The new Valve handheld console is officially up for grabs for reservation if you’re willing to put down a $5 deposit. It’s a game changing handheld announced by Valve in mid-July. With the Steam Deck, Valve has promised to provide an enjoyable 720p gaming experience for most of the PC titles available in your steam library. You heard that right, PC titles on a handheld.
Dominance of AMD in Gaming
Team Red has dealt a blow to Intel as, under the hood the Valve handheld console is powered by an AMD APU. Intel had recently lost a chunk of their customer base as Apple decided to use their own M1 chips to power the MacBook line.
It’s a similar case in terms of the next-gen consoles such as the Sony PS5 and Microsoft Xbox Series X/S. They use AMD chips too. What’s more exciting is that the AMD APU that Steam Deck will be using is a chip we are yet to see elsewhere. The Deck’s CPU is a Zen 2 based custom chip while the graphics is following the RDNA 2 architecture.
The Tech of Steam Deck
The Valve handheld console will use a CPU that’s based on a Zen 2 architecture found within the AMD Ryzen 3000 processors. It will have four Zen 2 cores with eight threads that can be used for your gaming need. The Deck will contain 8 Compute Units (CUs) with a total of 512 cores which Valve claims will be enough graphical power for 720p gaming.
There are three versions of the Steam Deck that were unveiled by Valve. The $649 model comes with a 512GB NVMe SSD storage. The SSD should technically have a bandwidth of around 3,000 MB/s or more. It will depend on the SSD choice of Valve.
The second model costs $529 and will come with a 256GB storage. This model seems to be in everyone’s radar as you’ll be getting the best bang for the buck. You can also opt for the base model which is priced at $399. The glaring drawback of this model is the size of the SSD which is only 64GB.
With the growing size of games, buying this version of the valve handheld console is bound to make it less future proof. Also, it’s using eMMC drive which doesn’t deliver the same level of performance as the NVMe. Though, there can be a workaround for this storage limitation, 16GB quad-channel LPDDR5 RAM will surely assist the APU as they tend to perform better with higher memory bandwidth.
All three models of the Deck will come with a MicroSD Card slot to allow for expansion of storage. It should impact the performance level while loading games from a MMC but we’ll only be sure once the devices roll out. But if you’re a casual gamer or an Indie gamer who doesn’t require a ton of storage, the base model might work out to be fine for you.
The Valve handheld console comes with a 1280 X 800 display which seems like a reasonable resolution for a handheld. According to rumors, the battery life can vary from 2 to 8 hours depending upon the load on the device. By those numbers, increasing the resolution would have come with a looming battery issue. Also, the screen size of 7cm is comparable to most handheld devices and provides a comfortable display.
What does it run on?
Even if the Valve handheld console will primarily focus on being a gaming device, under the hood it is a full-fledged computer. The Deck runs on SteamOS and if you wanted to, you could change the OS to Windows. SteamOS 3.0 is based on Arch (a Linux distribution), which allows the developers to have a more rapid development for the SteamOS due to it’s rolling release cycle. The SteamOS used on Steam Machines project was based on Debian.
The Steam Deck can be connected to an external display and the users can connect their mouse and keyboard to play some FPS like CSGO or COD. You have ample of options as the Deck has the touchscreen, joysticks, the inbuilt gyroscope or the trackpads which can be used to control the game.
Proton is used under the hood allowing Windows games to be compatible on the Linux based Steam Deck. Playing single-player games should not be an issue on the Deck. But, the games with anti-cheats systems seem to cause problems when dealing with Proton. Valve is reportedly working on a workaround so that problems related to multiplayer games are solved.
Changes in the Gaming Space
For a long time, gamers were divided into different ecosystems for enjoying the games. Handheld device such as the Nintendo Switch allowed for portable gaming. Recently, the increasing market of mobile gaming also pushed many companies to take the portable industry seriously. On the other hand, the consoles such as the PS5 and Xbox Series X aim to compete with the Gaming PCs.
The Valve handheld console will surely be on a category of its own. It will mostly act like a bridge for portable gamers who want to experience the titles exclusively available on PCs. The emulation community will also benefit by getting themselves such a powerful device. If need be, it can turn into a second laptop.
Here is what YouTube has to say about Valve Steam Deck:
Image: Alexander Andrews