Steam Deck: The First Hands-On With Valve’s Handheld Gaming PC. We went to Valve’s office to try its new handheld gaming system for ourselves. The most gaming power you have ever held.
After rumors in May, Valve has officially announced the Steam Deck, a handheld gaming PC arriving later this year. Valve just announced the Steam Deck, its long-rumored Switch-like handheld gaming device. It will begin shipping in December, and reservations open July 16th at 1 PM ET. It starts at $399, and you can buy it for $529 and $649 models as well. So first, about the device, but here’s the essential info.
Steam Deck: The First Hands-On
Valve’s Steam Deck
The Steam Deck has a form factor similar to that of a slightly larger Nintendo Switch but with the capabilities of a full gaming PC. It runs a modified version of Valve’s SteamOS, complete with a new console-like interface for easy navigation of the Steam store and your Steam library. Still, it also provides access to an unrestricted computer desktop where any third-party applications can be installed (including non-Steam games or launchers).
The device has an AMD APU containing a quad-core Zen 2 CPU with eight threads and eight compute units’ worth of AMD RDNA 2 graphics, alongside 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM. There are three different storage tiers: 64GB eMMC storage for $399, 256GB NVMe SSD storage for $529, and 512GB of high-speed NVME SSD storage for $649, according to Valve. You can also expand the available storage using the high-speed microSD card slot.
The Steam Deck has a huge number of control options. There are two thumbsticks and two small, Steam Controller-style trackpads beneath the thumbsticks, which could give you more precision for things like first-person shooters. The front of the Steam Deck also has ABXY buttons, a D-pad, and a 7-inch 1280 x 800 touchscreen for 720p gameplay. The device also has a gyroscope for motion controls.
Like the Switch, it has two shoulder triggers on each side, and there are four back buttons (two on each side) and built-in microphones.
Here’s a legend to all of the Deck’s ports and controls:
Let’s uncover more about Valve’s Stream Deck.
The Steam Deck runs what Valve calls “a new version of SteamOS,” which is optimized for the handheld’s mobile form factor on the software side of things. But the actual OS is based on Linux and will use Proton as a compatibility layer to allow Windows-based games to run without requiring that developers specifically port them for the Steam Deck.
Valve will also sell a dock you can use to prop up a Steam Deck and plug it into external displays like a TV. You won’t need a dock to plug it into a TV, though — Valve says that the “Deck can be plugged into your TV, monitor, or even your old CRT if you have the right cables.” The Deck comes with fully-fledged USB-C ports containing HDMI, Ethernet, USB data, and standard Bluetooth. In addition, you’ll have native Bluetooth audio, something that’s missing from the Nintendo Switch.
In December, the first units will be available in the United States, Canada, the European Union, and the United Kingdom, with other areas following in 2022. The preorder invitations are supposed to go out before December, and if you miss your window on the invite, your reservation fee will be refunded to your Steam Wallet.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, though, the Steam Deck is still a full-fledged Linux computer, meaning that more technical users will be able to jump out to the regular Linux desktop, too. In addition, valve notes that you’ll be able to plug in a mouse, keyboard, and monitor, and install other game stores, regular PC software, browse the web, and more.
Valve says the Steam Deck’s features are designed to emulate the regular Steam app on the desktop, complete with chat, notifications, cloud save support, and all of your library, collections, and favorites kept in sync. And if you want more power, you’ll be able to stream games to the Steam Deck directly from your gaming PC using Valve’s Remote Play feature.