Valve Steam Deck Evaluation | PCMag


Valve has an uneven {hardware} monitor document. The Index is a superb VR headset with revolutionary controllers. Steam Machines and the Steam Controller fully fizzled within the face of standard gaming PCs and gamepads. The Steam Hyperlink enabled surprisingly practical native sport streaming, but it surely was finally changed by an app.

Now, there’s the $399 Steam Deck gaming handheld. It’s constructed on the bones of the Steam Machines, however with a way more targeted, singular idea that doesn’t attempt to change gaming PCs. It’s a Nintendo Change various greater than the rest, solely larger and extra highly effective, and with out a dock (one is scheduled to reach in late spring). The Steam Deck runs on Linux, however the SteamOS entrance finish is extremely easy to make use of, and it permits you to simply set up and play many Home windows video games by way of Proton. The Linux spine features a full desktop surroundings, which leaves plenty of room for tinkering and basic sport emulation.

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The Steam Deck is lots of machine in a conveyable (albeit clunky) bundle. It has an inexpensive $399 beginning worth, however we suggest spending the additional $130 for the mid-tier mannequin that options 4 occasions the quantity onboard storage (notice that each one three Steam Deck fashions home the identical CPU, GPU, and RAM energy; solely the show and storage sort/capability differ). That mentioned, regardless of promising first impressions, Valve’s handheld has a good quantity of quirks that must be addressed, particularly if you wish to join it to your TV or monitor.

A Large Moveable

At almost a foot huge and weighing nearly a pound and a half, the Steam Deck stands firmly on the unwieldy aspect of what you’ll think about a conveyable sport system. The Nintendo Change with Pleasure-Cons hooked up is over two inches slimmer and half a pound lighter than the Steam Deck. That is a bit stunning, because the Steam Deck and OLED Change each have 7-inch screens. You’ll be able to pack the Steam Deck in a bag, but it surely’s far too massive to tuck right into a jacket or comfortably play on the practice. Even my Asus ROG Zephyrus 14 gaming pocket book is simply half an inch wider, although to be truthful, it’s significantly deeper and heavier than the 4.6-inch-deep handheld.

Steam Deck

A good portion of the Steam Deck’s body consists of the management surfaces and grips, that are significantly wider than the Nintendo Change’s Pleasure-Cons and never detachable. The usual twin analog sticks are current, together with 4 menu buttons, plus a course pad on the left and 4 face buttons on the appropriate. Sq. touchpads sit beneath the analog sticks and above the Steam and Choices buttons. In a pleasant contact, the width of the grips be sure that your thumbs and the meat of your palms received’t by accident contact the trackpads or block the audio system, positioned underneath the Steam and Choices buttons.

The Steam Deck’s prime panel options customary L1/R1 bumpers and L2/R2 triggers, although the bumpers are only a bit too excessive to rapidly and comfortably press. There are additionally energy and quantity buttons, a 3.5mm headset jack, and a USB-C port for charging the machine. The underside edge contains a microSD card slot that expands the system’s storage previous the 64/256/512GB of onboard storage for the $399, $529, and $649 fashions, respectively.

The again homes L4/L5 and R4/R5 buttons underneath the place the center and ring fingers of every hand naturally relaxation. The buttons are a bit stiff and shallow, however they supply helpful further inputs. The again panel has a big consumption grille that works with an exhaust fan and grille on the machine’s prime edge to make sure correct airflow. The fan is audible when enjoying, but it surely’s a lot softer than a small gaming laptop computer’s fan (on this case the Zephyrus 14).

Steam Deck Specs and Connectivity

The Steam Deck’s 7-inch display screen is practical, however unimpressive. It’s the identical dimension because the OLED Change, with a barely larger 1,280-by-800-pixel decision (the Change’s show is 1,280 by 720). The display screen is a 60Hz IPS LCD, so it’s shiny and simple to learn, but it surely lacks the deep blacks and vibrant colours you get with OLED.

Internally, the Steam Deck makes use of a customized AMD processor with a quad-core, eight-thread Zen 2 CPU that pushes as much as 448 GFlops, and a RDNA 2 GPU that pushes as much as 1.6 TFlops. They use the identical structure as AMD’s Ryzen CPUs and Radeon GPUs, respectively, however they don’t have direct equivalents with client desktop or cellular processors. Primarily based purely on TFlops, although, it’s fairly far behind the PlayStation 5 (10 TFlops) and the Xbox Collection X (12 TFlops). In equity, the Steam Deck is designed to primarily push an eighth as many pixels as these 4K programs.

The distinctive platform means we will not run all of our customary benchmarking software program, however we nonetheless carried out intensive checks to see how nicely the Steam Deck runs video games. Mainly, it is higher than Samsung Galaxy E-book Professional 360 and different well-equipped notebooks with built-in graphics, however it could’t examine with a devoted, high-end GPU just like the Nvidia RTX GeForce 3050 Ti.

The system makes use of 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM, and comes with 64GB of storage on a PCIe Gen 2 x1 m.2 SSD (or 256GB or 512GB of storage on a PCIe Gen 2 x4 m.2 SSD, relying on the mannequin). The microSD card slot permits additional storage growth. We examined the 256GB model.

Steam Deck

For connections, the Steam Deck has a single USB 3.2 Gen 2 USB-C port that handles almost each wired connection moreover 3.5mm headsets (a headphone jack is there, too). It prices the Steam Deck with the included USB-C wall adapter, and works with any 45W PD3.0 energy provide. The Steam Deck can output audio or video over USB-C or DisplayPort 1.4. In case you are questioning, sure, the Steam Deck works with a typical USB-C dock to allow further ports and HDMI output.

That’s lots of heavy lifting for one USB-C port, and it means you’ll most likely want to purchase a couple of non-Valve equipment until you need to anticipate the official Steam Deck Docking Station. There’s no option to join the Steam Deck to a monitor or TV out of the field, and should you simply use a USB-C-to-DisplayPort cable, you’ll most likely run out of battery very quick. You’ll need to use a dock that may present energy to the Steam Deck whereas outputting video. A second USB-C port for energy supply, or just a micro or mini HDMI or mini DisplayPort port would have been very welcome, to make big-screen connections work higher.

Wi-fi connectivity consists of dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0. You’ll be able to join gamepads, mice, and keyboards to the Steam Deck by way of Bluetooth.

Battery life will range wildly relying on what video games you play, however don’t get your hopes up of lengthy play periods with out plugging the hand-held into an influence socket. Valve estimates as few as two hours between prices for video games that use lots of processing energy, however less complicated video games can stretch the battery out so long as eight hours. That two-hour restrict appears to match my testing with Horizon Zero Daybreak and Monster Hunter Rise.

Valve Steam Deck

SteamOS 3.0: Linux With an Accessible Pores and skin

The Steam Deck makes use of Valve’s SteamOS 3.0 working system, which is predicated on Arch Linux with the Proton software program compatibility layer to run Home windows video games. SteamOS launches right into a Large Image mode-like view, with a big tile-based interface that works nicely on a small display screen utilizing gamepad controls. It integrates straight together with your Steam account, bringing any put in Steam video games (and video games out there by way of one other pc with Steam’s Distant Play function) to the forefront. Steam cloud saves are additionally carried over from any supported Steam video games in your PC.

Urgent the Steam or Choices buttons open useful overlays if you’re in or out of video games. The Steam button permits you to navigate to totally different elements of the system, together with the house display screen, sport library, the Steam retailer, settings, and pals record (with help for textual content chat utilizing an on-screen keyboard). The Choices button launches a quick-access menu with notifications, your mates record (as a sidebar somewhat than leaping to a full interface with chat), easy settings like display screen brightness and wi-fi connections, and battery life projections. In video games, the Steam button additionally shows the at present mapped controls and allows you to tweak them on the fly.

SteamOS permits a helpful sleep mode with an influence button press. After a couple of seconds, the system drops right into a suspended state just like the Nintendo Change’s sleep mode, letting the hand-held protect battery life if you aren’t actively enjoying. The suspended state works in video games, as nicely. I had no drawback placing the Steam Deck to sleep whereas enjoying Horizon Zero Daybreak, and later choosing up the place I left it with no need to load the sport once more.

Valve Steam Deck

The SteamOS interface could be very handheld-friendly, and it is likely to be all you want should you solely plan to play video games in your Steam library, however the Steam Deck can do way more than that. Urgent and holding the facility button permits you to reboot the system into Desktop Mode, which masses the Linux KDE Plasma desktop surroundings. It’s a Home windows-like view with full Linux management, together with putting in software program packages outdoors of Steam. If you wish to emulate older video games on the Steam Deck, this mode is important for putting in these emulators, together with Dolphin and RetroArch.

Steam Deck Gaming Efficiency

The Steam Deck Compatibility program helpfully exhibits the Steam video games which might be confirmed to work on the Steam Deck. Each sport on Steam can have one among 4 compatibility icons. A inexperienced, Deck Verified icon implies that the sport works almost completely on the Steam Deck. A yellow Playable icon means the sport will run, however you might need to make a couple of tweaks (normally guide management configurations). A grey Unsupported icon means the sport received’t run on the Steam Deck in any respect. Lastly, a grey Unknown icon with a query mark means there’s no data on whether or not the sport will run or not.

SteamOS separates your library into tabs for Verified video games, All Video games, Put in Video games, and Non-Steam Video games and Software program. You too can filter out Unsupported or Unknown video games out of your library within the All Video games tab.

Valve Steam Deck

Of the 571 video games and apps in my Steam library, 63 are Verified, 104 are Verified or Playable, and 524 are Verified, Playable, or Untested. That leaves simply 29 video games and apps—about 5% of my library—unsupported on the Steam Deck. That is the place we begin to have enjoyable testing which video games run and which don’t, and simply how nicely the Steam Deck performs with those that do run.

All video games load about as quick as they do on a PC with a modest SSD; presumably the highest-end Steam Deck masses video games sooner. That features the usual Steam preamble loading that occurs the primary time you begin every sport. Most of those are Home windows video games operating by way of Proton, so all the standard DirectX and different recordsdata that need to be arrange on Home windows additionally must be processed on the Steam Deck.

Horizon Zero Daybreak is Verified, and usually runs nicely on the Steam Deck. The controls labored completely in testing, mapping every thing to the usual gamepad inputs. The sport makes use of variable body charges, and didn’t attain a constant 60fps, however the motion was easy for essentially the most half. Nonetheless, watching exploding barrels up shut made the sport stutter and jerk earlier than the consequences cleared.

Valve Steam Deck

Disco Elysium: The Last Reduce can also be Verified, and reliably works on the Steam Deck with preset gamepad controls. Utilizing this configuration, I managed the principle character with the left analog stick, and cycled by way of close by objects that I might work together with utilizing the appropriate stick or proper trackpad (which supplied a useful little suggestions bump for every object I chosen). Nonetheless, I couldn’t simply assign basic, PC journey game-style mouse controls to the trackpad, although I might manually set the appropriate trackpad to behave like a mouse and transfer a cursor on the display screen. Contact-screen mouse pointer controls labored completely, as did a Bluetooth mouse linked to the Steam Deck.

Bayonetta, one other Verified sport, runs on the Steam Deck with strong efficiency and correct controls. The sport defaults to the Medium graphics setting, and runs at a constant 60fps on this mode. Bayonetta ran nicely with the graphics bumped to Excessive, but it surely could not preserve a strong 60fps (and sometimes dipped nearer to 30fps).

Inscryption is listed as Playable (not Verified), and masses with out challenge on the Steam Deck. It lacks gamepad help, so the trackpad serves as a mouse pointer controller, as does the contact display screen and Bluetooth mice. It’s playable, and indistinguishable from the PC model when you have a snug option to management the mouse pointer.

Valve Steam Deck

Monster Hunter Rise is Untested for the Steam Deck, but it surely booted with out challenge, and robotically configured the entire correct gamepad inputs. The sport loaded extra slowly than the Verified video games, however the motion was reliably easy. Like with Bayonetta, Monster Hunter Rise’s Common graphics setting produced a constant 60fps. That mentioned, the sport nonetheless ran nicely when bumped as much as the Excessive setting, although with body charge dips.

Dying Mild 2 is Untested, and got here out just a few months in the past, however it could nonetheless run on the Steam Deck. The sport loaded with preset controls that largely labored, although the analog sticks managed an unwieldy mouse pointer when navigating menus as a substitute of snapping to objects. The graphics defaulted to the best settings, which resulted in poor efficiency. Dropping the graphics setting to Low made the sport playable. It’s not nice, however first rate, and nonetheless pretty spectacular contemplating the Steam Deck’s dimension and specs.

Valve Steam Deck

Steam Deck Emulation

On paper, the Steam Deck is a perfect machine for enjoying retro video games, however you received’t be capable to do it straight by way of SteamOS. Holding down the facility button lets you choose Change to Desktop, which closes the SteamOS entrance finish and masses a KDE Plasma desktop, a Home windows-like interface that allows you to entry the entire options and instruments a typical Linux pc supplies. Except you’re aware of Linux, you must most likely keep away from making any adjustments by way of this mode, and watch out with the file supervisor as a result of the Linux file system is fairly totally different from Home windows. Fortuitously, you don’t have to dive too deep to search out emulators that you may load on the Steam Deck.

The buying bag icon within the desktop’s decrease left nook opens the Uncover software program retailer, which is crammed with free, open-source apps that you may set up on the Steam Deck simply by clicking the set up button. That features Linux video games, which could be hit and miss (although Sonic Robo Blast 2 and Sonic Robo Blast 2 Kart are value enjoying). Below Video games, there’s a piece particularly for emulators, and there are dozens, spanning many extra sport programs. There’s RetroArch for a catch-almost-all frontend to emulate a number of consoles, together with Dolphin for GameCube and Wii, PCSX2 for PlayStation 2, and even DOSBox for traditional PC video games.

As soon as these emulators are put in, you continue to have to do some legwork to play something. I’m a basic sport collector who has a big GameCube library, so I can create disc photos to be used with Dolphin. Getting them on my pc is one factor, however shifting them over to the Steam Deck is one other. You could format the microSD card slot to make use of it for expanded storage, although you must be capable to pop in a card with the recordsdata you need to play, and replica them to the inner storage with the file supervisor in desktop mode (if the Steam Deck has free inside cupboard space). I mentioned to be very cautious with the file supervisor, and you need to be, however clicking on Paperwork and creating a brand new folder underneath Paperwork to place your video games is secure. I had already crammed up the inner storage with Steam video games to check, so I used a USB-C hub and linked a USB drive, then copied recordsdata in desktop mode from that.

After the video games you need to emulate are on the Steam Deck, it’s worthwhile to arrange the emulator to work the best way you need it to. This could take some tinkering, each to map controls correctly and get one of the best mixture of graphical polish and efficiency.

Valve Steam Deck

Lastly, if you wish to entry any of those emulators or any Linux video games you put in by way of SteamOS, it’s worthwhile to manually add them by way of Steam. This must be achieved in desktop mode, utilizing the Steam consumer. The library display screen has an possibility so as to add non-Steam video games to your library, and can let you choose any put in Linux software program. As soon as they’re added, they seem in SteamOS underneath their very own part as non-Steam video games. They most likely received’t have any tiles or icons, however you’ll be capable to run them with out going into desktop mode.

After the aforementioned tinkering, together with adjusting some graphical settings (primarily switching from OpenGL to Vulkan), Dolphin ran very nicely on the Steam Deck. F-Zero GX constantly pushed 60fps, whereas rendering at double decision; it appeared sharp on the Steam Deck’s display screen. There have been nonetheless a couple of window hiccups when enjoying it by way of SteamOS as a substitute of desktop mode, however the video games appeared nice. In case you don’t thoughts placing the work into configuring every emulator, the Steam Deck can actually be the most effective handheld retro sport programs on the market. That isn’t but the case for emulating basic video games in your massive display screen at dwelling, although, as defined within the subsequent part.

Theoretically, you may set up Home windows on the Steam Deck. That isn’t a good suggestion but, as a result of drivers haven’t been finalized, and getting Home windows to work nicely with the hand-held and its customized parts will probably be an advanced process that eclipses any Linux fiddling. Wait till a dependable set up answer is hammered out, with the entire crucial drivers.

Valve Steam Deck

Not Fairly Prepared for TVs or Displays

Connecting the Steam Deck to a TV or monitor is the place the system will get bizarre, and greater than somewhat irritating. In principle, the Steam Deck ought to be capable to output video over DisplayPort or HDMI by way of the USB port. Testing led to what I might charitably name blended outcomes. 

I first tried to make use of a Belkin AVC002 USB-C-to-HDMI + Cost Adapter to attach the Steam Deck to my TV, a TCL 55R635. I had no luck, simply display screen flicker on the Steam Deck itself once I unplugged the facility provide from the adapter. I returned that adapter and acquired an Iogear GUH3C3PD USB-C hub with PD pass-through and HDMI. It wouldn’t work with the charger linked to the hub, however unplugging the charger and biking the Steam Deck into and out of sleep mode lastly acquired the machine to output a sign to my TV. The one drawback was that the sign produced a particularly zoomed-in image that I couldn’t right with the Deck or my TV’s settings.

Plugging the hub into my 2,550-by-1,080 monitor labored higher, with the house display screen rendering in full. I used to be in a position to load video games utilizing my monitor. Nonetheless, the Steam Deck did not output larger than its 1,280-by-800 decision, and relied on the adapter or hub, and the linked monitor or TV, to deal with it. Horizon Zero Daybreak ran with a fuzzy Deck-native decision, and the efficiency dipped a bit.

The image lower out once more once I plugged the charger into the hub. Unplugging the charger did nothing. Nonetheless, placing the Steam Deck to sleep and waking it up once more restored the sign. It appears just like the Steam Deck merely can’t get charged whereas outputting HDMI over an adapter or hub. Maybe there’s a hub that may allow it, however I haven’t gotten it to work in my testing. Because of this even when you may get a usable image in your monitor or TV, you could have perhaps two hours of enjoying a graphically intensive sport earlier than it’s worthwhile to disconnect the Steam Deck for charging.

Hopefully system updates will repair this drawback, and allow simultaneous charging and HDMI output by way of customary USB-C hubs, HDMI cables, and energy pass-throughs. For now, although, I couldn’t get it to work, and that makes the Steam Deck almost ineffective as a docked machine. Hopefully, the upcoming Steam Deck Docking Station eliminates these points.

Valve Steam Deck

Enjoying With a (Principally) Full Deck

The Steam Deck is a promising handheld gaming system with a number of wrinkles that must be ironed out. It’s fairly highly effective for its dimension and worth, and regardless of being a Linux-based machine, it runs many wonderful and up to date Home windows video games extraordinarily nicely. It isn’t a graphical powerhouse just like the PlayStation 5 or the Xbox Collection X, however these programs have the dimensions and energy advantages of being dwelling consoles. This can be a handheld, and it’s a robust one. Its intensive emulator library solely sweetens the deal, even when these video games require extra work to run than video games on Steam (and the Linux desktop itself can require a little bit of fiddling and finesse by itself).

In case you solely need to play Steam video games on a handheld, the Steam Deck is unbelievable. And should you’re prepared to place within the work to get your favourite emulators operating on a handheld, the Steam Deck can also be value trying out. In case you fall between these extremes, although, the system isn’t perfect. It isn’t nicely fitted to putting in and operating non-Steam Home windows video games or another Home windows software program, and straying outdoors of the relative consolation zones of the Linux software program library in desktop mode requires experience. That may change when the Steam Deck formally helps dual-booting into Home windows, however for now it’s a Linux playground with a studying curve.

The only USB-C port additionally severely limits the Steam Deck’s connectivity, particularly when HDMI output and energy supply with third-party adapters and hubs are spotty at greatest. I’ve been unable to cost the Steam Deck whereas it’s linked to a monitor or TV in my checks, and when the video output labored, it was unreliable. Contemplating the system can final as little as two hours between prices whereas operating high-end video games, it is a important drawback that may hopefully be fastened with the official Steam Deck Docking Station.

Till we are able to affirm dependable HDMI/DisplayPort output with energy supply on the Steam Deck, you must take a look at it purely as a gaming handheld. And till Home windows could be put in on it, you must consider it as a extremely curated Linux machine that occurs to run many good Home windows video games.

For extra on the Steam Deck, take a look at Steam Deck 101: Every part You Must Know About Valve’s Handheld Gaming PC, Cannot Purchase a Steam Deck? 6 of the Greatest Options, and How Valve’s Failures Led to Steam Deck.


  • Highly effective for its dimension

  • Steam video games run constantly nicely

  • A great deal of potential for sport emulation

  • Full Linux desktop surroundings

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  • Single USB-C port limits connection choices

  • Utilizing adapters for charging and video output is unreliable at greatest

  • Organising and operating non-Steam video games, particularly emulators, can require intensive configuration work

  • Unwieldy for a conveyable gaming system

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The Backside Line

The Steam Deck is a robust handheld gaming machine that allows you to take your Steam library on the go. The Linux-based transportable PC efficiently runs a stunning variety of Home windows video games, however connecting it to a monitor or TV is a difficult proposition, and emulation requires a little bit of configuration.

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