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Valve Announces the Steam Deck, a $400 Portable Gaming PC

Valve's Steam Deck

In what could be the biggest win for mobile gamers and emulation fans, Valve has announced its entry into the mobile space. The Steam Deck is a fully portable gaming PC announced by Valve as their next evolution of PC gaming. Valve has already seen immense gains in their VR efforts thanks to the Valve Index, and now they’re putting that Steam money into something new.

What is the Steam Deck?

The Steam Deck runs a custom version of Steam OS on top of its underlying BIOS. The portable console will be based on a customized Linux distro called Proton to allow better support for both Linux and Windows apps and games. This will allow for tons of customization by users and developers, as the system will be fairly unique in terms of graphical power for a handheld. The best thing about using Proton is that it won’t require a Steam Deck-specific port. Developers or modders can likely patch issues as they arise though.

The range of physical features is vast, so let’s talk about the basics first. There will be three price points for the model, based on storage included. The core of the storage technology will be a customized NvME SSD, allowing for lightning-fast storage. All three models will run with the same AMD APU to power processing and graphics.  All three units will also feature MicroSD support for sideloading apps and games.

Here are the prices for the Steam Deck:

  • $399 for a 64GB SSD
  • $529 for a 256GB NVMe SSD
  • $649 for a 512GB NVMe SSD
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As an added bonus, the $649 top-end model will get a special anti-glare screen coating. So if you want the ideal portable experience, that may be the model to aim for.

The Steam Deck will likely look to compete directly with the Nintendo Switch in more ways than one. And though this comparison might seem apt, it really isn’t. The Switch caters to a much more focused and casual audience that is radically different to those that would enjoy a portable gaming PC.

But Valve has added some standout features to attract users, nonetheless. For one thing, aside from the controller layout being pretty traditional, two trackpads are included. Not only will this allow for more mouse-like control, but you can also connect a mouse and keyboard. So if you run into a game that doesn’t work with a controller, you can play it on the go if you want. That’s all on top of the ergonomic design featuring a full range of Elite controller-style buttons on the face and rear of the unit.

Valve's Steam Deck Controls

Image: Valve

Valve’s Pierre-Loup Griffais told IGN that these trackpads are an evolution of the tech they’ve used in both the Steam Controller and the Index Controller, and can be used in many differing ways. Users will also have options to modify their output, although it will be up to developers to support that.

Additionally, the Steam Deck has Bluetooth support for any device you could connect to a regular PC or supported accessory. So if you want to use Bluetooth headphones you can.  And yes, there is an option to stream to a display via that same connection. Native Bluetooth audio will be built into the whole experience.

Valve says that the “Deck can be plugged in to your TV, monitor, or even your old CRT if you have the right cables.” The Deck comes with a variety of outputs to support storage and display needs. There’s a set of USB-C ports for charging, HDMI, Ethernet and USB.

The Steam Deck doesn’t have a hard release date yet but it’s currently set for a holiday 2021 launch, and Valve President Gabe Newell told IGN some details about it. It’s clear that the company is selling it at a loss, judging by Newell calling hitting the price point ‘painful’ but ‘critical’.

Valve has said that reservations for all three versions open on Friday afternoon, and during that time only accounts who have made purchases on Steam before June 2021 will have access. Nice anti-botting measure.

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