Valve’s Steam Deck is a Switch-like gaming PC starting at $399
Valve, the company behind the popular PC gaming platform Steam, has announced the Steam Deck. The Steam Deck is a handheld gaming PC that seems to be taking some inspiration from the Nintendo Switch. We’ve seen a few devices like this crop up, but they’ve mostly been from relatively small or unknown companies. Even Qualcomm has been reported to be working on a similar device.
Let’s start with hardware. The Steam Deck is powered by a custom APU developed by AMD. The CPU is a quad-core, eight-thread model that runs between 2.4GHz and 3.5GHz. It’s using Zen2 cores, which are the same ones inside the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X, for instance. Valve touts up to 448GFlops of FP32 performance for the CPU. As for the GPU, it’s based on AMD’s RDNA 2 architecture, and it features 8 compute units (CUs) running between 1 and 1.6GHz. That amounts to a total of 1.6TFlops, which is impressive considering the size of the hardware.
You’re also getting 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM and up to 512GB of internal storage. It starts as low as 64GB, and that model uses eMMC, which is slower. If you upgrade to the 256GB model, though, you’ll get a PCIe Gen 3 x4 SSD. The 512GB is even faster. The storage on all models can be upgraded through the high-speed microSD card slot.
There’s a 40Whr battery inside the Steam Deck, which Valve claims will get you anywhere between 2 and 8 hours of playtime, depending on the game you’re playing. The whole unit charges with a USB Type-C cable that delivers 40W of power.
The display on the Steam Deck is a 7-inch LCD panel coming in at 1280 x 800 resolution, a 16:10 aspect ratio. The display runs at 60Hz and it reaches 400 nits of peak brightness, so it should be decently visible outdoors. For audio, you get stereo speakers and dual microphones, but you can also connect headphones via Bluetooth, USB-C, or the 3.5mm headphone jack.
Turning to controls, the Valve Steam Deck features what you’d expect in a modern console. with some extra additions. There’s a pair of thumbsticks, one on each side of the screen, along with a D-pad and the typical ABXY button array. However, there are also two trackpads underneath the thumbsticks, which can be used in a similar way to the analog sticks. This is brought over from the Steam Controller, which also used trackpads instead of typical analog sticks.
On the shoulders, you get the usual shoulder buttons and analog triggers. As a bonus, there are also four customizable buttons on the back of the unit, which can be useful for some games. The console also features a six-axis gyroscope for aiming.
Because the Steam Deck is basically a PC, it can also connect to external displays as you’d expect. Valve will be selling a USB Type-C dock separately to help users connect external displays and peripherals. The dock adds three USB Type-A ports, Ethernet, DisplayPort 1.4, and HDMI 2.0.
In terms of size, the Steam Deck measures 298 x 117 x 49mm, and it weighs 669 grams. Comparing that to the Nintendo Switch, this is a much bigger beast in just about every way. It’s over 50% heavier than a Nintendo Switch, and it’s also wider, taller, and over three times as thick. That may raise some questions about the portability of the handheld, but it’s also significantly more powerful than a Switch.
As for software, the Valve Steam Deck is running a new version of SteamOS based on Arch. Valve says it’s using Proton, a compatibility layer that should make it possible to play your games without any compatibility issues. Because this isn’t a Windows-based PC, many games aren’t developed for it natively, and that might be one of the biggest causes for concern here. Valve says it’s working to improve Proton compatibility even further, though, so hopefully most of your games will work. Either way, it’s a PC, so you can install Windows on it if you want to.
Reservations for the Valve Steam Deck will open tomorrow, July 16th, at 10am Pacific Time. The handheld will start at $399/€419 for the 64GB model. You’ll have to shell out $529/€549 for the 256GB model, which also adds a carrying case and an exclusive “Steam Community profile bundle”. Finally, the 512GB model will run you $649/€679, and it also adds anti-glare etched glass to the display and an exclusive virtual keyboard theme. The Steam Deck is expected to start shipping in December. You can pre-order it here.