Steam Deck

Steam Deck on Valve’s Steam Store

I’ll admit that I waited quite some time to finally decide on getting a Steam Deck. I’ll also admit that I’m having a lot more fun than I expected I would. Knowing what I knew about Linux-based gaming, I was legitimately surprised at just how many games Valve has managed to get running on their SteamOS. I chose to purchase the 512GB model, but everything I talk about will apply to the 256GB model as well. The 64GB model contains eMMC storage instead of an NVMe SSD so there might be some very minor degradation of performance, but I would be surprised to find out that it was noticeable.

The hardware is very well put together. The unit is sturdy and has all the bells and whistles that you’d expect, plus maybe a couple more. You’ll get your standard four-way digital directions, ABXY buttons, and twin analog sticks. Under each stick you’ll find a small track pad with haptic feedback. Each thumb has quick access to the equivalent of START and SELECT, or whatever game companies call them these days, as well as a STEAM button on the left and a menu button on the right. On the shoulders of the unit are two trigger buttons as you would expect, but also two more buttons on the back of each side. Plus, the screen is beautiful and touch-enabled as well. All in all, there are two analog sticks, two trackpads, a touchscreen, and 22 digital buttons. I’ve also found at least one game that wants an accelerometer (Heavy Rain) and the Steam Deck included one of those as well.

My 512GB model has all the storage space that I would ever need for gaming purposes. I picked up a Samsung EVO 512GB MicroSD card as well, and Steam allows me to install games and run them from the card with no noticeable slowdown there, either. In light of that, it might be a better fiscal decision to pick up a model with less internal storage and get a selection of MicroSD cards to house different libraries on as needed.

Valve has been hard at work with Proton and getting the vast library of Windows-based games working on Linux. I wasn’t sure how much progress they’ve made, but Valve makes it really simple to find out how many games in your library are compatible. And just because your favorite game might not be supported officially doesn’t mean that it can’t be played with either some tweaking or known anomalies. There are surely games out there that are popular and won’t be playable, but I haven’t found any that get in the way of the large array of games that I can play. RetroArch is available on there from the Steam store, if that gives you any ideas.

And if that all isn’t quite enough, there’s always the option of pairing a Bluetooth controller to your Steam Deck and putting it on a dock to play on a 4k TV. Or you can even reboot the device into a Linux desktop mode and do some word processing or browse the web, but I imagine that would be easier with a Bluetooth or USB keyboard and mouse.

To summarize, I believe that the Steam Deck is totally worth the price if you’ve got the time and money for it. It’s about as powerful as a PlayStation 4 in your (figurative) pocket. I’ve been enjoying catching up on a lot of the games that I’ve been neglecting since I can play in bed before going to sleep for the night. I’m sure it would be great for commuting as well if that’s an option.