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Valve Steam Deck: Gaming PC To Go

Valve Steam Deck: Gaming PC To Go

Valve Steam Deck: Gaming PC To Go Thumbnail

There’s a new competitor on the handheld gaming market. The video game company Valve, known for Half-Life, and Portal, is venturing into the handheld consoles market with a new product: the Steam Deck. Featuring a 7-inch touchscreen and control sticks, it’s supposed to not only provide entertainment on the go.

The handheld console market has so far been largely dominated by Nintendo. Once with the Nintendo 3DS, now with the Nintendo Switch. Valve is now launching its Steam Deck, which draws similarities between the Switch and Sony‘s former PlayStation Portable, in direct competition to already established brands.

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The screen delivers a 7-inch touchscreen and 1,280 x 800 pixel resolution with a 16:10 aspect ratio. The brightness of the optically bonded LCD is 400 nits and the refresh rate is 60 Hz.

Steam Deck touchscreen
The Steam Deck features a 7-inch touchscreen.Image: Valve

The Valve Steam Deck is controlled via the directional pad or 2 full-sized analog sticks with capacitive touch sensors. In addition, you will find the "ABXY" buttons as well as the L & R shoulder buttons and the L & R analog triggers. Also on board are the view and menu keys as well as 4 assignable finger keys. The trackpads are 2 x 32.5 mm square surfaces, which provide haptic feedback just like the analog sticks. A gyroscope is also installed to enable physical positioning in-game.

Steam Deck is meant to be used for PC games

The device is something like a mini gaming PC on the go, with a 7-inch touchscreen in the middle and control buttons on the edge.

Just like the Switch and the consoles from Sony and Microsoft, the Steam Deck can also be connected to a TV and a monitor - after all, it is a PC. In this respect, you can also use the device for other computer tasks, like video streaming or surfing the web. Besides Valve's own gaming platform, Steam, owners of the Steam Deck can also install game stores from other providers. Once you've logged into Steam Deck, your entire Steam Library will show up, just like on any other PC.

Steam Deck trackpads
Trackpads as well as motion control are important features of the Steam Deck.Image: Valve

How to buy the Steam Deck

Interested gamers can already reserve the devices in select regions, and Valve will supposedly start shipping the Steam Decks in December 2021. Valve is selling 3 types of the Steam Deck:

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is the Steam Deck sold out?

The run on the console is great and the quota for 2021 has already been exhausted - the gaming console won't be available again until spring 2022.

What's inside the Steam Deck?

An AMD APU is responsible for the performance of the Valve Steam Deck. It is equipped with a Zen 2 CPU with 4 cores and 8 threads. An AMD RDNA-2 is added as GPU. The working memory is lush with 16 GB LPDDR5 RAM.

In addition, all models have a high-speed microSD card slot. The sound of the Valve Steam Deck is provided by built-in stereo speakers with DSP. There is also a 3.5 mm stereo headphone input and a dual microphone array. The integrated 40 Wh battery is supposed to allow 2 to 8 hours of independent gameplay. The user can use Bluetooth 5.0 or WLAN (2.4 GHz or 5 GHz) for connectivity.

Steam Deck Hardware peripherals
Connect your harware peripherals to the Steam Deck.Image: Valve

Does Steam Deck run Linux?

Without much fuss, Valve Software has been pushing Linux as a gaming platform for many years. With the Steam Deck, a lot more people will start playing on Linux in December - and in case of doubt, they won't even notice. After all, gaming on Linux hasn't been a big deal for a long time - unless you want to play AAA titles with anti-cheat software.

By now, many Windows games can be played under Linux. However, there are still a few exceptions: For example, anti-cheat software like BattlEye and Easy Anti-Cheat (EAC) prevent playing under Linux. For the battle royale shooter Player Unknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG), Linux gamers have therefore had to resort to cloud gaming services like Google Stadia - an option that Steam Deck also offers. However, Valve has announced that they will make anti-cheat software like BattlEye and EAC executable with Proton until the Steam Deck is released.

The SteamOS developed for the Steam Box will be put on a new footing for the Steam Deck. Instead of Debian, the system will be based on Arch Linux. This has several advantages: Arch Linux is a rolling release system that is kept up-to-date via the package management. There is no upgrade to a newer version as new software versions are delivered gradually and not held back until the next major upgrade.

This carries a certain risk, as the testing period is not as long as with other distributions. However, if you don't tinker with the system, there are hardly any problems in practice. The Steam deck software should therefore always be up-to-date and not require a major update. Another plus: The graphics drivers are always up-to-date in Arch Linux.

Final Thoughts

Valve will pretty much hit the mark with a large number of gamers with the Steam Deck. The powerful handheld console brings the gaming experience of Steam to everyday mobile life. In addition, PC software can be installed and surfing the web is also possible.

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