On Thursday, Valve took the wraps off its new Switch-like portable PC, now dubbed the Steam Deck, confirming that it is indeed the hardware Ars Technica wrote about earlier this year. The device will begin shipping later this year at a starting price of $399.
The hefty-looking console, which is 11.7 inches long (compared to 9.4 inches for the default Switch with Joy-Cons), will launch at three price points, differentiated by built-in storage capacity, higher SSD speed ratings (jumping from default eMMC storage to a pricier NVMe protocol), and differently tempered glass on its screen. Those upgraded versions will cost $529 (256GB) and $649 (512GB, “anti-glare etched glass”). Both pricier bundles include a carrying case.
All models will have the same AMD-powered combination of a four-core Zen 2 CPU and a RDNA 2 GPU, which Valve describes as a “custom” APU. Each model also includes 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM, a 40 Whr battery (guaranteeing “2-8 hours of gameplay” on a single charge), a microSD card slot for expandable storage, and a 7-inch, 1280×800, 60 Hz touchscreen LCD.
Valve promises that “your entire Steam Library shows up, just like [on] any other PC,” when you load up your Steam account on a Steam Deck. The device will run on a “new version” of SteamOS, itself a Linux distro, with Valve’s Proton compatibility layer used to ensure that Windows games function properly. Valve has been bullish about testing and expanding Proton compatibility over the years, and Steam Deck will be the initiative’s biggest proving ground yet. If you’d rather roll with your own OS, Valve chief Gabe Newell has indicated that Deck owners can wipe the device and start with whatever they choose, including their own licensed copy of Windows.
The console looks nearly identical to the prototype hardware that Ars Technica was made aware of earlier this year, complete with an Xbox gamepad-like array of buttons, joysticks, and triggers—and a pair of thumb-sized touchpads. The touchpads are similar to the ones in the Steam Controller, only smaller this time around. Finally, there are “grip” buttons where a player’s pinky might brace. As we reported previously, the Steam Deck does not include removable controllers. In terms of audio support, Deck owners can expect Bluetooth 5 headset functionality and a built-in chat microphone.
None of the bundles includes a Switch-like dock to connect to televisions, though Valve says it will sell a USB-C dock with HDMI-out functionality and a variety of PC-like connections (which you can see in the above gallery). That device doesn’t have a release date yet, but if you’d rather not wait for Valve’s version, the company says your own “powered USB-C hub” will work as well.
If you want to preorder a Steam Deck (beginning at 1 pm ET on Friday, July 16), you’ll need to use a Steam account that has “made a purchase on Steam prior to June 2021 for the first 48 hours of reservation availability.” A one-time $5 deposit will also be required, though exactly how that payment process will work remains unclear as of press time.
Listing image by Valve