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Valve Details Steam Deck Gaming Handheld, Starting at $399

Steam Deck
(Image credit: Valve)

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. 

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Close-ups of the Steam Deck

(Image credit: Valve)
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Close-ups of the Steam Deck

(Image credit: Valve)
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Close-ups of the Steam Deck

(Image credit: Valve)

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.

Andrew E. Freedman

Andrew E. Freedman is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on laptops, desktops and gaming. He also keeps up with the latest news. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Tom's Guide, Laptop Mag, Kotaku, PCMag and Complex. among others. Follow him on Twitter: @FreedmanAE

  • A Stoner
    Some games require over 300GB to install... Even nominally light games these days take up 32 to 80 GB of disck space to install...
    Reply
  • dannyboy3210
    It has a microsd slot, so you can throw in a 256gb, 512gb, 1tb microsd card for some games if you need to!
    Reply
  • RareAir23
    Well the console starts at $349-$399 but to truly get a lot of storage right off the bat it's a $530-$650 buy in. Valve would be wise to do what Nintendo did for additional storage: include a MicroSD slot to boost storage capacity. Oh wait? Poster before me says they did that. Good show Valve! Adding to that, make the NVMe slot in the console capable of adding a bigger drive into it than what they offer and make it easy for the user to make this change on their own. Plus, allow an Internet download of the console's OS to the public so they can install the OS for it onto said bigger NVMe drive themselves. I know the latter is asking for a lot but if they can do both the Switch will finally have capable competition and...of course that competition would come from Gabe and Valve because...who else was going to do it but Gabe and Valve? Nobody...at least for the price range reported here. Out!
    Reply
  • TechLurker
    I'm not surprised; between the vaporware Smach Z, the prototype GP Win Max, and most recently, the successful Aya Neo, it would have only been a matter of time until Steam decided to jump onto the AMD portable solution as well. And they apparently got a semi-custom solution rather than one of the standard embedded options. I do wonder if Nintendo will eventually jump ship to AMD as well with a proper semi-custom solution, or if they'll stubbornly stay with Nvidia. If Nintendo can make the jump, game development will be a lot faster and more exportable across all 4 platforms (PC/PS5/Xbox/AMD Switch) without having to give Switch a degraded experience to varying degrees.
    Reply
  • renz496
    TechLurker said:
    I'm not surprised; between the vaporware Smach Z, the prototype GP Win Max, and most recently, the successful Aya Neo, it would have only been a matter of time until Steam decided to jump onto the AMD portable solution as well. And they apparently got a semi-custom solution rather than one of the standard embedded options. I do wonder if Nintendo will eventually jump ship to AMD as well with a proper semi-custom solution, or if they'll stubbornly stay with Nvidia. If Nintendo can make the jump, game development will be a lot faster and more exportable across all 4 platforms (PC/PS5/Xbox/AMD Switch) without having to give Switch a degraded experience to varying degrees.

    nintendo will stick with nvidia. the switch was a success despite being barely faster than Wii U because of nvidia also agree to flex their existing devrel and convince game developer to port their tittle to the switch.
    Reply
  • Giroro
    Hopefully the base model has an open m.2 nvme slot.
    Reply
  • 2Be_or_Not2Be
    I like this device, but I don't know if I would buy one. The bigger games I will want to play on my PC with full-size monitor, and smaller games I would rather just go with the mobile device I already carry - my phone. I suppose I felt the same about the Switch, but at least it has unique, exclusive games for it as a purchasing influence.

    For this handheld, it would have been nice to just go with embedded Windows for wider compatibility & the bigger library of games on Steam. Also, does anyone really wants trackpads (thumbpads?) as their controllers?!
    Reply
  • Makaveli
    A Stoner said:
    Some games require over 300GB to install... Even nominally light games these days take up 32 to 80 GB of disck space to install...

    I don't think this console will be meant for AAA games that take up 100GB to install.
    Reply
  • cryoburner
    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.
    So it costs $130 to move from 64GB of flash memory to 256GB? And $250 for 512GB and some better glass? <_<

    The 64GB version seems like it would be the way to go. If the base model can be upgraded with a 2242 NVME drive, those can be found for under $80 for 512GB. If it uses the smaller 2230 drives, those might be a little harder to find, but still should be available for far less than what they are asking. That is, assuming it includes a port for an M.2 drive, though it seems likely that they would be using the same board for all of them, seeing as storage is the only major difference between the three models.

    Or just go with MicroSD, or perhaps even external storage via USB. 2TB external laptop hard drives can be had for as little as $60, if one doesn't mind longer load times and a bit of an awkward connection for a handheld device.

    On the topic of awkward connections, what is with this marketing image? I suspect that attaching a pair of massive fight sticks to this thing so that two people can compete on a tiny 7" screen is not going to be a particularly common usage scenario...
    https://cdn.cloudflare.steamstatic.com/steamdeck/images/hardware-accssories.jpg
    2Be_or_Not2Be said:
    Also, does anyone really wants trackpads (thumbpads?) as their controllers?!
    The device also has thumbsticks. The trackpads are for PC games that don't normally play well on a gamepad, or for things like FPS games where they can offer more precision, as well as for standard desktop applications. Does anyone really want to control a mouse cursor with a thumbstick?

    Makaveli said:
    I don't think this console will be meant for AAA games that take up 100GB to install.
    Why not? Valve is advertising it as being able to deliver "more than enough performance to run the latest AAA games". The "up to 1.6 Tflops" of graphics performance would likely only place it roughly on par with AMD's desktop/laptop APUs, though that should be reasonably capable for running nearly all current AAA games at 720p, albeit with reduced settings in many cases. That would place it roughly between the original PS4 and XBox One in terms of graphics performance, and likely well ahead of either on the CPU side of things.
    Reply
  • Makaveli
    cryoburner said:
    So it costs $130 to move from 64GB of flash memory to 256GB? And $250 for 512GB and some better glass? <_<

    The 64GB version seems like it would be the way to go. If the base model can be upgraded with a 2242 NVME drive, those can be found for under $80 for 512GB. If it uses the smaller 2230 drives, those might be a little harder to find, but still should be available for far less than what they are asking. That is, assuming it includes a port for an M.2 drive, though it seems likely that they would be using the same board for all of them, seeing as storage is the only major difference between the three models.

    Or just go with MicroSD, or perhaps even external storage via USB. 2TB external laptop hard drives can be had for as little as $60, if one doesn't mind longer load times and a bit of an awkward connection for a handheld device.

    On the topic of awkward connections, what is with this marketing image? I suspect that attaching a pair of massive fight sticks to this thing so that two people can compete on a tiny 7" screen is not going to be a particularly common usage scenario...
    https://cdn.cloudflare.steamstatic.com/steamdeck/images/hardware-accssories.jpg

    The device also has thumbsticks. The trackpads are for PC games that don't normally play well on a gamepad, or for things like FPS games where they can offer more precision, as well as for standard desktop applications. Does anyone really want to control a mouse cursor with a thumbstick?


    Why not? Valve is advertising it as being able to deliver "more than enough performance to run the latest AAA games". The "up to 1.6 Tflops" of graphics performance would likely only place it roughly on par with AMD's desktop/laptop APUs, though that should be reasonably capable for running nearly all current AAA games at 720p, albeit with reduced settings in many cases. That would place it roughly between the original PS4 and XBox One in terms of graphics performance, and likely well ahead of either on the CPU side of things.

    Regardless of what they advertise even the high end model is only 512GB.

    So one will have to adjust your expectations accordingly.

    1 - 3 Big games then you can fill it up with smaller titles, until they release a 1TB+ model they are not really giving you any other option.
    Reply