Valve has been a giant of the industry for a long, long time, and sure, games such as Half-Life, Portal, and Left 4 Dead have contributed to that, but without a doubt, their most significant success has been Steam, the digital platform that has been synonymous with PC gaming for as long as it’s been around. And now that they’ve announced the Steam Deck, a handheld gaming PC that seems like Valve’s very own version of the Switch, there’s plenty of excitement surrounding the product. A great deal has been revealed about the device since its recent announcement, and here, we’re going to go over the fifteen biggest talking points about it.
Let’s start with the basics- what exactly is the operating system that the Steam Deck is running on? Valve has confirmed that the Steam Deck runs on a new version of SteamOS, which has been modified and optimized specifically for handheld game, built on Linux. Additionally, Valve also says the use of a Proton compatibility layer in the OS, no porting work for PC games is required for anybody, which means that any and all games you have on your Steam library are automatically going to work on the Steam Deck right out the box.
So- now the stuff that probably many of you may have wondered as soon as this was announced. What about the specs? Well, they’re not half bad. The Steam Deck has an AMD Zen CPU of four cores and eight threads, running at 2.4 to 3.5 GHz, at up to up to 448 gigaflops. Meanwhile, the GPU is an 8 RDNA with 2 compute units, at 1-1.6 GHz, at up to 1.6 teraflops. The Steam Deck also uses a 16 GB LPDDR5 RAM.
And what about the display, and what resolution the Steam Deck will run games on? For the latter, the answer is 720p- or, well, a little over that. The resolution is going to be 1280 x 800 at a 16:10 aspect ratio. Meanwhile, the screen itself LCD, and 7 inches in size, roughly the same as the upcoming Switch OLED (and bigger, in turn, than the base Switch or the Switch Lite). It’s also a 60 Hz display, is, of course, a touch screen, and features ambient light sensors for detection and adjustment of backlighting.
On the storage front, there’s plenty to talk about as well. The Steam Deck will have three SKUs, each with different internal memories. One will have a 64 GB internal storage, one will have a 256 GB internal storage, and the third and final will have 512 GB. Of course, as you might expect, the Steam Deck also comes with an SD card slot, so you can expand its storage by however much you want by simply plugging in an external SD card.
The size of internal storage isn’t the only thing that will change across the Steam Deck’s three SKUs- no, each is more powerful than the last in several ways. The 256 GB model, for instance, uses an NVMe SSD, as opposed to the eMMC drive of the base model. That, in turn, means that the 256 GB model has faster speeds. This model comes with a Steam Community profile bundle as well. Meanwhile, the 512 GB model, on top of all of that, has even faster speeds, along with a premium anti-glare etched screen, as well as a virtual keyboard theme. Each Steam Deck SKU will also come with a carrying case, but it seems the 512 GB model’s carrying case is going to be more special than the other two.
And what about the buttons and inputs on the device itself? There’s the usual stuff, of course- d-pad, the two analog sticks, the face buttons (A,B,X,Y), the bumpers and triggers, and the start and select buttons (called Options and View respectively). On top of that, the Steam Deck also has the L4, L5, R4, and R4 buttons on its grips on the back, which, it seems, are going to be programmable by the user. Finally, and most crucially, the Steam Deck also has two trackpads, one on each side of the screen below the analog sticks. Those who’ve used the Steam controller will be familiar with this, of course, but given the fact that the Steam Deck is claiming to be a portable gaming PC, those trackpads are going to be crucial.
Battery life is a crucial aspect of any handheld device, and on this front at least, the Steam Deck seems a little underwhelming. Valve says the actual battery life of the device will obviously vary based on usage and what games you’re playing, but the general range is 2-8 hours. Speaking in an interview with IGN, Valve’s Pierre-Loup Griffais said: “There’s a wide variety of experiences there. It’s about 2-8 hours, depending on what you’re doing. You can play Portal 2 for four hours on this thing. If you limit it to 30 FPS, you’re going to be playing for 5-6 hours.”
Similar to the Switch, the Steam Deck will also come with a dock, so you’ll be able to connect your device to it to play and use it on a bigger screen. There’s much about the dock itself that Valve hasn’t revealed it, such as what its price will be. We do know that it will be sold separately, of course, but so far, there’s plenty that’s up in the air as far as the dock is concerned.
In terms of ports included in the handheld device, the Steam Deck seems to have most bases covered. Tthere’s also a Type-C port, in addition to a microSD card reader, which we’ve already spoken about. Meanwhile, there’s also a headphone jack and a built-in microphone for your multiplayer needs. The dock also has several ports, including three USB ports in total, two of which are USB 2.0, with the third one being USB 3.1. Then there’s an ethernet port, an HDMI 2.0 port, and a DisplayPort 1.4.
In terms of connectivity, the Steam Deck is doing about what you’d expect a device of this sort to do, which is the bare minimum. It has Wifi, of course, with support for 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz bands. There’s also support for Bluetooth 5.0- which you’d assume was sort of a given in this day and age, but considering the fact that the Switch still doesn’t have Bluetooth support, we’re glad that the Steam Deck at least does. Valve has confirmed that there’s no built-in cellular internet though.
Speaking of Bluetooth support, as you’d expect, that means that the Steam Deck is going to be capable with plenty of accessories. What accessories exactly? Well, pretty much anything you can imagine. Headsets, controllers, even AirPods. In the aforementioned interview with IGN, Griffais said that the device’s connectivity even allows for VR support, though as he put it, “You would need [a lot] to do that, but that’s not really what we’re optimizing the performance for.”
Crucially, the Steam Deck is going to boast all the features you’d expect to see in a device that’s built around Steam. The store itself, Steam chat, remote play, cloud saves, community features, notifications, and more have all been confirmed for the device. Additionally, appropriately enough for a handheld gaming PC, you’re also going to have access to plenty of graphics settings and options. Speaking about that, Griffais told IGN: “All the normal options that you’d get in PC games are accessible. That being said, most games start with a pretty balanced graphic settings that work really well out of the box.”
OTHER PC SOFTWARE
Valve is selling the Steam Device as literally a handheld gaming PC, but that doesn’t mean it’s only good for gaming. According to them, it can do pretty much anything a PC can do. That means you can download and use other PC software and apps, watch and stream videos, browse the internet, and even download other game stores. So yes, in other words, you can totally use the Epic Games Store on the Steam Deck. Talk about an open platform.
The Steam Deck’s surprisingly reasonable pricing, for all that it boasts and is capable of, is perhaps one of it’s biggest strengths. There are three SKUs, of course, as we mentioned earlier. The $64 GB model is going to cost $399 (which is $100 costlier than a Switch or an Xbox Series S, the same price as the digital-only PS5, and $100 cheaper than a disc drive PS5 or an Xbox Series X). Then there’s the 256 GB model, which will cost $529. Finally, the 512 GB model is going to cost $649.
So when exactly is the Steam Deck launching? Soon, and you can start registering interest for the device on Steam right now- but there’s a caveat. The handheld is out in December, just a few months from now, but it’ll be a limited launch. December will see it releasing only in the United States, Canada, the UK, and the European Union. Valve has said that more regions are going to be added soon, but we don’t know right now exactly what “soon” means.