After rumours in May, Valve has now officially announced Steam Deck, a handheld gaming PC arriving later this year. IGN has an exclusive hands-on with Steam Deck as part of this month’s IGN First, as well as a FAQ with Valve about the device, but here is important information.
Steam Deck has a form factor that is similar to a slightly larger Nintendo Switch, but with the capabilities of a full game PC. It runs a modified version of Valve’s SteamOS, complete with a new console-like interface for easy navigation of both your Steam store and your Steam library, but it also provides access to an unlimited desktop where all third-party applications can be installed (including non-Steam games or launchers).
In terms of hardware, Steam Deck has a 7-inch, 1280×800 resolution, 60Hz LCD screen, a custom AMD APU with a 4-core, 8-wire CPU paired with 8 RDNA 2 GPU computing devices, and 16 GB of LPDDR5 RAM. In practice, it makes it significantly stronger than the Switch, so it can run modern games impressively well – as a reference point I could play the Jedi Fallen Order on a development steam deck at “High” graphics settings. with little or no problems. It can even suspend running games like a console, and Valve says the purpose is really to give players access to their entire Steam library on the go.
To better enable this, the controller layout on each side of the screen has all the buttons, triggers and full-size joysticks you expect from a modern gamepad and more. The sticks are actually capacitive, which means that they can detect when the thumb is resting on them, and under each is a small trackpad that can be used for mouse inputs. There are also four rear buttons on the back of the Steam Deck that can be mapped whatever you want, and the screen is a touch screen with multiple inputs.
In addition, Steam Deck has Bluetooth support for all devices you can connect to a regular PC (including headphones such as Apple AirPods). It can also be “docked” and connected to an external monitor, as well as a mouse and keyboard if you want to use it as a more traditional PC. While Valve will sell an official dock separately, any third-party USB-C adapter should work just as well – and those who just want an experience closer to a regular handheld or console can ignore the more computer-y aspects altogether.
When it comes to selling, Steam Deck will be available in three different models – but most importantly, the only major difference between them will be storage size and speed, with their graphical capabilities otherwise identical. The base version costs $ 399 and has 64 GB of storage, followed by a $ 529 model with 256 GB, and finally a $ 649 version with 512 GB and an anti-reflective etched glass finish. The latter two Steam Decks will also have faster NVMe SSDs, and all three will allow you to install and play games from a Micro SD card to further expand storage capacity.
Steam Deck does not have a hard release date yet, but it is currently set for a launch in the holidays in 2021, and Vault President Gabe Newell told IGN that hitting those price points was ‘painful’ but ‘critical’. A reservation pre-order system will be launched in the near future, with Valve aiming to avoid chaos and unpredictability at recent console launches, and all three price points will also come with a bespoke carrying case.
We want a lot more information about Steam Deck throughout the month as part of our IGN First coverage. In the meantime, you need to check out our comprehensive impressions, and if you have a question that was not answered here, you can check out a FAQ with Valve about Steam Deck.