It's a man, it's a plane, it's an AMD APU processed with a Zen 2 4c/8t CPU and a 8 RDNA 2 CUs GPU, tagged along with a 16 GB LPDDR5 RAM. That is a long, technical, and overly complicated way to say.... it's a Steam Deck, Valve Corporation's latest handheld gaming computer that runs many, many, many games. The Steam Deck takes a homage to the name
Big Ideas, Small Rig: Creation of the Steam Deck
What happens when you bring a 7-inch touchscreen display and built-in controllers that is packed with a quad-core CPU and RDNA2 GPU? Well, you get a confusion of what that would look like and might need a Google search or two to really understand, or you can just look at the Steam Deck.
The Steam Deck is when power meets handheld. Valve Corporation created a machine that runs modern-day, Triple A, ready-to-play games at the touch of a button. From games like Red Dead Redemption, Spider-man, and Sims 4, you will be shooting, fighting, or woo-hooing your way at any point of your day. It involves the gaming experience to those that have only 30 minutes to kill or for those that have a 5-hour flight including a 2-hour layover.
Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, and the Steam Deck allows those that want to get through the backlog of their games or just be transported into the virtual world with ease. As modern-day games are built to be played on behemoth PC rigs or Playstation 5s, the Steam Deck challenges those systems with a rig that is the size of a Philly cheesesteak. The only difference is that the Steam Deck doesn't go bad if you leave it in your backpack unattended for a few hours. There are gamers that don't want to sit properly on a desk after an 8-hour shift, and there are gamers that can't use the TV because somebody had to watch the latest episode of the Bachelor, that leaves a lot on the table for those that still want to scratch that itch of gaming, and when life moves to fast, the Steam Deck is there for the ride. The device allows those that want to play, play. Whenever, wherever, and however they want. Whether that means on the bed, in the subway, or at your cousin's third wedding, it goes where you go.
Now, I can go on and on about the technicalities of the Steam Deck, from it's NVMe SSD, 40-watt hour battery, or Bluetooth 5.0 capabilities, but instead of hammering technical terms at you, I would rather speak how some of the features have came across to the average Joe (or average Marchiatto).
The Steam Deck holds a decent charge for its capabilities. Playing 2D platforms like Celeste or Dead Cells, I am able to get about 4-5 hours of enjoyment. I can recall finding this useful when out camping and with no outlet near me, I am still able to cram in a few hours that make me feel like I can enjoy games that I previously had to be sitting at my desk to do so. Now when it comes to heavy-demanding games, such as Elden Ring or Spider-man, the Steam Deck can provide a portable experience for a little shy of 2 hours. Albeit not the best, slap on a portable charger and you have, at least, another 2 hours, which should suffice until you find the next outlet or power source. It does not sound great, but when you have a 4-hour flight, it is perfect to be Miles Morales swinging through New York City and just as you finish a mission, you hear the pilot say "We are now descending" which is quite a surreal feeling.
Now, it isn't all (Mario) sunshine and rainbows. The battery is not the highlight of this device. I would say it is it's biggest downfall, as there are devices such as the Nintendo Switch in which I would rather use when going on long trips just for the sake of convenience. I hate knowing that my Steam Deck has a chance of dying in one and a half hours while I am trying to beat the last few hours of Spider-man Remastered. Even when I am home, I get so immersed in the game that I forget I have to charge, but once the notification tells me that there's only 5% left, I realize I have to bring it back to the dock to charge. Thankfully, the dock allows me to charge the Steam Deck and still play from a TV, but most times, it would be nice to be able to lay in bed or hang out on the couch in handheld mode. I feel as if it is not as satisfying of a battery life as it should be.
Valve has gracefully included a hard-shell case included into every purchase of the Steam Deck, which protects from scratches, dents, or when you toss your backpack a little too hard on the ground after a long day. It fits most backpacks with a pocket that allows the charger to hang out in.
Now, bring a docking station and a controller and you have a portable gaming machine that can be connected to a monitor to play it as if it was a PlayStation or Xbox. With the Steam Deck having only one USB-C port and one AUX input, the ease of use is second to none. Slap in the docking station connection and you just add an HDMI, charging port, and ethernet input to be able to game online or with friends. When lunch time starts, I can grab a USB-C to HDMI and start playing Forza Horizon 5 for 30 minutes on my work monitor, and then get back to those emails I forgot to send.
Operating System and User Experience
The Steam Deck boots up into SteamOS, Valve's custom Linux system that shows your Steam Library, which includes all the games that you have bought from the Steam Store. Whether that be games like Among Us, The Walking Dead Telltale Series, or Apex Legends, you are able to download almost all games that are available on Steam. I say almost all because some games are not compatible with SteamOS, as most games are developed with Windows OS in mind. Valve has been able to make most games compatible out of the box, but for those games that may be outdated or not ported properly, Valve has also created compatibility measurements such as ProtonDB, which mimics Windows Machines so that games can still be played within SteamOS. There are over 7,000 compatible games on Steam that work on the Steam Deck, and if it does not, slap on the ProtonDB compatibility option and it may still work.
Now that was a whole lot of techno-jumbo. For the layman that wants to turn on and experience their games handheld, this does just that. The user experience is so easy, you could launch a game up with one hand and a few clicks (I would advise to use two hands because it does have some weight). The dashboard that was curated by Steam has allowed for casual players and serious gamers to hop into a game quickly and easily.
Not only is it easy to get involved into a game fast through the device, it is also super easy to set up on the big screen. All you would need is either a dock that supports USB-C or just a USB-C cord that connects to a TV (although the battery of the Steam Deck may die). Once you connect the Steam Deck to the TV, it automatically changes the resolution to the TV's native resolution, and you can either play with the Steam Deck as a controller, or connect another controller, such as an Xbox or PS controller, via Bluetooth, and have a console gaming experience. Is it getting too late and you want to bring the device into bed? Perfectly fine, all you would have to do is unplug the Steam Deck and bring it back to your room and enjoy where you left off. Although the Nintendo Switch pioneered this effort into a seamless gaming experience, the Steam Deck has enhance this experience with more options and more games to play.
The Steam Deck really took on a market that has been underrated for a few years. Other than the Nintendo Switch, there has not really been a portable device that can bring gamers an experience outside of the house in years. The Nintendo Switch is not even a competitor for the Steam Deck, as it bodes well for those that are looking for a more casual experience and the ability to play with others. The Steam Deck on the other hand appreciates the gamers that want to get through their back catalog of games that they collected over the years that always say "I will finish that game next time". For the people that work at desks all day, or stare at the same monitor or TV all day, it is very difficult to transition to an enjoyable experience when it all mixes in.
The Steam Deck allows players to relax and play whenever, wherever, and however they want. Whether that is outside on a hammock, at a coffee shop, or just in bed with the fan hitting you at a summer day, it is a perfect device to finally finish that game that you said you would finish, and to add more games to play. With it's portability, ease of use, and power, the Steam Deck definitely should be an additive, and almost a replacement, to many gamers' setups. Albeit the battery and the size may turn off some, this product definitely does not disappoint, and I can feel Valve's blood, sweat, and tears running through the device from the second I turn it on. It is unfortunate that Valve does not have any storefronts or brick-and-mortar spots to try it firsthand, but I hope everyone has a chance to see the power that I feel when I turn it on, because it really is something truly special.