Valve gobsmacked the entire gaming world with their recent reveal of the Steam Deck, a handheld device that aims to run every game in your Steam library. It’s an incredibly staggering proposition but will it be worth buying into?
Let’s look at all of the important things gamers need to know about the device.
1. The Specs
The Steam Deck is powered by a custom chip running AMD’s Zen 2 CPU and RDNA 2 GPU. Digital Foundry has made comparisons to the performance of the Xbox Series S’s processor, which has similar hardware. Valve’s handheld, though, will include 16 GB of RAM and is looking relatively beefy, measuring at a longer width than a Nintendo Switch. It comes in three storage versions 64 GB, 256 GB and 512 GB.
The Steam Deck has the usual face buttons you’d expect, including a proper D-pad. Besides the two shoulder buttons and triggers, the device has four mappable paddles on the back. Below each of its sticks, it also has touchpads that can be used to control mouse cursors. The Steam Deck’s 7-inch LCD display comes with touch capabilities but their use in games will depend on game compatibility.
3. Game Compatibility
Valve’s upcoming handheld will run on SteamOS, which is largely based on Linux. As most games on Steam are developed for Windows, Valve has significantly upgraded its Proton software. This allows for games on the Steam Deck to run even if they’re not built for Linux. The main concern here is whether the upgrades will allow devs to easily enable compatibility in their titles.
4. The Dock
Along with the Steam Deck, Valve will release a dock you can purchase separately. This nifty device will function similarly to the Nintendo Switch dock, minus some annoyances. For starters, there’s no front covering that will scratch your Steam Deck. Furthermore, this dock will have an ethernet port for wired internet connections. Apart from an HDMI port, it will also have a DisplayPort for connecting to TVs and monitors. Sadly, it doesn’t look like the device will be outputting 4K resolutions, though.
The dock mentioned above will also come with USB ports for connecting peripherals. Promotional materials have shown the Steam Deck’s dock allowing for mouse and keyboard connections as well as arcade sticks. In essence, you’ll be able to treat the device as a gaming laptop by connecting it to the dock, which is pretty sweet.
6. Battery Life
One of the main areas where Steam Deck may fall short for some is the battery life. Valve claims gamers can get up to 7-8 hours of gameplay but that will vary depending on how resource-hungry each title is. It’s likely that we’ll see a similar situation with the Switch, with AAA gaming only lasting for 3-4 hour sessions.
7. Windows & Other Marketplaces
Another big surprise was Valve’s willingness to make the Steam Deck as open as possible. The gaming behemoth has stated that Windows and other operating systems can be installed on the device. You could even install the Epic Games Store and run your games from that library as well. It’s a pretty bold move when you consider one of the other important ramifications.
Because of how open the Steam Deck is, it will be possible to also run emulators for a big number of retro and older systems. The Xbox Series S, which has comparable hardware, is often regarded as an amazing emulation box because it’s able to run up to PS2 titles with respectful performance. There’s no doubt that the Steam Deck will likely become the ultimate portable emulator.
9. The Price
The Steam Deck will come in 3 flavors depending on storage size. The cheapest model will have 64GB of eMMC storage and is priced at $400. The middle option with 256GB of NVMe SSD will run you $530, while the 512GB model will cost $650. The pricing here is quite staggering, especially the 64GB model which is priced at just $50 more than the upcoming Switch OLED. On top of that, all three models will have SD card slots to expand their storage.
Valve is targeting a December 2021 release for its first batch of Steam Decks. Instead of using standard pre-order methods, they have set up a reservation system where you can check when is the earliest you can expect yours to ship. Right now, the system is showing everything is reserved all through 2022. However, the process is pretty simple. All you need is a Steam account with at least one purchase made before June 2021 and $5 to reserve your own device.
Overall, the Steam Deck is looking quite promising. Being able to run PC games on the go, even at 720p, is a pretty sweet deal. Even though the 64GB is priced competitively, I think gamers will ultimately go for at least the 256GB model. The low amount of storage will only ever be enough for a handful of indie games and small titles. If AAA games are what you’re going for, then you’ll have to save a few more extra bucks.
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