Valve took the entire gaming landscape by storm with its recent big announcement. The gaming behemoth revealed the Steam Deck, a handheld device that aims to play every Steam Game. This won’t be the Steam owner’s first foray into the hardware space. A few years ago, they had announced and canceled Steam Machines, pre-built boxes that would make PC gaming more accessible to the mass market. There’s also the now discontinued Steam controller. Despite these failures, the Steam Deck is proof that Valve is still poised to disrupt the gaming hardware space. And they may just pull it off this time.
Below, we’ve got all of the information you need to know about the Steam Deck.
In short, the Steam Deck is a portable gaming device currently being developed by Valve. The company’s goal is for the device to run every game on the Steam library. To put it simply, it’s a handheld gaming PC. Gabe Newell has stated how heavily focused they are on ensuring the Steam Deck runs every game Steam users have in their libraries. From the promotional material, it appears that they may meet their target.
We’ve seen several games running on the Steam Deck, including demanding AAA titles. So far, Control and Jedi Fallen Order have been showcased as playable on the upcoming handheld, and Valve is confident that’s barely the tip of the iceberg. However, there are tech outlets that have raised their concerns, which primarily stem from the Steam Deck’s OS.
Because the device will run a version of SteamOS, which is based on Linux, the concern is the compatibility goal Valve has set for itself may not be achievable. However, the gaming giant has explained that their bridging software, Proton, has been upgraded to make it easy for developers to make their games playable on the device. Digital Foundry has expressed that the porting process will have to be extremely easy for developers to buy in.
At the heart of the Steam Deck lies a custom chip equipped with an AMD Zen 2 CPU and RDNA 2 GPU. Tech outlets like Digital Foundry are likening this chip to the one used by the Xbox Series S, making it the main console we can use as a point of comparison. However, the Steam Deck seems to have a bit of an edge in the RAM department as it has 16 GB compared to the Series S’s 10.
The Valve handheld will sport a 7-inch LCD screen that is touch-enabled. Likely, this control method will primarily be used for navigating menus. Still, it may also open up avenues for devs to implement touch controls in various aspects of their titles, such as inventory management.
In terms of size, the Steam Deck is going to be a hefty device. Its width is looking relatively longer than a Nintendo Switch. A good comparison can likely be made with a Hori Split Pad Pro-equipped Switch. The size isn’t just there for the internals, though. Besides the usual buttons and twin sticks, the Steam Deck will also have touchpads on either of its front sides. On the back, it will also have four programmable paddles. Audiophiles can also rejoice that the device will have a 3.5 mm headphone jack.
The Steam Deck will come in 3 flavors, all of which will have the same performance specs. The differentiator will be storage capacity at 64 GB, 256 GB, and 512 GB, respectively.
The Steam Deck will allow connectivity with TVs and monitors. The separately sold dock will have both an HDMI and a DisplayPort ports for outputting to external screens. However, it won’t be capable of outputting in 4K or full HD, as the device itself only supports up to 720p resolutions.
The dock will also come with a few other ports to give you more flexibility. Two USB 2.0 ports and a single USB 3.1 will allow you to connect peripherals such as keyboards, mouses and controllers. The Steam Deck dock will also have an ethernet port for wired internet connections.
What’s more, the dock itself won’t have a front panel like the Switch’s dock. It will be a simple stand with a USB-C connection, so no more scratch hazards. Overall, the dock can turn your Steam Deck into a capable gaming laptop replacement.
Valve is targeting a December 2021 launch window for its initial batch of production devices. These slots, however, are long gone. On Steam’s reservation page, the earliest date is mid to late 2022. Valve, however, has confirmed that they may be able to start shipping earlier, so a lot of lucky gamers may get theirs sooner than expected.
Reserving a Steam Deck is relatively easy. You can head over to Steam, and with an account that has made at least one purchase before June 2021, you can reserve your device. Even better, you only need to pay a $5 reservation deposit. You can always cancel your pre-order should the device not meet your expectations when outlets get their hands on theirs.
Valve’s pricing for the Steam Deck took many gamers by surprise. The cheapest model, the one with 64 GB of storage, will be sold for $399, a mere $50 more expensive than the Switch OLED. The 256 GB model will cost you $530, while the 512 GB model will set you back by $650.