Valve Steam Deck Practice: PC Gaming Nintendo Switch


I’ve liked Steam Deck and I’m almost a believer.

Not quite, but I like what I see.

Three weeks after the PC gaming giant Valve surprised-unveiled its own $ 400 portable game console, Lens at the company’s headquarters in Bellevue, Washington, to tour the company’s latest prototypes — and the opportunity to compare them to the Nintendo Switch and previous AMD handheld, Aya Neo.

I logged in with my Steam account and picked it up The Witcher 3 and Control just where I left weeks or months ago on my desktop computer and chewed through a few demons Doom Ultimate thumbs, precise touchpads, and gyroscopic alignment. While I didn’t get answers to burning questions like how seamlessly you can install your own games, how a model with slower eMMC storage, or how well it works outdoors, I definitely felt how comfortable this laptop might be and how much power it has on the faucet.

When we went in, we knew we were expecting performance long before the Nintendo Switch, but we were nowhere near the next generation game console because the steam deck has just under half of the raw graphic muscle even Microsoft’s entry-level Xbox Series S. The Witcher 3 and Control to medium-sized properties without discomfort. It’s a fully graphical level higher than the founder’s edition of Aya Neo, where I typically play these games at the lowest settings and sometimes still get stuck.

The Nintendo switch on top of the Steam Deck shows a similar design and port range.

The Nintendo switch on top of the Steam Deck shows a similar design and port range.

What I may not have imagined as I walked into Valve’s lobby: how gigantic the Steam Deck looks next to the Nintendo Switch – and yet, how much more comfortable it is to hold. While it barely fits deep in the pocket of your pants (if you can call it “bulges in every direction” to fit), I now believe in Valve when it is said that the Deck is carved for long play.

When I first took it, it felt like my fingers just melted into its handles and grooves, putting all the controls at hand – including much fatter joysticks and a deeper, softer throw into its triggers than the rigid, snap controls you would expect from a Switch and Switch PC. competitors. However, I’m not sure I’m a fan of the smooth, even joystick. While you can make stunning gyroscopic targets by leaving your finger on the hidden capacitive sensor, you can already pull the same trick with the exact touchpad, and I’m not sure if it’s worth switching to joystick grip. However, more testing is needed.

A close-up of a large grip on the steam lid that shows out and also shows its back buttons

Those handles.

Although I immediately noticed an extra pound of weight compared to the Switch, it didn’t bother me during the short session. The lid may be heavier, but these prototypes look light in size, and have a slightly hollow feel that – to think about it – might be polarizing. I was wondering if Valve would keep it that way and if the screen finish and plastics could improve. Indoors, I didn’t really have a clear preference between Valve’s glossy display and the high-quality etched anti-glare treatment — because of the glare you get from losing vitality — and I noticed a few scratches on the body.

I also definitely felt the heat and the battery running low when one unit that was plugged in at the beginning of the session almost died after an hour and a half. Because Valve promised to play the real-time battery for four hours Portal 2 and up to eight hours at a less demanding price, I don’t think it’s normal. Valve could not say what will change especially between these EV2 developer units and the final ones, but the quality of the structure will be further improved.

There are a lot of things I really couldn’t do for an hour and a half at Valve headquarters yesterday, like digging deep into the new SteamOS (although I like how much more streamlined it looks and how you can easily see what games you’re playing If you have an SD card and internal drive), try any online or multiplayer games or connect it to a larger screen. The team also didn’t let us rip it down – I asked!

But I was able to get partial answers to some of the lingering questions and the promise that this isn’t the last review of Steam Deck before its end in 2021 or the beginning of 2022.

As an example, Valve says he plans to produce his own video to explain exactly what it means to open a Steam Deck and access the interior if necessary, as that’s definitely something the company is going to let you do. We had already heard you can replace the SSDbut repairability is also in the company’s mind. Valven’s Greg Coomer says the company has a full range of nuanced answers to your burning questions.

You may also remember that Valve is going to offer a docking station to Steam Deck, which will send it easily to the TV, and while it’s still under construction, the team says it hopes to deliver it alongside the laptop. It is possible that you may be able to order such a cover alongside, but certainly not.

The team eliminated questions about whether Valve would bring new games to Steam Deck or whether it would result – “we’re not going to dive into this and lose a bunch of money” – but they did strongly suggests to me that they would not make games exclusively for laptops in the same way they did Half-life: Alyx only to VR, saying they don’t think of Steam Deck’s revenue the same way.

While they believe that some game manufacturers may optimize their controls for laptops, they didn’t think it could feel the position of your fingers and thumb in terms of giving the player hands, but more because you have more buttons that PC gamers can map out, and how the Xbox Elite controller gives you extra paddles so you don’t have to take your finger off the sticks. “It’s more about the quality of the stakes and the amount of stakes,” they say.

But Coomer caught fire when I suggested that maybe we could see a Steam Deck custom AMD APU in separate VR headphones like the Oculus Quest. He said he loved the question. “We’re not ready to say anything about it, but it would work well in that environment, and a TDP would be necessary … it’s very important to us and our plans for the future,” he said.

Photographer Sean Hollister / The Verge

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