Valve does what Nintendon’t - build a Nintendo Switch Pro but for PC gaming.
Earlier this year, at a public panel in New Zealand, Gabe Newell answered a question from the crowd, hinting at new hardware from Valve being released later this year. A hint shortly followed with rumours of a device codenamed “SteamPal” being in development. Queue in the Steam Deck.
Many thought an announcement was coming during Summer Game Fest 2021, but Valve has instead revealed the Steam Deck via IGN and Steam. IGN has uploaded videos showing off the handheld and an interview with the man himself, Gabe Newell.
Steam Deck hardware specifications
There are currently three versions for the Steam Deck, all consisting of the same hardware, except for the storage, which comes in different speeds and capacities. For a small factor PC, its specs are strong enough for high-end games rendered at a lower resolution. Being able to play Control, Hades, Jedi: Fallen Order and other AAA titles with all the bells and whistles will be amazing to see.
All of this will come at the cost of battery life. Playing Control will be more power-hungry and will drain the battery faster than something like Overcooked, but it’s a sizeable battery that is touted to be able to play Portal 2 for 3-4 hours.
Valve has shared the following specifications with the announcement, although these are still subject to change.
- AMD APU
- CPU: Zen 2 4c/8t, 2.4-3.5GHz (up to 448 GFlops FP32)
- GPU: 8 RDNA 2 CUs, 1.0-1.6GHz (up to 1.6 TFlops FP32)
- APU power: 4-15W
- 16 GB LPDDR5 RAM (5500 MT/s)
- 64 GB eMMC (PCIe Gen 2 x1)
- 256 GB NVMe SSD (PCIe Gen 3 x4)
- 512 GB high-speed NVMe SSD (PCIe Gen 3 x4)
- microSD. UHS-I supports SD, SDXC and SDHC
- USB-C with DisplayPort 1.4 Alt-mode support; up to 8K @60Hz or 4K @120Hz, USB 3.2 Gen 2
Controls and Input
- A B X Y buttons
- L & R analogue triggers
- L & R bumpers
- View & Menu buttons
- 4 x assignable grip buttons
- 2 x full-size analogue sticks with capacitive touch
- HD haptics
- 2 x 32.5mm square trackpads with haptic feedback
- 55% better latency compared to Steam Controller
- Pressure-sensitivity for configurable click strength
- 6-Axis IMU Gyro
- 1280 x 800px (16:10 aspect ratio)
- Optically bonded LCD for enhanced readability
- 7" diagonal display size
- 400 nits typical brightness
- 60Hz Refresh rate
- Touch enabled
- Ambient light sensor
- Bluetooth 5.0 (support for controllers, accessories and audio)
- Dual-band Wi-Fi radio, 2.4GHz and 5GHz, 2 x 2 MIMO, IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
- Stereo with embedded DSP for an immersive listening experience
- Dual microphone array
- 3.5mm stereo headphone / headset jack
- Multichannel audio via DisplayPort over USB-C, standard USB-C, or Bluetooth 5.0
Power and battery life
- 45W USB Type-C PD3.0 power supply
- 40Whr battery. 2 - 8 hours of gameplay
Size and weight
- Size: 298mm x 117mm x 49mm
- Weight: Approx. 669 grams
Operating System: SteamOS 3.0 (Arch-based)
Desktop: KDE Plasma
The versatility of the Steam Deck
On Steam Deck, your games run on a different operating system than the one on your desktop PC. It's a new version of SteamOS, built with Steam Deck in mind and optimized for a handheld gaming experience. It comes with Proton, a compatibility layer that makes it possible to run your games without any porting work needed from developers. For Deck, we're vastly improving Proton's game compatibility and support for anti-cheat solutions by working directly with the vendors.
Being able to play high-end PC games on the go is great to see, but the fact that you can plug the Steam Deck into a TV or monitor via USB-C is a killer feature to have, effectively turning the Steam Deck into a portable PC. As the Steam Deck is a PC, it is not on a closed ecosystem either. You can play a game, browse the web or install productivity software. The choice is all yours.
Furthermore, the expected base Steam features will be present as well. Steam Chat, notifications, the community, and Remote Play will all be available on your Steam Deck. You will also be able to access the store and your entire library. As for your save files, you will be able to play your games on the Steam Deck, save your game, move to a different PC and immediately download the Steam Cloud save file and continue your game.
There is a save state added similar to the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation and Xbox consoles, but it can only save a single save state at a time as opposed to 3+ with the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S.
While the Nintendo Switch dock connects it to the TV, the Steam Deck can connect to an external display and run at a much higher resolution. With AMD’s drivers now using Nvidia’s equivalent to DLSS, you can keep the resolution down while upscaling to maintain a high frame rate.
Valve is working on a docking station for the Steam Deck as well, but any docking station with USB-C will work. Valve’s official dock will support connections for external displays, ethernet, USB peripherals, and power. More information on their own dock will be coming soon.
Being able to plug any other device into the Steam Deck will also help in its portability - especially for those that go on holiday and tend to take a tablet or a laptop with them.
Steam Deck pricing and availability
The three models of the Steam Deck come in at £349/€419/$399, £459/€549/$529 and £569/€679/$649, respectively. Each of these models also come with a few more perks.
- The 64GB model comes with a carrying case
- The 256GB model comes with a carrying case and an exclusive Steam community profile bundle
- The 512GB model comes with all of the above plus an exclusive virtual keyboard theme and a premium anti-glare etched glass screen
The European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada will be getting the Steam Deck first. Other regions will be following later in 2022.
You can pre-order the Steam Deck on the Steam store starting 16 July 2021 at 10am PDT (5pm GMT, 6pm BST, 7pm CEST). In order to take advantage of the “early bird” pre-order, you must have purchased something from the Steam Store before June 2021. If you are new to Steam and/or have not purchased an item before June 2021, then you will have to wait until the same time on 18 July.
The cost of pre-ordering is £4/€5/$5, and it’s first-come, first-serve. Once the Steam Deck is available, you will be notified for the final payment.
Should Nintendo be worried?
It has been a mere nine days since Nintendo announced the Switch OLED Model for a price point of $350. With a similar device in the Steam Deck 64GB version being just $50 more with considerably more versatility, functionality and power, it’s hard to choose the Switch OLED Model unless you want a Nintendo Switch for exclusives.