The Valve Steam Deck is the answer to "what happens if you cross a Nintendo Switch with a PC." While it may look like the aforementioned Nintendo hybrid console, the Steam Deck is quite a different machine, effectively aiming to make PC gaming genuinely portable.
Valve's Steam Deck is basically a machine built around the custom SteamOS and custom processor and graphics tech from AMD. And it aims to dlevier the functionality of a gaming PC in a handheld from, with it tipped to eve be able to run Windows 10 or Windows 11.
With that in mind, here's what we know about the Valve Steam Deck so far.
Steam Deck latest news (January 14)
- Valve says that the first Steam Deck preorders are on track for late February, but the ongoing supply chain issues could impact that timetable.
- Valve has revealed final packaging photos of the Steam Deck along with a first look at the free carrying case.
- Valve has made it easier to see which games work well with the Steam Deck with its new compatibility program.
Valve Steam Deck specs
|Price||$399; $529; $649||Same processor/RAM, different storage|
|CPU/GPU||AMD Zen 2 + RDNA 2 APU||4-core, 8-thread with 8 RDNA 2 compute units for GPU. CPU: 2.4 to 3.5GHz; GPU: 1.0 to 1.6GHz|
|GPU Compute||1TF to 1.6TF|
|Screen||7" 1280x800 LCD Display||512GB model to include anti-glare etched glass|
|Battery||40-watt hour||7-8 hours for 2D games/web browsing|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth, USB Type-C, 3.5mm headphone jack|
|Storage||64GB; 256GB; 512GB||256GB and 512GB models will use faster NVMe SSD storage. 64GB will use eMMC.|
|Expansion||Micro SD Card slot|
|Max Power Draw||20W (including display)|
|Other||Built-in microphone, ambient light sensor|
Steam Deck price and release date
The Valve Steam Deck was set for a December release, but heavy demand and the current chip shortages have een the Steam Deck's release pushed back into 2022.
As such, Valve has updated its Steam Deck shipping estimates and now says that the first Steam Deck preorders are on track for late February. However, if you attempt to order a Steam Deck now from the company the shipping estimate says "After Q2 2022." So you could have a long wait.
The Steam Deck will be available in three different varieties. The 64GB eMMC storage model will be the cheapest at $399, and will include a carrying case.
The $529 middle-tier model will include 256GB of NVMe SSD storage, with a carrying case and an exclusive Steam Community profile bundle, although we're not entirely sure what that is.
The highest-end model, which will run for $649, will include 512GB of NVMe SSD storage, premium anti-glare etched glass, an exclusive carrying case, an exclusive Steam Community profile bundle and an exclusive virtual keyboard theme.
Steam Deck design
The Steam Deck's chassis appears to be formed of matte black plastic shell, with a design that's inexplicably Switch-like.
There's a standard array of A, B, X, Y button, along with two analog sticks and both primary and secondary shoulder buttons.The R2 and L2 shoulder buttons do seem to be spring loaded, with analog-style compression. This is unlike the Nintendo Switch, which features single-click shoulder buttons.
Around the grips are additional macro buttons which can likely be programmed for custom functions. Around the back is the Valve logo along with a vent to exhaust out heat. Towards the top is the power button, USB-Type C port, another vent, a headphone jack and volume controllers.
Interestingly, on the face of the Steam Deck are two flat touch pads, a callback to the ill-fated Steam Controller from 2015, as well as buttons for Steam, the menu and for options. And next to the screen are two speaker grills. The Steam Deck will also feature gyro controls, which can make aiming in shooters easier when playing on a handheld.
Valve has also revealed that the Steam Deck will come with a free carrying case, and it has shared photos of the final packaging to give us a sense of what it will look like when it finally starts shipping.
Steam Deck display
According to the Steam Deck hardware page, it will sport a 7-inch 1280 x 800 resolution LCD touchscreen, on par with the Nintendo Switch OLED. Although, it should be noted, OLED displays tend to produce more vibrant colors and deeper blacks than LCDs.
Steam Deck performance and battery life
The Steam Deck is being powered by an AMD processor that, according to Valve, has been "optimized for handheld gaming." It's running on a Zen 2 + RDNA 2 architecture, so hardware similar to what's found on the Xbox Series X. RDNA 2 is actually one of the few differentiating factors between the Xbox Series X and PS5, potentially giving Microsoft's console an advantage.
According to Valve, this processor is "more than enough performance to run the latest AAA games in a very efficient power envelope." I guess we'll have to see how it fares against demanding titles such as Cyberpunk 2077.
Steam Deck, unsurprisingly, links with Steam. So anyone who buys a Steam Deck should rest assured that almost of all of their Steam library will be available to download immediately, thanks to Proton.
The Steam Deck can also be spec'd with either 64GB of eMMC storage or 256/512GB of NVMe storage. There's a microSD card slot for additional expansion.
The device will house a 40 watt-hour battery, which promises several hours of play for "most games." Lighter games or web browsing should net 7 to 8 hours of battery.
According to the FAQ, the Steam Deck is ultimately a PC running Steam OS, and "you can install third party software and operating systems." In a video interview by IGN, Valve developers confirmed that because the Steam Deck is running Linux, it will also be possible to install the Epic Games Store. We've got an explainer on Steam OS and the underlying Proton technology that will allow the Steam Deck to play many Windows-only games.
A recent developer event held by Valve saw the gaming giant provide a load of new information around the Steam Deck's capabilities as well as a limitation or two.
Steam Deck games and compatibility
When it was first announced the Steam Deck was touted as the device for taking "your Steam Library, anywhere." But as it turns out, the Steam Deck only supports some 16,000 games so far. That's plenty, but is still shy of the whole Steam Library line up.
And that has raised questions of compatibility, which has prompted Valve to create the Steam Deck Compatibility program. This will see games on the Steam Store accessed via the Steam Deck labeled as "Verified," "Playable," "Unsupported," or "Unknown." The former is for games that run perfectly on the Steam Deck out of the box, while Playable is for games that require a few tweaks first. Unsupported is for games that don't work and Unknown is for those games that have yet to be checked for Steam Deck compatibility.
Steam Deck dock
Like the Nintendo Switch, the Steam Deck will also work with a docking accessory. The dock will allow gamers to connect their Steam Deck to a television or monitor. It will also give gamers added expansion slots, which could come in handy when wanting to connect one the best fight sticks for playing Street Fighter V at a LAN event or esports cafe. The dock will be sold separately at a later date. But remember, this is a PC, so it can work off of any other USB Type-C hub.
Steam Deck FAQ
Can you upgrade the Steam Deck storage?
Internal storage is not user upgradable, at least not officially. Valve's Gabe Newell has confirmed that inside is a normal internal M.2 2230 SSD slot which, theoretically, can be swapped out. It will take an experienced PC modder to replace it though. Plus, it will likely void any warranty. All Steam Decks do have a micro SD card slot, however.
Is NVMe SSD worth it?
The Steam Deck comes in two different storage types. The cheapest $399 model has eMMC storage, which is most similar to an SD card. The more expensive variants have fast NVMe SSDs. NVMe SSDs have greater read/write speeds, and will translate to faster load times for games. For most gamers, the upgrade will be worth it.
What is the best Steam Deck to buy?
Whether you buy the base $399 Steam Deck or the most expensive 512GB $649 model, know that all units have the same computational and graphical horsepower. The major difference is storage size and speed. The base unit will have slower eMMC storage while the $529 and $649 models have 256GB and 512GB of fast NVME SSD storage. For most, we feel the middle $529 model will suffice.
Does Steam Deck have 5G or cellular connection?
No. Steam Deck is Wi-Fi only.
Does Steam Deck come with a dock?
Unlike the Nintendo Switch, the Steam Deck dock will not be included. It will be sold separately. A price has not been confirmed.
Does Steam Deck support keyboard and mouse?
Yes. The Steam Deck is ultimately a PC. You can plug in, or wirelessly connect via Bluetooth, both a keyboard and a mouse. It will be easier to plug peripherals in via a dock.
Does Steam Deck support VR?
Technically speaking, yes. The Steam Deck can worth with the best VR headsets, but is not designed for virtual reality in mind. Remember, the Steam Deck is a handheld system meant to play games at 720p resolutions. For VR, you'll need some more horsepower.
Does the Steam Deck have a kickstand?
No. The Steam Deck does not have a built-in kickstand. A dock or some other solution will be required.
Valve Steam Deck outlook
The Valve Steam Deck wasn't a machine we had been crying out for, but not that it's made an appearance, the idea of a portable gaming PC from one of the best game companies around is rather appealing.
We'd need to go hands-on to get a proper impression of the Steam Deck, but it could be a sleeper hit device of late 2021 or 2022. We just hope that its specs can deliver enough gaming power to last more than a few years.