Valve Steam Deck

This week Valve officially entered the handheld market with the Steam Deck. A Nintendo Switch-like portable handheld device that allows you to play your entire Steam library.

The Steam Deck is powered by a custom AMD APU said to run the latest AAA titles. It’s as simple as logging into your Steam account on your Steam Deck. Logging in gives you access to your entire gaming library, allowing you to pick up where you left off—essentially making it an all-in-one portable PC gaming device, which is pretty sweet. But how does it look upon review?

The Layout

Valve states that the Steam Deck was designed with comfortability in mind. At a glance, however, the setup itself looks incredibly strange. The awkward placement of just about everything looks pretty uncomfortable. The D-Pad and the face buttons are located so far up into the upper corners of the device that it makes my hands hurt just looking at them. I’m not a fan of the joy-stick placement right next to the D-Pad and Buttons. It just doesn’t look comfortable. This is probably a result of there being two trackpads directly underneath. These are perfect for games that require true mouse input. A welcome and much-needed addition since many games require them. The verdict? The layout of the controls does not appear to meet the stated goal of comfort, but we’re pretty excited to see if the trackpad placement makes up for it.

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The Hardware

The Steam Deck also features a beautiful 7-inch multitouch display, analog triggers, and four back-facing customizable grip buttons, and gyro controls for games. The onboard 40Wh battery promises up to 8 hours of playtime. The system also features Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and expandable I/O options via USB-C. And, yes, there’s a dock. Although sold separately, the official dock connects to external displays, wired networking, USB peripherals, and power. You can even hook it up to a USB-C hub.

The official dock will be sold separately.

The Cost

The Steam Deck comes in three price points and storage configurations, but there is no difference in performance between the options.

$399 64GB

  • 64GB eMMC internal storage
  • Carrying case

$529 256GB

  • 256GB NVMe SSD internal storage
  • Faster storage
  • Carrying case
  • Exclusive Steam Community profile bundle

$649 512GB

  • 512GB NVMe SSD internal storage
  • Fastest storage
  • Premium anti-glare etched glass
  • Exclusive carrying case
  • Exclusive Steam Community profile bundle
  • Exclusive virtual keyboard theme

Reserving the Steam Deck

In an effort to discourage scalpers, purchasing a Steam Deck requires paying a reservation fee. Check out Steam’s Reservation FAQ for more details. Reservations may be canceled and reservations are limited to one per customer. Additionally, it looks like you must have a valid Steam account in good standing (for the first 48 hours of the reservation period). With consoles, like the Xbox, continuing to be elusive for many this is a promising start to reigning in recent upselling trends in the gaming community.

The Verdict

With Valve entering the handheld market with the Steam Deck, one can assume that Nintendo will be closely watching how everything unfolds. With no Switch Pro announcement and only minor upgrades with their upcoming Nintendo Switch (OLED version), the Steam Deck will be entering the race for only $50 more than the Switch (OLED version) and will power full PC games.

Valve’s Steam Deck has the potential to impact handheld gaming and the accessibility of PC gaming. Despite my concerns about how comfortable the hand placement will be, I’m looking forward to testing it out and getting to spend more time with my PC game collection.

The Valve Steam Deck will begin shipping in December of 2021.

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