Today Valve announced the Steam Deck, a handheld Linux gaming PC that’s loaded with a custom-built AMD chip for top-tier AAA gaming action.
And it looks pretty frickin’ special!
Companies like GPD, oDroid, and Nintendo have proven there’s a viable market for powerful handheld gaming. And Valve, makers of Steam, were clearly paying attention.
Their Steam Deck specs boasts a 7-inch touchscreen (1280×800), 16 GB of DDR5 RAM; up to 512 GB NVMe internal storage; plus a custom designed AMD APU that Valve say is “…optimized for handheld gaming.”
How optimised? Valve explain that the chip “…is a Zen 2 + RDNA 2 powerhouse, delivering more than enough performance to run the latest AAA games in a very efficient power envelope.”
The Zen 2 is a quad-core chip running at max 3.5 Ghz, while the RDNA 2 (think Playstation 5) graphics can muscle up to 1.6 TFlops FP32.
But where the device gets interesting to me as a Linux nerd is that it runs a new version of SteamOS based on Arch Linux, and it uses KDE Plasma for its desktop UI.
Not that gamers are strictly tied to Linux. Valve say the Steam Deck is a regular PC buyers (albeit one in an irregular shape) and are free to install whatever the heck they want on it, even Windows — though what’s the guess that this thing isn’t compatible with Windows 11! 😉
Unlike some of the cheaper offerings we’ve seen out of China in the past few years some thoughtful engineering has gone into making the Steam Deck a truly native gaming experience. The joysticks are made for mashing, it has shoulder buttons and back paddles, two touch-pads, a touchscreen, and there’s even a built-in mic for multiplayer
The on-board USB-C supports DisplayPort 1.4, and can output to 8K @ 60Hz or 4K @ 120Hz.
As this is not a gaming blog —though before Steam for Linux arrived we had a short-lived sister site called Ubuntu Gamer— and I am not much of a (modern) gamer I can’t say if the Steam Deck is actually good device for gaming. Nor can I guess at how successful it might be (remember Steam Machines?).
What I can say is that on paper the Steam Deck makes me excited — and I’m the guy who just said he’s not a gamer! Plus the net benefit of more Linux gamers is, ultimately, a better Linux experience for everyone (including
those of us who named a blog after Ubuntu me).
Steam Deck Price & Availability
Pricing for the Steam Deck starts at $400/£349 for a model with 64GB of eMMC memory, with prices increasing for NVMe models and extra features (like an anti-glare etched screen).
Steam Deck is available to pre-order from July 16, and starts shipping in December.
Valve have a comprehensive Steam Deck section on their website, replete with FAQ (spoiler: yes there is a dock accessory, and you can connect bluetooth gamepads). There are also tons (and I mean tons) of shiny promotional teasers, gifs, and schematics available on the Steam Deck mini-site.
If you prefer words, IGN got early access to the device.