Steam Deck Review – My Favorite Gaming PC Ever

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Stop comparing the size of the Steam Deck to the Nintendo Switch or any other gaming console. Valve Software has introduced a high-end laptop with amazing specifications at an amazing price. And in that context, this is a little gaming powerhouse that will change the way I play forever.

Steam Deck launches today – whatever that means. I needed to pre-order months ago for a chance to get one by the end of this year let alone the end of March. But the device starts at $400 and goes up to $529 and then $649 as it adds faster storage and additional features. But even this base model comes with a powerful and efficient AMD Zen 2 and RDNA 2 based video chip. You also get a whopping 16GB of LPDDR5 memory and a host of input options. With all that, you can enjoy games on a 7-inch screen with a resolution of 1200 x 800.

I want to point out at the top that 800p at 7 inches is too sharp for video games, and that higher resolutions will only drain the battery faster.

Healer AMD APU
CPU: Zen 2 4c/8t, 2.4-3.5GHz (up to 448 GFlops FP32)
GPU: 8 RDNA 2 CUs, 1.0-1.6 GHz (up to 1.6 TFlops FP32)
APU Power: 4-15W
RAM 16GB LPDDR5 Internal RAM (5500MB/s Quad Channel 32 Bit)
storage 64 GB eMMC (PCIe Gen 2 x1)
256 GB NVMe SSD (PCIe Gen 3 x4)
512GB high-speed NVMe SSD (PCIe Gen 3 x4)

All models use 2230m2 socket units (not intended for end user replacement)
All models include a high-speed microSD card slot

Show
Precision 1280 x 800 pixels (16:10 aspect ratio)
Write IPS LCD optically linked for improved readability
DISPAY SIZE 7″ diagonal
brightness 400 nits typical
refresh rate 60 Hz
touch. Contact. Link Yes
sensors Ambient light sensor
battery
battery 40 watt battery. 2-8 hours of playing
Programming
You SteamOS 3.0 (Arc-based)
desktop KDE Plasma

What you have to take away from the specs on paper is that it is a very powerful machine for its price and form factor. Other, less powerful laptops sell for more than double the price of Steam Deck. Of course, the question is whether or not these specifications translate into reality. And they do. This machine is capable of handling the most modern and graphically intensive games.

But Steam Deck begs a bigger question: Can it change the relationship between people and PC games? The answer to that is yes. This is the most significant advance in PC gaming in years, and it’s my favorite gaming device ever.

Steam Deck Fits My Life

Steam Deck looks like a clear winner even when you consider its size. People love Steam and people love handheld games. So make a portable steam machine, and everyone wins, right? Actually not that easy.

The PC is an ancient beast in the gaming world, and it brings baggage with it. You can’t just put people in a desktop environment and let them loose. Valve understands this, so they built a new Deck version of Linux-based SteamOS. This platform was used to solve all the many problems that this type of computer might encounter.

SteamOS enables you to navigate the way you want. You can use physical controls, touchpads, a touch screen, or a USB mouse and keyboard. SteamOS also bypasses any Linux weirdness by putting all of your Steam, Store, and Library options front and center.

Oh, but what if you need to stop playing in the middle of a game, can you easily suspend the system? Yes – Valve has thought about that. But what if you then start playing games on your PC, won’t the cloud save the conflict? Steam knows this is a problem and is trying everything to alleviate these concerns.

But no PC game is optimized for battery operation. That would be annoying, wouldn’t it? Not right. Valve has done work to get developers to improve their games, and it’s also built in system-level features to limit your frame rate and power levels.

I’ll go into how much the Steam Deck hardware is, but it’s clear that Valve is a software company first. It’s hard to overstate the achievement here. Making a gaming PC look like a console seemed impossible – after all, Valve itself failed with Steam Machines. But Steam Deck has an answer, a quality of life feature, or an automated solution to everything. This makes the device feel like a complete and well-thought-out experience like any Xbox, PlayStation or Switch.

Is it too big?

The Steam Deck won’t fit in your pocket, it’s bulky in the bag. Unlike my Switch, which I take everywhere with me, the Steam Deck is much better like the one I just spin around the house. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s not portable. It looks perfect for road trips or perhaps a train/bus ride. I’ll admit I haven’t used much public transportation my whole life in the suburbs.

The pocket computer that comes with you won’t be everywhere. that’s good. Again, this is the world’s smallest full-featured gaming computer and not a Game Boy evolution.

The Deck tries to do everything a computer can do, and it mostly succeeds. People were worried about the placement of the sticks, but I promise you this is the right ergonomic design. On top of that, you get dual touchpads, a D-pad, analog sticks and face buttons — oh, and rotation controls too.

And that’s the story of Steam Deck: it has as few compromises as possible.

I wish it was smaller. But I don’t want a smaller surface at the expense of the input options or – more importantly – its performance.

Steam Deck is very good at playing video games

The biggest reason Steam Deck exceeds the size of it is its performance. Yes, this shape is so successful that we will inevitably have a thinner, lighter, and more powerful Surface2. But I’m so glad I pre-ordered a system because the hardware is more than powerful enough to play almost any game right now.

Steam Deck delivers around 60 frames per second with reasonable settings for most of the games I’ve tested. This even includes recent movies like Resident Evil Village and Hitman 3. The most demanding games like God of War or the less optimized games like Elden Ring are closer to 45 fps.

But let’s be clear – we’re talking about playing Elden Ring and God of War on a device that you can hold in your hands. This is far from what the Switch can do. And even devices like GPD Win 3 or Aya Neo will really struggle to reach 30fps in God of War.

It helps that the screen is only 800 pixels wide. At 7 inches, you don’t notice a loss of detail at all, and even modern games shrink quickly at this resolution. And most importantly, the screen is great. It has some of the best contrast I’ve seen on a non-OLED screen. But at the same time, the colors appear as if they were on the screen of a high-end phone.

Speakers may offer a better screen experience. Valve is unparalleled in the gaming space when it comes to driving full and expansive sound. This was true with the valve indicator, it’s even better here. Turning the volume up is fun and leads to a deeper sense of immersion, something that mobile devices can do very well.

This is a PC, so you get the option to kill your battery

God of War 2018 on PlayStation runs longer on Steam Deck battery than any PlayStation handheld. This is because Sony does not make a mobile device anymore. The point is, getting a two hour battery life in a game that wasn’t supposed to work on a gaming rig like this is a miracle.

Two hours is the minimum for the most battery-consuming games on Steam. And Valve will let you use your battery however you want. This includes playing the poorly optimized Elden Ring, which will drain your battery in just over 100 minutes.

But you get the other side of that, too. A game like Vampire Survivors, with its simple graphics, takes between 6 to 8 hours.

This is the best gaming PC ever

In the gaming community, we really get attached to squares. We love our imposing desktops and new generation consoles so much that we often forget that they are there to serve the games for us. What the Nintendo Switch emphasized is that serving people’s games wherever they are is probably more important than things like graphics and HDR.

Valve has taken this concept and taken it to the wide open world of computer games. Steam Deck is successful because it emphasizes that experience. When I first got the deck, I was planning to install Windows. Now, I don’t know if I would because SteamOS is pretty great at putting Steam games front and center. It is also designed to give me specific and precise control over how these games and the system perform so that I can get the most out of the device.

The mobile device is more connected than the console. It’s something you own, and you build a relationship with. And Valve lived to the end of that relationship. He has proven that he cares deeply that you have the best possible experience. This, in turn, enables gamers to build that intimacy with the games that mobile devices are known for.

I love my powerful desktop and my new consoles, but I’ll give in to it to keep the Steam Deck experience in my hands.

Steam Deck is available starting today for those who pre-order, starting at $400. Valve GamesBeat has provided a sample unit for the purpose of this review.

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