Earlier today, Valve announced a new handheld device for playing PC games on the go. Called the Steam Deck, the device is similar to the Nintendo Switch in that it has a 7-inch touch display, two thumbsticks, and face buttons on either side.
That said, there’s much more to the Steam Deck than its Switch-like design. Here’s everything you need to know about Valve’s upcoming handheld.
At the heart of the Steam Deck is an AMD accelerated processing unit (APU). The processor is based on AMD’s Zen 2 micro-architecture and goes up to 3.5GHz. Meanwhile, the GPU features eight RDNA 2 compute units, each running at 1.6GHz.
That allows the Steam Deck to boast 1.6 teraflops of performance. By comparison the original PlayStation 4 and Xbox One deliver 1.84 and 1.31 teraflops of performance, respectively. This puts the Steam Deck somewhere in the middle of the two consoles in terms of performance.
The processor and GPU are enough to allow the Steam Deck to run games like Baldur’s Gate 3, Crusader Kings 3, Disco Elysium, Hades, and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.
Similar to the Switch, the Steam Deck features a 7-inch LCD touchscreen. Valve’s handheld has a slightly higher resolution — 1,280 x 800 compared to 1,280 x 720 on the Switch. That’s due to the 16:10 aspect ratio for the Steam Deck’s display.
Don’t expect the highest of frame rates, though — the display sticks with a 60Hz refresh rate. However, you can output the Steam Deck to your television or monitor, if you mainly stick to playing at home.
From the display to the middle to the face buttons and control sticks on either side of it, it’s clear the Steam Deck is heavily inspired by the Nintendo Switch. However, the two devices’ designs differ in two significant ways: the control sticks and touchpads.
The Steam Deck’s control sticks look similar to those found on Xbox and PlayStation controllers, which will make movement more comfortable during gameplay. That’s compared to the control sticks on the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers, which haven’t received warm praise.
Then there are the two touchpads located beneath either control stick on the Steam Deck. They likely exist as an alternate method for menu navigation and to replicate a mouse cursor. It’s unknown if you can turn the functionality off to avoid accidental inputs during gameplay.
Other tidbits include two front-facing speakers, two microphones at the top of the display, a headphone jack and USB Type-C port at the top, and four additional L1/L2/R1/R2 buttons at the top.
Out of the box, the Steam Deck runs SteamOS 3.0. It’s based on Linux and features Proton, a compatibility layer that lets users run Windows games on Linux.
That said, the Steam Deck is not a closed system. Although handheld owners can stick with SteamOS 3.0, they can also install Windows and the Epic Games Store if they want.
There will be three versions of the Steam Deck, with the only difference being how much storage you get. The $399 base model comes with a 64GB eMMC drive, which is fine if you don’t care much for storage and plan to primarily use the microSD card slot.
The $529 model bumps things up to 256GB of storage, this time using a faster NVMe SSD. Finally, the $649 model includes a 512GB NVMe SSD. According to Valve, the priciest model’s SSD is faster than the drives in the two cheaper models, but didn’t mention exact speeds.
The Steam Deck will start shipping in December, with pre-orders going live tomorrow. Valve seems aware scalping could become an issue with the Steam Deck, so it’s implemented a unique system to try and ward off bots.
Pre-orders open tomorrow, July 16 at 1:00pm EDT, so long as Steam users made a purchase on Steam before June 2021. If they didn’t, they will have to wait 48 hours to pre-order the system.
There will be a fee for pre-orders. According to Valve, the reservation fee will help it balance out its supply chain, inventory, and regional distribution as we get closer to December.