Steam Deck hardware, price and more – everything we know about the console

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The Steam Deck might just be the most exciting device in PC gaming right now. By allowing PC gamers to take their entire Steam library anywhere and play any Steam game in a convenient handheld form factor, this much-anticipated device is going to change the way we play PC titles forever.

That makes the long wait all the more unbearable. Unfortunately, due to the global supply chain issues, its release has been delayed until February 2022. To tide salivating PC gamers over, Valve has released a handful of teaser images showcasing the Steam Deck box and its contents, which include the carrying case containing the console itself and the boxed USB-C charger – although this teaser might have had an opposite effect, as it feels like a painful reminder of what we’re missing.

Steam Deck: Cut to the chase

*  What is it? A powerful, portable PC from Valve

*  How much will it cost?  $399 / £349 for the 64GB version, $529 / £459 for the 256GB version, and $649 / £569 for the 512GB version

*  When will it be released? February 2022 in the US, Canada, EU and UK. It will release in other regions later in 2022.

Not only does the Steam Deck let you carry and enjoy your Steam library wherever you go, but it boasts a number of impressive features as well. This SteamOS-powered device, for one, can run on whatever operating system you want, including Windows 11 and Linux Ubuntu, as well as dual boot to run two operating systems at the same time. That’s already pretty impressive, considering it’s a portable device, without factoring in all its other capabilities.

Like the Nintendo Switch, the Steam Deck is also dockable with output to a TV or monitor via a USB Type-C connection (assuming the display supports USB Type-C video input). Valve is planning on releasing its own dock at some point, put for now any USB Type-C-compatible dock will work. And, it should be compatible with all the standard PC peripherals from controllers and flight sticks to keyboards and mice. You can even use Bluetooth headphones, something that is still not supported by other major video game consoles.

In terms of innards, it’s been revealed that it will be powered by a custom AMD chip called the Aerith SoC, which should come with a four-core, eight-thread Zen2 CPU and an AMD RDNA 2 GPU. This chip is expected to offer a consistent gaming experience across the titles while allowing the device’s 40-watt hour battery to last up to seven to eight hours of playtime.

So what else do we know about Valve’s Steam Deck console? Read on to learn all about this potentially game-changing handheld.

Steam Deck news and updates

Jan. 14, 2022: Launch date set for February Valve has offered up another assurance that the Steam Deck is set to ship on time, by the end of next month. In an update just posted to the company blog, Valve wrote that “we’re on track to ship Steam Deck on time. Global pandemic, supply issues, and shipping issues notwithstanding, it looks like we’ll be able to start getting these out the door by the end of February.” Read more

Jan. 12, 2022: Will it run older games? Your entire Steam Library might not be playable on the Steam Deck after all, according to comments from the developer of Warhammer: Vermintide 2. A recent Steam post suggests that compatibility issues will arise due to the wrong version of Easy-Anti Cheat — due to Valve’s decision to have the Steam Deck run on a Linux-based operating system. 

Dec. 21, 2021: Steam Deck compatibility is growing Linux can now run 80% of the top 100 most popular games on Steam, and therefore by extension the same is true of the Linux-powered Steam Deck, reports ProtonDB, which keeps track of compatibility via reports from gamers. But the top 10 is another story: six of them don’t play ball, including Halo Infinite and Apex Legends.

Dec. 17, 2021: We’re still on track, Valve claims In an interview with PC Gamer, Valve’s Greg Coomer reassured us that the company could stick to the new, February launch date: “We do feel like we’re on track for that. We’re still bummed that we had to move from end of this year to beginning of next. But yeah, all the signs are pointing to us being able to ship in February.”

Steam Deck release date and price

Steam Deck console from Valve against a white background

(Image credit: Valve)

Valve, the development studio responsible for the legendary Half-Life franchise, were first rumored to be developing a handheld gaming console back in April 2021, with Ars Technica breaking the news of the “SteamPal”, the codename for Valve’s “Switch-like portable PC”. 

We all awaited the official announcement, which eventually came in July 2021. More than just a Switch clone, the Steam Deck is a truly portable PC. 

The Steam Deck was originally set to release in December 2021, but it has since been delayed due to the ongoing supply chain issues, the first units are expected to ship out starting in February 2022. 

The cost hasn’t changed though, and it’s still set to retail for $399 / £349 for the base model that comes with 64GB of eMMC internal storage and a carrying case.

The mid-range option costs $529 / £459 and includes a 256GB NVMe SSD inside for faster storage, a carrying case and an exclusive Steam Community profile bundle.

Finally, the highest tier option costs $649 / £569 and includes 512GB of NVMe SSD internal storage, premium anti-glare etched glass, an exclusive carrying case, exclusive Steam Community profile bundle, and an exclusive virtual keyboard theme. 

All three consoles storage can be expanded thanks to a microSD card slot, which supports SD, SDXC and SDHC formats.

We expected the Steam Deck to be sold at a higher price tag than the Nintendo Switch, which retails for $299 / £279.99 / AU$469, but it’s even more expensive than the new Nintendo Switch OLED, which retails for $349 / £309.

Valve’s Gabe Newell said the company found hitting Steam Deck price “painful” but “critical” in an interview with IGN. Newell told IGN about the need to be “very aggressive” in terms of pricing, and said that the top priority was to make sure that PC players are able to pick up the Steam Deck and feel like it works perfectly.

“I want to pick this up and say, oh, it all works. It’s all fast. It’s all… and then price point was secondary and painful. But that was pretty clearly a critical aspect to it,” Newell said. “But the first thing was the performance and the experience, [that] was the biggest and most fundamental constraint that was driving this.”

Steam Deck design and features

Steam Deck console from Valve on a white surface

(Image credit: Valve)

The Steam Deck may look rather ungainly, but Valve says it’s been designed for comfortable, extended play sessions, and it has full-fidelity control so you can play your favorite games without any compromises.

The Steam Deck features “best-in-class” thumbsticks with capacitive touch sensors built-in, which Valve says will provide “a level of precision and comfort not found on other portable gaming devices”. Unlike the Switch, the controllers can not be removed from the display like the Joy-Con. It means the Steam Deck is more akin to the Nintendo Switch Lite in this regard. 

You’ll notice that the Steam Deck also includes two trackpads, which means users will have mouse-like control in games that don’t play nice with a gamepad. Valve says these pads are similar to those found on its now discontinued Steam Controller, so expect some haptic feedback and general improvements over the trackpads of old.

Along with the usual triggers on the back of the device, which are pleasing analog unlike the Nintendo Switch’s digital triggers, the Steam Deck also includes Grip buttons, which will provide extra input options right at your fingertips. If you’ve ever used a “Pro” controller, you’ll understand how useful these extra buttons can be. And, if you end up preferring the feel of the Steam Deck’s controls, you can actually use it as a controller with your PC.

Valve’s portable device features a 7-inch LCD touchscreen, and even includes gyro controls, so you can fine-tune your aim by physically positioning the device and achieve more precision than using a thumbstick or trackpad alone. 

The Steam Deck also lets you suspend and resume games by pressing the power button to put the device into sleep mode, just like the Nintendo Switch. You can only suspend one game at a time, however, so don’t expect something like Xbox Series X‘s Quick Resume feature that lets you suspend multiple games at a time.

In terms of other features, the Steam Deck has expandable storage thanks to a microSD card slot, includes two stereo speakers, onboard dual microphones, and the battery life is predicted to last between two to eight hours, depending on the games you are playing.

As the Steam Deck is basically a PC with a gamepad attached, you can choose to install PC software, browse the web, watch streaming video and even complete productivity tasks. You can even install games from other stores, if you like, and run non-Steam games via Proton. You can also set up and use multiple Steam accounts on one Steam Deck device, with each account having its own local save data and settings.

As we’ve mentioned, Steam Deck can run on whatever operating system you want, including Windows 11 and Linux Ubuntu. And, if you want to have another OS along with SteamOS, it allows you to dual-boot operating systems. 

Of course, the Steam Deck comes with all the Steam features you’d expect. It supports Steam Chat, Remote Play, notifications, the entire Steam Store experience, Cloud Saves and access to the Steam Community. It runs a new Steam operating system that is optimized for a handheld gaming experience, too, so it should feel intuitive to use. It can be used as a PC controller as well, using Remote Play.

It does have its limitations as well. While it is compatible with PC VR headsets, it’s not optimized for them, meaning that this feature is probably left alone until a future iteration of the portable. In addition, Valve doesn’t have plans on rolling out Steam Deck exclusive titles for the foreseeable future.

Steam Deck specs

Steam Deck console from Valve against a white background

(Image credit: Valve)

What’s inside the Steam Deck? Valve’s portable PC promises to run the latest AAA games, and run them really well. Here’s a full breakdown of the Steam Deck’s internal specs:

  • Size: 298mm x 177mm x 49mm (W x H x D)
  • Weight: Approx 669 grams
  • CPU: AMD Zen 2 4c/8t, 2.4-3.5GHz (up to 448 GFlops FP32)
  • GPU: 8 RDNA 2 CUs, 1.0-1.6GHz (up to 1.6 Tflops FP32)
  • RAM: Quad-channel 16GB LPDDR5 RAM
  • Storage: 64GB eMMC / 256GB NVMe SSD / 512GB NVMe SSD (all models include high-speed microSD card slot)
  • Display resolution: 1280 x 800px (16:10 aspect ratio)
  • Display size: 7-inch diagonal
  • Brightness: 400 nits typical
  • Refresh rate: 60Hz
  • Touch enable: Yes
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, Dual-band Wi-Fi radio, 2.4GHz and 5GHz
  • Audio: Stereo speakers, dual microphone array, 3.5mm stereo headphone jack
  • Power: 45W USB Type-C
  • Battery life: 2 to 8 hours of gameplay
  • Operating system: SteamOS 3.0

Valve and AMD revealed that the custom AMD chip that will be powering the console, the Aerith SoC, features a four-core, eight-thread Zen2 CPU and an AMD RDNA 2 GPU. This means that while the Steam Deck should be able to comfortably play most games, you’ll probably be limited to medium settings at its native 1280×800 resolution in the most demanding of titles. This APU should also allow a more consistent gaming experience across the titles you play on it, while lasting up to seven to eight hours of gameplay.

We’ve seen footage of the Steam Deck from playing indie classics like Stardew Valley to graphical intensity games like Star Wars: A Fallen Order and Death Stranding, the latter of which wouldn’t be possible on the Switch without some serious cutbacks.

The Steam Deck is significantly more powerful than the Nintendo Switch, which means it’s a bit bigger as a result. We also expect the fan to be slightly more audible than on the Switch, which is usually whisper quiet. 

Valve has also been very clear that users that buy this thing will own it, which means you’re free to open it up if you want. However, the company recently released a teardown video, where it revealed why that’s a terrible idea: because you’ll probably break something and could put yourself in physical danger. There is also no support for external GPUs to boost the performance of the device.

Luckily, all three models of the Steam Deck will come with a microSD card slot, so you can expand the storage on the little console without putting it or yourself in any danger. It even says that an SD card is “plenty fast”.

Should Nintendo be worried?

Press image of the Nintendo Switch OLED showing Breath of the Wild 2

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The Steam Deck isn’t the first portable PC we’ve seen enter the hardware space – the likes of Onexplayer have shown that it can be done. However, Valve’s handheld promises to deliver a more refined and optimized experience than previous attempts from other manufacturers.

It’s this focus that makes the Steam Deck a genuine competitor to the Nintendo Switch, Switch Lite and recently announced Nintendo Switch OLED. With a price differential of $50, consumers will now have a big decision to make when it comes to which portable console they want to buy this Christmas, as the Steam Deck has some big plus points over Nintendo’s system.

First of all, having access to Steam and your existing library of games means that PC owners who pick up a Steam Deck could potentially have hundreds of games to play from day one. The Steam Deck is also far more capable in terms of hardware than the Switch, which means you can run AAA games, and achieve higher framerates and consistently hit the 720p resolution target.

The Steam Store is also a far more appealing proposition than the Nintendo Switch eShop. While Switch games have a tendency to be overpriced, Steam is notorious for its enticing discounts and deals, so even if the console itself costs more on day one, there’s a good chance you’ll save in the long run.

Much like the Nintendo Switch and Switch OLED, the Steam Deck can also be docked, allowing you to output the display to a TV or monitor. However, it’s far more flexible than the Switch, as it’s for all intents and purposes a portable PC. That means you can attach any peripheral you like, install a new OS and browse the web. You could even use the Steam Deck to complete productivity tasks.

There’s some added value, then, and while you lose the ability to start a spontaneous multiplayer session like you can on the Switch, the Steam Deck seems like a device that will instantly appeal to Switch owners who have been craving a Nintendo Switch Pro.

It’s worth noting that the Nintendo Switch OLED will come with a more vibrant display than the Steam Deck’s 7-inch LCD screen, but until we see the Steam Deck in person, it’s hard to say just how nice Valve’s chosen display performs. 

Does the Steam Deck support every Steam game?

Steam logo

(Image credit: Steam/Valve)

As it stands, Valve’s Steam Deck won’t be able to run every single title from the Steam Store. In fact, the Steam Deck won’t be able to run Destiny, Apex Legends, PUBG or Rainbow Six Siege, which are extremely popular in the PC gaming space. And, while it won’t be able to run every Steam game out of the gate, that’s mostly a software issue that can be fixed with time.

The reason why is because the Steam Deck isn’t a Windows-based system, Instead shipping with SteamOS 3.0, which is an Arch-based Linux distribution. Because the handheld Pc is Linux-based, this means that not every game is compatible, particularly ones that use anti-cheat software. 

Valve developed a feature called Proton, which is designed to combat this problem, but the company is looking into “improving Proton’s game compatibility and support for anti-cheat solutions by working directly with the vendors”. 

If Valve can ensure a way to get a solid anti-cheat up and running on Proton, it will allow many of Steam’s popular multiplayer titles to run on the system. Valve has mentioned it’s planning to make every major Steam game playable on Proton and so far it claims it’s yet to find a game that the Steam Deck can’t run (presumably outside of the anti-cheating software issue), which is still great news for prospective buyers.

It’s worth noting that proton isn’t an emulator for Windows-based games. A better way to describe it would be a translator that tells Linux how to run typically incompatible Windows-based programs. 

Of course, while SteamOS might sound slightly restrictive based on this information, it’s important to clarify that Valve has said you could literally install Windows if you wanted to. However, we wouldn’t be surprised if these issues are ironed out before the handheld’s release in December.

However, you should be able to run games that aren’t in the Steam library, like the new Mass Effect Legendary Edition as well as other games that are exclusively on other launchers like the Epic Games Store. The best way to find out if a game can run on Steam Deck is to check if it’s on Proton’s database and how it’s rated.

Steam Deck vs Nintendo Switch price comparison

Steam Deck on an off-white surface

(Image credit: Valve)

How does the Steam Deck stack up to Nintendo’s trio of Switch models when it comes to price? Remember that all Steam Deck purchases come with a free case, and the high end 512GB model includes premium anti-glare etched glass. Both the Steam Deck and Nintendo Switch come with expandable storage via a microSD slot.

Steam Deck vs Nintendo Switch pricing at a glance
Price
Steam Deck (64GB) $399 / £349
Steam Deck (256GB) $529 / £459
Steam Deck (512GB) $649 / £569
Nintendo Switch $299 / £279.99 / AU$449
Nintendo Switch OLED $349 / £309 / AU$549
Nintendo Switch Lite $199.99 / £199.99 / AU$329.95

Valve’s Steam Deck looks like it will provide stern competition for Nintendo’s Switch, then, and could be a viable alternative for those looking to pickup a hybrid device that can also function as a desktop gaming PC, albeit at the cost of graphical performance.

Steam logo

(Image credit: Steam)

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