What Is a Steam Deck?

This handheld gaming PC by Valve can play your Steam-based games

Valve's Steam Deck is a handheld gaming PC. It enables players to access and play their Steam-based gaming library without needing to use a regular PC.

What Is a Steam Deck?

The Valve Steam Deck uses SteamOS, Valve's Linux-based operating system. Made specifically with gaming via Steam in mind, it looks like a Nintendo Switch with the option for players to connect it to a monitor or TV, as well as pair controllers, mice, or keyboards to it.

It's able to play games that were built for Windows with the option to suspend and resume games much like other portable gaming devices. 

The Steam Deck is only available on a reservation basis with a long waiting list at this time. The first Steam Deck handheld devices were released on February 25, 2022. Since then, more units have become steadily available to customers who have reserved one for $5 but the waiting list remains many months long.

It's currently only available to reserve in the US, UK, Canada, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. According to Valve, more countries will be able to order it soon.

What Are the Steam Deck's Specs?

The Steam Deck runs on an AMD APU, a combination of a CPU and GPU. Its processor has four cores and eight threads with a CPU clock speed of 2.4GHz to 3.5GHz. 

The system also has 16GB of RAM and the screen size is a 7-inch LCD touchscreen with a resolution of 1280 x 800.

Storage capacity varies depending on the model you decide to buy. For $399, there is a 64GB eMMC version which is likely to run slower due to being dependent on eMMC storage. Alternatively, for $529, there is a 256GB SSD-based option or $649 for a 512GB SSD model. 

All Steam Decks can have their storage upgraded with a MicroSD card but the cards will load games more slowly than SSD storage.

The Steam Deck also has stereo speakers, a 3.5mm jack for plugging in headphones, dual mics, and can have devices connected to them via USB-C or Bluetooth. It can also be docked with a monitor to be used like a regular gaming PC.

How Well Does the Steam Deck Perform?

Performance varies depending on the settings you choose, and the games you play, but the Steam Deck is known for running games well.

Some reports from Tom's Hardware suggested games ran between 30 FPS and 60 FPS depending on the image quality settings, with no slowdown occurring. 

What Games Are Compatible With the Steam Deck?

Valve regularly updates the list of games verified to work on the Steam Deck. While other games may also work, the best games to play have a green tick next to their name on the list. 

Other games may have a yellow 'i' next to their name which means they are playable but have some issues. There are also many unsupported games. However, for unsupported games, it is possible to use game streaming services like GeForce Now instead.

How Long Does the Steam Deck Battery Last?

As with any portable device, the Steam Deck battery life changes depending on what you're doing with the system. Typically, more demanding games with graphics settings increased are likely to use the battery life faster. Some of the latest games may only offer 90 minutes of battery life, while indie games with lower demands can last 6-7 hours.

On average, expect around 3 hours of use between charges.

  • Which Steam Deck should I get?

    The main difference between Steam Decks is the memory amounts and types. It comes in three varieties: 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB. If you play larger games and want to keep them on hand, you should get as much storage as you can afford. The other benefit of the two larger-capacity versions is that they have solid-state drives, which can provide faster performance and load times.

  • Where do I buy the Steam Deck?

    Steam Decks are currently only available directly from the manufacturer. You must log in with your Steam credentials to reserve one.

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