A PC with the soul of a portable console destined to break the market.
The Steam Deck Valve is the “PC gaming handheld” most anticipated market. And it promises to offer sensational performance despite its small size, comparable to a portable console , along with an excellent user experience and a low price. In this article we are going to tell you everything about this impressive concept of PC Gaming. Let’s go there!
Index of contents
- This is how Steam Deck was born, a bit of context and history
- Steam Deck Technical Specifications
- A powerful and solvent APU
- Storage options
- Details on how to expand storage on the Steam Deck
- Too low a screen resolution?
- Battery, connectivity and size
- Steam Deck editions, sale prices and availability
- How to reserve your Steam Deck step by step, when do you send it to me?
- Reservation cancellation, is it possible?
- Comfortable controls, suitable for long gaming sessions
- Games compatible with Steam Deck and Steam OS system
- Can Windows 10 or Windows 11 be installed on the Steam Deck?
- Official docking station: turn your Steam Deck into a full computer
- Final words and conclusion about the Steam Deck
- How to reserve your Steam Deck step by step, when do you send it to me?
This is how Steam Deck was born, a bit of context and history
To put the Steam Deck in context, let’s talk about Valve first . This company, founded by the famous Gabe Newell, has as one of its main dedications Steam. They are the creators of the world’s largest PC game distribution platform.
In addition, they are also responsible for mythical sagas such as Half-Life, Counter-Strike or Portal. But be careful, because they have another facet that not everyone knows: hardware development. Maybe you don’t know the Steam Controller or the Steam Link device , but you probably know the HTC Vive. These virtual reality glasses are developed by both HTC and Valve.
Well, one of Valve’s great failures was the concept of the Steam Machine, which were basically pre-assembled computers with similar sizes to a console, designed to run the SteamOS system and the Steam Controller. The market reception was abysmal, and now there are no Steam Machines.
The Steam Deck was born in this context, and in this case the idea is to take advantage of what was left of the Steam Machines to launch a computer with the body and functionalities of a portable console, meeting the needs of users who want all the power of the PC In his hand.
So far, no “handheld” on the market has achieved great reception, and the small console segment has been relegated to the Nintendo Switch, and nothing else. Steam Deck arrives to change that in a blunt way.
Steam Deck Technical Specifications
We are now going to see the most important technical specifications of the Steam Deck, and then comment on the most important ones.
- AMD APU with Zen 2 processor with 4 cores and 8 threads, at 2.4-3.5 GHz, and RDNA 2 graphics card with 8 CU at 1-1.6 GHz.
- 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM at 5500 MT / s.
- 3 storage options: 64 GB eMMC, 256 GB NVMe, or 512 GB NVMe.
- Controls with 2 analog sticks with capacitive touch and 2 square 32.5mm trackpads with haptic feedback. ABXI buttons, crosshead, L and R analog triggers, L and R front buttons, 4 assignable buttons, and view and menu buttons.
- 7 ”1280 × 800 IPS screen with 400 nits brightness, touch and 60 Hz.
- Bluetooth 5.0, WiFi 802.11a / b / g / n / ac.
- Stereo audio, dual microphone, headphone jack.
- 45W PD 3.0 USB Type-C charger and 40Wh battery (2-8 hours of playtime).
A powerful and solvent APU
The Steam Deck APU is custom developed by AMD for Valve . It uses a Zen 2 4-core and 8-thread processor, which could be considered comparable to a Ryzen 4300GE, although with an even lower frequency.
Due to its frequency, it is not the perfect CPU for gaming, but it is what you can aspire to in such a small body.
As for the graphics card, RDNA 2 is the latest architecture from AMD, and the use of 8 CU points to a basic graphics, but better than the one used in their desktop APUs. According to Valve, the Steam Deck will run any Steam game at 30 FPS or higher, depending on the title.
As we can see, there are 3 different storage options: o 64 GB eMMC, or 256/512 GB NVMe. The difference in performance between these two technologies is incredible, since NVMe is what is used in high-end PCs, while eMMC is more for low-end mobiles.
With no hard performance data in hand, it appears that the NVMe options are by far the best.
Details on how to expand storage on the Steam Deck
The problem with expanding the storage in the Steam Deck is the fact that it uses an M.2 2230 slot. This is basically the smallest type of M.2, so its availability in the market is really scarce, since only from 2242 we find several options on the market.
For example, practically the only thing we find is from Dell, on its official website , with a fairly high price.
Too low a screen resolution?
As we can see, the screen resolution of the Steam Deck is 1280 × 800, this is equivalent to 720p resolution, but with a 16:10 format. I mean, it’s not a Full HD screen, which is probably what you would expect from the start.
This is a problem? The reality is, no. If we take into account the screen size of the Steam Deck, we have a density of 215 ppi (pixels per inch). A 24-inch 1440p monitor has 120 PPI, a 22-inch 1080p monitor has 100 PPI, a 14-inch 1080p laptop has 160 PPI, and so on.
Higher resolution would have affected performance without giving a clear benefit in image quality.
That is, despite the “low” resolution, the pixel density exceeds almost any device we have, except for our mobile phone, so we are not really going to notice more pixels than in a normal computer monitor and current.
However, that the resolution had been increased to 1080p would impact on the price, and above all it would put the used APU against the ropes, compromising the graphic performance, while the visual benefit is quite reduced. Valve is right with the resolution of the Steam Deck.
Battery, connectivity and size
Let’s keep talking about the drums. The computer houses about 40 Wh of capacity, a figure that is comparable to that of many much larger notebooks, so it is quite an achievement. Still, according to Valve it is enough to give it 2 to 8 hours of use, where 2 hours would be very poor, 4 hours would be “good” and 8 hours great. Come on, it is not really clear how much you will be able to play on the Steam Deck.
As ports, we only have a USB type C and 1 audio jack. Keep in mind that we can take advantage of the USB-C connector with its DP Alt Mode 1.4 , which basically allows us to connect a secondary screen to our Steam Deck.
Finally, the measurements of the equipment are 298 mm x 117 mm x 49 mm, and it weighs about 669 grams. It’s a bit heavy, but not bad.
Steam Deck editions, sale prices and availability
Once we have thoroughly analyzed the technical specifications of the Steam Deck, it is worth checking what are the different options that we can buy.
We have already explained that the main difference is in the storage, but let’s see what prices they have and what else changes.
- 419 euros:64GB eMMC.
- € 549:256GB NVMe, along with an exclusive Steam Community Profile Bundle.
- 679 euros:512GB NVMe, with a “premium anti-reflective screen”, a carrying case different from the other two options, a bundle of exclusive profile and also a “virtual keyboard with exclusive theme”
And what is the best of these options in value for money? The truth is that the advantages offered by the more expensive version do not seem very relevant: paying € 130 more for doubling the GB is quite high, while the anti-reflective screen does not seem very important (or does it?), And the rest are minutiae .
It is best to go directly to the intermediate version. The price is good, and the storage is very fast. The eMMC version is somewhat low in capacity, and the performance of that type of storage is poor.
Steam Deck will start selling from December 2021, but only to users who have pre-ordered. We now explain how to book and why you have to do it.
How to reserve your Steam Deck step by step, when do you send it to me?
To reserve your Steam Deck, you must enter the official Steam website where you will find the editions that we have just mentioned, along with a button to reserve now.
Then, you will have the reservation in the cart, and you must proceed to the purchase.
You can use any payment method, including PayPal or your own Steam account balance. Come on, as if you were buying any game.
Then, you will already have the Steam Deck reservation made. And why use a reservation method? The point is that the global demand for chips is too great. In fact, TSMC (CPU maker for AMD and Apple, among others) is in huge demand, which means that Valve is not going to have as many APUs as it wants.
All this requires establishing the reservation system, where you will be assigned to a queue of users who, as of December 2021, will receive an invitation to buy a Steam Deck.
Be careful, because they do not guarantee that all reservations end up becoming orders, due to these availability problems.
Reservation cancellation, is it possible?
Valve answers many important questions about the Steam Deck purchase and reservation process, but surely the most important (which we have not discussed) is whether the reservation can be canceled, taking into account the € 4 it costs.
Yes, you can, without any problem. We can, in fact, not buy the Steam Deck even if we already had it reserved. But keep in mind that the refund method changes depending on when we cancel:
- If you cancel 30 days after booking,the € 4 will go back to the payment method you used.
- On the other hand, if you cancel after those 30 days, the refund will be made in the form of a Steam balance. You must take it into account since you may not be interested in this balance at all.
As a final clarification, those € 4 are discounted in the final order, so the reservation is totally free, except for the exception of canceling after 30 days, which will be considered the same as recharging € 4 on Steam.
Comfortable controls, suitable for long gaming sessions
Now let’s talk about the controls offered on the Steam Deck. According to Valve, everything was created with comfort in mind, and the possibility of having extensive gaming sessions. To do this, let’s see all the controls that the equipment incorporates.
It is evident that on the one hand we have the screen, since it is tactile, to navigate through all the Deck menus and the games.
We continue with two trackpads designed to adapt to those games that are not intended to be played on portable devices, in the most precise and personalized way. For example, you can play Counter Strike or other shooters with them.
We continue with the analog sticks with touch and capacitive sensors. We also have two of them, and according to Valve they are the best that have ever been seen on a portable console.
The analog triggers could not be absent , with a personalized response ideal for driving games, so that by modulating the force we can “step on the accelerator” more or less.
At the back of the Deck we find four customizable buttons.
As for the buttons, we have the following:
- Quick access.
- Steam button.
- Selector pad in 4 directions.
- Volume and power.
- L1 and R1.
- View button.
In short, incredibly complete controls , so that we can use the most suitable in each game. Phenomenal.
Games compatible with Steam Deck and Steam OS system
The Steam Deck does not come with Windows installed, and this may sound like a big problem. We all know that Microsoft’s operating system is the best there is to play, it is indisputable, both for the compatibility of games and for the use of APIs such as DirectX.
SteamOS has a very good interface on the Deck.
Specifically, what we have on this Valve team is an optimized version of SteamOS, an Arch Linux- based operating system with the KDE Plasma desktop. Using this OS allows us to enjoy the entire Steam experience, in a highly optimized way for the console, but there is still a concern about game compatibility.
Fortunately, Valve has the solution: Proton. This is a compatibility tool that allows many Windows games to be compatible with Linux, without the need for programmers to make any adaptations.
And how does Proton work? If we pay attention to the data from the ProtonDB website , we see that there is information on 19,553 games, of which 15,991 work on Linux, either natively or with Proton. Come on, the Steam Deck can, as standard, with 82% of Steam games.
It is foreseeable that with the Deck there will come improvements in Proton that expand this compatibility, in addition to more adaptations from the developers. Do not panic!
We see more concrete data above, where “bronze or silver” means that the game has some problems that affect the playability, and “gold or more” means that it works perfectly, needing in some cases to make adjustments. You can check exact data for each game (and necessary settings) on SteamDB.
Can Windows 10 or Windows 11 be installed on the Steam Deck?
As we can see, the idea of Proton helps a lot to make SteamOS a viable option for this Steam Deck. However, it is understood that someone wants more, specifically a 100% compatible gameplay, with DirectX and without problems. In fact, we can even aspire to play titles that are outside of Steam.
Steam Deck running Windows 11.
Ideally, the Steam Deck should be compatible with Windows 10 or 11. Is that correct? The truth is that you can install Windows on the Steam Deck, we do not know if the new Windows 11 will be compatible, but of course 10 is.
The problem is that the version of SteamOS that it includes is highly optimized to give a good user experience, something that will vanish with Windows, whose operation will not be anywhere near as comfortable. However, when it comes to playing, hopefully there will be advantages.
Therefore, the following can be said: use SteamOS in your Steam Deck, but if you see that you need compatibility with a game or have problems, install Windows to solve it.
Official docking station: turn your Steam Deck into a full computer
As we said, the Steam Deck acts mainly as a computer, but we should not underestimate its connectivity limitations, which are obviously mandatory considering the size of the machine. However, there is an easy way to turn it into a “full-fledged computer”: the Official Docking Station on the Steam Deck.
This station, which we can know as a dock in English, not only allows us to fix the Steam Deck in a vertical position, as if it were a desktop computer or a normal console, but it also helps us to expand the number of ports on the machine .
Specifically, it provides us with the following:
- One DisplayPort 1.4 connector.
- An HDMI 2.0.
- Two USB 3.0 ports.
- One USB 3.1 port.
- Ethernet connection.
- One USB-C power input.
So, we have complete connections, typical of a normal computer or, at most, the size of a Mac Mini. If we add to this the possibilities it offers in general, we see that one could live with only one Steam Deck, fulfilling all the functions of a PC and a console, both portable and desktop, at the same time.
We’ve already taken an extensive look at the capabilities of this Steam Deck, so it’s time to recap.
Final words and conclusion about the Steam Deck
The Steam Deck is one of the most promising concepts of recent months, as it has come to make the niche of “handheld” PC gaming large, as a powerful substitute for consoles such as the Nintendo Switch or the now-defunct PSP / PS Vita.
With the prominence of a next- generation AMD APU and an external construction full of possibilities for the gamer, Valve offers us a product destined to change the way we play, giving access to the entire Steam catalog in a small machine with a screen 7 inch. All this with a price of 549 euros for the intermediate version, the most interesting.
We recommend reading our virtual reality PC settings .
We are going to end this article with a summary of the possible strengths of the Steam Deck, in addition to its negative points, within what we expect in this kind of portable “console”.
As positive aspects:
- All the capabilities of a PC in a portable console format.
- Quite reasonable prices, especially for the “intermediate version” with 256GB SSD.
- Apparently quite good controls and extensive connectivity.
- Latest generation hardware.
- Well thought-out 7-inch screen that looks very interesting to play with.
- Compatible with all or almost all the Steam catalog.
- Possibility to install Windows. Although it is going to be “difficult”, that freedom is appreciated.
And finally, as negatives:
- The performance it will have will not be stellar. It is very difficult to make a team this small more powerful.
- It seems that the expansion of the M.2 will be very difficult.
- When running SteamOS and not Windows, some games will not run flawlessly natively.
Do you think the Steam Deck is promising?