Valve Steam Deck is a $400 PC gaming Switch rival — at it’s coming in December
Valve, the company behind Steam and titles such as Half Life and Team Fortress, has revealed Steam Deck, a handheld gaming device that’s akin to a Nintendo Switch-style PC. The device is slated to come out in December of 2021 with a starting price of $399.
Steam Deck reservations have already begun, and we have everything you need to know about this ambitious handheld right here, including the powerful specs, design and how to buy yours.
Steam Deck price and release date
The Steam Deck will be available in three different varieties. The 64GB eMMC storage model will be the cheapest at $399, and will include a carrying case.
The $529 middle-tier model will include 256GBB of NVMe SSD storage, with a carrying case and an exclusive Steam Community profile bundle, although we’re not entirely sure what that is.
The highest-end model, which will run for $649, will include 512GB of NVMe SSD storage, premium anti-glare etched glass, an exclusive carrying case, an exclusive Steam Community profile bundle, and an exclusive virtual keyboard theme.
All models of the Steam Deck can be reserved for $5, with reservations going like on Friday, July 16 at 10am PT. Customers can only purchase the Steam Deck model that they reserved. So choose wisely.
Given the ongoing chip shortages caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the predilection for scalpers to buy up as much inventory possible to sell on the open market, we suspect that buying a Steam Deck outside of the reservation window might be more costly and difficult.
Reservations are only available to customers in the United States, Canada, European Union, and the United Kingdom.
Steam Deck design
The Steam Deck comes housed in what appears to be a black plastic shell with a matte black finish. There’s a standard array of buttons, such as A, B, X, and Y, along with two analog sticks and both primary and secondary shoulder buttons. The buttons look to be of the clicky variety, and not the spongey ones found on the Game Boy Color.
The R2 and L2 shoulder buttons do seem to be spring loaded, with analog-style compression. This is unlike the Nintendo Switch, which features single-click shoulder buttons.
Around the grips are additional macro buttons which can likely be programmed for custom functions. Also around the back is the Valve logo along with a vent to exhaust out heat. Towards the top is the power button, USB-Type C port, another vent, a headphone jack and volume controllers.
Interestingly, on the face of the device are two flat touch pads, a callback to the ill-fated Steam Controller from 2015. There are also menu, options, and a Steam button cornering the device. And next to the screen are two speaker grills. The Steam Deck will also feature gyro controls, which can make aiming in shooters easier when playing on a handheld.
Steam Deck, unsurprisingly, links with Steam. So anyone who buys a Steam Deck should rest assured that their entire Steam library will be available to download immediately.
Steam Deck specs
The Steam Deck is being powered by an AMD processor that, according to Valve, has been “optimized for handheld gaming.” It’s running on a Zen 2 + RDNA 2 architecture, so hardware similar to what’s found on the Xbox Series X. RDNA 2 is actually one of the few differentiating factors between the Xbox Series X and PS5, potentially giving Microsoft’s console an advantage.
According to Valve, this processor is “more than enough performance to run the latest AAA games in a very efficient power envelope.” I guess we’ll have to see how it fares against demanding titles such as Cyberpunk 2077.
Valve also went out of its way to mention that the Steam Deck is designed for comfortability. There’s a rotating GIF of an analog stick, suggesting that Valve is not expecting gamers to run into Joy Con drift, a common problem on the Nintendo Switch.
According to the Steam Deck hardware page, it will sport a 7-inch touchscreen, on part with the upcoming Nintendo Switch OLED model. Unfortunately a resolution was not given. Based on a looping video on the Steam Deck website, the device looks substantial, a bit taller than a Switch. And unlike the Nintendo Switch OLED, the Steam Deck does have a chunkier bezel than what’s expected on hardware being released in 2021. Granted, this could all be prototype hardware subject to change.
The Steam Deck can also be spec’d with either 64GB of eMMC storage or 256/512GB of NVMe storage. There’s also a microSD card slot for additional expansion.
The device will house a 40 watt-hour battery, which promises several hours of play for “most games.” Lighter games or web browsing should net 7-8 hours of battery.
According to the FAQ, the Steam Deck is ultimately a PC, and “you can install third party software and operating systems.”
Steam Deck Dock
Like the Nintendo Switch, the Steam Deck will also work with a docking accessory. The dock will allow gamers to connect their Steam Deck to a television or monitor. It will also give gamers added expansion slots, which could come in handy when wanting to connect one the best fight sticks for playing Street Fighter V at a LAN event or esports cafe.
The dock will give access to external displays (HDMI/DisplayPort), Ethernet and USB Type-A/Type-C peripherals.
How to pre-order Steam Deck
Valve is taking extra precautions to make ordering and reserving a Steam Dock a scalper and bot-free experience. This includes asking for a reservation fee of $5 up-front when reservations go live on Friday, July 16 at 10am PT. We recommend bookmarking the reservation page and setting an alarm. We suspect the Steam Deck will sell out fast, and because of ongoing chip shortages, inventory might be limited.
Once you’re able to submit your reservation, you will be put in a queue. And once inventory is made available, an email will be sent so you can finalize your reservation.
According to the Steam Deck FAQ, Valve says “The main reason for reservations is to ensure an orderly and fair ordering process for customers when Steam Deck inventory becomes available. The additional fee gives us a clearer signal of intent to purchase, which gives us better data to balance supply chain, inventory, and regional distribution leading up to launch.”
In another attempt to block scalpers, Valve is limiting reservations to those that have owned a Steam account since before June 2021, and have purchased at least one game on the account prior.
“We are aware of potential unauthorized resellers, and as an additional safeguard to ensure a fair ordering process, we’ve added a requirement that the reserver has made a purchase on Steam prior to June 2021 for the first 48 hours of reservation availability.”
Valve is also making it easy to cancel a reservation. Customers will have up to 30 days to cancel their Steam Deck reservation, with a full refund going back to the card used. Any reservation cancelled outside of the 30-day window will see refunds going to a customer’s Steam Wallet.
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