Linux machines, although it’s infamous for dropping Linux support for the PS3.

The confirmation is arguably another win for the open-source world, and lines up with game vendor Valve’s plan to bring a console into people’s living rooms running a Linux-powered SteamOS.

Besides the daemon-logo’d FreeBSD kernel and related components, other open-source software used by Sony’s entertainment box includes OpenSSL, Protocol Buffers, Webkit, jQuery, and Lua. The FreeBSD software license allows the OS’s source code to be used freely by anyone provided acknowledge of the project’s copyright is noted in the product’s documentation along with the distribution terms and conditions.

Nintendo also uses open-source software in its Wii U games console alongside its proprietary Internal Operating System. Microsoft, on the other hand, appears to prefer purely its own home-grown code – namely the Xbox OS that was written from scratch for the original Xbox and the Xbox 360. The upcoming Xbox One will use the Windows kernel, Microsoft said. ®

What would you like to see Sony do with it’s open-source technology? Do you think they will bring their tech to Linux?

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Gaming PC iConsole.tv to support SteamOS through Android shell

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Mobile Media Ventures’ iConsole.tv gaming system is quickly turning into a jack of all trades, as the company now plans to support SteamOS through its PC’s Android interface. Valve’s TV-friendly platform will only be a shortcut away, MMV claims. Players won’t have to partition drives, tweak firmware or otherwise mess with low-level settings, either. We won’t know how well this Linux-on-Linux approach works until the company provides more details in the months ahead, but it’s promising — it could greatly expand iConsole.tv’s game library without compromising on simplicity of use.

Thr Press Release


iConsole.tv Android Gaming Console to Integrate Valve’s SteamOS

Key Points * First Android device to embrace SteamOS alongside Android gaming * First device outside Valve ecosystem to embrace SteamOS * Users will be able to easily jump between Android and SteamOS without typical setup, installation challenges of a PC

SANTA CLARA, CA - Mobile Media Ventures today announced another new innovation for iConsole.tv, the upcoming high-end Android gaming console; support for SteamOS.
"Today, we’re pledging support for Valve Corporation’s SteamOS on iConsole.tv." Said Christopher Price, CEO. "We will ensure it’s possible for our customers have access to the entire launch lineup of SteamOS games, and we’ll work with developers to ensure SteamOS games are tuned for iConsole.tv."
iConsole.tv is powered by the Android operating system. The iConsole.tv Developer Kit, Unit 00, is the most powerful Android device shipping today.

Unlike PCs, a user will not need to take any significant efforts to load or deploy SteamOS onto iConsole.tv. Whereas a PC requires installing SteamOS as a second operating system, iConsole.tv will provide an integrated experience.

iConsole.tv is capable of using SteamOS, unlike other Android devices, thanks to its breakthrough utilization of Intel Iris® graphics technology. As announced last month, iConsole.tv is the first Android device to be announced with Iris graphics, and the first gaming console to tap Intel’s revolutionary graphics array.

In addition, the production iConsole.tv features a revolutionary integrated Linux Desktop, providing users the first gaming console that can quickly and easily switch to functioning as a traditional PC. With the ability to output to two displays simultaneously, iConsole.tv is designed to perform in various different gaming and computing environments.

Users will be able to launch SteamOS from inside the Android experience on iConsole.tv, ensuring an easy-to-use experience. After exiting SteamOS games, users will be taken back to the iConsole.tv Android experience, complete with integrated connected television services, including optional HD DVR capabilities.
“By extending the olive branch to SteamOS, we’re ensuring gamers will have an experience that excels past other consoles.” Christopher continued. “We expect to launch with a great array of Android games that showcase how Android can scale up to a high-performance console. SteamOS will stand alongside that top-tier experience on iConsole.tv.”
Specifics on support for SteamOS onto iConsole.tv will be announced in the coming months.

By combining Android and support for SteamOS in one platform, Mobile Media Ventures aims to lower the cost of high-performance gaming to consumers. “For the first time, Android game developers can scale up to true console quality by using an existing codebase, ensuring minimal effort. This means consumers will benefit from having an entirely new ecosystem of low-cost, console-tier games inside iConsole.tv. Additionally, traditional console and PC developers supporting SteamOS will benefit from having to take only minimal steps to optimize their games for iConsole.tv.

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Another Android game console aims for Xbox, PlayStation

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The PISTON Console Xi3 Revealed

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Modular mini-PC manufacturer Xi3 has revealed plans for its new PISTON Console due for release later this year. The incredibly small and upgradable PC will hit stores on Nov. 29 and will retail in the US for $999.
The PISTON Console houses a quad-core 64-bit processor running at up to 3.2GHz and 8GB of DDR3 RAM in addition to dual SSD connectors, an internal microSD card slot, 128GB SSD, 3 display ports, and 12 USB ports. The graphics chipset supports 4K resolution output. The network port will prioritize game data, allowing for smoother streaming for network based games while minimizing demand for secondary network activity.

The Xi3 PISTON Console

The Xi3 PISTON Console



Because it’s PC based, the PISTON Console can support PC and web-based games and Windows and Linux programs and it’s compatible with all PC peripherals. The system can run either Windows or Linux operating systems allowing complete customization and personalization for the end-user. The PISTON also features the ability to install multiple operating systems on the same console.
The modular design of the PISTON’s computer architecture will enable gamers to easily upgrade the console. Instead of a single motherboard, the PISTON contains three small interconnected boards. Replacing one or more of the boards with an upgrade PISTON board will improve; processing power, graphical rendering capabilities, network throughput, additional connections and more.
The PISTON console will launch with preloaded games which will be announced at a later date. Additional details on the console will be released before its launch on Black Friday 2013.

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Kobalt Games distribution rights to ‘Blood Knights’ action-RPG for Linux, Mac, PC, and console



The Kalypso Media Group has further strengthened its portfolio of digital entertainment with the creation of the new Kobalt Games label. Released under the tag line: ‘Digital. First. Quality. Gaming’ Kobalt Games will publish high quality titles for PC, XBLA, PSN, MAC and Linux at a mid-price level, with a maximum price of £24.99, €29.99, $29.99, primarily via digital distribution channels.

The first title in the Kobalt Games line-up will be ‘Blood Knights’ from the renowned developer Deck 13 Interactive, whose worldwide distribution rights were recently acquired by dtp entertainment AG. The distribution rights include all planned platforms: Windows PC, XBLA and PSN with a release scheduled for Q4 2013.

“With the founding of our new ‘Digital First’ Division, Kobalt Games, we create a clear and direct-to-consumer purchasing channel,” said Simon Hellwig, Global Managing Director of Kalypso Media.. “The Kalypso brand will continue to publish premium full-price titles such as ‘Tropico 5’ and ‘The Dark Eye – Demonicon’ which will be released simultaneously via digital distribution and boxed retail, while Kobalt will offer mid-priced, high quality titles to our audience.”

Kobalt Games distribution rights to ‘Blood Knights’ action-RPG for Linux, Mac, PC, and console



“With ‘Blood Knights’, we have our first title in the Kobalt Games line-up. We are sending a clear signal that we are committed to publishing high quality titles in the mid–price range, “added Stefan Marcinek, Global Managing Director of Kalypso Media

About ‘Blood Knights’:

‘Blood Knights’ is a hack ‘n slash action - RPG, where the age-old war between humans and vampires is out-of-control and threatens to plunge the world into the abyss. The game combines spectacular combat with RPG elements in single-player or co-op mode. ‘Blood Knights’ is developed by Deck 13 interactive, who have made a name for themselves with such titles as ‘Venetica’, ‘Jack Keane’ and ‘Ankh’. Set in a mystical version of the Middle Ages, ‘Blood Knights’ is an exciting story about the Knights Templar and a legendary Vampire Hunter who finds himself bound by blood to the powerful vampire Alysa during a daring mission. The two must work together to break the blood spell and defeat the hordes of evil creatures who stand between them and their goal.

About Kobalt Games

Kobalt Games is the ‘digital first’ - Division of Kalypso Media. The Kobalt Games label is committed to publishing high quality games in the mid-price range, distributed primarily digitally. The first game in the line-up to be published in Q4 2013 will be ‘Blood Knights’ (PC, X360, PS3) by the renowned developer Deck 13 Interactive.

About The Kalypso Media Group

Founded in 2006 in Germany by industry veterans Simon Hellwig and Stefan Marcinek, Kalypso Media is a global, independent developer, marketer and publisher of interactive entertainment software with over 120 employees worldwide.

Along with Headquarters in Worms, Germany, the company has offices in the United Kingdom and the United States. Kalypso Media also enjoys very strong global digital distribution through its Kalypso Media Digital Ltd. subsidiary, owns three development studios – Realmforge Studios GmbH, Gaming Minds Studios GmbH and Noumena Studios GmbH – and works with multiple leading independent developers.

Kalypso Media‘s titles include the critically acclaimed Tropico 3, Tropico 4, Sins of a Solar Empire (Europe and Asia), and Dungeons. Upcoming titles include The Dark Eye – Demonicon (PC), Air Conflicts: Vietnam (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC) and Rise of Venice (PC).

About Deck13 Interactive

Based in Frankfurt, Deck 13 Interactive has been active in the gaming market for over ten years and has earned an excellent reputation in the German games industry. With internationally successful hits, such as ‘Jack Keane’ and the ‘Ankh’ series, they have celebrated award-winning success. The release of the role-playing ‘Venetica’ marked Deck 13’s debut in productions for PC, Xbox360 and PlayStation3. They continue this work and design with ‘Lord of the Fallen’: a gripping RPG for the PC and next generation consoles, but they also proudly develop exciting products for mobile platforms such as the iPad.

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The dual Android and Linux console iConsole.tv gets Intel Iris GPU

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iConsole.tv, the Android-powered PC primed for gaming goodness is gearing up for release and it’s morphed into a proper console contender, thanks to a new Intel Iris GPU. iConsole.tv’s calling this a “high-end gaming console” and with these specifications, it’s going to be hard to argue with that statement. For developers, “Unit 00″ will help them to get acquainted with the upcoming console. If you’re an interested developer, click here and prepare to spend R7 000 (US$699) of your hard-earned moolah.

iConsole.tv (a terrible name, in our opinion), supports 4K, HD DVR, 3DTVs, and is the first console that comes with dual-HDMI for outputting to two TV’s at once. Xbox One has HDMI input and output, so we suppose that iConsole.tv is the first in this regard.

Unit 00, the developer console is nicely specced. It comes with the fourth-gen Haswell CPU, 8GB RAM, a 500GB SSHD (solid state hybrid), WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0. Christopher Price, founder and CEO of Mobile Media Ventures wants to offer something “truly unique”.

“We’re taking Intel Iris graphics and building a gaming console that delivers a truly unique Android gaming experience. For the first time, Android will be able to compete in the high-performance gaming and computing worlds. We’re re-tuning chips to run harder and faster than originally intended. The consumer iConsole.tv will be much more compact, and cost much less.”

It’s not only the fact that it’s a supercharged Android console that has us excited, but the fact that it dual-boots Linux as well. So while you can get your Android gaming kicks with games like Riptide 2, iConsole.tv will merrily run Steam for Linux as well, opening up the device to console-quality games. “Our goal is for users to find the Android environment we’re building to be amazing both for gaming, television, and even casual PC users.” said Price.

iConsole.tv is aiming for a “winter” launch, so let’s keep our expectations low until mid November. It’ll be “competitively priced” and is expected to either sell for R4 000 (US$399) or R5 000 (R499).

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