Steam Deck: Everything We Know About Valve's Switch-Like PC Handheld

Release date, pricing, and compatibility with your favorite games -- here's everything you need to know about Valve's portable gaming PC.


Valve's first attempt at making a portable gaming device is nearly here. The Linux-powered Steam Deck can be reductively summarized as what the Nintendo Switch could be for PC gaming, but there's a lot more that the creators of Steam are planning to introduce with this new platform. Ahead of its initial launch in late February 2022, we're taking a look at everything revealed about the system so far.

Valve has a somewhat spotty record when it comes to gaming hardware, from its attempts to revolutionize PC gaming to its successes with VR, but the Steam Deck is a drastically different proposition to anything it's produced before. It's a way to take your entire PC games library with you on the go, with some smart design decisions that could see it fulfill its lofty promises. Let's get into it.

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What is the Steam Deck?

The Steam Deck is a portable, handheld PC that will ship with Valve's own SteamOS (built on top of Linux). The device is billed as an entirely open platform, letting players install games outside of the Steam ecosystem, run additional PC software alongside them, or just replace the entire OS with Windows if they like. Valve is hoping that most (not all) games will work just fine on SteamOS when the Steam Deck launches, with a lot of work going into improving Proton--a compatibility layer that allows Windows games to run on Linux without native support, and without (too many) issues.

The handheld looks like a beefier Nintendo Switch, with two analog sticks and two arrays of face buttons on each side. Below the thumbsticks are two capacitive touchpads that can also be used for directional input, like the two touchpads used on Valve's discontinued Steam Controller. The screen is a 1200x800 seven-inch display, which should be great for running games below 1080p while maintaining crisp image quality.

The Steam Deck features a USB-C port on the bottom for charging, with Valve estimating that the device will last between 7-8 hours on a single charge (depending on the games you're playing). The Steam Deck can also be docked and connected to an external display for higher resolution gaming, but the internals are very much designed for lower resolution play (4K output is at least supported, but don't expect to game at that resolution).

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Internal storage is dependent on which version of the Steam Deck you have ordered, but every model also supports expansion via MicroSD cards. The device comes with SteamOS and Steam pre-installed, with support for all of Steam's features such as cloud saves (which will seamlessly sync between the Steam Deck and your PC), messaging, and more. Alternative game launchers, such as the Epic Games Store and, can also be installed, either on the standard Linux operating system or whichever one you choose to overwrite it with.

Steam Deck price and versions

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The Steam Deck comes in three versions, each of which feature the same internals but just differing sizes and speeds of storage.

  • $399 - baseline model, 64GB eMMC storage, carrying case
  • $529 - upgraded model, 256GB NVMe storage, carrying case, exclusive Steam profile bundle
  • $649 - top-tier model, 512GB "high-speed" NVMe storage, special anti-glare screen, custom carrying case, exclusive virtual keyboard theme, Steam profile bundle

The cheapest model only has eMMC storage as opposed to the NVMe storage found in the two more expensive models, which you should take into consideration given the potentially dramatic difference in speeds. You can, at least, expand the storage on each model using the MicroSD slot, with storage of varying speeds. (According to early reports, MicroSD cards may actually provide comparable loading times to the internal SSD.) And although Valve says it is technically possible, the company doesn't suggest opening the Steam Deck and replacing the stock internal storage, given how the part was designed for the least electromagnetic interference possible with the rest of the components.

Steam Deck specifications

As for the rest of the specifications, that's where the Steam Deck really stands apart from every other small form-factor handheld PC.. It's the only one (yet) that is being equipped with a powerful AMD APU, combining a Zen2 CPU with a RDNA2 GPU (the same GPU architecture that is inside the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S). That isn't to say it will compete with those not-so-portable consoles; the Steam Deck has eight compute units (CU) while the Xbox Series S ships with 20. So, expectations need to be set accordingly, but it should be more than enough for the 1200x800 screen.

Steam Deck Specifications
CPUAMD Ryzen Zen 2
CPU Core Count4 Core/ 8 Threads
CPU Core Clock1-1.6GHz
GPU Compute Units (CU)8
RAM16GB LPDDR5 @ 5,500MT/s 32-bit quad-channel
Storage64GB eMMC / 256GB NVMe SSD / 512GB NVMe SSD
Display7-inch (1200x800) LCD Touchscreen, 60Hz
AudioStereo speakers, 3.5mm jack, dual mics, USB Type-C/Bluetooth
ConnectivityWi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB Type-C with DisplayPort 1.4 support
Size11.7 x 4.6 x 1.8-inch (298 x 117 x 49mm)
WeightApproximately 1.47 lbs or 669 grams

Additionally, the Steam Deck will come with 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM at 5500MT/s, over a 32-bit quad channel, which should be perfect for most modern games for a while still. The 40Whr battery is large, too, but your overall battery life will obviously depend on how demanding the game you are playing is.

The 60Hz limit on the screen should give you a good indication of what frame rates to aim for with this form-factor, and some early gaming benchmarks drive that home. These benchmarks come from a user in China (reported by WCCFTech) who managed to get their hands on the Steam Deck early, so it's entirely possible that these results might not represent final performance values when Valve launches it in February.

Steam Deck compatibility -- which games work?

The SteamOS dashboard
The SteamOS dashboard

The most important facet of the Steam Deck is compatibility with your entire Steam library, something which Valve can't really confirm just yet. In fact, five of the top 10 played games on Steam right now won't work on the Steam Deck running SteamOS, given the Linux operating system that underpins it. The Proton layer that can run native Windows apps can do some incredible things without much of a performance hit, but the largest issue is anti-cheat software that so many multiplayer games utilize. Valve is working hard with the Proton team and each respective software provider to resolve this, but for now games like Battlefield 2042, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, and more are a no-go.

Recently, Epic Games did make a change for games that use Easy Anti-Cheat, a software solution it owns, making Linux support possible without requiring Epic Online Services. Some multiplayer games, such as Warhammer: Vermintide II and Dead by Daylight, should therefore work on the Steam Deck, along with many others. There are numerous other anti-cheat solutions out there that are integrated into many popular multiplayer titles, so it rests with their respective developers to find a way to support SteamOS natively.

Valve is trying to make the entire process of determining if a game is compatible easier, with an official list of games that the company has tested on the Steam Deck. The list is a work-in-progress, and doesn't come close to covering all of Steam, but it's going to be a list that grows over time (and likely much faster once more people get their hands on the Steam Deck to help).

Steam Deck release date

By the time you get a Steam Deck, compatibility might not be an issue at all, especially if you haven't yet secured a preorder. Those lucky enough to have snagged some of the first units to go on sale should be getting notified to complete their order on February 25, but any new orders won't be shipped until much later in 2022, if this year at all. Valve is using a queue system that puts newest orders right at the back for shipping, so it might be worth waiting for reviews to see how things shake out if you haven't put down money yet. Additionally, Valve is only supplying Steam Decks to a limited number of regions, with no plans to offer them outside of Steam currently. That means no Steam Deck on Amazon, Best Buy, or any other retailer for now.

The Steam Deck launches in February, and we'll be covering its launch as soon as we get our hands on the portable PC. We'll update this guide with any new information as it becomes available.

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