Valve just terminated months of rumors, and more or less discreet clues. Its new foray into hardware and the world of video games is called Steam Deck and looks like a Switch that would have been thought for hard core gamers come from the PC world.
A swarm of controls
It all starts with a 7-inch touchscreen, with a definition of 1280 × 800 pixels for a 16/10 display in 720p only. It is contained in a rather compact case, but larger than that of the Nintendo console. Note also that the controllers are not removable, no Joy-Con syndrome in sight, therefore.
Next, it is the wealth of options available to control the game that commands attention. There are of course the four usual buttons (ABXY), and the two classic sticks, under which are placed touchpads, which obviously recall those of the Steam Controller, but in square format.
In addition, the Steam Deck offers four triggers on the upper edge and four more on the back of the case. Everything will be customizable.
For those who are not fans of sticks to aim, Valve specifies that the Steam Deck has a gyroscope that allows the camera to be placed more precisely, as the Switch does in some games.
On the front panel, there are also two buttons under the trackpads, which control the Stream for the left one and quick access to the menu for the right one.
Finally, for the audio part, the Steam Deck integrates two speakers and two microphones, placed at the top of the screen.
If we are interested in the edges of the device, we find a layout that will make you think of the Switch. At the top, and from left to right, we find the volume buttons, a headphone jack, the outlet of the air blown by the fans, a USB-C port, and the on / off button. On the bottom edge, we flush out the microSD slot, because it will be possible to expand the internal storage.
The interior of the beast
If the exterior promises a great ergonomic richness, which will offer you the choice, the interior is not devoid of interest. Valve has teamed up with AMD – definitely, in all the right ways – to bring its portable PC-console to life.
We thus find an APU (a chip that brings together CPU and GPU), equipped with four Zen 2 cores, with eight threads and eight RDNA2 computing units for the graphics part. The whole thing is accompanied by 16 GB of LPDDR5 RAM.
Without doubt more than enough power to run the latest titles on the screen integrated into the Steam Deck, we will have to see what happens when we want to output the display on a 4K television.
Three models will be offered, for prices of 419, 549 and 679 euros, the difference being in the level of storage capacity and performance. The first model is equipped with a 64 GB eMMC module, while the next two models offer a 256 GB and 512 GB NVMe SSD module.
To power all this, the Steam Deck has a 40 Watt-hour battery, which “Should be able to offer hours of games for most titles”, Valve advance. The editor also specifies that “For lighter uses, like game streaming, less demanding 2D games, or surfing the web, you can expect a maximum battery life of approximately seven to eight hours.”.
The Steam Deck technical sheet estimates its lifespan of two to eight hours, depending on usage.
The Steam Deck actually doesn’t have much to do with Nintendo’s Switch when it comes to power. However, it takes inspiration from some of its functions and accessories – in addition to the design. Thus, like the Switch, the Steam Deck, which runs on SteamOS, offers a function of standby / instantaneous resumption of the game. Like the Switch, the Steam Deck can be placed on a docking station in order to be connected to a TV or monitor. The USB-C port will take care of this task by managing any HDMI, Ethernet, and USB connections. It will also be possible to connect a keyboard and a mouse.
Finally, the Steam Deck is also living with the times, and it is compatible with Bluetooth, to connect external controllers or even headphones – which the Switch cannot do.
SteamOS and Proton at the controls
But where the Steam Deck will above all make the difference compared to the Switch, is at the level of its catalog. Valve’s PC-console works under a new version of SteamOS, the tailor-made distribution of GNU / Linux. All the games available for this operating system will therefore be available on the Steam Deck. But that’s not all. Valve has chosen to adopt Proton (fork of the famous Wine) to run Windows games on its machine. There might be little performance or stability issues at times, but the Steam Deck shouldn’t be deprived of too many titles.
Valve is also announcing that its platform will not be closed to the world. Besides that it will be possible to surf the Web, therefore, it will also be possible to install games from other kiosks, and even classic Windows programs.
The Steam Deck should be available from next December, but it will be possible to reserve one copy per Steam account, having made a purchase before June 2021, starting today, from 7 p.m. French time. The reservation system gives you the right to be among the first to pre-order the device a little later.
The Steam Deck isn’t the first Switch-like PC we’ve seen blooming. We think in particular of the Concept UFO, d’Alienware. But, Valve’s product has two very attractive advantages. On the one hand, the know-how of Gabe Newell’s teams, developed over time, with the design of Steam Controllers, Steam Machine and other VR headsets. On the other hand, integration with the Steam platform, which remains one of the best on the market. Not to mention that the prices seem rather accessible given the promise made.
Source : SteamDeck