TECH REVIEW: Valve Steam Deck

PC gaming is properly portable

By James Manthos

Portable PC gaming is nothing new. Over the last decade, we have seen a ton of advancements in devices such as laptops with high quality and, in some cases, desktop-grade parts, making them the ultimate portable machines. But in 2017, when the Nintendo Switch came onto the market, portable gaming changed, just like it did in 1989 with the Gameboy. Tech enthusiasts and gamers want a device that can play most of their library while simultaneously being a powerful and small form-factor device. Five years later, Valve and Steam have created that answer with the Steam Deck.

Spec-wise, the Steam Deck is a Valve product first and foremost, meaning it can run a huge portion of the Steam library. The Steam Deck runs off a particular version of Arch-based Linux called SteamOS. For Windows people, the Steam Deck is an X86/X64 device, meaning it is fundamentally a ligament PC.   If the owner desires, they can install Windows on it, but Valve does not currently recommend it as it is still in development. “We are unfortunately unable to offer ‘Windows on Deck’ support,” says Steam Support.

When discussing hardware specifications, the Steam Deck supports storage ranging from an eMCC 64GB hard drive to NVME 256GB SSD to a whopping 512GB SSD while also having available onboard expandable storage to handle your extensive game library. Most consumers want to focus on the power that the deck has for its size. The Steam Deck is powered by an AMD APU with a 4 core CPU and 8 RDNA GPU cores. For some, this does not sound like a lot, but this has been tested and runs the popular new title Elden Ring at high settings with a stable 60 fps, which is mind-boggling for a portable device that only weighs 1.5 pounds.

Valve offers a feature that can check your Steam library for what games are compatible out of the box or the few games that need programming to work with the Steam Deck for the gamers who worry if their games are not compatible. Valve will also be selling a dock in the near future that will turn this from a portable device to a desktop unit on the go, allowing connection to a keyboard, mouse, and TV/Monitor, to name a few.

When a device like this enters the market, the big question that is frequently asked is, “Why does this exist, and who even needs this?” The Valve Steam Deck is a device made for the tech enthusiast, and not only is it a commodity, but it is an eyeglass into the future of technology for what is to come. It is the perfect device for gaming on the go.

Prices for the Steam Deck range from $399 to $649. Check out the Steam website for more information on the different models and availability.