Steam Deck: The First Hands-On With Valve's Handheld Gaming PC

Technology

IGN 15 July, 2021 - 12:04pm 41 views

To test out its capabilities, I tried more than half a dozen different games – some first-person like Doom Eternal and Portal 2, some third-person, including Death Stranding and Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, and some isometric, such as Stardew Valley and Hades. For the most part, these all ran without issue on their default graphics settings at the handheld’s native 720p resolution, and the Steam Deck stayed comfortably cool to hold that whole time.

When I first saw the hardware, I admit I was a bit thrown off by its control layout. Primarily that’s because the thumbsticks are in-line with the D-pad and face buttons, which looks a bit odd when you’re used to the more staggered arrangement found on most controllers. However, as soon as I held it myself, the layout felt completely natural: the intuitive hand orientation when you grab the Steam Deck is more straight up and down, like holding the sides of a steering wheel, whereas with a controller your hands are at more of an angle. As a result, it’s easy and natural for your thumbs to reach the Steam Deck’s face buttons, D-pad, and thumbsticks.

The full-size thumbsticks felt precise, and while the D-pad wasn’t quite as clicky as I’d like, it was fully serviceable for rounding out some quarter-circles in Guilty Gear Strive. Similarly, the face buttons and bumpers all felt solid, and served me well through a few runs of Hades. The triggers felt a little bit squishy for my taste, but it’s worth noting that I was using a non-final hardware unit, so it’s possible that things might change as Valve tweaks the Steam Deck before launch.

The Steam Deck comes in three different models, all of which have the same custom AMD APU, meaning there isn’t a power difference between them. However they do differ primarily in their storage capacity:

All three versions also have a Micro SD slot to expand their storage further. In an interview with IGN, Valve President Gabe Newell said hitting the Steam Deck’s price point was “painful” but also “critical” to its success.

On the back side are four rear buttons – a welcome standard feature for anyone who’s grown accustomed to using “Pro”-style controllers like the Xbox Elite and borderline essential for playing games designed with a keyboard in mind. These, like the rest of the buttons and other inputs, can be fully customized to whatever you like thanks to Steam Input, Valve’s system for making useful custom keybindings available for almost any controller layout.

Underneath the thumbsticks are one of the Steam Deck’s standout features: two precision trackpads, which give you access to mouse-like controls for games that don’t play well with a traditional controller. Valve’s Pierre-Loup Griffais told IGN that these trackpads are an evolution of the tech they’ve used in both the Steam Controller and the Index Controller, and they can be customized for many different uses here. Valve plans to work with developers to help implement many of them, while others, like with the Steam Controller, will be pioneered and shared by the Steam community itself.

“In game, you can map them to areas of the screen for the mouse cursor to jump there and be kind of a one-to-one region-type input,” Griffais told us, which would be useful for something like quickly moving around a minimap in a real-time strategy game. “You can create on-screen menus that pop up on top of the game and have many customizable macro buttons or keyboard keys. And you can just use it for mouse input, where it's really powerful and reliable for the people that are comfortable with that sort of input.”

A nice touch – no pun intended – is that like with the Index Controllers, both the thumbsticks and trackpads are capacitive, which means they can tell when your finger is touching them. This can be combined with the Steam Deck’s internal gyro sensor for a more fine-tuned form of aim control than with a thumbstick or trackpad alone. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but after a brief adjustment period I found that the combination gives you a weirdly precise level of control that is honestly not far off from using a regular mouse. Yes, even in first-person shooters like Doom Eternal.

Finally, the 7-inch screen is touch-enabled as well, which is nice both for games that naturally support touch controls and ones that can be played primarily through pointing and clicking. It’s also great for just browsing through the OS, which is similar to an improved version of the Steam Big Picture Mode interface we already know.

The Steam Deck will draw immediate comparisons to the Nintendo Switch, but while it might look like a handheld console, Valve’s device really does have more in common with a desktop gaming PC when it comes to its capabilities. The Steam Deck runs a custom version of Steam OS that gives you a console-like experience on the surface without having to worry about things like drivers or setup, but under the hood is a full-blown PC for those that want the freedom to go deeper. The OS is built on Proton, a version of Linux that supports both Windows and Linux games and applications.

This flexibility means you can do pretty much anything on the Steam Deck that you can do with a regular PC. Connect a mouse and keyboard? Yep. Alt-Tab out of your games to a browser or video? Sure. Load third-party programs or even other game stores like Origin, uPlay, or Epic Games Store? No problem. You could even wipe Steam OS entirely and install a fresh version of Windows if you want – but the default Steam OS is smooth and efficient at getting you into your games, so I imagine most people won’t want or need to go that far. The point is, you can if you’d like to.

“We don't think people should be locked into a certain direction or a certain set of software that they can install,” Valve designer Lawrence Yang told IGN. “If you buy a Steam Deck, it's a PC. You can install whatever you want on it, you can attach any peripherals you want to it. Maybe a better way to think about it is that it's a small PC with a controller attached as opposed to a gaming console.”

But PC gaming is about more than just getting away from the walled gardens of console game stores. For one thing: customization. Most games should play well out of the box on the Steam Deck – we’ll get more into its hardware capabilities in a bit – but for players who want to dive into the settings and customize things further, that’s an option too.

“We think that there will be a pretty approachable entry point where you can see the games that work really well by default and get a pretty seamless gaming experience,” Griffais said. “If you want to go one step further and use all of these options, you can. Customize your controls, your level of performance, battery life, use Steam Workshop, or even mods that are outside of Steam Workshop. All these options that are dear to PC gamers are fully supported by the Deck.”

Importantly, this also means that all of Steam’s features like Cloud Saves are fully functional here. You can start playing a game on your desktop PC, save and quit, then load up and continue playing portably on your Steam Deck – with all of your progress, key bindings, DLC, and Workshop mods fully intact. You can also suspend games indefinitely on the Deck itself, similar to how the Switch works, though you can’t have multiple games suspended at once like with Quick Resume on the Xbox Series X. Valve’s team also told me they’re looking into ways to cloud-sync suspended games between desktop and Steam Deck, meaning you could hop between platforms without even needing to save and quit, but that functionality wasn’t in place yet during my time with it.

While the Steam Deck is obviously designed for portable gaming, it’s also fully functional as a desktop PC. Using a dock or hub to expand its single USB-C port, you can connect it to a monitor, mouse and keyboard, Ethernet, and whatever other peripherals you can fit. Valve is developing an official docking station, to be sold separately, but any standard USB-C hub will work just as well. The Steam Deck also has Bluetooth, so peripherals that use that connection are an option too. We had no problems connecting a pair of Apple AirPods, for example.

As a result, in desktop mode the Steam Deck honestly just feels like a PC. The OS is Linux-based, but it feels largely familiar to Windows and is capable of running everything I threw at it from either platform. I played a bit of Factorio and Death Stranding with mouse and keyboard on a 32” monitor, and if it weren’t for the Steam Deck sitting docked next to me on the desk I would have forgotten it wasn’t running off a traditional desktop PC.

Yes, the Steam Deck can run a 2020 release like Death Stranding with good performance – and without having to turn all the graphical options down to zero to get it. This thing is no slouch. The Steam Deck is powered by a next-generation AMD APU featuring a 4-core/8-thread Zen 2 CPU and an RDNA 2 GPU with 8 compute units.

“For the total APU combined power, it's about two teraflops,” Griffais said, “which should let people play the games that they have in their library without issues at 720p and provides lots of horsepower to that effect.”

Speaking of the screen, I should note that it’s actually a 1280x800 resolution display – which is the 16:10 aspect ratio equivalent of the standard 16:9 (1280x720 pixels). This gives you a little bit more vertical screen real estate for browsing through the Steam OS interface and in games that support custom resolutions, which is most of them. And for games that don’t, the combined 80 pixels of black bars on the top and bottom are barely noticeable.

All-in-all, I’m extremely impressed with what I’ve seen of the Steam Deck. $399 for the entry-level model is a very attractive price point for folks who are either new to the PC space, or are looking for a more powerful alternative to the Nintendo Switch. And for PC veterans, the higher-end models offer the storage space needed to tote around a handful of triple-A games in their backpack – at a price point that’s actually quite compelling compared to a cheap gaming laptop, let alone a full desktop PC build.

Personally, I love the prospect of being able to seamlessly transition playing PC games between desktop and handheld, and the openness of the platform means I’ll now be able to go mobile with not only my overflowing Steam library (thanks Humble Bundles and Steam Sales) but also all my Epic Games Store, uPlay, and itch.io collections.

Read full article at IGN

Steam Deck Portable Console Specifications Revealed, AMD Van Gogh APU With Zen 2 CPU & RDNA 2 GPU Cores, Over 2 TFLOPs Horsepower

Wccftech 15 July, 2021 - 03:38pm

Specifications of the Steam Deck Portable console have officially been listed and it looks to be the first AMD Van Gogh APU-powered device. Steam Deck is powered by the Steam OS 3.0 & will allow gamers to access the full Steam gaming experience in a handheld form factor.

Based on the official specifications sheet, the AMD Van Gogh APU powering Valve's brand new Steam Deck console is a very entry-level chip that packs more performance than the original Sony PlayStation 4. The AMD Van Gogh APU features the Zen 2 CPU and RDNA 2 GPU architecture. It is stated to run all AAA games very well since the resolution of the console would be limited to 1280x800 (16:10 aspect ratio) & there would be optimizations based around the SteamOS which would allow even better graphics performance.

Being powered by an AMD Van Gogh APU that features the RDNA 2 GPU architecture also means that Steam Deck will get full leverage from AMD FideilityFX Super Resolution (FSR), providing even higher performance boost in titles that utilize the feature set.

So coming to the detailed technical specifications, you are looking at the AMD Van Gogh APU with 4 cores and 8 threads. The CPU will operate at a base clock speed of 2.4 GHz and will turbo up to 3.5 GHz. As for the GPU, you are getting the AMD RDNA 2 architecture with 8 Compute Units for a total of 512 stream processors which will clock up to 1600 MHz. The CPU will offer 448 GFlops while the GPU will offer 1.6 TFLOPs of FP32 horsepower for a total of over 2 TFLOPs performance, making it faster than the original Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles.

The overview of the Steam Deck official specifications is listed below:

Additional technical features of the Steam Deck console include 16 GB of LPDDR5 (5500 MT/s) memory, 64 GB of eMMC (PCIe Gen 2 x1), 256 GB of NVMe SSD (PCIe Gen 3 x4) storage, 512 GB of high-speed NVMe SSD (PCIe Gen 3 x4) storage and an additional microSD that supports high-speed cards for expanded storage. The display, as mentioned, is a 7" diagonal LCD with a 400 nits brightness and a 60 Hz refresh rate. I/O includes Bluetooth 5.0, dual-band WiFi, a 3.5mm combo audio jack, USB-C with DisplayPort 1.4, and a 45W USB Type-C PD3.0 power supply input.

The console makes use of HD haptics and includes 2 x 32.mm trackpads with 55% better latency than the Steam controller. There's also a 6-axis Gyro and you can expect all the gamepad controls at your fingertips.

There are three variants of the Steam Deck listed with the base variant (64 GB) priced at $399 US, the 256 GB variant priced at $529 US, and the 512 GB variant priced at $649 US. The console starts shipping in December 2021 and reservations open on 16th July (10 AM PDT). You can reserve your Steam Deck console through this link.

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Steam Deck is Valve’s Switch-like portable PC, starting at $399 this December

Ars Technica 15 July, 2021 - 03:38pm

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On Thursday, Valve took the wraps off its new Switch-like portable PC, now dubbed the Steam Deck, confirming that it is indeed the hardware Ars Technica wrote about earlier this year. The device will begin shipping later this year at a starting price of $399.

The hefty-looking console, which is 11.7 inches long (compared to 9.4 inches for the default Switch with Joy-Cons), will launch at three price points, differentiated by built-in storage capacity, higher SSD speed ratings (jumping from default eMMC storage to a pricier NVMe protocol), and differently tempered glass on its screen. Those upgraded versions will cost $529 (256GB) and $649 (512GB, "anti-glare etched glass"). Both pricier bundles include a carrying case.

All models will have the same AMD-powered combination of a four-core Zen 2 CPU and a RDNA 2 GPU, which Valve describes as a "custom" APU. Each model also includes 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM, a 40 Whr battery (guaranteeing "2-8 hours of gameplay" on a single charge), a microSD card slot for expandable storage, and a 7-inch, 1280x800, 60 Hz touchscreen LCD.

Valve promises that "your entire Steam Library shows up, just like [on] any other PC," when you load up your Steam account on a Steam Deck. The device will run on a "new version" of SteamOS, itself a Linux distro, with Valve's Proton compatibility layer used to ensure that Windows games function properly. Valve has been bullish about testing and expanding Proton compatibility over the years, and Steam Deck will be the initiative's biggest proving ground yet. If you'd rather roll with your own OS, Valve chief Gabe Newell has indicated that Deck owners can wipe the device and start with whatever they choose, including their own licensed copy of Windows.

None of the bundles includes a Switch-like dock to connect to televisions, though Valve says it will sell a USB-C dock with HDMI-out functionality and a variety of PC-like connections (which you can see in the above gallery). That device doesn't have a release date yet, but if you'd rather not wait for Valve's version, the company says your own "powered USB-C hub" will work as well.

If you want to preorder a Steam Deck (beginning at 1 pm ET on Friday, July 16), you'll need to use a Steam account that has "made a purchase on Steam prior to June 2021 for the first 48 hours of reservation availability." A one-time $5 deposit will also be required, though exactly how that payment process will work remains unclear as of press time.

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Valve debuts Steam Deck, a portable Steam device

Gamasutra 15 July, 2021 - 03:38pm

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Valve has, in very Valve-like fashion, announced its latest attempt at a standalone Steam-compatible device: Steam Deck.

Steam Deck looks to be directly analogous to the Nintendo Switch. It’s a portable game-playing device with a dock that’s hooked right up to players’ Steam libraries.

The device comes in several different models, all of them using a custom AMD accelerated processing unit, built on Zen 2 and RDNA. Its 7-inch LCD touch screen displays at 1280 x 800 resolution (16:10 aspect ratio) with a 60Hz refresh rate, and claims to use a 40Whr battery for 2-8 hours of battery life.

Each of the three models comes with a different price point and storage space.

The $399 model includes 64gb of eMMC internal storage, the $529 model includes 256gb of NVMe SSD internal storage, and the $649 model includes 512gb of NVMe SSD internal storage, along with anti-glare etched glass.

The Steam Deck does include a dock that will let users attach their Steam Deck to a TV or monitor like the Nintendo Switch, but unlike the Switch, it will be sold separately from the base device. In an extensive hands-on at IGN, Valve confirmed that users will be able to simply use any third-party USB-C adapter to connect monitors and peripherals, just like a PC.

The Steam Deck runs on a customized version of the Linux-based SteamOS, though Valve emphasized in that hands-on that the Steam Deck is a PC at heart, and can run any OS and users can install any storefront. If you can do it on a PC, you can do it on Steam Deck.

The physical device has a controller layout similar to the Nintendo Switch, but with slightly smaller, higher-placed buttons, and two touchpads resting right beneath the joysticks.

A section of the Steam Deck website aimed at developers currently looks a bit barebones, currently saying that no porting work is needed to prepare games for Steam Deck. Details about improving your game to run on Steam Deck are apparently available on Steamworks.

Valve's apparently very invested in scalpers not being the first ones to get their hands on this device. Its reseveration system will not allow Steam users to reserve the device unless they've made a purchase prior to June 2021 during the first 48-hour window.

The Steam Deck will begin shipping in December 2021.

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Valve’s gaming handheld is called the Steam Deck and it’s shipping in December

The Verge 15 July, 2021 - 03:32pm

The device has an AMD APU containing a quad-core Zen 2 CPU with eight threads and eight compute units’ worth of AMD RDNA 2 graphics, alongside 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM. There are three different storage tiers: 64GB eMMC storage for $399, 256GB NVMe SSD storage for $529, and 512GB of high-speed NVME SSD storage for $649, according to Valve. You can also expand the available storage using the high-speed microSD card slot.

The Steam Deck has a huge number of control options. There are two thumbsticks, but also two small, Steam Controller-style trackpads beneath the thumbsticks, which could give you more precision for things like first-person shooters. The front of the Steam Deck also has ABXY buttons, a D-pad, and a 7-inch 1280 x 800 touchscreen for 720p gameplay. The device also has a gyroscope for motion controls. Like the Switch, it has two shoulder triggers on each side, and there are four back buttons (two on each side) as well as built-in microphones.

Here’s a legend to all of the Deck’s ports and controls:

And if you need to pause your game, the Steam Deck offers a quick suspend / resume feature built into SteamOS that will let you put the device into sleep mode and pick up where you left off later.

On the software side of things, the Steam Deck runs what Valve is calling “a new version of SteamOS,” that it’s optimized for the handheld’s mobile form factor. But the actual OS is based on Linux, and will use Proton as a compatibility layer to allow Windows-based games to run without requiring that developers specifically port them for the Steam Deck.

Valve says the Steam Deck’s features are designed to emulate the regular Steam app on desktop, complete with chat, notifications, cloud save support, and all of your library, collections, and favorites kept in sync. And if you want more power, you’ll be able to stream games to the Steam Deck directly from your gaming PC using Valve’s Remote Play feature.

When reservations for all three versions open on Friday afternoon, they’ll initially be available only to accounts with purchases on Steam before June 2021, in a bid to keep reseller bots at bay. There’s also a refundable $5 reservation fee, and one reservation per person. Your reservation isn’t exactly a preorder, but it does put you in line to preorder the system once there’s inventory available.

In December, the first units will be available in the United States, Canada, the European Union, and the United Kingdom, with other areas following in 2022. The preorder invitations are supposed to go out before December, and if you miss your window on the invite, your reservation fee will be refunded to your Steam Wallet.

IGN got an early, exclusive hands-on with the Steam Deck, which you can watch below:

IGN also got an interview with Valve’s Gabe Newell, who said that Valve designed the whole system with “very aggressive” pricing in mind, calling it a “critical” and “painful” aspect of development. That’s a different strategy than Valve took with the Valve Index VR headset, when it intentionally tried to push the industry forward with what was then the most expensive consumer-grade VR experience, at $999. Here, a $400 entry-level Steam Deck comes in just $50 more expensive than Nintendo’s new OLED-equipped Switch, which goes on preorder for $350 today and ships October 8th. (Valve swooped in on that.)

Valve’s Greg Coomer told IGN that should the Steam Deck succeed, the company’s already thinking about future models, and offering the “building blocks” to other manufacturers as well. “We look at this as just a new category of device in the PC space,” he said. That might bring back echoes of Valve’s failed Steam Machines initiative, in which it tried to encourage partners to build desirable Linux gaming desktops, but with key differences.

This time, Valve has created its own hardware first, it doesn’t need to sell every game developer on Linux ports, and this “category” of PC already exists to some degree: we’ve written about how Windows portables have been edging closer to the dream of a Nintendo Switch-like gaming PC.

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Steam Deck is real – portable PC to rival Nintendo Switch from Valve is on the way

TechRadar 15 July, 2021 - 03:32pm

But will it just be Steam Machines all over again?

The Steam Deck will be powered by a custom APU using AMD Zen 2 and RDNA 2 architectures, which is roughly equivalent to an AMD Radeon RX 6000 series graphics card and a Ryzen 3000 processor. Valve claims that this hardware will be more than enough to play all the AAA games in your Steam library, something that current handheld gaming PCs simply can't handle. 

The APU will feature a 4-core/8-thread processor and a GPU with 8 RDNA 2 CUs. To put that in perspective, the weakest AMD RDNA 2 GPU right now is the Radeon RX 6700 XT, which has 40 compute units. That means that while this handheld PC should be able to play most games, it's probably going to be limited to medium settings at its native resolution of 1,280 x 800 in the most demanding PC games. 

It will also feature 16GB of RAM and will start with just 64GB of eMMC storage, with more premium models including more capacious (and faster) NVMe SSDs. 

If you want to get your hands on the Steam Deck, it will ship in December 2021, but you can reserve one of your own here on July 16 at 10am PDT (1pm EST, 6pm GMT)

This isn't the first time that Valve has dipped its toes in the PC hardware world. Back in 2014, Valve unveiled the Steam Machine. This was basically a Steam-branded line of gaming PCs that ran on SteamOS and had a more console-like UI. '

Valve even created a very, uh, unique controller for its Steam Machines. The Steam Controller stood out because rather than having analog sticks like any other controller, it had touchpads with haptic feedback, which let gamers play games designed for mouse input like Civilization V. 

However, just a few years later, Valve shuttered the storefront for Steam Machines, as they were expensive and the Linux-based OS couldn't run many of the most popular PC games without also installing Windows. This was probably because rather than making the hardware itself, Valve licensed out the Steam Machine brand to gaming PC manufacturers like Alienware to make glorified gaming PCs. 

However, while the Steam Machine was a flop, the Valve Index hasn't been. While it hasn't been the VR revolution that Valve may have been hoping for – even after Half-Life: Alyx, it has been a success within the VR gaming community. 

And while we wait for handheld gaming PCs like the Alienware Concept UFO, it's exciting to see this concept executed by a company with Valve's weight. It's going to be interesting to see just how well this thing handles the best PC games when it launches in December. 

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Here's the info you need on Steam Deck pre-orders - Android Authority

Android Authority 15 July, 2021 - 02:00pm

At first, Valve said that pre-orders would start tomorrow, July 16, with shipments happening sometime in December. However, the company provided no other details. Now, though, we have the full procedure for Steam Deck pre-orders, and they’re a bit complicated.

See also: The best gaming laptops you can buy

We’re going to get into what to do in a second, but keep in mind that it’s good this isn’t easy. The laissez-faire systems put in place by Sony and Microsoft for the PS5 and Xbox Series X are a big reason why it’s so difficult to get them. Valve making things more complicated could prevent scalpers from taking all the Steam Decks — at least in theory.

With that said, here’s what you’ll need to do.

Starting tomorrow, July 16, 2021, at 10:00 AM PT (1:00 PM ET), Steam Deck pre-orders will open exclusively through the Steam store. Valve refers to these pre-orders as reservations.

You’ll need to select which of the three variants you want (64GB, 256GB, or 512GB). Once you make your selection you cannot change your mind, so be sure to choose wisely. Regardless of which configuration you choose, you’ll pay $5 for the reservation. That $5 is all you’ll need to spend for now.

When inventory becomes available in December 2021, Valve will notify people who placed reservations that it’s time to buy. Notifications will go out in the order in which they were received, so you’ll want to get your Steam Deck pre-orders in as quickly as possible.

Once you get that notification, you’ll head back to the Steam store and pay off the rest of the console (with a $5 credit applied from your reservation). Shipments will then roll out.

Keep in mind that there are several pre-requisites to making a reservation:

For a full FAQ on the pre-order process, click here. Otherwise, good luck with getting this exciting device!

Gabe Newell expects Steam Deck to sell 'millions of units' but the pricing was 'painful' to pick

PC Gamer 15 July, 2021 - 12:46pm

Performance was the priority, but balancing that with cost is 'a critical aspect' too.

"I want to pick this up and say, 'Oh, it all works, it's all fast'," Newell said. "And then price point was secondary, and painful. But that was pretty clearly a critical aspect to it. The first thing was the performance and the experience, [that] was the biggest and most fundamental constraint that was driving us."

And despite the high cost (which, to be fair, doesn't strike me as entirely unreasonable for what is essentially a full-on PC packaged like a Nintendo Switch), Newell has pretty great expectations for Valve, and portable PC gaming as a whole. 

"Our view is, if we're doing this right, we're going to be selling these in millions of units, and it's clearly going to be establishing a product category that ourselves and other PC manufacturers are going to be able to participate in," he said. "And that's going to have long-term benefits for us. So that's sort of the frame in which we're thinking about this."

Reservations for Steam Deck purchases will open on June 16, and units are expected to begin shipping in December. You can find out more about the unit, and put your name on the list if you're interested, at steamdeck.com.

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Steam Deck: The First Hands-On With Valve’s Handheld Gaming PC - IGN

IGN 15 July, 2021 - 12:00pm

To test out its capabilities, I tried more than half a dozen different games – some first-person like Doom Eternal and Portal 2, some third-person, including Death Stranding and Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, and some isometric, such as Stardew Valley and Hades. For the most part, these all ran without issue on their default graphics settings at the handheld’s native 720p resolution, and the Steam Deck stayed comfortably cool to hold that whole time.

When I first saw the hardware, I admit I was a bit thrown off by its control layout. Primarily that’s because the thumbsticks are in-line with the D-pad and face buttons, which looks a bit odd when you’re used to the more staggered arrangement found on most controllers. However, as soon as I held it myself, the layout felt completely natural: the intuitive hand orientation when you grab the Steam Deck is more straight up and down, like holding the sides of a steering wheel, whereas with a controller your hands are at more of an angle. As a result, it’s easy and natural for your thumbs to reach the Steam Deck’s face buttons, D-pad, and thumbsticks.

The full-size thumbsticks felt precise, and while the D-pad wasn’t quite as clicky as I’d like, it was fully serviceable for rounding out some quarter-circles in Guilty Gear Strive. Similarly, the face buttons and bumpers all felt solid, and served me well through a few runs of Hades. The triggers felt a little bit squishy for my taste, but it’s worth noting that I was using a non-final hardware unit, so it’s possible that things might change as Valve tweaks the Steam Deck before launch.

The Steam Deck comes in three different models, all of which have the same custom AMD APU, meaning there isn’t a power difference between them. However they do differ primarily in their storage capacity:

All three versions also have a Micro SD slot to expand their storage further. In an interview with IGN, Valve President Gabe Newell said hitting the Steam Deck’s price point was “painful” but also “critical” to its success.

On the back side are four rear buttons – a welcome standard feature for anyone who’s grown accustomed to using “Pro”-style controllers like the Xbox Elite and borderline essential for playing games designed with a keyboard in mind. These, like the rest of the buttons and other inputs, can be fully customized to whatever you like thanks to Steam Input, Valve’s system for making useful custom keybindings available for almost any controller layout.

Underneath the thumbsticks are one of the Steam Deck’s standout features: two precision trackpads, which give you access to mouse-like controls for games that don’t play well with a traditional controller. Valve’s Pierre-Loup Griffais told IGN that these trackpads are an evolution of the tech they’ve used in both the Steam Controller and the Index Controller, and they can be customized for many different uses here. Valve plans to work with developers to help implement many of them, while others, like with the Steam Controller, will be pioneered and shared by the Steam community itself.

“In game, you can map them to areas of the screen for the mouse cursor to jump there and be kind of a one-to-one region-type input,” Griffais told us, which would be useful for something like quickly moving around a minimap in a real-time strategy game. “You can create on-screen menus that pop up on top of the game and have many customizable macro buttons or keyboard keys. And you can just use it for mouse input, where it's really powerful and reliable for the people that are comfortable with that sort of input.”

A nice touch – no pun intended – is that like with the Index Controllers, both the thumbsticks and trackpads are capacitive, which means they can tell when your finger is touching them. This can be combined with the Steam Deck’s internal gyro sensor for a more fine-tuned form of aim control than with a thumbstick or trackpad alone. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but after a brief adjustment period I found that the combination gives you a weirdly precise level of control that is honestly not far off from using a regular mouse. Yes, even in first-person shooters like Doom Eternal.

Finally, the 7-inch screen is touch-enabled as well, which is nice both for games that naturally support touch controls and ones that can be played primarily through pointing and clicking. It’s also great for just browsing through the OS, which is similar to an improved version of the Steam Big Picture Mode interface we already know.

The Steam Deck will draw immediate comparisons to the Nintendo Switch, but while it might look like a handheld console, Valve’s device really does have more in common with a desktop gaming PC when it comes to its capabilities. The Steam Deck runs a custom version of Steam OS that gives you a console-like experience on the surface without having to worry about things like drivers or setup, but under the hood is a full-blown PC for those that want the freedom to go deeper. The OS is built on Proton, a version of Linux that supports both Windows and Linux games and applications.

This flexibility means you can do pretty much anything on the Steam Deck that you can do with a regular PC. Connect a mouse and keyboard? Yep. Alt-Tab out of your games to a browser or video? Sure. Load third-party programs or even other game stores like Origin, uPlay, or Epic Games Store? No problem. You could even wipe Steam OS entirely and install a fresh version of Windows if you want – but the default Steam OS is smooth and efficient at getting you into your games, so I imagine most people won’t want or need to go that far. The point is, you can if you’d like to.

“We don't think people should be locked into a certain direction or a certain set of software that they can install,” Valve designer Lawrence Yang told IGN. “If you buy a Steam Deck, it's a PC. You can install whatever you want on it, you can attach any peripherals you want to it. Maybe a better way to think about it is that it's a small PC with a controller attached as opposed to a gaming console.”

But PC gaming is about more than just getting away from the walled gardens of console game stores. For one thing: customization. Most games should play well out of the box on the Steam Deck – we’ll get more into its hardware capabilities in a bit – but for players who want to dive into the settings and customize things further, that’s an option too.

“We think that there will be a pretty approachable entry point where you can see the games that work really well by default and get a pretty seamless gaming experience,” Griffais said. “If you want to go one step further and use all of these options, you can. Customize your controls, your level of performance, battery life, use Steam Workshop, or even mods that are outside of Steam Workshop. All these options that are dear to PC gamers are fully supported by the Deck.”

Importantly, this also means that all of Steam’s features like Cloud Saves are fully functional here. You can start playing a game on your desktop PC, save and quit, then load up and continue playing portably on your Steam Deck – with all of your progress, key bindings, DLC, and Workshop mods fully intact. You can also suspend games indefinitely on the Deck itself, similar to how the Switch works, though you can’t have multiple games suspended at once like with Quick Resume on the Xbox Series X. Valve’s team also told me they’re looking into ways to cloud-sync suspended games between desktop and Steam Deck, meaning you could hop between platforms without even needing to save and quit, but that functionality wasn’t in place yet during my time with it.

While the Steam Deck is obviously designed for portable gaming, it’s also fully functional as a desktop PC. Using a dock or hub to expand its single USB-C port, you can connect it to a monitor, mouse and keyboard, Ethernet, and whatever other peripherals you can fit. Valve is developing an official docking station, to be sold separately, but any standard USB-C hub will work just as well. The Steam Deck also has Bluetooth, so peripherals that use that connection are an option too. We had no problems connecting a pair of Apple AirPods, for example.

As a result, in desktop mode the Steam Deck honestly just feels like a PC. The OS is Linux-based, but it feels largely familiar to Windows and is capable of running everything I threw at it from either platform. I played a bit of Factorio and Death Stranding with mouse and keyboard on a 32” monitor, and if it weren’t for the Steam Deck sitting docked next to me on the desk I would have forgotten it wasn’t running off a traditional desktop PC.

Yes, the Steam Deck can run a 2020 release like Death Stranding with good performance – and without having to turn all the graphical options down to zero to get it. This thing is no slouch. The Steam Deck is powered by a next-generation AMD APU featuring a 4-core/8-thread Zen 2 CPU and an RDNA 2 GPU with 8 compute units.

“For the total APU combined power, it's about two teraflops,” Griffais said, “which should let people play the games that they have in their library without issues at 720p and provides lots of horsepower to that effect.”

Speaking of the screen, I should note that it’s actually a 1280x800 resolution display – which is the 16:10 aspect ratio equivalent of the standard 16:9 (1280x720 pixels). This gives you a little bit more vertical screen real estate for browsing through the Steam OS interface and in games that support custom resolutions, which is most of them. And for games that don’t, the combined 80 pixels of black bars on the top and bottom are barely noticeable.

All-in-all, I’m extremely impressed with what I’ve seen of the Steam Deck. $399 for the entry-level model is a very attractive price point for folks who are either new to the PC space, or are looking for a more powerful alternative to the Nintendo Switch. And for PC veterans, the higher-end models offer the storage space needed to tote around a handful of triple-A games in their backpack – at a price point that’s actually quite compelling compared to a cheap gaming laptop, let alone a full desktop PC build.

Personally, I love the prospect of being able to seamlessly transition playing PC games between desktop and handheld, and the openness of the platform means I’ll now be able to go mobile with not only my overflowing Steam library (thanks Humble Bundles and Steam Sales) but also all my Epic Games Store, uPlay, and itch.io collections.

Valve's SteamDeck is a Switch-like gaming PC starting at $399

XDA Developers 15 July, 2021 - 09:22am

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Valve, the company behind the popular PC gaming platform Steam, has announced the SteamDeck. The SteamDeck is a handheld gaming PC that seems to be taking some inspiration from the Nintendo Switch. We’ve seen a few devices like this crop up, but they’ve mostly been from relatively small or unknown companies. Even Qualcomm has been reported to be working on a similar device.

Let’s start with hardware. The SteamDeck is powered by a custom APU developed by AMD. The CPU is a quad-core, eight-thread model that runs between 2.4GHz and 3.5GHz. It’s using Zen2 cores, which are the same ones inside the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X, for instance. Valve touts up to 448GFlops of FP32 performance for the CPU. As for the GPU, it’s based on AMD’s RDNA 2 architecture, and it features 8 compute units (CUs) running between 1 and 1.6GHz. That amounts to a total of 1.6TFlops, which is impressive considering the size of the hardware.

You’re also getting 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM and up to 512GB of internal storage. It starts as low as 64GB, and that model uses eMMC, which is slower. If you upgrade to the 256GB model, though, you’ll get a PCIe Gen 3 x4 SSD. The 512GB is even faster. The storage on all models can be upgraded through the high-speed microSD card slot.

There’s a 40Whr battery inside the SteamDeck, which Valve claims will get you anywhere between 2 and 8 hours of playtime, depending on the game you’re playing. The whole unit charges with a USB Type-C cable that delivers 40W of power.

The display on the SteamDeck is a 7-inch LCD panel coming in at 1280 x 800 resolution, a 16:10 aspect ratio. The display runs at 60Hz and it reaches 400 nits of peak brightness, so it should be decently visible outdoors. For audio, you get stereo speakers and dual microphones, but you can also connect headphones via Bluetooth, USB-C, or the 3.5mm headphone jack.

Turning to controls, the Valve SteamDeck features what you’d expect in a modern console. with some extra additions. There’s a pair of thumbsticks, one on each side of the screen, along with a D-pad and the typical ABXY button array. However, there are also two trackpads underneath the thumbsticks, which can be used in a similar way to the analog sticks. This is brought over from the Steam Controller, which also used trackpads instead of typical analog sticks.

On the shoulders, you get the usual shoulder buttons and analog triggers. As a bonus, there are also four customizable buttons on the back of the unit, which can be useful for some games. The console also features a six-axis gyroscope for aiming.

Because the SteamDeck is basically a PC, it can also connect to external displays as you’d expect. Valve will be selling a USB Type-C dock separately to help users connect external displays and peripherals. The dock adds three USB Type-A ports, Ethernet, DisplayPort 1.4, and HDMI 2.0.

In terms of size, the SteamDeck measures 298 x 117 x 49mm, and it weighs 669 grams. Comparing that to the Nintendo Switch, this is a much bigger beast in just about every way. It’s over 50% heavier than a Nintendo Switch, and it’s also wider, taller, and over three times as thick. That may raise some questions about the portability of the handheld, but it’s also significantly more powerful than a Switch.

As for software, the Valve SteamDeck is running a new version of SteamOS based on Arch. Valve says it’s using Proton, a compatibility layer that should make it possible to play your games without any compatibility issues. Because this isn’t a Windows-based PC, many games aren’t developed for it natively, and that might be one of the biggest causes for concern here. Valve says it’s working to improve Proton compatibility even further, though, so hopefully most of your games will work. Either way, it’s a PC, so you can install Windows on it if you want to.

Reservations for the Valve SteamDeck will open tomorrow, July 16th, at 10am Pacific Time. The handheld will start at $399/€419 for the 64GB model. You’ll have to shell out $529/€549 for the 256GB model, which also adds a carrying case and an exclusive “Steam Community profile bundle”. Finally, the 512GB model will run you $649/€679, and it also adds anti-glare etched glass to the display and an exclusive virtual keyboard theme. The SteamDeck is expected to start shipping in December. You can pre-order it here.

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