Steam Deck: Everything we know about Valve’s upcoming handheld

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The Steam Deck is Valve’s first attempt at making a game console—if you ignore the failure that was the Steam Machine, that is. Although Valve doesn’t have a great track record with hardware, the company’s recent Index VR headset has proved it has the prowess to produce excellent devices. And Steam Deck wants to continue that trend.

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It’s not here yet, but the first devices are set to ship in just a few months. Before they arrive, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about Steam Deck, including its release date and price, and what you can expect in terms of performance.

Pricing and release date

Two players using a Steam deck to play Stardew Valley.

Pre-orders are live Now for the Steam deck, and Valve says the first units will start shipping in December 2021. If you missed the day the pre-orders went live, however, you can expect your device much later. At the time of publication, the Steam Deck product page only says that the devices will arrive after the first half of 2022. This could mean the end of 2022 or the beginning of 2023. We don’t know yet.

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We know that Valve is taking orders on a first-come, first-served basis, so the sooner you secure your pre-order, the sooner you’ll be able to receive a device. To pre-order a Steam deck, you must have a good standing Steam account and purchase it before June 2021. Valve is charging a $5 reservation fee, which will be deducted from the final price of your unit. Ready to ship.

As for pricing, Valve offers three versions of Steam Deck:

  • 64GB – $399
  • 256GB – $529
  • 512GB — $649
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All three models are similar in terms of performance – they all lack storage and share the same internals. The only exception is the 64GB model, which uses eMCC memory instead of the faster NVMe storage used by the 256GB and 512GB models. The more expensive models also come with a carrying case and some special Steam Profile goodies.

What is a Steam Deck?

Steam Deck Playing Handheld Console.
Steam

The Steam Deck is a new handheld gaming device that was announced by Valve in mid-July (right after Nintendo opened pre-orders for its OLED Switch). As the name suggests, the handheld is designed to work with Valve’s hugely popular Steam platform and will allow players to play their Steam library on the go.

The Steam Deck shares some similarities with the Switch, such as dual joystick controls, dock-based charging, and the ability to connect it to an external display. There’s also a 7-inch screen with 1200 x 800 resolution (no 4K output supported), and battery life is reported to last between seven or eight hours, depending on usage. Connections include a USB-C port for charging, as well as an SD card slot for additional storage.

Valve has said that Steam Deck will support cloud saving tied to your account, which means you’ll be able to play a game on your PC and then pick it up back on Deck for mobile play without losing any progress. Steam features like chat and remote play are also supported on deck, so as long as you’re comfortable with the smaller screen, you won’t miss much.

Glasses & Display

A steam deck lying on a grilled table with the back panel removed.

The Steam deck isn’t here yet, so we don’t know how it will perform. However, some leaked benchmarks suggest that the handheld will be able to run some recent AAA games at native resolution at 30 frames per second (fps), while older titles can often crack 60 fps.

However, before getting to that, let’s look at the specifications:

  • CPU: Custom AMD Quad-Core Gen 2 APU
  • GPU: Eight AMD RDNA 2 compute units
  • RAM: 16GB LPDDR5
  • Storage: NVMe SSD up to 512GB, high-speed microSD card slot

Originally, Valve said that the Steam Deck would come with dual-channel LPDDR5 memory, but the company released a specific correction to clarify that the device uses quad-channel memory. This effectively doubles the total memory bandwidth.

As for specs, the Steam deck is built on the same foundation as the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. It’s not as powerful, but Valve’s handheld uses an AMD APU with Zen 2 CPU cores and RDNA 2 GPU cores, like current-gen consoles . Overall, the Steam Deck is capable of about 1.6 TFLOPs of power, compared to 10.3 TFLOPs on the PS5.

Based on TFLOPs—which aren’t the best way to measure performance—Steam decks should perform between the base PS4 and Xbox One. Keep in mind that both consoles target 1080p resolution—the Steam Deck targets 720p, so you can expect higher frame rates overall.

Leaked Benchmark back it. Tests Show Steam Deck Getting Above 60 FPS shadow of the tomb raider Cracking 60 FPS Simultaneously, With Custom Settings doom eternal on the low preset. cyberpunk 2077 Even at its high preset it produced between 20 and 30 fps, suggesting that the Steam deck will be capable of playing some demanding games.

However, we recommend waiting until the device is here. Third-party benchmarks are important for validating performance.

Valve released a breakdown video showing off the interior of the Steam deck. This breakdown doesn’t say much about performance, but it does show how the valve is making the device and how it’s handling the cooling.

Game Compatibility, Windows, and Valve’s Proton

Steam deck grading is shown in Steam's library.

One of the problems with Steam Deck is that it supports Steam. There are thousands of games on Steam that cover decades of development, and it’s hard to be sure that all those games will run on a certain system. Valve has stated that the machine can run “pretty much” any Steam game, but there are still some notable exceptions.

Valve isn’t stopping you from playing any of the titles, but the hardware does have some inherent limitations. At the core of the system is a Linux-based OS using Valve’s Proton compatibility layer. Basically, this layer helps games that were designed to run on Windows to run on Linux, and the vast majority of Steam games work great with Proton.

However, not all of them do. ProtonDB Keeps a list of games that Proton works with, and some major titles that are not supported. Half of the top 10 most popular games on Steam do not work with Proton at the time of publication, including New World, Destiny 2, PlayerUnknown’s Battlefield, Apex Legends, And Naraka: Bladepoint.

You can see that all of these games are multiplayer-only titles. The main issue comes down to anti-cheat software, which throws red flags at the Proton compatibility layer. Thankfully, BattleEye and East Anti-Cheat – the anti-cheat services used in multiple multiplayer titles – have said they are working on supporting the platform ahead of launch.

Valve is also doing its job. On your Steam deck, you’ll be able to see if a game is supported. Valve isn’t blocking users from playing anything, so unsupported games may work as well. However, those that have been validated are guaranteed to work.

If you don’t want to mess with Linux, you don’t need to. The Steam Deck is a handheld PC, and Valve says users are free to install Windows if they wish. However, you may experience reduced performance. Windows is a relatively demanding operating system, and we suspect that building Linux on the Steam deck requires very few resources.

Steam is the main platform for Steam Deck, but Valve says players are free to use other platforms as well. You can install the game from the Epic Games Store, Origin, or anywhere else.




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