The last few weeks haven’t been exactly quiet on the console hardware front, as rumors of an improved Nintendo Switch model hit critical mass following E3, and then were promptly squashed by the announced of an OLED model for Nintendo’s hit handheld (with otherwise the same specs). Why am I talking about this on a PC website? Well, the good folks working at Valve were probably looking at all the ruckus surrounding the rumored Switch Pro device with a big smile on their faces, as they’ve just revealed a portable machine that fills the Switch-sized gap we had on the PC hardware front.
This new device is the Steam Deck, a veritable powerhouse for its size, as it packs a newly minted AMD APU featuring 4c/8t running at 2.4-3.5ghz on the CPU front and 8 RDNA 2 CUs running at 1.0-1.6ghz (up to 1.6 TFlops FP32). RAM-wise, we are looking at 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM, and when it comes to storage space, depending on the model you’ll have 64, 256 or 512GB at the ready (with the option to expand through a high speed microSD slot). This all fits inside a 298mm x 117mm x 49mm machine that also comes with a 7″ touchscreen, dual analog joysticks, face buttons, trackpads and back buttons.
When it comes to software, Valve have opted for a new version of SteamOS which features a much-improved Proton implementation, as well as handheld optimizations. Of course, since this is a PC, you can tinker with it and install Windows instead. I can already foresee a lot of potential for emulating older consoles using the Deck!
Not sold yet? I’ve saved the best for last, as one tends to do. This portable PC comes in three pricing tiers:
- US$399 (for a base 64GB eMMC storage model)
- US$529 (for a model with a 256GB NVMe SSD, a carrying case and an exclusive Steam Community profile bundle)
- US$649 (for a model with a 512GB high-speed NVMe SSD, a carrying case, premium anti-glare etched glass, an exclusive Steam Community profile bundle, and an exclusive virtual keyboard theme)
Considering we are in the middle of a chip shortage and it’s hard to find a good GPU, this portable device for just US$399 seems like a dream come true. According to Valve, they’ll start shipping the Steam Deck in December 2021 so things are looking bright. Of course, since this is Valve, the Steam Deck will only be available on select regions at launch (which means I won’t get one, for instance).
Want to check whether you can get one? You’ll need to be in the United States, Canada, European Union, or the United Kingdom. If you qualify, go to this Steam Store page and you can reserve a unit. Apparently, more regions will be added in 2022, so keep your fingers crossed if you don’t currently live in one of the currently supported countries!