Steamdeck: a giant handheld console or a tiny gaming PC, depending on your perspective

Originally published at: Steamdeck: a giant handheld console or a tiny gaming PC, depending on your perspective | Boing Boing

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For a filthy casual looking to get more into PC gaming and only wants to game from a couch it seems like a no-brainer? I mean assuming you’re willing to spend enough on the mid to top tier models - the low tier model’s storage space is awful.

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I think the idea with storage space is to hot-swap sd cards, which doesn’t sound all that bad to me.

I need to do some research and see if this thing can be my next computer. My switch has been gathering dust, I like small form factors, and my alienware alpha just barely gets the job done on the games I’ve been playing.

Honestly what I prob really want is a not-a-handheld-console version with the savings on screen and controls sunk into better performance and/or more storage.

Oh how far we’ve come since these battery destroyers. Now with more buttons!


I… I actually want one. I have a ton of games squirreled away on Steam waiting to be played, but haven’t for various reasons (laptop can’t handle the storage, processing or graphics needs, don’t want to lug a computer around with me just to play a little on the metro, etc.

My main concern is how long before the specs get outdated, and does steam guarantee that all games currently on steam will a) play on the console, and b) are ported for the controls?

These are important questions, as I have a bunch of games from the late 90s on that don’t always work in a Windows 10 environment. I assume there is no way to get non-Steam games working on the machine.



  • Would not need to buy another copy of Hades to play it when I travel
  • Cloud sync would mean I don’t need to replay 30+ hours to get a new copy of Hades back to the same point as my current save file


  • Probably can’t actually reasonably play Control (at least not with the fancy ray tracing graphics) or Doom Eternal at a good quality/framerate
  • Probably still cheaper to buy a Switch, Hades, and replay the game for 30+ hours than it is to buy just a decent SKU for the Steamdeck

* games chosen because the feature prominently in the product images.


If the screen is 720p/800p as has been reported, then it should last a while.

I think it will only be the Steam Play games for Linux, although you can turn proton on for all games if you want to risk it. Look at ProtonDB to see if what you want to play is compatible, but these games are rarely perfect at install.

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This console is getting a lot of press (as it should), but it is worth noting devices like this already exist.

You are going to want to read up about:

Aya Neo

I own the first gen GPD. It was cool and underpowered and had some quality issues. Later models seem much improved.

The Aya Neo is more powerful than the Steam Deck. I do not have it in hand yet so cannot speak to quality as yet. Bigger HDD and also more expensive.

I am loving all of these entries into the market. It is a wild world of weird form factors for mobile devices again.


Depending on how easy swapping the drive is, buying the cheapest model then installing a SSD in it may be the most cost effective solution… (Doesn’t stop people from complaining there isn’t enough storage space on the device already)

What I’ll be interested to see is how it handled UI and text.

Not all PC games are like this(the straight console ports or the ones with full UI scaling options for the 4k/high pixel density crew); but quite a few of them have UIs and text designed and scaled based on the assumption that the player will be using a 1920x1080 displaying the 17-22in range quite close to their face; and that relatively high-density UIs are a virtue.

That seems like a real risk of a bad fit and/or illegible on a fairly low res screen(the pixel density is higher, so graphics in general could look just fine; but UI needs to be big enough to read while not dominating the entire viewport, which pixel density won’t necessarily provide).

Certainly 4x and grand strategy seem like they could get sticky.

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I preordered the mid range model earlier, I’m unsure if I want to buy it but I think I will. I travel regularly to visit family and I’m often bored for the couple of days I’m there. Having access to indie games on the go will be awesome

My favourite take on this so far…


I’ll see your GameGear and raise with this battery destroyer (with more buttons!):


Doom Eternal and Control will probably be fine - obv you are not going to get raytracing, but it’s still going to look great. Framerates should, I imagine, be fine since you are dealing with a relatively-low-resolution-but-small-so-it-looks-sharp screen. Based on the performance I have heard about the Jedi game it sounds very promising. Based on specs the performance should be somewhere between Xbox One S and Xbox One X, which is pretty good. I am worried it is going to feel too large and heavy though…I already find the Switch uncomfortable to hold and I have large hands…

Yeah, especially since virtual keyboards don’t work when the keys are part of the interface you want available all the time. Same issue I ran into trying to play those games on a Steam Controller.

You can install windows on it too - they have said that it will open for all of that sort of thing

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You have to love a portable with cartridges the same size as the device!

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my plan is to use it docked or propped up somewhere and with a blue tooth controller. I use the switch the same way as it’s more comfortable for be, can’t imagine it’d be any different with the steam deck


I went straight for the top-of-the-line model, and managed to get my order in bang on 18:00, so should get one in the first wave.

I have over 1,000 games in my Steam library, so it’s a no-brainer, and I do game on the move.

Add to that the possibility of installing other digital store-fronts, and it gets even better.
If it’s really successful, you never know, we may even see more developers taking Linux seriously as a gaming platform.

There’s a couple of other really interesting possibilities with it; as it’s running Linux, I’m guessing I’ll be able to install Linux productivity software too. Especially if I re-pave it with a different distro. So in effect, it could double as another work-capable machine when docked. And even the expensive model is cheaper than a lot of laptops out there. Wonder if I could write it off as a tax-deductible? :smiley:

And somewhat more importantly, unlike the Switch or online offerings from Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s Playstation, you won’t have to pay to play online.
This is a personal bugbear of mine that’s been pissing me off for nigh-on twenty years now, since Microsoft managed to pull the wool over gamers’ eyes and convince them they needed to pay another charge on top of their ISP fees in order to play online.
I, and many other PC gamers were always bemused that they managed to pull this off.
The Steamdeck effectively reveals the lie of this two-decade grift.


I have not put one on hold yet (and it looks like the expected wait is a year out now :slightly_frowning_face:), but I am interested in seeing reporting on how upgradeable that NVMe slot is.

For me the biggest draw is just not having to decide whether to purchase indy games on Switch or Steam, like I just had to do with Overboard!, or worse, buying multiple copies as I did with Divinity Original Sin 2.

Being able to play games that would never work well on the Switch is just gravy.

I always found the actual reason it was so battery hungry to be interesting:

It has a CCFL tube as the backlight

Apparently you can get 2-3x the battery life out of the system by modding in a LED replacement!


Someone emailed Gabe about that actually and they’ve updated the tech specs page:

All models use socketed 2230 m.2 modules (not intended for end-user replacement)
All models include high-speed microSD card slot

So looks like it should be upgradable, even if not particuarly easy to do so :slight_smile:
(the pictures seem to show screw holes in the rear plastic, so i’m hopeful it should be pretty easy to get inside)

Myself, i’ve got a 512GB model reserved. The whole idea of a Switch-like portable PC, that supports game mods, was too much to pass up :smiley: