Steam Deck: Everything we know about Valve’s new handheld gaming device

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(Image credit: Valve)

Valve is getting into the handheld gaming business. The rumors were right and the Steam Deck is coming this year: a handheld device that can play any game in your Steam library. It’s aiming to be the Nintendo Switch for PC gaming, essentially, though the Steam Deck can do a lot more than just play games.

That’s because it’s not a games console, it’s really a portable PC. You can plug it into a monitor or a TV, install apps and software, use it to watch streaming video, and more—even install other game stores on it, according to Valve. The Steam Deck will run on a new version of SteamOS, Valve’s Linux-based operating system, though you’ll be able to play Windows games that don’t have official Linux support using Valve’s compatibility tech, or even uninstall SteamOS and just install Windows.

Here’s everything we know about the Steam Deck.

When will the Steam Deck release?

The Steam Deck will begin shipping in December 2021.

You can’t preorder one yet, but starting Friday, July 16 at 10 am Pacific, you can reserve a Steam Deck if you put down a $5 deposit, and Valve will let you know when it’s available to order. If you put down a deposit, the $5 will go toward the cost of the Steam Deck if you do decide to order one.

“When inventory is available, customers will be notified in the order reservations were made to make their purchase,” says Valve.

Steam Deck will start shipping in December to the US, UK, Canada and the European Union. For other regions, units won’t ship until 2022.

(Image credit: Valve)

How much does the Steam Deck cost?

The price of the Steam Deck depends on which version you want, and there are three different versions based on storage size. The Steam Deck costs:

  • $399 for the 64GB version
  • $529 for the 256GB version
  • $649 for the 512GB version 

The more expensive versions of the Steam Deck also feature faster storage, but all three versions will let you increase storage space with a microSD card.

What are the Steam Deck specs?

  • CPU: AMD Zen 2 4c/8t, 2.4-3.5GHz (up to 448 GFlops FP32)
  • GPU: 8 RDNA 2 CUs, 1.0-1.6GHz (up to 1.6 TFlops FP32)
  • RAM: 16 GB DDR5
  • Storage: 64GB, 256GB, 512GB versions; expandable with MicroSD cards
  • Display: 7″ diagonal, 1280×800 (16:10), 60Hz LCD touchscreen
  • Audio: Stereo speakers that “pack a punch,” says Valve, 3.5mm stereo jack, dual mics, multichannel USB-C/Bluetooth output
  • Controls: Two analog sticks with capacitive touch, D-pad, face buttons, analog triggers, bumpers, assignable grip buttons, “view” and “menu” buttons, gyro
  • Trackpads: There’s two of them, and Valve says that they have “55% better latency compared to Steam Controller.”
  • Wireless connectivity: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • Wired connectivity: USB-C with DisplayPort 1.4 Alt-mode support; up to 8K @60Hz or 4K @120Hz, USB 3.2 Gen 2
  • Battery: 40Whr, “2-8 hours of gameplay”
  • Size: 11.7″ x 4.6″ x 1.8″ (298mm x 117mm x 49mm)
  • Weight: Approximately 1.47 lbs (669 grams)

(Image credit: Valve)

So it’s bigger than a Switch, then?

A bit, yes. For comparison, the Nintendo Switch (standard version) is 9.4″ x 4″ x .55″ and weighs just under a pound. So the Steam Deck is a couple inches wider, half an inch taller taller, considerably thicker and a bit heavier than the Switch.

Anything I should be concerned about?

Well, yeah. Battery life doesn’t sound especially stellar, with Valve developer Pierre-Loup Griffais telling IGN: “It’s about 2-8 hours, depending on what you’re doing. You can play Portal 2 for four hours on this thing. If you limit it to 30 fps, you’re going to be playing for 5-6 hours.”

That’s not a heck of a long time for gaming without the device needing to be plugged in or recharged, and more demanding games will take a bigger toll on the battery than 2011’s Portal 2. That could be a real issue if you want to take your Deck with you while traveling or if you’re away from an electrical outlet for a while.

There’s also a dock, but it’s sold separately

Like the Switch, there’s a dock for the Steam Deck that will allow you to connect it to your TV or a monitor. The USB-C dock will provide DisplayPort and HDMI output, an Ethernet adapter, and three USB inputs.

The dock doesn’t come with the Steam Deck, it’s sold separately, though Valve hasn’t yet revealed how much the dock will cost or when it’ll be available to order.

(Image credit: Valve)

Can I use the Steam Deck for more than just Steam games?

You can—potentially a lot more. Just like your PC, the Steam Deck is intended to be an open platform. You can install Windows on a Steam Deck and even install other game storefronts like the Epic Store (you probably have a pile of free games in that library) or Xbox Game Pass. We just don’t really know how well non-Steam games will work on the Steam Deck, but it’s an exciting idea that you might be able to play games from your other libraries on the Steam Deck, too.

You can even wipe SteamOS off the Steam Deck completely and just use it to run Windows, according to IGN, who got some hands-on time with the device. Pierre-Loup Griffais told IGN the Steam Deck “can pretty much run anything you can run on a PC.”

“We don’t think people should be locked into a certain direction or a certain set of software that they can install,” Valve designer Lawrence Yang said. “If you buy a Steam Deck, it’s a PC. You can install whatever you want on it, you can attach any peripherals you want to it.”

You might even be able to get VR working with the Steam Deck, though “that’s not really what we’re optimizing the performance for,” Griffais told IGN.

If all that isn’t enough information for you, you can visit the official Steam Deck website here

Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He’s also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring stories in RPGs so he can make up his own.