Steam Deck, Valve’s version of a true Switch spirit laptop game console, is perhaps the most anticipated portable hardware since… yes, the Nintendo Switch. Some devices have now found their way out of Valve’s vaults and into the hands of some Youtube reviewers.
While these videos are not allowed to go into all the details of Steam Deck, they give us at least an indication of how it will perform on a select selection of popular PC games.
Read more: Everything you need to know about Valve Steam Deck
Given Valve’s stated goal of being able to “run the latest AAA games and do well”, the biggest question mark has been whether it would make it. With some of the same AMD hardware found in modern laptops and close integration with the Steam platform, we can now see how well Steam Deck delivers.
Valve gave LinusTechTips and Gamers Nexus the ability to test Steam Deck to see what its custom AMD-built Aerith APU system, with Zen 2 processor graphics, Radeon rdna 2 graphics and 16 gigabytes of fast lpddr5 memory, is capable of. Both found that the system could easily tackle simpler 2d games, such as Dead Cells, without sweating. Linus even went so far as to call Steam Deck “probably the most innovative gaming computer in 20 years.”
Steam Deck game performance
More intense AAA games had more variables. Well-optimized games tended to work well on the Linux-based Steam OS system (Windows will also be an option, but was not available for testing). Devil May Cry 5, with its uninterrupted battles, was outstanding and never dropped below 60 frames per second. Ghostrunner, an equally intense action game, also performed well: Gamers Nexus clocked it at 64 frames per second with ray tracing disabled (40 frames per second when docked to a 1080p screen), while Linus reported that it sometimes topped 90 frames per second.
Other games performed worse. Control sometimes dropped in the 30 fps range, and Forza Horizon 5 with its intense ray tracing and open world also had problems, even though it stayed at 60 fps. Even with Valve’s default games, it’s clear that some will run better than others, taking advantage of some driver adjustments – the same thing PC gamers have had for decades when new games and / or graphics cards are released.
Steam Deck battery life
Of course, with a portable system, games are just part of the equation. Battery life has always been a problem when a small computer is tucked into a smaller shell. Valve claims that Steam Deck lasts between two and eight hours, depending on the intensity of the games being run.
Gamers Nexus thought that statement was well optimistic, he never got more than six hours of battery life, even with simpler games or streaming. Big games managed 90 minutes of play, which requires three hours of charging. “You need to have v-sync and limited fps when running on battery, otherwise you will not come close to the numbers provided by Valve,” said GN editor-in-chief Steve Burke, adding: “We think it’s reasonable; you have to compromise on a battery-powered device. ”
It is obvious that the battery life will vary depending on the games being played. If you are on a long-haul flight, bring a charger or a powerbank.
Ergonomics and games
Linus has almost nothing but praise for the design of Valve’s 7-inch slot machine. The inputs consist of double joysticks plus D-pad, A / B / X / Y and double shoulder buttons, which can be expected from any modern gaming machine. But it also has four paddle buttons on the back, á la Xbox Elite Controllerplus two small haptic track plates that it inherited from Valves earlier Steam Controller. All of this, paired with Valve’s software, allows users to customize control of everything from racing games to shoot-all-games to strategy games.
According to Linus, it works well. He says that Steam Deck gives a feeling just as good as any other console. Valve has designed it so that all parts that get hot are kept away from where the hands are placed. Gamers Nexus discovered the hardware stripped itself to keep the temperature at or below 90 degrees. He says that the thermal design “impresses and is extremely good considering how small the Steam Deck is”.
People with smaller hands may have trouble reaching the shoulder buttons or the A / B / X / Y buttons, depending on grip, but this will not be a problem for most people. The screen was also praised for its ability to be extremely dark and the speaker’s wide range of sounds (compared to a Macbook Pro).
The only downside? Haptic feedback. While console gamers and people who use a control on a PC more or less expect vibrations, as a subtle way to improve the gaming feel, Valve has neither the space nor the power in Steam Deck to be able to have conventional vibration motors, instead they only give off a slight haptic feedback. Linus says that this is a remarkably bad design: “At the moment, haptics on this device are a shitty stain on an otherwise white sheet.”
Three weeks left
We know very little about what SteamOS will look like on Steam Deck, how it will handle game libraries with hundreds of titles and sync them with existing hardware and portable games, not to mention how non-Steam games will play, either on SteamOS or Windows. Today, Epic said that they are not interested in creating a Linux version of Fortnite for Steam Deck, even though they have been fighting for over a year to get it back in the App Store.
After all, Steam Deck will convince enough players to buy it, especially if they already have a library of Steam games. With a starting price of around SEK 5,000 – less than half of a gaming laptop – it is a tempting piece of hardware.
The rest of us have to wait until February 25, when the first round of Steam Deck falls into the hands of consumers. Only then do we really know what it’s for. But the first peek shows that Valve can deliver on its promises, at least in certain situations and for certain games.
Translated and edited by Petter Ahrnstedt