Sat. Oct 1st, 2022
Say hello to a real, honest Ataribox.  Or at least a prototype.  But hey, at least it's not just a 3D rendering.
enlarge / Say hello to a real, honest Ataribox. Or at least a prototype. But hey, at least it’s not just a 3D rendering.

Atari

The trademark and license deposit that currently calls itself Atari continues to push an “Ataribox” project and, after being teased in July, the device is starting to take shape. Fans and press may have been expecting a cheap, retro-gaming living room device – as they’re all furious and this thing looks like a little restyled Atari 2600 – but Tuesday’s news suggests something more ambitious.

The spec sheet, as announced, is still pretty vague, but Atari has confirmed a few notable things, starting with a price between $250 and $300. In exchange for a price that costs about as much as a Nintendo Switch, Xbox One S or PlayStation 4, the Ataribox comes with a “custom AMD processor with Radeon graphics technology”. In addition, this will not be an Android system. Instead, the Ataribox will run Linux “with a custom, easy-to-use UI”.

As previously announced, the system will include SD card support, an HDMI port, four USB ports and an Ethernet port; it will be launched with at least two aesthetic options: plastic and wood panels. The company has yet to show off additional hardware, most notably retro-style controllers, that may come with the Ataribox.

Atari has already started bragging about the inherently open nature of Ataribox, advertising that the system will allow users to customize the operating system, enjoy a “full PC experience” and access other digital gaming features. and software stores. “Most TV devices have closed systems and content stores,” said Atari’s Tuesday announcement. “Linux lets us be more open.”

The system comes preloaded with “numerous classic Atari retro games” (classic and retro!), and it will also be compatible with “current titles from various studios”. We’ll have to wait for more information on both camps of games, along with any idea whether Atari will deliver those through its own digital download storefront — and whether other devices will be able to access that storefront as well.

As for other storefronts, Atari points out that those digital stores must be compatible with both the OS and hardware, so it remains to be seen whether the Linux-friendly store Steam will actually work on an Ataribox. Should that be the case, this would essentially be the most notable “Steam Machine” launched since that valve hardware push went out.

AMD has not been a big player in the budget-oriented ‘living room box’ chipset market. However, this is a price range it’s known for – as the CPU-GPU combo solutions provider for comparably priced consoles that launched all the way back in 2013. Consumers probably won’t have any luck buying chips from Atari on a massive scale, especially as the Ataribox team is teasing a crowdfunding campaign coming “this fall” on Indiegogo.

Unless Atari has a surprise in store for its chipset, the company may have some way of convincing buyers that the mix of open software, custom UI, Atari preloaded games, and Atari 2600-based design somehow better combination of value, design and power than a Raspberry Pi 3 system (if it ever goes into production of course). Then again, maybe Atari is just counting on retro computer fans paying top dollar to get this sleek version of the old 2600 design — or at least the wood-paneled variant.

By akfire1

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