Report: Ataribox console to sport a custom AMD processor

Other than Nintendo's Nvidia-powered Switch, all current-generation video game consoles are built around AMD's CPU and graphics chip designs. In an exclusive interview granted to VentureBeat, the current owner of the Atari name announced that its Ataribox console is  joining ranks with the majority by tapping an "AMD custom processor" for its pixel-pushing power.

The company says the machine will run Linux and will be able to play the types of games a "mid-range" PC can play today. Atari also released photos of what it says is the final design for the Ataribox. The design echoes the classic Atari 2600 from 1977, but real wood takes the place of the original machine's unconvincing stickers on this version.

Although the company didn't reveal specific details of its custom chip design with AMD, we can hazard a guess about its performance. Beyond the "mid-range gaming" label, VentureBeat mentions games like Minecraft and Terraria as potential Ataribox titles, so we suspect the console might use a substantially less-powerful SoC than the ones used in Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's Playstation 4. Atari wants the new machine to be able to stream video from popular online services, run apps, browse the web, and play music, as well.

Ataribox creator Mac Feargal told VentureBeat that he was inspired to create the device after seeing friends attach laptops to televisions to play games and use software unavailable on mainstream consoles. Beyond its built-in functionality, Feargal says that users will be able to customize the Ataribox's Linux OS for their own purposes. The console prototype appears to lack an optical drive slot, suggesting that content will come exclusively through downloads. The four lights on the front could indicate that four players can connect to the machine with wireless controllers.

Atari intends to launch the Ataribox on Indiegogo next year with a target price between $250 and $300. That's a fairly high amount for what amounts to a micro-console. Given the fickle nature of crowdfunding, only time will tell if Atari's bet will pay off.

Comments closed
    • just brew it!
    • 2 years ago

    …because that whole Steam Machine thing worked out so well for Valve?

    Very puzzled regarding what Atari thinks the niche for this product is.

    • GrimDanfango
    • 2 years ago

    [quote<]...the current owner of the Atari name...[/quote<] I believe the official designation is now "the creature wearing the skin of Atari"

    • southrncomfortjm
    • 2 years ago

    It’ll cost as much as an Xbox One S or PS4 Slim, but not be able to perform as well and almost certainly not have anywhere near the kind of AAA publisher support? What the what? You can play Minecraft and Terraria on phones. I don’t see the market for this. Make it an indie-machine and make it portable and maybe you find a market, but it would need to be far cheaper than the Switch.

    • AMDisDEC
    • 2 years ago

    I don’t really care much for low end design-ins like game consoles except for when AMD starts shipping product and includes them in their quarterly forecasts.
    The great differentiator of this console is it’s ability to run Linux like the old Playstation Cell based console, but because it’s x86, not quite as powerful.
    The unit has a nice stylish look so I can see buyers using it as a set-top maybe loaded with Linux and running Kodi.

    I expect Atari will want this on the shelves for Xmas, so AMD is probably already supplying them with SoCs. Maybe AMD can hit $18/share by Christmas.

    • ronch
    • 2 years ago

    As someone who totally appreciates retro gaming consoles like the PS1, Saturn and Dreamcast, it amazes me how even mobile SoCs today can run circles around those consoles. You could literally build a console the size of the Saturn, put an optical drive in there, and instead of having a PCB the size of Texas with a dozen chips or so, you’d have a tiny PCB that fits in your palm with that tiny SoC. The Saturn can push something like 100,000 polygons/sec. How much faster is a mid-range Mediatek SoC?

    I say this because this console right here is pretty much made of off-the-shelf AMD parts. It’s just an APU with a motherboard around it and Linux on top. Nothing really special. Butt what’s special is how easy it is to build a game console. The hard part is convincing devs to port their games to your system.

    • Air
    • 2 years ago

    If Valve had handle that Steambox thing better, offering small pcs that “just work” with a controller-compatible interface (similar to the alienware alpha), consoles would be done for.

    • Chrispy_
    • 2 years ago

    It’s a nice idea but the low end APU/IGP powered set-top boxes is already a fiercely competitive market – perhaps too crowded – and an Atari logo isn’t going to magically make them into a winner. The $130 Apollo Lake NUC can already handle Minecraft, Terraria and streaming and web-browsing comfortably.

    I would imagine this is going to use a Carrizo-L SoC or newer derivative with 32-64GB of eMMC and 2GB DDR3L all soldered down on a single PCB to keep the product profitable at the target price. It’s not going to set any speed records but it’ll outclass the NUC I just mentioned in the CPU and GPU department and come with storage, RAM and an OS preinstalled which makes it better than a NUC for Joe Average.

    They’re not going to get any money selling linux and they’re not going to get any money when people just use it as a Steambox, so this thing has to be a money maker at the standalone $250-300 price, which is my sole reason for doubting this is anything more than a $250 AMD netbook sans battery, screen, keyboard, trackpad etc.

    At $250-300:
    [list<][*<]the controllers will cost extra, [/*<][*<]more storage will cost extra, [/*<][*<]the USB wifi adapter will cost extra, [/*<][*<]the Atari Linux distro will be full of ads, [/*<][*<]There will be little to no future support, it's just a set top box to be replaced.[/*<][/list<] In case you've forgotten, Atari isn't Atari anymore. It's been bought out, split up, re-merged, gone bankrupt several times and is practically just a badge anyone can pin on anything these days. At present I believe it's a nothing more than a bunch of venture capitalists looking to profit from the seeming success of retro gaming and streaming services.

      • ronch
      • 2 years ago

      The trademark owner was probably flipping through a pile of old folders labeled “Acquired Brands” and suddenly realized the Atari brand acquisition is just sitting there for nothing and said, “Hey let’s use this! What the heck did we buy this name for??” And so history was made (or not).

      Well, knock yourselves out, Atari trademark owners.

        • Pancake
        • 2 years ago

        Hmm, I was offered a job at “Atari” under one of its incarnations as a game brand (in the Infogrames stable). Turned it down because I don’t like the cold and like the beach…

    • ronch
    • 2 years ago

    “…. only time will tell if Atari’s bet will pay off.”

    Oh you don’t need time to be able to tell if this thing will fly or catch a fire and burn to ashes before it even gets off the ground.

      • Concupiscence
      • 2 years ago

      Hell, they’ll look back at the Atari Jaguar fondly after this one.

    • hungarianhc
    • 2 years ago

    Looks like a sequel to Ouya… .and that didn’t work out so well.

    At the price of $300, I can’t find any compelling reasons someone might buy this over a Nintendo Switch, which is getting more and more classic / indie games in addition to its own excellent library, and it’s portable.

      • ronch
      • 2 years ago

      This is an example of blind ambition.

    • DoomGuy64
    • 2 years ago

    [quote<]The console prototype appears to lack an optical drive slot, suggesting that content will come exclusively through downloads. [/quote<] So when Atari does it we speak the truth, but when PC case manufacturers or system builders do it they're progressive and forward thinking? I have a nice collection of older PC games like half-life sitting on a bookshelf from back when PC games were sold in retail stores, and it really irks me when case manufacturers make full size towers without optical drive bays. It's almost like a sort of soviet history revisionism, in which physical media is being erased so that the next generation never realizes that we once had the ability to transfer ownership of pc software, or watch dvds on our PC. It's all about SAAS today.

      • chuckula
      • 2 years ago

      [quote<]I have a nice collection of older PC games like half-life sitting on a bookshelf from back when PC games were sold in retail stores, and it really irks me when case manufacturers make full size towers without optical drive bays.[/quote<] Call me when they take out the USB ports that prevent you from using a portable optical drive that's actually more flexible than having to put a clunky 5.25" drive into a modern PC.

        • DoomGuy64
        • 2 years ago

        Yeah, that’s not really “more flexible” than actually letting me use one of the empty bays for an optical drive, especially in a full tower scenario. If the case has room for a useless LCD screen, it has room for optical. It’s not like having the OPTION hurts anything, except companies who are hell bent on turning all software into a digital service, and it’s pretty obvious that’s the sole reason why optical is disappearing. Nothing like accidentally knocking over your usb drive while it’s running either.

        If I’m building my own system, not including a slot for optical is a good way to make sure I don’t buy your case. I only need one slot for legacy media, and the rest I use for a removable drive bay. I still prefer to use optical to install my OS, and use discs to backup important data that I don’t want to lose.

          • cygnus1
          • 2 years ago

          [quote<] I still prefer to use optical to install my OS [/quote<] Fellow gerbil, I'm not trying to be offensive, but in 2017 that means you are qualitatively and quantitatively doing it wrong. I hope you don't actually work in IT, that preference would go in the category of reasons to let you go (in my book anyway).

            • DoomGuy64
            • 2 years ago

            If it works, I’m not doing it wrong. I don’t like using USB for multiple reasons, being that:

            1: wastes a usb drive.
            2: USB drives cost a LOT more than a dvd.
            3. A lot of usb drives aren’t faster than a disc, other than random access, which is pointless for a OS install.
            4. Whoops, where’d I put that tiny drive that I only have one of.
            6. Relatives/Neighbor want a copy. Don’t have a drive that I want to give them, because I won’t get it back.
            6. Up until recently, USB was not well supported for OS install, so I’d rather just go with what works.
            7. I can install an OS however I damn well please. If it works, you don’t have the right to say I’m doing it wrong.
            8. Dude,, you have a gas powered car? You’re doing it wrong! It’s 2017!
            9. Hey everybody, let’s jump off this cliff without any safety equipment. Everybody else it doing it!

            • Voldenuit
            • 2 years ago

            [quote<]6. Up until recently, USB was not well supported for OS install, so I'd rather just go with what works.[/quote<] Are you still using Windows 95 or something? I can't remember the last time I installed windows using anything /other/ than a USB drive. Also, it's trivial to slipstream updates to your install drive. I haven't had an optical drive in any of my PCs since 2008...

            • cygnus1
            • 2 years ago

            So, wasn’t really trying to start an argument, just letting you know this is one of those things where progress has been good to us. Not knocking your personal preference, do any way you please, if you’re hobbyist you wouldn’t be reloading the bare metal OS that often anyway. But purely from a technical/professional IT perspective, you are wrong and it would look bad for you to do it that in any recent professional environment I’ve been in, including the incredibly backward DOD.
            From that professional perspective I’m going to respond to most of the pertinent points individually.

            1: No, it doesn’t. Time is money, and thumb drives are faster, saving time, and they’re cheap in the long run because they’re easily re-purposed.
            2: See #1. Can easily be re-purposed, plus they’re much more durable and give read/write capability for tweaking your image if needed
            3: At this point, almost all of them are faster than a CD or DVD, period. You really got to find the cheapest of the cheap thumb drives to find one that would be slower, for an OS install, than an optical disc.
            4. Most places have piles of them sitting around in departments where OS loads would be happening. Hell, at home even I have a small pile of them at this point.
            6. Point them to the ISO and the free MS tool for making a bootable thumb drive. Make them take at least some ownership for helping themselves
            6 #2. (No idea why you repeated numbers) – Linux Live CDs have definitely been around for easily a decade+ and Windows installs from USB have been easy since Vista, so basically a decade for that too…

            So like I originally said, installing OS’s from optical discs in 2017 is qualitatively (ie less flexible) and quantitatively (much more time consuming to burn and then to actually use the disc for an OS install) the wrong way to install OS’s.

        • cygnus1
        • 2 years ago

        ++ This.

        When I got my first ultrabook that had no optical drive, many moons ago now, I bought a USB Blu-Ray burner thinking it would get a lot of use over time. And now at this point I have zero systems with built-in optical drives. Flash drives replaced discs for OS installs, and all other software distribution is internet based now. That USB disc drive collects dust. The only time it’s been used in the last year or two was to reimage a UTM type firewall for work. I have no optical media player of any kind hooked up to 3 of the 4 TVs in the house. The 4th one has an Xbone and I think I can count on 1 hand how many times it’s been used to play a movie from a disc.

        Between game downloading services (Steam, GOG, etc) and video streaming (Plex, Netflix, Youtube, etc), I just don’t have a need for physical media. It’s just inconvenient and I hold no affection for it. I can’t recall a time when these game or media services were down for even a day; I can recall scratched disks never being replaced for free. I’m sure one day an extended outage may occur, but I really doubt it will require repurchasing anything and I can probably find something else to occupy my time while it’s fixed.

          • Delta9
          • 2 years ago

          I agree and disagree with the entire optical disc issue. On the PC, the use for optical discs is almost completely null. Solid state storage has gotten dirt cheap and increased in capacity rapidly. Add in increased durability, the ability to be rewritten, and the performance of these drives, optical is not needed 99% of the time. Now when it comes to media, I actually hope optical hangs around. For most instances, I stream or use compressed files for media consumption. However if I am sitting down in front of my 4k TV with an expensive stereo and high end speakers to watch the new Star Wars, I am going for that physical media every time. Compressed streamed video is fine for casual viewing, but if I want high bit rates (30-60+Mbps), the Bluray or UHD Bluray is getting used. Same thing with CDs, although there are digital alternatives that are on par quality wise, if I’m using my home stereo setup, the disc is coming out. I can easily rip them to a device with a hard drive and have them in one place, I still prefer the disc. That and I enjoy some of the really cool packaging and artwork that turned the plastic jewel case into a little bonus surprise. The cool packaging seemed to peak in the late 90s early 2000s. I also enjoy the large pieces of art on records and Laserdisc sleeves. So while optical is almost useless on the PC, I find it very much still has a place in home entertainment for consumers who prioritize quality above all else.

        • Concupiscence
        • 2 years ago

        The only thing that’s kept me from jumping to that camp is the fact that I have two small kids and three cats. There’s just too much potential for a slim profile external drive to get knocked over, lost, or otherwise rendered inoperable. At least when a drive’s installed in a case it’s in as sturdy a position as the case itself.

        I’d never use an optical drive to install an OS in 2017 (well, unless I’m making a VM for something old ‘n’ crusty…), but I have (and rip) enough movies to feed my home theater PC to still need one. Ditto the 200 disc binder full of old games, which I’ll start ripping down and backing up later this year…

        I guess what really makes me nuts about modern cases without 5.25″ bays is that too many of them don’t do anything with the space that’s freed up besides make the front of the case sorta pointy. Better to pack it full of USB and feature connectors, or render the case sleeker with demonstrably better airflow characteristics.

          • DoomGuy64
          • 2 years ago

          Exactly this. [i<]Case manufacturers aren't doing anything with the "freed up space" other than making it ugly.[/i<] Just give me my 5.25 bay, because there are a million other uses for them besides optical. It's pretty obvious that removing the bay leaves a feature missing that most of these cases don't compensate for not including. You end up with unusable and worthless empty space, just like the logic section of chuckula's brain. Building a PC is supposed to be about customization. Not including a 5.25 slot is anti-customization, and I won't support that nonsense. You don't have to use optical, but having a unused bay doesn't affect you like it does me when cases don't include it. Saying optical is old is not an argument, but a fallacy, and it doesn't address the issues of having a missing bay.

            • Khali
            • 2 years ago

            Your fighting a losing battle. All these guys giving you grief over this are just like the crowd that hates anything ATX. They don’t use an internal CD drive so they think no one should. Never mind you actually having a use for one.

            • DoomGuy64
            • 2 years ago

            Yup, group mentality lemmings, and it’s ruining PC choice and case design, not to mention makes the PC building community extremely toxic. They don’t have any legitimate points, and instead spout appeal to groupthink logical fallacies.

            It’s not really a “losing battle” either, more of a elitist toxic community further marginalizing themselves against the average builder. We don’t need the crap the fanboys shove down our throats to play games, and more and more people are waking up to this toxic community nonsense.

            [url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRhq_-7mYOM<]Marketing: Turning PC Hardware in to Crack for Enthusiasts![/url<] [quote<]"You're just spouting marketing, you're not actually giving up a valid point here."[/quote<] [quote<]When people invest thousands of dollars into their hardware, that's why they become defensive about it. It's because you pissed away way too much money to play video games.[/quote<] [quote<]Why are we attacking each other over our purchasing decisions, and why are people spending so much money on things that they don't really need? It's because that's what the market is demanding of you.[/quote<] [quote<]You get in that mindset of, "oh man I really need this, I really need this" when in reality you really don't.[/quote<]

            • Chrispy_
            • 2 years ago

            What pisses me off with these massive ATX cases is not actually their massiveness, but the fact that they they are a downgrade from yesteryear’s ATX cases of half the size.

            I know it’s a big, hollow barren wasteland that potentially supports four double-wide watercooled GPUs and has room for a simultaneous 140mm, 280mm 360mm radiator loadout, but only 0.0005% of the market that actually still uses a fully-watercooled quad-GPU build.

            Meanwhile, Average Joe with his single GPU and two old hard drives from a previous machine is having to buy disk trays as optional extras because they’re no longer included by default, and his airflow is rubbish because only one of the 8 fan mount locations actually comes with a fan.

            • cygnus1
            • 2 years ago

            nah, I think you’re just projecting your beliefs. I have 3 ATX towers in my home office, none have an optical drive installed in them. I love my ATX towers, but see no need for internal optical drives.

        • ronch
        • 2 years ago

        On a desktop PC I’d rather have the optical drive right on the case, not connected via a USB cable. Being a PC means backward compatibility. That’s one of the main charms of PCs. I can’t copy game CDs onto an external HDD and expect them to run seamlessly. Sure it can be done but with DVD drives being so cheap why not just include it when you build a PC? It won’t see much usage but if I need to burn a DVD to give away it’s just there. If I dig through my closet and find the installer CD for Space Quest 4, well, just plop it right in.

          • Chrispy_
          • 2 years ago

          As a kludge fix for the lack of SD card readers, optical bays, and cases small enough to actually have on your desk, I find that the next best solution is to use the wasted space between your monitor stand and the bottom of your monitor.

          I put together a build for a customer who couldn’t find a case that fit his desk and had the the right number of ports and things on the right sides. The end result was that he settled on a quiet, well-cooled H440 for behind his desk and then I hooked up a 5.25″ USB drive enclosure to his desk under the monitor. You can buy adapters that convert an external 5.25″ bay into a slimline 5.25″ bay and a 3.5″ bay with a few extra USB ports, so he now runs a little box just under his monitor with a slot-loading DVD writer, SD card reader and two legacy USB ports for his headset and USB sticks, no need for ATX case access any more, unless it needs a physical power-off from the button.

      • Pancake
      • 2 years ago

      It’s a Linux system. It has no chance of being more than vapourware unless it’s intended for Steam or Chrome.

      • ronch
      • 2 years ago

      I have to say we belong to the same minority of folks who still find optical drives indispensable. Like the obligatory 1.44MB 3.25″ floppy drive that everyone just included back then. You won’t use floppies all the time but hey, if you needed it, it’s just there.

      • ludi
      • 2 years ago

      I don’t use optical drives too often these days, but when I do, it’s nice to have it in a sturdy tray popping out of the case. I get why my mini laptop doesn’t have one, and fully accept the tradeoff. I’m less sanguine toward PC cases that create volumes of space for multi-GPU and water-cooling customizations but completely overlook the possibility of drive expansion. Who else even buys and builds desktop PCs these days, except enthusiasts with a dozen different oddball needs?

      I ended up buying a slim USB external BRD burner for the new HTPC build. As a refurb it was cheap enough, and it gets the job done. I also imagine it will fail a lot sooner than an internal drive, either due to the normal weaknesses of being external and USB, or due to the destructive curiosity of the small male toddler who also occupies this house.

    • cygnus1
    • 2 years ago

    So, basically they’re making an x86 version of the nVidia Shield console, and running Linux instead of Android.

    Well, since that box took off so well with the huge library of games available plus game streaming options, we’ll see how this box does as basically a Linux Steam console…

      • DoomGuy64
      • 2 years ago

      Nvidia also had a complete monopoly as well, being that no other android device had that much graphics horsepower, and many of their titles were shield exclusive. Not to mention other great features like game streaming, which wasn’t possible on other devices until recently.

      If Nvidia, Ouya, and Steam couldn’t do it, nobody can. It’s either windows or console for the mainstream. Everything else is niche, which won’t make it in a sea of similar niche products without being the absolute best.

    • Takeshi7
    • 2 years ago

    For $250 it had better have better specs than the original Xbox One. You can get those for really cheap these days.

    Or they should just price it under $99 and put an AMD E-450 in it. Best. APU. Ever.

    • tipoo
    • 2 years ago

    Semi custom huh. It’s a bit surprising there’s still no off the shelf AMD APU on par with the PS4s GPU (CPU is of course far far better than that), maybe waiting for high bandwidth cache?

    I wonder how custom this is, and if the GPU is better than the standard parts.

    • ronch
    • 2 years ago

    Oooooohhhh yeeeaaahhh!!!! (get it?)

    • ronch
    • 2 years ago

    So it’ll use a less powerful SoC than those found in the PS4 and Xbone [b<]and[/b<] essentially be on par with a midrange PC. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

      • homerdog
      • 2 years ago

      I’m guessing this thing is no faster than a GT1030 so I have no idea how they came to the midrange conclusion.

        • MOSFET
        • 2 years ago

        Definitely not as fast as a GT1030. I have no idea how I’m coming to this conclusion, but go ahead, bet against me 🙂

        • caconym
        • 2 years ago

        note that they didn’t say “mid-range *gaming* PC”

      • Air
      • 2 years ago

      They mean a midrange office PC, with Intel HD Graphics.

        • homerdog
        • 2 years ago

        Which is a dumb comparison given this thing is made for gaming.

        • ronch
        • 2 years ago

        Maybe this is an…. office gaming PC? Gotta put a Boss Key™ on that joypad.

    • chuckula
    • 2 years ago

    Woodgrain is the new RGB.

      • DPete27
      • 2 years ago

      A desirable trade-off IMO.

      • tipoo
      • 2 years ago

      For bonus points insert RGB LEDs in the wood while it’s growing so it grows around then, then file down to a thin layer over them.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 2 years ago

    I don’t get this thing’s design at all. It looks nothing like the VCS it’s supposed to represent outside of a tiny bit of wood and some ribbed plastic. Need to remove the ribbing on the back and add some power/reset buttons or something. Even then, the proportions are way off and it just looks like something that’s looks “old and obsolete”. I could have provided them with a photo of myself if that’s what they wanted.

    • drfish
    • 2 years ago

    Why do I have a feeling that the chances of this thing being successful are about as slim as its veneer?

      • Vigil80
      • 2 years ago

      Yeah, if you’re the kind of person who avoided buying one of the other consoles at that same price point in the first place, then you already have something else you’re using, like a HTPC. Or a regular PC. Or a $20 Steam Link.

      I’m guessing this thing should have been priced somewhere between a $300 console and a $50 Pi. A $150 or so box that “just works” and just happens to be capable of side-loaded game emulation would have gotten me to linger on the product page.

        • LostCat
        • 2 years ago

        I think I paid that for my Steam Link. It was worth maybe $5.

      • cmrcmk
      • 2 years ago

      The Console by Linux[super<]tm[/super<] idea has a lot of appeal but nobody seems to be able to crack the market. It'll be interested to see how much help the Atari name gives this attempt.

      • YukaKun
      • 2 years ago

      I bet they’re knocking on wood.

      Cheers!

      • ronch
      • 2 years ago

      One word comes to mind: Ouya.

      Yep, this will fizz out before it even gets off the ground. I mean, really, what are the chances this thing will be remotely successful? It’s like a minnow trying to pick a fight with a shark. And a shark with a very aggressive attitude at that.

        • Alexko
        • 2 years ago

        Ouya wasn’t really capable of running anything that a phone couldn’t run. This would apparently use a (possibly semi-custom) AMD APU, so it should be able to run most or all Linux games. That may not be all that compelling to most people, but it’s something.

        Plus it’s also a decent HTPC.

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