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Valve Steam Deck is a handheld gaming PC that runs SteamOS


Jul 15, 2021

Valve has announced its own handheld gaming console. The Steam Deck is a compact gaming PC running a custom version of SteamOS and can play all of your Steam games while also functioning as a computer.

The Steam Deck has a formfactor similar to other portable gaming consoles like Nintendo Switch or the PlayStation Vita. On either side of the display are analog sticks with the d-pad on the left and ABXY keys on the right.

Unlike most other controllers, the Steam Deck places its keys in a unique arrangement, where the keys are on the same plane as the analog keys.

This has freed some space below, which is now occupied with 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.

Below the trackpad are dual stereo speakers, which Valve claims have a DSP and wide soundstage. Of course, you can also plug in your own headphones, and the Steam Deck also has dual microphones built-in.

Rounding off the front side are four additional buttons for View, Menu, Steam, and Quick Access.

On 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 has placed four additional buttons on the grip, two on each side. These are fully customizable and can be mapped to any function within the game.

The display on the front is a 7-inch, 1280×800 resolution IPS LCD with a 16:10 aspect ratio, 400 nits maximum brightness, and touch support. The touchscreen can be used to interact with the UI and also to use the on-screen keyboard. It can also be used within games by mapping points on the screen to specific commands.

If you get the top-end model, the display also has an anti-glare etching for the glass, which should make it easier to see outdoors.

On the hardware side, the Steam Deck runs on a custom AMD APU. The CPU is based on the Zen 2 architecture and features 4-cores and 8-threads with a variable clock speed of 2.4-3.5GHz. The GPU uses the latest RDNA2 architecture with 8 compute units. The APU has a power envelope of 4-15W.

For storage, Valve provides three different tiers. The base model has 64GB of eMMC, which is also the slowest storage you can get on the Steam Deck. The middle variant gets 256GB of faster NVMe SSD storage while the top of the line variant gets an even faster 512GB NVMe SSD.

Aside from the built-in storage, users will also be able to use microSD cards to increase their storage. All models will get 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM.

The Steam Deck runs on Valve’s SteamOS 3.0. This is primarily based on Arch Linux and uses the compatibility layer Proton to run games designed for Windows. Valve claims you can run all of your games on the Steam Deck, not just those designed for Linux.

The Steam Deck has a custom version of the Steam store that lets you just login and jump right into your Steam library. You can also browse and purchase games here, just as you would on a PC. Steam Deck also supports Steam cloud saves, so you can stop playing on your PC and continue right where you left off on the Steam Deck.

Underneath the custom software, Steam Deck is a standard Linux PC and can be used as one. With the help of a USB dock, you can connect the Steam Deck to your monitor, keyboard, and mouse and use it like a standard Linux computer. You can even install other game stores, at least ones that are available on Linux.

But what if you don’t want to use Linux? Well, turns out you can just wipe it and install Windows. Steam Deck is essentially a compact PC and can be used as one if required.

On the connectivity front, Steam Deck supports dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac 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 like the USB-C port on a PC and you can connect all of your accessories as well as a desktop monitor through this port. It supports up to 8K at 60Hz or 4K at 120Hz through the DisplayPort 1.4 Alt-mode.

Lastly, the Steam Deck has a 40Wh battery. Valve claims it can run as long as 8 hours when used lightly or for basic 2D games. However, battery life can go down as low as 2 hours during demanding 3D games. You get a 45W USB-C PD charger in the box.

The Steam Deck comes in three variants. The 64GB model is priced at $399 and comes with a carrying case. The 256GB model costs $529 and adds an exclusive Steam Community profile bundle on top. Lastly, the 512GB model will set you back by $649 and has an exclusive carrying case, exclusive Steam Community profile bundle, and exclusive virtual keyboard theme. It also has the aforementioned anti-glare etched glass.

Steam Deck will be available for purchase in December 2021 in United States, Canada, the European Union, and the United Kingdom. If you live in these regions then you can now add it to your wishlist on Steam.


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