Remember when Valve was making a Steam game console? Yeah, that got us excited. And hugely disappointed when the whole thing was scrapped. Turns out, Gabe Newell and company were still looking at making a game console – just not one meant to live in your living room. Instead, they’re making a portable gaming handheld in the form of the Valve Steam Deck.
That’s right, Valve is making a Steam version of the Nintendo Switch, so you can enjoy your favorite PC games on a small screen anywhere you are, instead of having to play them on a laptop or a desktop at all times. Will you be able to play your entire Steam library on this thing? It’s doubtful, considering the minimum hardware requirements of some games and the size limitations of a handheld console, but this will should you take a good chunk of your Steam collection for playing on the go.
The Valve Steam Deck consists of a handheld game console with a 7-inch touchscreen in the middle and a gaggle of controls around it. On the left side, you get a D-pad, an analog thumbstick, and a square trackpad, while the right side gets four action buttons, a thumbstick, and another trackpad, so there’s plenty of control options available. It has four trigger buttons on the shoulders (two on each side), along with four buttons behind the grip (two on each side) that can be programmed individually, so you can remap various actions to keep your thumbs on the sticks.
Yes, it has a bit more controls than your typical handheld. From what we can tell, Valve wants to give players maximum flexibility for controls that are traditionally more difficult on controllers compared to mouse-and-keyboard setups, such as aiming and recoil control on first-person shooters. Additionally, it has an IMU sensor that will allow you to aim using motion and position control.
The Valve Steam Deck is powered by a custom APU from AMD that, the outfit claims, has been optimized for handheld gaming, allowing it to handle most modern games with its eight RDNA 2 CUs and 1.6 teraflops of performance. It also gets 16GB of DDR5 RAM, so it should clear the minimum requirements for plenty of AAA games, with three options in storage, namely 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB, which you can expand with via the integrated microSD card slot. The whole thing, by the way, runs on a 40Wh battery that can last anywhere from two to eight hours between charges, depending on the kind of games you’re playing.
No, this is not a portable Windows machine. Instead, it runs the Linux-based SteamOS with Proton, a compatibility layer that allows many Windows games to run without any porting work on the developers’ side. With that said, it is still a PC, so you can install Windows on it if you want (you will likely lose your warranty doing that, though) if you want the full strength of your library on the go (SteamOS with Proton currently supports only around 15 percent of Steam games). Similar to the Switch, Valve is also offering a TV dock that you can use to hook up the console to a TV or monitor, along with USB peripherals (mouse and keyboard) for more traditional PC gaming.
The Valve Steam Deck is now on preorder, priced starting at $399, with shipments slated to start in December.