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Valve unveils the Steam Deck at $399; everything you need to know

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In a surprise announcement, Valve’s Steam announced the Steam Deck on Thursday, a portable gaming PC starting at $399 that can run your entire Steam library. 

The console is powered by a custom AMD APU and runs on SteamOS, an Arch OS-based operating system. However, you can install Windows on the device just as easily. 

Shipping starts in December 2021, with the base model coming in at $399 and the top-end model going as high as $649 available in the US, Canada, the EU, and the UK.

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What is the SteamDeck all about

As mentioned above, the Steamdeck is a handheld gaming PC that is fully capable of running most if not all games available on the Steam library. Furthermore, since you can install Windows on the device, it’s totally possible to install rival game stores such as Origin and Epic Game Store. 

The system is powered by a custom-made AMD APU featuring a quad-core Zen 2 CPU and 8 threads going up to 3.5GHz. The GPU is also a pretty powerful 8 RDNA with 2 CUs going up to 1.6GHz. This gives the APU a total combined power of about two teraflops. You also get super-fast LPDDR5 RAM up to 16GB running at 5500 MT/s.

There’s a 7-inch touchscreen running at 1280 x 800 resolution at 60Hz. For the screen size and internals, this is a pretty decent screen that should give a balance between performance and battery life.

Speaking of which, the device is packing a 40Whr battery that Valve claims last up to 8 hours. Of course, battery usage will largely depend on the game you’re playing and what graphics settings you’re playing at, but low power tasks such as streaming, web browsing or low power 2D games should give good battery life.

On the software side of things, the console will be running SteamOS 3.0, which is based on ArchOS. It also uses Proton as a compatibility layer to allow Windows-based games to run without any porting required from the developers.

Since this is pretty much a full-blow Linux based PC, users will be able to jump out of Steam and enter the Linux desktop environment. If you don’t want to run Linux, IGN reports that you can install Windows on the device and even install rival game stores such as Origin, uPlay or the Epic Games Sore without a problem.

The device itself features two shoulder buttons on each side, two programmable buttons on the back for each side, two touchpads, and your standard controller layout buttons complete with a d-pad and two analogue sticks.

Valve has also announced a dock for the Steamdeck, allowing users to plug in a monitor, keyboard and mouse and transform the mini-PC into a full-blown desktop. Unfortunately, the pricing for the dock hasn’t been announced yet. However, if you don’t want to use Valve’s dock, just about any USB-C dock will suffice.

According to Lawrence Yang, a Valve designer, “if you buy a Steam Deck, it’s a PC. You can install whatever you want on it; you can attach any peripherals you want to it. Maybe a better way to think about it is that it’s a small PC with a controller attached as opposed to a gaming console.”

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Hardware specs

Here’s a rundown of the hardware specs.

CPUZen 2 with 4 cores and 8 threads, 2.4-3.5GHz (up to 448 GFlops FP32) rated between 4-15W
GPU8 RDNA 2 CUs, 1.0-1.6GHz (up to 1.6 TFlops FP32)
RAM16GB LPDDR5 RAM at 5500 MT/s
Storage64 GB eMMC (PCIe Gen 2 x1)
256 GB NVMe SSD (PCIe Gen 3 x4)
512 GB high-speed NVMe SSD (PCIe Gen 3 x4)
Display7-inch 1280 x 800 60Hz touch display with up to 400 nits brightness
ConnectivityDual-bad WiFi (2.4 and 5GHz) IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 5.0 (support for controllers, accessories and audio devices)
Battery40Whr battery
45W USB Type-C power supply
AudioStereo Speakers with embedded DSP
3.5mm headphone jack
USB-C headset support
Dual mic array
SensorsAmbient light sensor
6-axis IMU gyroscope
SoftwareSteamOS 3.0 (Arch-based)
KDE Plasma desktop
ExtrasmicroSD expansion support up to 1TB
External dock support over USB-C with up to 8K at 60Hz or 4K at 120Hz output.

Valve has also announced the hardware specs for the official dock; however, there’s no information on pricing and availability yet.

USB ports1 x USB-A 3.1 Port
2 x USB-A 2.0 Ports
Network interfaceStandard Ethernet port
External display interfaceDisplayPort 1.4
HDMI 2.0
Power inputUSB-C Power Delivery passthrough
Connection with SteamDeck6-inch USB-C captive cable with 90-degree connector

Pricing and availability

The Steamdeck is available in three different variants coming in at $399, $529 and $649. The only difference between the three is the internal storage and additional benefits and accessories you get. The internals remains the same.

PriceWhat you get
$39964GB eMMC storage
Carrying Case
$529256GB NVMe SSD storage
Carrying Case
Exclusive Steam Community profile bundle
$649512GB NVMe SSD storage
Premium anti-glare etched glass
Exclusive carrying case
Exclusive Steam Community profile bundle
Exclusive virtual keyboard theme

The Steam Deck Starts shipping in December 2021 to the US, Canada, EU and UK. More regions will be added in 2022. Users can reserve their devices by paying a $5 refundable fee limited to one reservation per person starting 1 PM EDT Friday.

Do keep in mind that a reservation isn’t a preorder but merely puts you in line to preorder the device once stocks become available. Therefore, the $5 refundable fee will be refunded to your Steam wallet if you miss your window to the preorder invite. More so, to keep scalpers and reseller bots at bay, reservations are only available to Steam accounts that have made a Steam purchase at some point before June 20, 2021; otherwise, you’ll have to wait for 48 hours before placing your reservation.

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Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah is a Computer Science graduate who writes/edits/shoots/codes all things cybersecurity, gaming, and tech hardware. When he's not, he streams himself racing virtual cars. He's been writing and reporting on tech and cybersecurity with websites like Candid.Technology and MakeUseOf since 2018. You can contact him here:

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