The now-reservable Steam Deck is the perfect example of an experimental, yet exciting project drawn from a company. Though it isn’t even out yet, the masses of gamers who are interested in handheld consoles have had their attention grabbed by its news. As we await its official release, here is what we know so far.
The company that is developing the Steam Deck is Valve Corporation, and the manufacturer will be Quanta Computer. This new console will be their newest addition to their Steam Machine line.
Valve’s first appearance was with a series of small prebuilt form factor gaming PCs that ran the SteamOS, which is the primary operating system for Steam Machines built by Valve. Versions 1.0 and 2.0 of the SteamOS were based on Linux’s Debian distribution, but the deck will be running its 3.0.
The issue with Valve’s attempts at introducing Linux into their concepts was that gamers and game developers alike didn’t really follow suit, since there was already a lack of game availability with Linux during the company’s first introductions.
A notable member of the Steam Machine line was the Steam Controller. The controller’s selling point was its hyper-realistic haptic feedback through its high-resolution trackpads, as well as its gyroscopic sensors which detect the orientation of the controller.
The prototype for the Steam Controller originally had an LCD screen built into the middle to use as a second screen, which later triggered Valve’s concept of the Steam Deck.
The end goal they have is for the device to be able to run near the entirety of Steam’s game library, essentially making it a portable, handheld PC, and is also advertised as the most powerful handheld in the world. Concepts like such are what make Valve and similar companies the dream companies to work for just for the innovation they yearn for.
Valve partnered with AMD, a semiconductor company known for its computer processors, to create an accelerated processing unit using their Zen2 and their RDNA 2 powerhouse, making this small console possess enough performance to run AAA games efficiently. The fact of running an RDNA 2 on an APU is what makes this a game-changer.
The central processing unit (CPU) will be a four-core/eight thread, compared to being almost as powerful if not equally powerful as a Ryzen 3000 desktop PC processor.
The graphics processing unit (GPU) will be running on eight compute units, comparable to the Radeon RX 6000 series.
The Steam Deck will come in 3 different storage options, the choices being 64 gigabytes running over PCI express 2.0, and 256 and 512 gigabytes both running over PCI express 3.0. The only extra storage option will be a microSD card, for which there will be a slot on the device.
Beware over the microSD though, seeing where game development is going, relying on fast solid-state drives (SSD), the microSD isn’t very future-proof.
The console will also have a seven-inch LCD touchscreen with a resolution of 1280 by 800 pixels and will run at a set of 60 Hz.
It will include the usual controls you would find on a controller using ABXY, capacitive touch thumbsticks, trackpads under each thumbstick, a pair of triggers and a pair of shoulder buttons at the top, left and right bumpers, proper speakers and microphones, and the usual headphone jack, fan grill, volume buttons, USB Type-C port, and a power button and status LED.
You will be getting eight hours of gameplay with its battery and will be able to be charged through its USB TType-C port.
Fundamentally, though the word console is in this article for convenience, the Steam Deck will be literally a PC.
Reviews so far
PC Gamer, a UK-based magazine and company, as well as Linus from Linus Tech Tips, a Canadian YouTuber who has his own company and hosts four different technology channels both did a review on the Steam Deck by being invited by Valve.
PC Gamer sent one of their journalists to review the handheld. He immediately mentions the company putting many different control options to capture the customization people wish for in PC gaming.
He immediately expresses a liking for the analog sticks found on the Steam Deck, compared to the rival Nintendo Switch’s joy-cons. The reporter also talks about how much bigger it is than the rival handheld, but how it is unnoticeable once you’re using it.
The fan cooling the Steam Deck can be heard in a fully quiet room, and it releases heat too, but it still is quieter than a proper gaming laptop for example.
The overall review from PC Gamer is positive.
Linus on the other hand brought an insane amount of dongles to run as many games as he could within the one and a half hour he got with the device and also brought various measuring and comparable devices to answer as many questions as possible that his viewers may have on the Steam Deck.
To compare, he brought a Nintendo Switch and an AYA NEO (both portable handheld consoles as such) to compare ergonomics, as well as a thermal camera to track where it heats up and where the cooling system will be.
Linus mentions its immediate comfortable ergonomics, despite him having smaller hands and the deck having a good feeling considering it’s an early unit.
Another marvel in the deck is the vast options for navigation thanks to the different buttons, touchpad, thumbsticks, and touchscreen.
Linus also deduced that the Steam Deck’s heat stays centered thanks to its size, meaning it won’t be heating your hands while gaming.
Linus’ review was also overall very positive, and now we must only await its release to be able to try it out ourselves.