The Steam Deck is a portable console from Valve, more powerful than the Nintendo Switch and which can also be connected to a monitor or a television. A real nomadic PC with a screen and controllers, it must be able to run any Steam game, and more.
Valve hasn’t always been very happy when it comes to hardware products. The Valve Index is a benchmark for virtual reality headsets, but its Steam Controller or the Steam Link have been failures for the PC video game giant. But Gabe Newell’s group, although not the most enterprising in the industry, continues to try its luck with a proposal that was not necessarily expected: a portable console.
The Steam Deck announcement came from almost nowhere. At the end of May, a first leak gave us some clues, the source code of the Steam beta client revealing the existence of a Neptune or SteamPal project. But very little information was leaked. And we certainly weren’t expecting Steam Deck in the middle of summer, with as always a communication to Valve: no flamboyant presentation conference, but a simple press release, a product page and an FAQ. Sober. But why do more when you can advertise your product directly on Steam?
This surprise launch of the Steam Deck in any case raises many questions, which we will try to answer in this file.
When is Steam Deck released?
Valve has let it be known that the first Steam Deck orders will be honored sometime in December, without giving an exact release date. It is possible to reserve the console from July 16, 2021 at 7 p.m., but this requires a reservation fee of 4 euros. This amount will then be deducted from the price of the device once you actually buy it. There is no traditional pre-order system for this product, consumers will only be notified by email when Steam Deck is available in order of reservations.
Another element to take into consideration, the first 48 hours of the opening of reservations, only Steam accounts having made at least one purchase on the platform before June 2021 will be able to reserve, within the limit of one copy per account. Users who have not made a purchase on Steam by this date will have to wait until Sunday July 18 at 7 p.m. A reservation canceled within 30 days will be refunded via the payment method you used. After 30 days, it is refunded to the Steam wallet.
All these measures have been taken to avoid the phenomenon of scalping, which has hit Nvidia graphics cards and the PS5 particularly hard. It consists in buying all the available stocks of a product whose demand is high to create a shortage and thus resell them at a high price.
How much does Steam Deck cost?
The price of Valve’s portable console will undoubtedly be one of the main obstacles to its acquisition among many players. Here are the advertised prices for Steam Deck for each available configuration:
- 419 euros with 64 GB eMMC storage and carrying case
- 549 euros with 256 GB NVMe SSD storage, carrying case and exclusive profile bundle from the Steam community
- 679 euros with 512 GB NVMe SSD storage, carrying case, exclusive Steam community profile bundle, glass with premium anti-reflective coating and exclusive virtual keyboard theme
Steam Deck is therefore much more expensive than the Nintendo Switch OLED, the recently announced revision of the hybrid console, even in its most affordable version. In addition, Valve does not include the docking station with the device, it must be purchased separately at a price that has not yet been announced. We even end up with prices higher than the next generation consoles, the PS5 and Xbox Series X, for the most interesting models in terms of storage.
What ergonomics for the Steam Deck console?
The design of the console is surprising, and doubts about the comfort of the grip are to be expressed by observing Steam Deck, even if we will wait to have it in hand to form a final opinion. The two analog sticks are positioned on either side of the screen, symmetrically. To the left of the left stick, we find the directional cross, to the right of the right stick the four keys A, B, X and Y. All these controls seem a little high, and the arrangement of the buttons and the cross so close to the sticks leaves you wondering. Without moving his hands, we have the impression that the thumbs will suffer to go from one to the other. Ergonomics really raises questions.
Below the joysticks, are positioned trackpads, very precise according to Valve, with pressure sensitivity to configure the force applied to the clicks, square shaped, 32.5 mm in size and equipped with haptic feedback. We notice that they are located in a strategic place, where the thumbs will naturally rest, and where we could have expected to see the joysticks instead. A design choice that suggests that Valve attaches great importance to these touchpads, which will be useful for navigating as with a mouse.
And not just to navigate elsewhere. Valve promises that the trackpad can “Give you a competitive edge when playing fast FPS games”. An assertion that does not mean anything when it comes from the developer of a certain Counter Strike. The latency of the touchpads is 55% lower than that of the Steam Controller, we learn. IGN has already been able to take control of the console and indicates that the sensation is close to that provided by a mouse, but we remain skeptical on this point. Good news, they can be mapped to create macro commands.
Valve announces the presence of a gyroscope and an inertial unit (IMU) to gain precision by adjusting the physical position of the device rather than using an analog stick or trackpad.
On the upper edge of the console, we have of course our triggers R1 / L1 and R2 / L2. Volume control is from there as well, as is the on / off button. Power users will even have additional controls available to use the ring fingers, or even the little fingers, with as on the Xbox Elite controllers, handle buttons on the back, R4 / L4 and R5 / L5, which still appear less easily. reachable only on the gamepad of Microsoft.
The 3.5mm audio jack as well as the USB-C connector for charging are both located on the upper part of the device, around the fan, which is often more practical to manage than such a connection in the ‘lower space when you want to play with the console connected to the mains and / or with a connected wired audio device. The microSD card slot is at the bottom.
The dimensions advertised are 298 mm × 117 mm × 49 mm, for a weight of approximately 669 grams. For comparison, the Nintendo Switch weighs just under 400 grams with the Joy-Con attached.
Steam Deck: how good is the screen?
Playing recent AAA games on a portable console yes, but in good quality it’s more complicated. The LCD panel, which is optically glued for better readability, displays a definition of only 1280 × 800 pixels well below the Full HD 1080p standard. Admittedly, this may be enough on a 7-inch screen if you don’t play with the console too close to your eyes, but it may seem poor when you compare to the Switch’s 1280 x 720 pixels, which is explained by the lack of of hardware power. However, Steam Deck seems powerful enough to display superior picture quality on some games. Even for watching videos or other tasks than gaming, having a better screen would have been interesting.
The touch screen is in 16:10 format and displays a 60 Hz refresh rate. Valve announces a brightness of 400 nits, which is better than on the Switch, with an ambient light sensor to automatically adapt the brightness of the panel according to the environment.
How is Steam Deck performing?
Steam Deck is clearly aiming for much better performance than the Nintendo Switch. And to do this, Valve has put the means in terms of technical specifications. The console is indeed equipped with a chip designed in partnership with AMD. This has a 4-core CPU, under Zen 2 architecture, like the PS5 and Xbox Series X and S, clocked at up to 3.5 GHz. The GPU takes advantage of theRDNA 2 architecture AMD, as well as 8 computing units, for a gross power of 1.6 Tflop.
What a slap in the face of the Nintendo Switch and, according to Valve, to run any current AAA game. But it is not possible to compare the performance of Steam Deck to that of the PS5 or the Xbox Series X, the home consoles are necessarily much more advantaged. In fact, Stream Deck is only targeting a 720p HD quality at 60 frames per second, while the latest machines from Sony and Microsoft support 8K and 120 fps (not at the same time though).
Steam Deck: how much memory and storage?
Valve integrates the same amount of RAM on all versions of Stream Deck, namely 16 GB LPDDR5 RAM. As noted earlier, three storage variants are available. With 64 GB of space in eMMC, the entry-level option offers little room for maneuver and less efficient technology. The two more premium configurations are already more attractive with the use of an NVMe SSD, and a storage quantity of 256 or 512 GB. Note that a microSD card slot allows this capacity to be extended.
What is the autonomy of Steam Deck?
The console is equipped with 40 Wh battery three times the size of the Nintendo Switch. At least that is necessary to guarantee autonomy on greedy games, the Switch catalog being made up with a few exceptions of titles that do not consume too much energy.
Valve announces a autonomy from 2 to 8 hours for Steam Deck. We imagine that the lower range corresponds to AAA video games and that the upper range corresponds to desktop use, or video viewing. But as usual, nothing will be worth the tests in real conditions in this matter.
Power and recharging is done via a USB Type-C PD 3.0 port supporting a power of up to 45W.
What is the audio equipment of the Steam Deck?
Two loudspeakers have for mission to restore the sound on Steam Deck. They are positioned at the bottom of the facade, near the screen. The console relies on a stereo system with integrated digital signal processing to ensure sound immersion. It also supports multi-channel audio via DisplayPort over USB-C, standard USB-C, or Bluetooth 5.0, and has a 3.5mm stereo jack for wired headphones or headphones. Two microphones are available, making it possible to communicate by voice in-game or to use calling software.
Is Steam Deck Wi-Fi and Bluetooth compatible?
In terms of connectivity, Steam Deck does not support the mobile network, neither in 4G nor in 5G. To play online, you must therefore have a Wi-Fi connection. Steam Deck is compatible 2.4 and 5 GHz dual-band Wi-Fi, 2 × 2 MIMO technology, and with 802.11a / b / g / n / ac standards. As a reminder, the 5 GHz frequency band provides better data rates, but the 2.4 GHz frequency band handles distance and obstacles better, choose the best option according to your situation.
The console has the Bluetooth 5.0 for wirelessly pairing controllers, headsets or headphones, and other accessories.
What is the catalog of Steam Deck compatible games?
One of the great strengths of the Nintendo Switch is its catalog of exclusive titles for the console. But Steam Deck has serious assets to showcase in this area, with a catalog that is well supplied and varied than its competitor. The machine makes it possible to play the productions of its Steam library. The entire platform offering is also available on Steam Deck, without the need to obtain a portable version of the games. All the titles that make up your library can thus be launched on the mobile console.
Thanks to Proton software, developed by Valve and based on a branch of Wine, no porting is necessary from developers. “Your build will probably be functional immediately“, Says the builder, publisher and developer.
And if the Steam catalog is not enough for your taste, the fact that Valve opts for an open ecosystem provides other solutions. “The Steam Deck is a PC, so you can install third-party software and other operating systems”, we are told. In other words, even if the interface and performance will not necessarily be optimized, it is possible to install a game from the Microsoft Store, the Epic Games Store, Battle.net, GOG, Origin, Ubisoft Connect …
So subscription services are theoretically also available on Steam Deck. We think of Game Pass of course, whose games thus become playable on a mobile device without using streaming, and to various cloud gaming services: Microsoft xCloud, Nvidia GeForce Now, Google Stadia, Amazon Luna, and even PS Now.
What operating system does Steam Deck use?
Steam Deck runs under SteamOS 3.0, based on the Linux Arch distribution, with a KDE Plasma 5 GUI. A major change after always using a Debian distribution on earlier versions of the operating system.
But it is also possible to install Windows 10 on Steam Deck, or other operating systems intended for computers. The device acts like a real one that can be customized as desired.
What is the Steam Deck docking station for?
Valve mentioned an accessory for Steam Deck, a docking station that is not included with the handheld console and has to be purchased separately at a price that is still unknown. The product does not seem finished yet since we are warned that its characteristics are subject to change.
Weighing approximately 120 grams and with a size of 117mm × 29mm × 50.5mm, the dock holds the Steam Deck upright and can be used to connect external displays, network cable, USB devices and more. ‘food. As with the Switch, the docking station therefore allows hybrid use of the console, with the possibility of play on monitor or television. But in this case, the living room solution is much less delivered “turnkey” than at Nintendo.
Another disappointment, it seems that the image quality remains the same on the console screen as on an external screen. We must therefore be satisfied with an HD quality which did not already seem convincing to us on the small 7-inch panel and which we can fear that it does not of course render large screens. Surprisingly, the Switch delivers Full HD definition when docked. Maybe Valve will be able to improve this aspect by the time the console is released, why not with artificial intelligence.
In theory, Stream Deck should be compatible with AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution technology, its equivalent of Nvidia’s DLSS. This, announced on PC, and even on PlayStation and Xbox consoles, allows you to calculate an image in lower definition and then to scale it (upscaling in English) to gain in performance and quality. But for now, Valve has not addressed this topic.
The docking station connectivity consists of a USB-A 3.1 port, two USB-A 2.0 ports, an Ethernet jack, DisplayPort 1.4 ports
and HDMI 2.0, as well as a USB-C Passthrough power socket. A 6 inch USB-C captive cable with a low profile 90 ° connector is also provided.
No rendering of the dock has been shared, so we have to settle for a diagram for the moment.