Here’s What We Know about the Steam Deck, Valve’s Gaming Handheld

Steam Deck

Really, Valve? Cranking out another streaming device after the failure of the Steam Machine is just bad business sense.

Those were our first thoughts upon learning of the Steam Deck, Valve’s new gaming handheld, which was announced yesterday. Fortunately, while the Steam Deck will support streaming, it’s a fully fledged handheld gaming PC, with enough power to run games independently of any other hardware.

So what do we know about it? Between Valve’s own website and this interview at IGN, quite a lot. We won’t bore you with all the tech specs; you can find those here, but here are some things you should know about the Steam Deck.

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  • It has a 7 inch touch screen (with a 1280×800 resolution), slightly larger than the Nintendo Switch’s.
  • In terms of power, it’s more than capable of running modern PC games, though almost certainly not at max quality. The CPU and GPU are custom so it’s hard to say for sure but it looks to be on a par with the gaming PC we’re writing this on, which was top of the line early 2018.
  • It runs on the latest version of SteamOS, Valve’s Linux-based OS, though you can install Windows if you want.
  • It’s slightly wider than the Nintendo Switch, 298mm wide compared to 238mm and it’s also heavier, 669 grams compared to the Switch’s 399 grams.
  • If you purchase the official dock, or plug in the appropriate cables, you can play games on a big-screen TV or monitor or use it as a traditional PC if you’ve installed Windows.
  • It has more than just the traditional gamepad buttons. Yes, it has two thumbsticks, a D-pad, four facebuttons and four shoulder buttons. But it also has two trackpads (which support PS5-style haptic feedback) and four extra gamepad buttons at the back.
  • It should run any Steam game, from Steam’s library of over 50,000 games, though we wouldn’t rule out the odd compatibility issue. The point is, you’re not going to be stuck with a limited library, as is the case with a lot of console launches.
  • There’ll be three models, one with 64 GB storage space, one with 256 GB and one with 512 GB. The 64GB version will have eMMC storage while the larger two will have faster NVMe SSD. You’ll also be able to insert your own Micro SD card to expand storage.
  • You can expect two to eight hours of battery life, though that will depend on what you’re doing. You’ll get more if you’re streaming, compared to playing games natively. According to Valve’s Pierre-Loup Griffais, you’d get four hours of Portal 2 (played natively) out of it.
  • The battery looks to be built in. The same is true of the Switch but we’d still like the option to swap out the battery later or, short of buying a power bank, bringing a spare battery with us.
  • It’ll have 16GB of memory. That’s pretty decent, the average minimum spec for current 3D games tends to be 8GB, with 12GB or 16GB the recommended spec.
  • It’ll be Wi-Fi only. You can play Steam games offline, so that’s not a problem, but you won’t be able to download games via 4G or 5G. Given the size of a lot of modern games, which could demolish your data cap in a single download, that’s not a great loss.
  • It’ll cost £349.99 for the 64GB model, £459.00 for the 256GB and £569.00 for the 512GB model. Steam Deck will start shipping this December.

So how do you get your hands on the Steam Deck? You have to reserve one, first. Reservations go live at 10am PDT today, that’s 6pm BST, through the Steam Store. You then put down a deposit of £4, which is deducted from the final price.

Some small part of us expects to see these end up in second hand stores two years down the line but, unlike the Steam Machine, there’s nothing that immediately makes us suspicious of the Steam Deck.

If you are planning on taking the plunge, we recommend you don’t hang around; Valve claim they’ve taken measures to foil scalpers but, in light of the ongoing PlayStation 5 shortages, we’ll take that with a pinch of salt.