Valve just announced a new handheld gaming device running Linux, the Steam Deck. Since I know the first question you’ll have, yes it is running Arch (SteamOS 3.0), with KDE Plasma and a custom Steam interface. It ships in December and starts at $399. Here are the key specs and price details:
- 7″ touchscreen at 1200×800 (720p at 60Hz, 16:10 aspect ratio)
- AMD APU: Zen 2 CPU (2.4-3.5 GHz) and RDNA 2 GPU (8 compute units at 1-1.66GHz), compares to an Xbox One/PS4
- 16 GB RAM (LPDDR5)
- Storage: 64 GB eMMC (PCIe Gen 2)/256 GB NVMe SSD (PCIe Gen 3 x4)/512 GB “high-speed” NVME SSD (PCIe Gen 3 x4)
- microSD card slot
- Battery: 2-6 hours (dependent on gameplay), 40Whr
- USB-C with DisplayPort 1.4 support (up to 8K 60Hz or 4K 120Hz)
- Wi-Fi (dual-band, 2 x 2 MIMO, up to 802.11ac) and Bluetooth 5.0
- Input: your standard controller plus 2 touchpads and 4 grip buttons, thumbsticks with capacitive touch, haptic support, 6-axis gyro
- Speakers and microphone, 3.5mm headphone jack
- Size: 298mm x 117mm x 49mm at 669 grams (11.7″ x 4.6″ x 1.9″ at 1 lb 7.6 oz)
Price: $399 for 64 GB with carrying case, $529 for 256 GB NVMe, $649 for 512 GB NVMe (fastest storage) and anti-glare screen and exclusive carrying case
So like a Nintendo Switch + Steam Controller + Steam + Linux. The price looks pretty competitive, and Gabe Newell told IGN hitting that price was “painful.” It is quite possible Valve is selling this close to cost (or even under?) to get more people on Steam and buying games to get their revenue share. There will also be an official dock with ethernet, DisplayPort, HDMI, and USB ports, but no details on price or availability. Existing USB-C docks will work with the Steam Deck.
Questions about availability in this age of hardware shortages will abound, but Valve is doing a reservation queue, as they’ve done for the Index. I can attest to that being infinitely better than trying to buy a GPU where there are no queues.
Reservations go live on this page on Friday, July 16th at 10 am PDT (UTC -7) and start shipping in December 2021. The store page also answers questions about the reservation system, including a refundable reservation fee.
The big news for many of us is that it is running Linux and heavily relying on Proton (all the PR Valve has put out doesn’t caveat what you can play) including word that anti-cheat will work. Their Steam Deck FAQ says:
My game uses anti-cheat, which currently doesn’t work with Proton – how do I get around this for Steam Deck?
We’re working with BattlEye and EAC to get support for Proton ahead of launch.
From the initial information we see that the Steam Deck is basically a handheld Linux computer: you can hook up whatever you want to it, connect to a larger screen and use it as a desktop, change the OS, and so on. If you wanted to, this could be your portable workstation and gaming device. As Valve’s Lawrence Yang told IGN, it is better to think of the Steam Deck as “a small PC with a controller attached as opposed to a gaming console.” And as their FAQ states, “Steam Deck is a PC, and players will be able to install whatever they like, including other OSes.” So go ahead and get your favorite distro ready if you want. Although Valve also says the Steam Deck will have features you’d expect from a portable game console, like fast and easy pausing, suspending, and resuming gameplay on both the Deck itself as well as carrying over to wherever else you have Steam.
The specs look pretty impressive with early videos and promo material showing games like Control, Doom Eternal, Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order all playing smoothly at high settings. The battery life is not great if you are playing intensive games, though this can be extended if you lower settings. For example, playing Portal 2 you can go from 4 hours to 5-6 hours by limiting yourself to 30 fps. The size, based on videos, is on the wide side. You can see in closeups that the screen has noticeable bezels, and the controller layout (non-standard) uses more horizontal space.
So far the only hands-on coverage is over at IGN if you want to see it in action. They also have an FAQ with Valve, which mostly boils down to “yes, it is a full-fledged computer you can do what you want with.”
We’ll have a lot more as details become available and we get more information. In the meantime, take a look at the official site, steamdeck.com. What do you think? Dream device or another Steam Machine? Lining up tomorrow morning to try to get a reservation?