Valve announces Steam Deck handheld PC that works like the Nintendo Switch

The Steam Deck runs SteamOS, has a seven-inch screen, triggers, back buttons, two touchpads and joysticks, and will be shipping in December

Adam Smith@adamndsmith
Friday 16 July 2021 12:12
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Valve has announced its own Switch-like handheld PC, the Steam Deck, a handheld, portable computer that will be available at the end of the year.

The portable PC has a joystick and trackpad on each side of its seven-inch 1280-by-800 pixel display, four triggers, a directional pad on the left side and an ABXY button array on the right – as well as gyroscopic capabilities for motion control. At the top is the power button, a USB-C charging port, and a headphone jack.

Inside, the Steam Deck will have four cores of AMD’s Zen 2 processor with eight threads, and eight compute units of RDNA2 graphics. It has 16GB of RAM, and three storage options: 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB.

Valve says that the Steam Deck has a 40 watt-hour battery, which will provide a maximum battery life of between seven and eight hours – which is comparable to the Switch’s nine-hour battery life, although that will be dependent on how intensive any particular game is on the devices.

Much like the Switch, Valve is bringing out an accompanying dock to plug the Steam Deck into external displays, although the Deck itself can be plugged directly into a TV with the right combination of cables – something neither the Switch nor the Switch Lite can do. It also has Bluetooth for wireless headphones, something the Switch also, strikingly, lacks.

The Steam Deck will be running “a new version of SteamOS”, based on Linux, although since it is essentially a fully-functioning PC it will be able to run Windows or stream games through Xbox’s Game Pass subscription. That will be a huge benefit to Valve, as the vast majority of games are designed for Microsoft’s operating system, not Linux.

Valve president Gabe Newell told IGN that the top priority in designing the Steam Deck was ensuring PC players can pick it up and feel like it works perfectly; the second highest priority was price.

"I want to pick this up and say, oh, it all works. It’s all fast. It’s all... and then price point was secondary and painful. But that was pretty clearly a critical aspect to it," Newell said.

This is not the first time that Valve has attempted to enter the hardware market, though; in 2013, the company announced Steam Machines, a “fully upgradable” console that, ultimately, failed to garner much interest. That console also ran SteamOS, and as such did not have access to many games, alongside criticisms of the strange dual-touchpad controllers that came with the gadget.

The Steam Controller

The Steam Deck will be available for $399 for the 64 GB version, $529 for the 256 GB version, and $649 for the 512 GB version – with UK pricing still unknown. The Independent has reached out to Valve for more information.

The device will have to compete with Nintendo’s new OLED Switch, which it announced earlier this month. It features a larger, higher-resolution screen, more internal storage, and a better kickstand. It will be released 8 October at $349.99 in the US, but the UK version of Nintendo’s site did not give a price.

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