Valve, the company behind Steam and titles such as Half Life and Team Fortress, has revealed Steam Deck, a handheld gaming device that's akin to a Nintendo Switch-style PC. The device is slated to come out in December of 2021 with a starting price of $399.
Steam Deck reservations are available now and only require a $5 deposit. Unfortunately, the website is showing ship dates as either Q2 or Q3 of 2022 for those that weren't able to reserve during the initial rush. Below we have everything you need to know about this ambitious handheld right here, including the powerful specs, design, display and how to buy yours.
Steam Deck latest news (updated July 29)
- Valve has confirmed that the Steam Deck SSD is upgradable, but warns that this is best performed by those who know what they're doing.
- Steam Deck pre-orders are already in very high demand, as the expected base model availability has slipped to "after Q2 2022."
- The Steam Deck is getting one of the PS5's most exciting features, with the ability to suspend and resume PC games.
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
All models of the Steam Deck can be reserved for $5. Reservations are already live, with an expected ship date of December 2021 for early buyers. Customers can only purchase the Steam Deck model that they reserved. So choose wisely.
For those that were able to reserve early will likely get their units sometime towards the end of the year. Those that are late can still reserve a unit now, but will have to wait until Q2 or Q3 of 2022.
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.
Unfortunately for those that did try and reserve on the weekend of July 16, buyers were met with website crashes and order delays, only to find units being listed on eBay for inflated prices.
Reservations are only available to customers in the United States, Canada, European Union, and the United Kingdom.
Steam Deck design
The Steam Deck comes housed in what appears to be a black plastic shell with a matte black finish. There's a standard array of buttons, such as A, B, X, and Y, along with two analog sticks and both primary and secondary shoulder buttons. The buttons look to be of the clicky variety, and not the spongey ones found on the Game Boy Color.
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. Also 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 device are two flat touch pads, a callback to the ill-fated Steam Controller from 2015. There are also menu, options, and a Steam button cornering the device. 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 also went out of its way to mention that the Steam Deck is designed for comfortability. There's a rotating GIF of an analog stick, suggesting that Valve is not expecting gamers to run into Joy Con drift, a common problem on the Nintendo Switch.
Based on a looping video on the Steam Deck website, the device looks substantial, a bit taller than a Switch. And unlike the Nintendo Switch OLED, the Steam Deck does have a chunkier bezel than what's expected on hardware being released in 2021. Granted, this could all be prototype hardware subject to change.
Steam Deck display
According to the Steam Deck hardware page, it will sport a 7-inch LCD touchscreen, on par with the upcoming Nintendo Switch OLED model. Although, it should be noted, OLED displays tend to produce more vibrant colors and deeper blacks than LCDs. IGN was able to get an early hands-on with the device and have confirmed the screen will have a decently high 1280x800 resolution.
While this might seem low, even when compared to the best budget phones out right now, it's a solid pixel density for gaming on such a small screen.
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 also 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 7-8 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.
Steam Deck Games
While Valve is leveraging its expansive Steam marketplace as a major selling point of the Steam Deck, it seems that all games may not be playable. This is due to anti-cheat software needed for some popular games. Because Steam Deck runs on the Linux-based SteamOS, games like Destiny 2, Apex Legends, Rainbow Six Siege and Playerunknown's Battlegrounds may not work out the gate. But, of course, Valve will likely update its Proton tool to ensure more games are compatible with SteamOS.
To check if your favorite game works well on SteamOS, head on over to the ProtonDB website and type in a title. It'll show it as either Native, Bronze, Silver, Gold or Borked. The former four means the game works with either no or varying levels of crashes, while Borked means the game doesn't run at all.
Still, expect a vast majority of games to work.
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 give access to external displays (HDMI/DisplayPort), Ethernet and USB Type-A/Type-C peripherals.
How to pre-order Steam Deck
Valve is taking extra precautions to make ordering and reserving a Steam Dock a scalper and bot-free experience. Even then, the crush of people trying to grab a system on July 16 crashed the website. And, unsurprisingly, people have already began listing units on eBay for prices of up to $1,500.
Either way, the reservation page is live, and only requires a $5 deposit. Once that's done, Valve will email you once so you can complete your purchase. How long this takes is totally dependent on what stock Valve expects to have. At the moment, Valve is expecting units reserved now to ship in either Q2 or Q3 of 2022.
According to the Steam Deck FAQ, Valve says "The main reason for reservations is to ensure an orderly and fair ordering process for customers when Steam Deck inventory becomes available. The additional fee gives us a clearer signal of intent to purchase, which gives us better data to balance supply chain, inventory, and regional distribution leading up to launch."
In another attempt to block scalpers, Valve is limiting reservations to those that have owned a Steam account since before June 2021, and have purchased at least one game on the account prior.
"We are aware of potential unauthorized resellers, and as an additional safeguard to ensure a fair ordering process, we’ve added a requirement that the reserver has made a purchase on Steam prior to June 2021 for the first 48 hours of reservation availability."
Valve is also making it easy to cancel a reservation. Customers will have up to 30 days to cancel their Steam Deck reservation, with a full refund going back to the card used. Any reservation cancelled outside of the 30-day window will see refunds going to a customer's Steam Wallet.