Valve has taken the wraps off of its long-rumored handheld. The Steam Deck will release in December 2021, starting at $399 for a version with 64GB of eMMC storage.
The handheld runs on a custom APU from Valve and AMD, with a 4 core/8 thread Zen 2 processor ranging from 2.4–3.5 GHz and RDNA 2 graphics (8 compute units, running at 1.0–1.6 GHz). The APU will run between 4W and 15W. Additionally, there's 16GB LPDDR5 RAM (5500 MT/s) and a high-speed microSD card slot.
That custom chip looks quite promising. For a device of this sort, the 4-core Zen 2 CPU should prove more than sufficient, and pairing AMD's RDNA2 with higher bandwidth LPDDR5 will potentially make this the fastest integrated graphics solution we've ever seen (outside of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, of course).
The $399 base model will have 64GB EMMB storage. For $529, you'll get a 256GB NVMe SSD, while the $649 version has a 512GB NVMe SSD as well as anti-glare glass on the display, plus a few other extras.
Valve's design is reminiscent of the Nintendo Switch, with controls on either side of its 7-inch, 1280x800 touch display (that's a 16:10 aspect ratio for those doing the math). There will also be a dock, sold separately, with Ethernet, DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0, and USB-A ports. Pricing for the dock is yet to be announced.
Steam claims that the 40 Whr battery will last between 2–8 hours when gaming, which isn't much, but also isn't shocking when you remember how long either the Switch (up to nine hours) or most gaming laptops last.
Until there's more hands-on experience, the button layout may be divisive. Sure, there's a D-Pad, two thumbsticks, and ABXY buttons. But those are pushed way up on the device by twin trackpads, one on either side of the screen. There are also standard L1/L2 triggers and bumpers as well as R4 and R5 buttons on the back. Oh, and there's gyro, too.
Valve is using SteamOS 3.0, based on Arch, so don't expect to be installing Windows programs here. But the company is promising that your existing PC Gaming library will already work with the Steam Deck. That's likely thanks to enhancements with WINE, which currently runs many Windows games and apps.
Additionally, the Steam Store is accessible from the handheld, as well as Steam chat and other features from the launcher. You can also use a Remote Play feature to stream games from your home gaming PC.
That December 2021 launch date is for the US, Canada, UK and European Union. The company says more countries will be added sometime in 2022. Pre-orders for the Steam Deck will begin on Friday, July 16 at 10 a.m. PT.There will be a separate reservation fee "to ensure an orderly and fair ordering process."
Accounts that haven't purchased anything on Steam prior to June 2021 will have to wait until Sunday, as Valve attempts to ward off the scalpers that have hit recent launches.