9 Important Things You Need to Know About the Steam Deck

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PC gaming on the go — the ultimate dream of PC gamers everywhere, gaming’s self-proclaimed master race. After decades of jealously watching from the shadows, backs hunched over due to years of lugging around monstrous 3kg gaming laptops as Nintendo and Sony stans flaunt their sickeningly slick handheld consoles, the time has finally come for PC gamers to rise up.

Along with the handheld console, make sure to get some Steam Wallet Codes from OffGamers here for the games you’re sure to buy from the Steam store itself!

Here are all the things you need to know about the Steam Deck.

What Is the Steam Deck?

The Steam Deck is what Valve are calling their handheld PC gaming device. The sleek, portable machine finally allows PC gamers to game on the go without having to lug a 3kg laptop around (even then, you’re usually tethered to the nearest electrical outlet if you want to get any real gaming done).

Announced shortly after Nintendo revealed its OLED Switch, the Steam Deck is a fully-functional PC substitute with a handheld form factor. That means you can plug in a monitor, keyboard, and mouse and use the Steam Deck like you would a regular work laptop or desktop PC.

The machine is designed to work with Valve’s online games marketplace, Steam, and will give gamers full access to their entire Steam library on the go. However, the Steam Deck is an open device, and Valve has said that users are free to install whatever software they want on the Steam Deck — including games marketplaces owned by their competitors.

The Steam Deck runs a custom Linux build that Valve is calling SteamOS. On top of offering a premium gaming experience and a slick UI designed to utilize all of the Steam Deck’s input options; SteamOS is also a general-purpose operating system that can browse the internet, perform word processing and graphics editing tasks — essentially anything you can do on a Linux computer should be possible on the Steam Deck.

Valve has stated that users can install Windows on the Steam Deck.

Steam Deck Specs

steam-deck-specs

Here’s a quick rundown of some key specs that Valve has revealed about their Steam Deck:

  • Custom AMD chip with a Zen 2 CPU and RDNA 2 GPU
  • 7-inch screen @ 1200×800 native resolution
  • 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM
  • Valve claims a battery life of 7-8 hours on a full charge
  • Three storage options:
    • 64GB eMMC
    • 256GB NVMe SSD
    • 523GB high-speed NVMe SSD
  • microSD expansion slot
  • Face buttons, D-pad, two analog triggers, two bumpers, View & Menu buttons, 4 assignable buttons, 2 analog thumbsticks
  • HD haptics
  • 2 trackpads
  • 6-axis gyro
  • Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-fi
  • Stereo audio with embedded DSP
  • Dual microphones and headphone/mic jack
  • DisplayPort for external monitors
  • Weighs 669g (~1.5lb)

Of particular note is the custom AMD APU that the Steam Deck is rocking. The Steam Deck’s internal chip is based on the custom APUs under the hoods of both the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X.

The Steam Deck’s 7-inch screen runs at a strange 16:10 aspect ratio with a resolution of 1200×800. That resolution is only a bit higher than the current Nintendo Switch’s and has an overall lower pixel density, which has led to some criticism online. Honestly, we’ll take the slightly lower-than-expected resolution if that’s what Valve needed to do to guarantee better portable performance and battery life.

On battery life, Valve claims the Steam Deck will give you a full 7-8 hours of use on a full charge. Impressive, sure, but those numbers are when the system is under low to medium strain. Valve has gone on to state that you can get roughly four hours of battery life playing something like Portal 2.

Interestingly, the Steam Deck will also come with 16GB of quad-channel 32-bit LPDDR5 RAM, which makes for a monstrous amount of bandwidth. This is critical for a portable device running such a powerful APU; the CPU and GPU both share the same memory pool and having the faster transfer speeds and bandwidth of LPDDR5 will allow the system to keep up with the chip’s immense memory demands.

Oh, and for you tinkerers out there, the whole machine is held together by Philips-head screws. That’s right, Valve actually wants you to open up the Steam Deck and fiddle around with the internals. This is also great news if you’re thinking of swapping out the SSD or doing your own repairs on the device.

The Steam Deck comes with a whopping five built-in input methods: d-pad, analog sticks, touchpads, touchscreen, gyroscope. On top of that, there are four programmable buttons on the back of the device that you can assign from within your games.

Steam Deck Models (and Their Differences)

Valve has confirmed that they’ll be selling three different models of the Steam Deck, but what’s the difference between them? Note: According to Valve, there will be no in-game difference between the different models.

 Features & Add-ons
ModelMemory TypeCarrying CaseExclusive Steam Community profile bundleExclusive virtual keyboard themePremium anti-glare etched glass
64GBeMMC   
256GBNVMe SSD  
512GBHigh-speed NVMe SSD

The cheapest model comes with a paltry 64GB of eMMC, which is only enough if you’ll be using the Steam Deck exclusively for office work and running smaller-capacity indie titles.

The more expensive 256GB model uses an NVMe SSD, which Valve has said you can swap out by opening up your Steam Deck. This is much faster than eMMC and the larger capacity makes it much more viable for gaming.

The most expensive model comes with a 512GB high-speed NVMe SSD, which Valve says is the fastest storage option of the three. This model also features anti-glare etched glass, which makes this model the best for gaming outdoors or in bright rooms.

Those with some hands-on time with the Steam Deck have commented that the anti-glare effect doesn’t make much of a difference indoors, and the anti-glare effect of the glass results in a slight loss in image vibrance, so that’s something to keep in mind if you’re considering the most expensive variant.

All models come with a microSD expansion slot, so you can quickly and easily upgrade your storage capacity with a microSD card.

How Much Will It Cost?

Valve has announced the prices for all three variants of the Steam Deck: $399 for the 64GB model, $529 for the 256GB model, and $649 for the 512GB model.

Can the Steam Deck Run My Entire Steam Library?

Theoretically, the Steam Deck is just a computer, so anything that you can run on your primary PC should be playable on the Steam Deck. However, there are some software limitations that Valve is currently trying to find workarounds for.

Current game compatibility issues have more to do with how the Steam Deck’s custom OS works than any hardware troubles. The Steam Deck’s operating system is a custom Linux build, but since so many of the games on Steam aren’t Linux-compatible, Valve developed its own tool called Proton to allow Windows games to run in a Linux environment.

According to Valve, most of the games on Steam are fully compatible with Proton and should be playable on the Steam Deck. However, ProtonDB’s latest research has uncovered some potential incompatibilities between Proton and anti-cheat systems making games like Destiny 2 and Apex Legends currently unplayable on the Steam Deck.

The good news is that single-player games should run without a hitch. And we’re still far out from the Steam Deck’s official launch date, so there’s plenty of time for Valve to find a workaround in time for its actual release.

Can I Install Epic Game Store on the Steam Deck?

In an interview with IGN, Valve CEO Gabe Newell said that users will be able to install Epic Games Store on their Steam Decks.

Can I Use a Mouse and Keyboard with the Steam Deck?

The Steam Deck supports a mouse and keyboard out of the box, though you’ll need a USB-C hub if you want to plug all your devices in at the same time. Alternatively, you could purchase the Steam Dock for your Steam Deck, which comes with its own USB dock, as well as external display ports and ethernet slots for a true PC experience.

When Is the Release Date?

According to the official Steam Deck website, the Steam Deck will begin shipping in December 2021.

How to Pre-order the Steam Deck

Currently, the Steam Deck is only available for reservation in the US, Canada, European Union, and the UK. You can make a reservation for only $5 (which goes toward your Steam Deck purchase price). If you live in any of those regions, you can reserve your Steam Deck from the official website.

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2 thoughts on “9 Important Things You Need to Know About the Steam Deck”

  1. “That’s right, Valve actually wants you to open up the Steam Deck and fiddle around with the internals.”

    Except they’ve stated the exact opposite.

    Reply

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