Another branch in the evolution of gaming is coming, and it’s a big one. Valve’s new Steam Deck is a handheld device made just for PC gaming. It has models that start at $399 and go up to $649 depending on how much storage and processing power you need. It’s set to release in December 2021.
The Steam Deck is a portable PC – in essence, it’s a handheld computer. With the help of a Steam Deck, users can play PC games anywhere, without using a desktop or a laptop. You can install and play PC software like a web browser, game store—including the Epic Games Store—or video-streaming services on it. This machine can be connected to a monitor and other gaming peripherals such as a keyboard and mouse (via ports in docks, which also provide Ethernet). Thanks to its Cloud saving feature, players can easily transfer saved files between Steam Deck and their personal computers.
The Steam Deck can run Windows or a modified SteamOS. This means you can quickly access your Steam library and download the latest games when you log in. You can chat with your Steam friends or share your progress with the Steam community to help you find the best games for you.
“If you buy a Steam Deck, it’s a PC. You can install whatever you want on it, you can attach any peripherals you want to it. Maybe a better way to think about it is that it’s a small PC with a controller attached, as opposed to a gaming console,” said Valve designer Lawrence in an interview.
Like most portable game systems, the Steam Deck has a rectangular frame and a 7-inch LCD screen. It houses two thumbsticks and buttons for the game and has a 1280 x 800 resolution. Its refresh rate is 60Hz.
The Steam Controller has two small trackpads that are meant to emulate the mouse and keyboard on a PC. The controller also has gyro capabilities, which will work for aiming, shooting, and moving games’ cameras around. Valve promises a much better latency on their trackpads compared to the Steam controller.
The Steam Deck also has four buttons on the back of the console that will work similarly to a keyboard. Users can customize these to their own preferences and bind them to keyboard keys.
The Steam Deck is powered by a custom AMD APU. Early signs point to it matching an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 in performance. With the resolution limited to 720p, it can smoothly run PC games at medium or high settings.
The Steam Deck is available in three models for players to choose from.
The first is a $400 model equipped with 64GB of storage. It also comes with a carrying case. You will want to use the SD card to hold any large games that you might not be able to fit on its eMMC storage.
The more expensive model is $530, and it comes with a 256GB NVMe SSD, which means your load times will be improved. There’s also a carrying case and a Steam Community Bundle included.
The third option is an upgraded $650 model with all of the other extras from the previous two models, including a 512GB NVMe SSD, an upgraded display with an anti-glare etched case, and an exclusive virtual keyboard theme.
Here are the full system specs, complete with unit dimensions and dock features:
- CPU: Zen 2 4c/8t, 2.4-3.5GHz (up to 448 GFlops FP32)
- GPU: 8 RDNA 2 CUs, 1.0-1.6GHz (up to 1.6 TFlops FP32)
- RAM: 16 GB LPDDR5 on-board RAM (5500 MT/s quad 32-bit channels)
- Storage: 64GB eMMC base, 256GB and 512GB NVMe PCIe Gen 3 SSDs available
- Size: 11.7″ long x 4.6″ tall x 1.9″ thick
- Weight: 1.47 pounds
- Screen: 7″ 1280×800 (16:10) 60Hz LCD
- Audio: 3.5mm stereo jack
- Battery: 40WHr estimated 2 – 8 hours
- Video output (docked): up to 4K 120Hz / 8K 60Hz (game performance at these often resolutions remains to be seen)
- Ports (dock included): microSD card expansion, USB 2.0 and 3.1, HDMI, DisplayPort
- Connectivity: 2.4GHz / 5GHz Wifi, Bluetooth 5.0
- Gyro: 2.4GHz / 5GHz Wifi, Bluetooth 5.0
There are some games that might not work with the Steam Deck, due to the anti-cheat software they use. For example, Destiny 2 and Apex Legends have been shown to have compatibility issues with the Steam OS. This includes issues with booting the game itself.
According to the official pre-order page, the Steam Deck is not available until summer 2022 or later, meaning it is unlikely that many will be able to play their Steam games come December.