With the Steam Deck, Valve has introduced a handheld that is supposed to allow you to play high-quality PC games on the go. The direct competitor of Nintendo’s compact Switch is supposed to have many other practical features on board besides Steam itself. We take a look at the mix of PC and handheld that the Half Life creators are planning to release soon.
Rumors made true
If there is a company where release rumors are permanently on the agenda, then probably Valve. Half Life fans, for example, have been waiting for the release of part three of the groundbreaking shooter for many years. The Steam Deck also kept the rumor mill bubbling for many months. This is not at all surprising in view of the previously leaked plans. After all, the mixture of a powerful PC and a portable format is optimal for gamers who want to play PC games on the go.
What has only been heavily speculated about so far, has now received an official confirmation from Valve itself. So the company has announced that the entry into the handheld segment with the Steam Deck is now fixed. The portable PC is supposed to be launched in December of this year. Those who already know they can’t pass up the powerful handheld can now place their pre-order with Valve.
Despite being a handheld, the Steam Deck can’t hide its PC roots. This is noticed, among other things, in the choice between different versions. Here, not only speed, but also the size of the installed memory play an elementary role. You get 64 GB of eMMC memory in the basic version. If you want more and faster memory, you can opt for NVMe SSDs with a size of 256 GB and 512 GB.
Those who opt for one of the two larger versions will also benefit from additional features. For example, you get a Steam profile bundle with the 256 GB variant. In the top version with 512 GB, you also get a modified display glass that has been specially etched and offers an anti-reflective coating. On top of that, you get a virtual keyboard. The Steam profile bundle is of course also available here. Regardless of the version, all three versions come with a practical carrying case.
Memory expansion via SD slot
However, you don’t have to be satisfied with the internal memory. As with the competition from Nintendo, you should be able to expand the storage space on your own. An SD card is used, which you insert into the corresponding slot. We find this step very cool, since you will be able to store several games without problems even in the small version. Valve wants to give its Steam Deck a 40 Wh battery. According to the manufacturer, this should be able to last between two and eight hours depending on the game.
We already know this fact from the Switch as well. While Nintendo’s console runs out of battery comparatively quickly with demanding games like “Zelda: Breath of the Wild”, it really shows its endurance with the 2D hit “Stardew Valley”, for example. The colleagues from IGN have already tested the potential battery life in a battery test. The handheld is said to have lasted almost four hours while playing Valve’s in-house puzzler “Portal 2”. How the battery will perform in current games like Cyberpunk 2077 is still a big question mark.
Much heavier than the Switch
So far, we have been able to show many parallels to Nintendo’s handheld. However, we have to note a big difference in terms of weight. While the Nintendo Switch weighs just under 400 grams (including Joy-Cons) in handheld mode, Valve’s portable is said to weigh a proud 669 grams. That is a significant difference, which will certainly be noticeable in practice. However, only a hands-on will be able to show how much the weight is at the expense of user comfort.
If you take a look at the feel of the device, it becomes clear that Steam tries to compensate for the high weight with maximum ergonomics. The manufacturer has designed the controller’s grips so curved that they fit perfectly in the hands. Unlike the Switch, however, the Steam Deck might not really be suitable for children due to the weight alone. However, this is certainly not the intended target group for Steam.
Saturated hardware power
A look at the Steam Deck’s technical details looks really promising. This is not really known from handheld consoles. The processor used is a CPU from AMD. In particular, this is the Zen 2 4c/8t. It is supposed to offer 2.4 – 3.5 GHz and deliver a maximum of 448 GFlops FP32. A total of 8 RDNA 2 CUs with a performance between 1.0 GHz and 1.6 GHz are supposed to take care of the graphics performance, which can bring it to 1.6 teraflops FP32. The working memory of 16 GB LPDDR5 is supposed to support the processor. Valve relies on an aspect ratio of 16:10 and a resolution of 1,280 x 800 pixels (720p) for the built-in 7-inch display. A refresh rate of 60 Hz won’t be enough for hardcore gamers, but is really impressive for a handheld.
Using USB-C port, you can provide the Steam Deck with new power for the battery. In addition, one should be able to use the port to connect input devices or other peripherals. For example, the USB-C port can also be used to connect a TV or monitor. Again, we notice a parallel to the Nintendo Switch. Unlike the competition from Japan, however, there is no practical docking station for Valve’s handheld in the scope of delivery. You have to buy it separately. Wireless connections to headphones or other input devices should be taken care of thanks to integrated Bluetooth.
Prices and availability
Valve wants to start shipping its highly sought-after handheld in December 2021. This means you can get your hands on the mobile PC just in time for the holiday shopping season. Those interested in the portable can secure versions with a choice of 64 GB (419 euros), 256 GB (549 euros) and 512 GB (679 euros).
With no real performance differences aside from memory size, Valve’s pricing policy is a bit questionable. We are happy about the possibility of being able to expand the internal storage using SD cards. Since Nintendo wants to launch its updated Switch with OLED panel as early as October, we can probably look forward to an exciting head-to-head race for the Christmas business.