Valve entered the handheld gaming space with a bombshell announcement: the Steam Deck. Billed as the world's most powerful handheld gaming device, the Steam Deck is designed to synergize with your Steam account, which means that in theory, you can access the best PC games on the go and without a bulky desktop or laptop.
Still, being handheld means there are going to be some necessary, understandable trade-offs. Valve's previous dedicated gaming devices, the Steam Machines, didn't quite take off, which means there's plenty of learning going into this new entry. Here's everything we know about the Steam Deck so far.
What is Steam Deck?
The Steam Deck is a portable device designed by Valve, parent company of Steam. The Steam Deck allows players to access their Steam account, library, and friends in a handheld device powerful enough to run modern games like Control or Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.
You can still tweak the graphics settings and framerate caps like you would normally, though naturally, a lot of higher-end settings won't be available given the limited horsepower compared to high-end GPUs. The settings you run games at will also have a massive impact on battery life. As an example, Valve notes that if Portal 2 is played at 30 FPS, players will likely get around five hours of continuous play. The screen is capped at a 60hz refresh rate, meaning you won't be able to see the benefits of games running at 120 FPS on this hardware.
Steam Deck technical specs
Valve has published the full list of Steam Deck technical specifications.
|Operating System||SteamOS 3.0 (Arch-based)|
|Display||7-inch diagonal, 1200x800 px|
|Processor||AMD APU, Zen 2 4c/8t, 2.4-3.5GHz|
|Graphics||8 RDNA 2 CUs, 1.0-1.6GHz|
|Memory||16GB LPDDR5 RAM|
|Storage||64GB eMMC / 256GB SSD / 512GB SSD|
|Expandable storage||Yes, microSD card slot|
|Wi-Fi||Dual-band Wi-Fi radio, 2.4GHz and 5GHz|
|Headphone jack||3.5mm stereo headphone / headset jack|
|Charging input||45W USB Type-C PD3.0 power supply|
|Battery||40Whr battery, 2 - 8 hours of gameplay|
|Size||298mm x 117mm x 49mm|
|Weight||Roughly 669 grams|
The Steam Deck uses symmetrical thumbsticks, with standard A/B/X/Y buttons, two trackpads, a D-pad, power button, volume buttons, R1/R2/L1/L2 triggers, and four assignable grip buttons on the back of the device.
How much does Steam Deck cost?
There are three different models for the Steam Deck with varying storage options and a couple of other extras, which means there's a wide pricing range to consider. The Steam Deck starts at $399 for the 64GB model, running $529 for the 256GB model and $649 for the 512GB model. The storage size and speed are the only differences, as otherwise the internal specs will be the same, so you don't need to worry about differences in CPU speed, GPU power, or the amount of RAM in the system.
It is important to note that the faster SSD storage cannot be expanded, so you should consider that carefully when thinking about what model you'd like to get. Games played on an internal SSD will load much quicker than games stored on an SD card and may perform a bit better as well.
The $529 and $649 models also include a carrying case and an exclusive Steam Community profile bundle, while the $649 model uses "premium anti-glare etched glass" and comes with an exclusive virtual keyboard theme.
Can Steam Deck play all my games?
The Steam Deck uses the latest version of SteamOS, a type of Linux operating system that works with software callled Proton. Proton works as a compatibility layer so that even Windows versions of games can run on Linux. With that in mind, there are still compatibility issues so support for every single game cannot be guaranteed. Regardless, Valve promises that any games you have running on SteamOS will have no problems running on the Steam Deck.
Steam Deck uses SteamOS
With SteamOS, players have access to Steam Chat, notifications, and other features they've come to expect from using Steam. Remote Play is also supported, so a game can be streamed from your PC to the Steam Deck. The store ensures that you don't have to buy something elsewhere before you can play it on your Steam Deck — it's all one smooth experience. Cloud Saves also mean that if you do start playing something on your regular PC, you can continue playing it on your Steam Deck without any problems, so long as the game supports Cloud Saves as a feature.
This software also supports suspending and resuming different games, ensuring players never have to wait for long to dive back into whatever they're playing.
It goes further than just these features though, with Valve explaining that you can do anything on a Steam Deck found on a Linux computer, including browsing the web. You can even install what you want, just like you would on a normal Linux computer.
Valve tells IGN that the UI used in the Steam Deck has been given a "facelift" that makes it feel better to use with a controller, from navigating the settings to seeking out specific games. As Valve develops new features for the Steam Deck in the future, these can also be used to improve the regular Steam experience.
Valve also reveals that players won't have to worry about gaming drivers. Instead, software updates simply be released as-needed.
Can I pair my Steam Deck with my favorite accessories?
As long as a device has Bluetooth support, you can safely expect to use it with your Steam Deck. This means that if you have a favorite Bluetooth headset you'd like to pair, or you prefer using controllers like the DualSense, you can do so. Anything that requires a wired connection may not be compatible, however, given the limited ports available on the Steam Deck. You can use a USB-C hub with the Steam Deck, however.
What is the Steam Deck dock?
Valve is also producing a first-party dock for the Steam Deck. This dock allows users to plug the device in and connect to a TV or monitor, similar to how the Nintendo Switch can be played portable or docked. It provides flexibility in how use choose to enjoy your games, so you don't have to hook a bulky desktop up to your TV to relax and enjoy your Steam library from the comfort of your couch.
Here's the technical specs for the Steam Deck dock:
|Category||Steam Deck dock|
|Peripherals||1 x USB-A 3.1 Port, 2 x USB-A 2.0 Ports|
|External display||DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0|
|Size||117mm x 29mm x 50.5mm|
|Weight||Roughly 120 grams|
Right now, Valve has not committed to a price for the Steam Deck dock or even a release window, meaning that there's no guarantee the dock will be available at the same time as the device itself. Valve does note however that most third-party docks meeting the compatible specifications should work.
When is the Steam Deck release date?
There's no exact release date for the Steam Deck right now however, Valve states that orders will "start shipping" in December 2021. Preorders opened starting July 16 at 10:00 a.m. PT/1:00 p.m. ET. It'll initially be available in the U.S, Canada, EU and UK, with more territories coming at a later date sometime next year.
We're seeing many people with successful reservations being told their orders will ship sometime in Q1 or Q2 2022, especially for those that opted for the higher-end models, so bear that in mind.
How do I reserve a Steam Deck?
To reserve a Steam Deck once everything is open, you'll need to log in on Steam. You'll also need to have your payment information ready, as there is a reservation fee. Once you make a successful reservation, you can cancel it within 30 days. Placing a reservation puts you in a queue to fully purchase a Steam Deck.
For the first 48 hours of reservations being open in your region, reservations will be limited to Steam accounts that have made a purchase before June 2021. The Steam Deck is also limited to one reservation per account.
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