Valve only announced its new portable Steam Deck, powered by a custom Linux operating system. The 7-inch device plays the latest AAA games, and since it’s a computer, you can even install Windows on it. This means that the Steam Deck could be the perfect Xbox laptop, given Microsoft’s investment in delivering all future Xbox Game Studios games on a PC.
“Steam Deck is a computer, so you can install third-party software and operating systems,” says Valve, which means this hardware isn’t locked in the way we’re used to seeing from technology companies.
Steam Deck itself supplies SteamOS, a custom Linux operating system that loads into the familiar Steam interface you’re used to on your PC. While Linux support for gaming has improved in recent years, less than 15 percent of all Steam games support Linux and SteamOS. That’s 7,586 games out of a possible 54,280 on Steam, compared to just 13 Steam games that don’t work on Windows.
Installing Windows on the Steam Deck would open this device for up to thousands of Steam games that are not yet listed as SteamOS compatible – you can check if the games you play support Valve’s Steam site.
When you look at the Steam Deck hardware, it’s even closer to a portable Xbox than you expect. The custom AMD graphics card powers the Steam Deck, which features eight RDNA 2 units and up to 1.6 teraflops of performance. It’s a little more than the Xbox One S (1.4 teraflop) and a little less than the PS4 (1.8 teraflop). It’s a modern RDNA 2 architecture, so teraflops alone are hard to compare, but it certainly looks like it’s powerful enough for portable PC games.
Obviously, the potential drawbacks to installing Windows are whether the driver has full support and the desktop interface struggles that aren’t optimized for the handheld. It’s also not clear how well the games will perform on Windows on the Steam deck, so there are a lot of unknowns until the device launches in December.
Nonetheless, gaming laptops are slowly emerging as viable options for the giant devices or heavy laptops you usually need to play PC games. Switch style Neo Handheld was released Indiegogo earlier this year and 5.5 inches GPD Win 3 is the latest in the GPD handheld series.
We have received close to a Switch-sized gaming PC for over a year, and Valve’s Steam Deck is the first to really bring the idea to the mainstream. Now we just have to figure out how well this is going to happen Really run games and how easy it is to get Windows up and running.