In the videogame industry, the name Valve can be said to be one of the movers and shakers in the PC gaming scene. From creating the 1998 FPS “Half-Life,” to revolutionizing digital software distribution with their Steam platform, Valve has done its prominent part in shaping the landscape for game software. But they have also tried their hand in developing hardware too, such as the short-lived Steam Machine prebuilt computers from 2015. After over half a decade Valve is trying again, with a hybrid gaming system that is somewhat reminiscent of the Nintendo Switch but with its own distinct aesthetic.
As The Verge would have it, Valve has thrown its hat into the gaming hardware ring once more by introducing the Steam Deck hybrid console this past Thursday, July 15. At first glance, the Deck looks like a bulky PlayStation Portable, or PS Vita, or even the “Lite” version of the Nintendo Switch. In actuality, the Deck is more a tablet computer with built-in dedicated game controls, capable of running Microsoft Windows PC games and other game apps available on the Steam platform. It will also be available in three variants depending on internal storage.
Specs-wise, the Steam Deck boasts enough AMD RDNA 2 graphics capability for eight individual PCs, with an AMD APU and quad-core Zen 2 CPU, plus LPDDR5 RAM of 16GB. The three storage capabilities are 64GB eMMC, 256GB NVMe SSD, and 512GB high-speed NVME SSD. All can be expanded further by a slot for high-speed microSD card. The display is a 7-inch 1280×800 touchscreen capable of running 720p gameplay. Speaking of which, the Deck features traditional control systems like a D-pad, four ABXY buttons, four shoulder trigger-buttons, and more options like two thumb-sticks, four back buttons and even two mini track-pads similar to a Steam controller.
With regards to power, the Steam Deck’s 40 watt-hour battery can see non-stop gameplay lasting up to 7-8 hours, depending on settings like fps or even activity (one can use the Deck to stream or net-surf). The Deck also comes with a separately-sold, Switch-like console dock, for displaying games on larger screens like a TV, with connection options ranging from USB-C, HDMI, Ethernet and USB, not to mention Bluetooth. For software, the unit runs on a Deck-optimized SteamOS version, with Proton compatibility for Windows games, and support for mouse, keyboard and monitor. Valve will even allow installation of third-party storefronts like Epic Games Store and EA Play, or Remote Play a local PC running Steam.
Valve expects the Steam Deck to release sometime this coming December. The entry-level variant is priced at $399, the mid-range option at $529, and the high-end 512GB-storage version at $649.
Image courtesy of CNet