Valve’s Steam Deck was one of the most anticipated gaming consoles ever.
It’s a device that promises a lot on paper, being powerful enough to access an entire Steam library while still being portable enough to compete with the Nintendo Switch.
The ability to access a collection of games while away from their hardened setup is especially appealing to PC gamers. And, with multiple updates since launch, Valve appears to have ironed out some of the early kinks.
Is this a legitimate way to transport your PC gaming collection, or is it a concept that falls short of expectations?
To find out, we’ve been lounging on the couch and playing video games in the wild.
Our Quick Take
The Steam Deck is an outstanding piece of gaming hardware. We like to think of it as a more mature version of the Switch, but it’s also an excellent option for PC gamers who want to play away from their main machine.
We had a great time testing it for a variety of reasons. It’s simple to use, simple to pick up and put down on the spur of the moment, and surprisingly capable. It just keeps getting better with Valve’s regular updates and more and more games being tested and verified.
Our main gripes are battery life and storage space, but these are minor issues that will vary greatly depending on the games you install and play. Overall, it’s an excellent gaming machine that we wholeheartedly recommend.
- 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)
- 16GB LPDDR5 onboard RAM (5500 MT/s quad 32-bit channels)
- 64 GB eMMC (PCIe Gen 2 x1); 256 GB NVMe SSD or 512 GB high-speed NVMe SSD
The Steam Deck packs some fairly decent specs inside its rather sleek frame, which is to be expected with a console aimed at PC gamers who are likely to demand the best.
After all, the Steam Deck is designed to give you access to all of the games available on Steam’s platform, which includes both old and new titles, indie and AAA titles. As a result, it must be able to withstand some strenuous activity.
We’ve previously discussed how to determine which of your PC games will run on Steam Deck and mark those that have been tested as “verified” or “playable.” While the list of compatible games is constantly growing, it’s still worth checking to see which of yours will work before purchasing to avoid disappointment.
We discovered that only 94 of our 900+ games are currently marked as ‘Great On Deck,’ with many of the rest working on the console with a little tweaking.
There are some solid favourites among the playable games, as well as some fairly power-hungry titles that you’d expect to require a decent PC or gaming laptop to run smoothly. Control, Dirt 5, Forza Horizon 5, God of War, Death Stranding, Sniper Elite 5, The Witcher 3 and other titles are on the list.
- 7-inch IPS LCD touch screen
- 1280 x 800 pixel resolution; 16:10 aspect ratio
- 400 nits brightness with ambient light sensor
- 60Hz refresh rate (user adjustable)
The Steam Deck is taller and has a larger screen than the Nintendo Switch, though the difference is minor. The Deck has a 7-inch LCD screen with a resolution of 1280800 and a refresh rate of up to 60Hz. So you’re basically playing at 720p, which is perfectly acceptable on a screen this size. Even if you’re used to 1440p or 4K on a larger gaming monitor, this console has plenty to offer. It’s vibrant and visually appealing from all angles.
This means you don’t have to sit awkwardly holding it so you’re facing the screen straight on, and we discovered you can get just as comfortable playing this regardless of how you sit. The screen appears to be capable of reaching 400 nits of brightness, which means it can easily handle a variety of lighting conditions in the real world. The Stream Deck also has adaptive lighting, which means it will adjust to match the brightness of the environment.
It’s a testament to the design that we rarely had to think about the brightness, let alone change the settings. The screen does, of course, suffer from some reflections if you’re in a brightly lit room, but the beauty of a console like this is that you can simply tilt it or move position to fix that. There are no issues.
The user-friendly design of both the console and the interface contributes to the Steam Deck’s allure. This console has a touchscreen display, but you can also navigate SteamOS using the sticks or the D-pad. Everything is very intuitive, responsive, and simple to use.
It is also useful both in-game and in menus. This aspect of the experience provided us with very little frustration.
- A B X Y buttons; D-Pad; Analog triggers and bumpers; Assignable grip buttons
- HD haptics
- Haptic feedback trackpads
- 6-Axis IMU Gyro
The user-friendly interface of the Stream Deck simply transfers to the overall appearance of the controls. The Steam Deck appears fairly large and thick at first appearance, yet it’s incredibly lightweight, and we believe much of its appeal stems from the design of the grips on either side.
The Deck’s edges protrude into the hand, making it simple to grasp and providing a natural grip on the controls. In terms of controls, this handheld has the standard and well-known controller configuration, with two thumbsticks, a D-pad, A B X Y buttons, and top triggers.
Meanwhile, two sets of additional buttons are located on the underside and are easily accessible with your middle and ring fingers when playing. These can be assigned in the settings and provide access to more controls than a conventional gaming controller. Read more; How to Install and Play Epic Games on Steam Deck
This is especially beneficial if you discover games in your library that are listed as unsupported or ‘Playable.’ As previously stated, this just means that they require a little more programming in order to play nicely.
Ready or Not, a tactical shooter that demands a lot of keys to play on PC, is one such example. It’s a little awkward on the Steam Deck by default, and you can’t perform simple things like equip night vision or lean your character without altering extra settings. It’s wonderful to have that option.
Connectivity and Power
- Bluetooth 5.0 for controllers and audio
- Dual-band Wi-Fi radio; 2 x 2 MIMO, IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
- 40Whr battery with 45W USB Type-C PD3.0 power supply
- USB-C with DisplayPort 1.4 Alt-mode support; Up to 8K @ 60Hz or 4K @ 120Hz; USB 3.2 Gen 2
- UHS-I supports SD, SDXC and SDHC
We were quite sure we’d need to have the Steam Deck plugged in during gaming sessions based on our experience playing high-end PC games on gaming laptops. We’re delighted to say, however, that the Steam Deck can run entirely on the 40Whr battery.
There appears to be no difference in performance whether you play plugged in or not. This is fantastic because it allows you to game wherever you want while still having a wonderful gaming experience.
However, battery life varies greatly, which is perhaps why Valve claims you can get between 2 and 8 hours of playtime out of the Steam Deck. It, like any other gadget, is affected by a variety of elements, including screen brightness, the games you’re playing, speaker level, refresh rate, and others. This is why it’s useful to have the opportunity to change these settings in the Steam Deck.
And it can also make a significant difference. We discovered that lowering the maximum FPS to 30, for example, will significantly increase your playtime. Read also; Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2: Everything You Need
The Steam Deck is an excellent choice for playing PC games on the couch, in bed, or wherever your mood takes you. It’s incredibly capable with very few issues, and it’s just gotten better with numerous upgrades since debut.