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Valve unveils Steam Deck, a portable console halfway between the PC and the Switch
After the fiasco of the Steam Machines and the very limited success of the Steam Controller, is Valve able to offer a really attractive hardware?
While rumors and other rumors are commonplace, the secret was well kept. Last week, Valve unveiled its new portable console project dedicated to PC gaming. Called Steam Deck, the machine has fully functional prototypes, is already on pre-order and should be released between December 2021 and the first quarter of 2022 depending on the date of reservation and the model chosen because, yes, there will be several versions of Steam Deck.
"Portable, but powerful " says Valve in its press release. Steam Deck is indeed a portable machine and is immediately similar to Nintendo's Switch console. At the center of the machine, of course, is the screen. It is a touch-sensitive LCD model with a 7-inch slab. It is capable of a definition of 1280 x 800 with a refresh rate of 60 Hz. Valve does not detail the type of slab used. On both sides of this screen, we find the controls: two symmetrically arranged analog mini-sticks, a directional cross on the left, four ABXY buttons on the right and two trackpads with haptic feedback. On the front edge, the classic four triggers are in order and, on the back of Steam Deck, we notice four additional programmable buttons.
One of the first things you notice when you see the beast are its dimensions. Although close to the Switch in its design, Steam Deck is indeed significantly larger: 290 x 117 x 49 mm against 239 x 139 x 102 mm. However, the most annoying thing is probably not its size. Indeed, at 669 grams on the scale, Steam Deck is a relatively heavy device, much more than the Switch and its less than 400 g. We'll have to judge it on the spot, but it seems delicate to hold Steam Deck in your hands during long gaming sessions.
However, this weight is not innocent. It is the direct consequence of the components embedded in this Steam Deck that Valve wanted to be powerful. We find an architecture designed around an APU signed by AMD. This one mixes 4 cores / 8 threads Zen 2 clocked between 2.4 - 3.5 GHz and 8 RDNA2 cores clocked between 1 - 1.6 GHz for the graphics part. Without reaching the level of power of the PlayStation 5 and other Xbox Series X|S, Steam Deck is considerably more powerful than the Nintendo Switch and should be enough to run large PC titles very well, knowing that the definition limited to 1280 x 800 allows to preserve the fluidity of the animation.
Basically, Steam Deck has limited connectivity with a simple USB-C that serves primarily to charge the beast and a microSD card reader is also present to increase storage space. Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi 6 are part of the package, but... that's it. To enjoy more openness, you will have to buy - in addition - a dock whose name, availability date and price are unknown. This one will allow you to "store" Steam Deck and take advantage of: two USB-A 2.0 ports, a USB-A 3.1 port, a DisplayPort 1.4, an HDMI 2.0 connector, a USB-C socket for power and a Gigabit RJ45 Ethernet port.
A dock that it is not yet possible to pre-order anyway, while reservations for Steam Deck are open since July 16. Three models have been designed by Valve, their main difference lies in the type of internal storage, knowing that they can all be supplemented by the microSD reader if the need arises. The 419 euro Steam Deck has 64 GB of eMMC, while the 549 euro version has a much faster 256 GB NVMe SSD. Finally, the most expensive version (679 euros) is equipped with a 512 GB NVMe SSD and Valve emphasizes that it benefits from an anti-reflective glass treatment " of superior quality ".
Let's finish with a word on the software aspect. Valve has indeed equipped its machine with its SteamOS 3.0, which is based on the Linux Arch distribution and should allow the vast majority of games on the Steam platform to run. As the machine is presented as open by its developer, it will be possible to install almost anything on it, including a Windows 10.