Valve has announced its own portable gaming console. The Steam Deck is a compact gaming PC running a customized version of SteamOS and can play all your Steam games while also running like a computer.
The Steam Deck has a form factor similar to that of other portable gaming consoles like the Nintendo Switch or PlayStation Vita. On either side of the screen are analog sticks with the d-pad on the left and the ABXY keys on the right.
Unlike most other controllers, the Steam Deck places its keys in a single arrangement, where the keys are on the same plane as the analog keys.
This freed up space underneath, which is now occupied by two capacitive trackpads. These allow you to control the mouse pointer in games not designed to be played with a controller but rather with a mouse.
The Steam Deck also has a 6-axis gyroscope, which can be used to control your movements in games.
Under the trackpad are two stereo speakers, which Valve says have a DSP and a wide sound stage. Of course, you can also plug in your own headphones, and the Steam Deck also has two built-in microphones.
Four additional buttons for View, Menu, Steam, and Quick Access complete the front.
At the top are the four analog triggers. The buttons are specially designed to be comfortable in racing games, which require pressing and holding the trigger buttons for long periods of time.
On the back of the console, Valve placed four additional buttons on the handle, two on each side. These are fully customizable and can be combined with any function of the game.
The screen on the front is a 7-inch IPS LCD display, 1280×800 resolution with a 16:10 aspect ratio, maximum brightness of 400 nits and touch support. The touch screen can be used to interact with the user interface and also to use the on-screen keyboard. It can also be used in games by mapping points on the screen to specific commands.
If you get the high-end model, the screen also has an anti-dazzling engraving for glass, which should make it possible to see better outside.
On the hardware side, the Steam Deck runs on a custom AMD APU. The processor is based on the Zen 2 architecture and has 4 cores and 8 threads with a variable clock speed of 2.4 to 3.5 GHz. The GPU uses the latest RDNA2 architecture with 8 compute units. The APU has a power envelope of 4-15W.
For storage, Valve offers three different levels. The base model has 64GB of eMMC, which is also the slowest storage you can get on the Steam Deck. The middle variant gets 256 GB of faster NVMe SSD storage while the high-end variant gets an even faster 512GB NVMe SSD.
In addition to built-in storage, users will also be able to use microSD cards to increase their storage. All models will receive 16 GB of LPDDR5 RAM.
The Steam Deck runs on Valve’s SteamOS 3.0. This is mainly based on Arch Linux and uses the Proton compatibility layer to run games designed for Windows. Valve claims that you can run all your games on Steam Deck, not just those designed for Linux.
The Steam Deck has a customized version of the Steam store that simply allows you to log in and access your Steam library directly. You can also browse and buy games here, just like you would on a PC. Steam Deck also supports Steam cloud backups, so you can stop playing on your PC and continue where you left off on Steam Deck.
Under the custom software, Steam Deck is a standard Linux PC and can be used as such. Using a USB docking station, you can connect the Steam Deck to your monitor, keyboard and mouse and use it as a standard Linux computer. You can even install other game stores, at least the ones that are available on Linux.
But what if you don’t want to use Linux? Well, it turns out that you can simply erase it and install Windows. Steam Deck is essentially a compact PC and can be used as such if needed.
In terms of connectivity, Steam Deck supports dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0.
It also has a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port, which can be used for power, data, display, and audio. It can be treated as the USB-C port on a PC and you can connect all your accessories as well as a desktop monitor via this port. It supports up to 8K at 60 Hz or 4K at 120 Hz via Alt DisplayPort 1.4 mode.
Finally, the Steam Deck has a 40Wh battery. Valve claims that it can run up to 8 hours when used lightly or for basic 2D games. However, the battery life can go down to 2 hours during demanding 3D games. You get a 45W USB-C PD charger in the box.
The Steam Deck is available in three variants. The 64 GB model is priced at $399 and comes with a carrying case. The 256GB model costs $529 and adds an exclusive set of Steam Community profiles. Finally, the 512GB model will cost you $649 and has an exclusive carrying case, an exclusive set of Steam Community profiles, and an exclusive virtual keyboard theme. It also has the aforementioned anti-dazzling engraved glass.
Steam Deck will be available for purchase in December 2021 in the United States, Canada, the European Union and the United Kingdom. If you live in these areas, you can now add it to your wish list on Steam.