Valve Announces the Steam Deck, a $400 Handheld Gaming PC

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After rumors in May, Valve has now officially announced the Steam Deck, a handheld gaming PC arriving later this year. IGN has an exclusive hands-on with the Steam Deck as part of this month’s IGN First, as well as an FAQ with Valve about the device, but here’s the essential info.

The Steam Deck has a form factor similar to that of a slightly larger Nintendo Switch but with the capabilities of a full gaming PC. It runs a modified version of Valve’s SteamOS, complete with a new console-like interface for easy navigation of both the Steam store and your Steam library, but it also provides access to an unrestricted computer desktop where any third-party applications can be installed (including non-Steam games or launchers).

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In terms of hardware, the Steam Deck has a 7-inch, 1280×800 resolution, 60hz LCD screen, a custom AMD APU featuring a 4-core, 8-thread CPU paired with 8 RDNA 2 compute units for the GPU, and 16 GBs of LPDDR5 RAM. Practically speaking, that makes it a substantial amount stronger than the Switch, allowing it to run modern games impressively well – as a point of reference, I was able to play Jedi Fallen Order on an in-development Steam Deck at “High” graphical settings with little-to-no issue. It can even suspend running games like a console, and Valve says the intent is really to give players access to their entire Steam library on the go. 

To better enable this, the controller setup on either side of the screen has all the buttons, triggers, and full-sized joysticks you’d expect from a modern gamepad and more. The sticks are actually capacitive, meaning they can detect when your thumb is resting on them, and below each one is a small trackpad that can be used for mouse inputs. There are also four back buttons on the rear of the Steam Deck that can be mapped however you see fit, and the display is a multi-input touchscreen.

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Additionally, the Steam Deck has bluetooth support for any device you could connect to a regular PC (including headphones like Apple AirPods). It can also be “docked” and hooked up to an external display, as well as a mouse and keyboard if you want to use it as a more traditional PC. While Valve will be selling an official dock separately, any third-party USB-C adapter should work just as well – and those who simply want an experience closer to that of a regular handheld or console can ignore the more computer-y aspects entirely.

Speaking of selling, the Steam Deck will be available in three different models – importantly, however, the only major difference between them will be storage size and speed, with their graphical capabilities otherwise identical. The base version will cost $399 and have 64 GB of storage, followed by a $529 model with 256 GB, and finally a $649 version that has 512 GB and an anti-glare etched glass screen treatment. The latter two Steam Decks will also have faster NVMe SSDs, and all three will allow you to install and play games off of a Micro SD card to expand storage capacity further.

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The Steam Deck doesn’t have a hard release date yet but it’s currently set for a holiday 2021 launch, and Valve President Gabe Newell told IGN that hitting these price points was ‘painful’ but ‘critical’. A reservation pre-order system will be rolling out in the near future, with Valve aiming to avoid the chaos and unpredictability of recent console launches, and all three price points will also come with a tailor-made carrying case. 

We’ll have lots more information about the Steam Deck all month long as part of our IGN First coverage. In the meantime, be sure to check out our extensive hands-on impressions, and if you have a question that wasn’t answered here you can check out an FAQ with Valve about the Steam Deck. 

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