By now, every gamer knows about the Steam Deck announcement. Valve lit the internet on fire with their Steam Deck reservation announcement. A handheld gaming PC that can run the whole Steam library is crazy and I decided I wanted one. I spent time finding reasons to not buy one, but my wants won over my needs.
Making the Decision to Place my Steam Deck Reservation
I’m lucky to own a fantastic gaming PC with both an AMD 5800X and a Nvidia RTX 3090. Those push my ultrawide to the max and give me top performance in VR. I also enjoy the portable gaming of my Nintendo Switch. I don’t need another gaming PC. My Switch handles my mobile gaming. The combination of the two is hard to pass up.
My gaming needs are covered at both ends, but I want the Steam Deck. Even casual gamers tend to keep an extensive Steam backlog of games there’s not enough time to play. Now this can scratch that itch. At the doctors office waiting? Play a Steam game. Taking a trip on a plane or train? Steam Deck. There are other PC handhelds, but not by Steam and not at the Steam Deck price point.
In my case, there is a use I’m super excited about. As a married man, I must balance my gaming with spending time with the wife. When she wants to watch a movie or TV show, it usually ends with her falling asleep 30 minutes in, while lying on my leg. Watching the TV is not my favorite, but she’s not a gamer.
Those are the perfect moments something like the Steam Deck could excel at. I can play my Switch, but many games on Steam are far superior to Nintendo Switch games. Using Steam Remote play is also an option, but only if I remember to turn on my gaming PC and open Steam. Hard to do all that after my wife is asleep on my leg.
Decision to Buy Done, but What Steam Deck SKU?
After deciding to pull the trigger on a reservation, I decided on going with the most expensive version. I’m too spoiled by a fast SSD, so I wanted the fastest one. Games are also larger than ever, so I wanted plenty of space when I do travel and to avoid waiting on downloads. The added bonus of an exclusive case and anti-glare screen seemed interesting too.
Funny thing is, I forgot the reservation time by about 30 minutes. Once I did remember, I was hit with a payment error. It took another 10 minutes before I was successful, but my reservation estimate is now Q2 2022. I thought going for the most expensive version was safe. My hope is that most of the earlier reservation are people that don’t already have a gaming PC.
Now I’ll have plenty of time to decide whether I want to complete the purchase. With the component shortages and demand, looks like I’ll be waiting until this time next year.
Questions I Still Have About the Steam Deck
Since I have so much time before I need to decide on my purchase, there’s time to get answers to the questions I have. Many are the same I think everyone has. Hopefully the wait is not too long to get them answered.
The custom board from AMD is a big question mark. Steam Deck’s Zen 2 is technically last gen for me, but the RDNA 2 GPU is the new architecture. There’s fewer cores than a PC gaming setup, but the screen resolution is limited to 1280 X 800 (800p). That could push the framerates to 60 in some games. The 16GB of fast LPDDR5 RAM may also boost performance.
With the Steam Deck screen size, distance from the eyes and pixel density, how will this look? The Nintendo Switch screen is decent, but the games are built for it. It is a big unknown how well things will look when I play on my ultrawide, then go to the Steam Deck screen or vice versa.
Battery performance is also a bit iffy (2-8 hours is a big range), but most of my playtime is likely in close proximity to my USB C charger. Might not be a show stopper for me use case if battery life is closer to the 2 hour mark.
Keyboard and Mouse is king for Steam games, so moving to the handhold controls might be a big learning curve. Flying and driving games I know work well on handheld controls, but everything else is tough. FPS games are especially interesting. The combination of the gyroscope in the handheld and the touchpads could help close the gap.
After the drama over the Valve Index controller thumb sticks, I’m sure the ones on the Steam Deck are top quality. The buttons on the back are a nice touch and hopefully help avoid complex combinations of keypresses for common keyboard presses.
Windows games act up without the correct updates and drivers, so the Proton compatability layer adds more complexity to that. Steam worked for a long time finding ways to increase compatibility for their failed Steam machines, but ensuring Proton compatibility is an enormous task.
My hope is the popularity of the Steam Deck reservation queue motivates developers to help Valve meet them in the middle to make their game more compatible. The way Valve slam dunked their announcement, what game developer doesn’t want the free advertising to show their game work on Steam Deck.
Steam Deck could add millions of new players, so developers gain that added benefit for ensuring compatibility. I’m confident most popular games will work, but the Steam library is huge.
Although installing Windows is an option, I’m wondering how other game stores react. Game Pass will likely work through SteamOS using xCloud through a browser, but I’d love for Microsoft to work out an app for SteamOS. It’s unlikely, since windows is their baby, but I can hope.
Ubisoft Connect I have more hope for. It seems like Ubisoft wants their games everywhere. Their games are long, so it would be super helpful to put a dent in the playtimes using the Steam Deck. Epic Game’s CEO Tim Sweeney gave high praise to the open nature of SteamOS, so hopefully they jump on board. I’m racking up a long list of their free game giveaways.
System Seller Game
Steam Deck is a handheld PC, but comparisons with the Switch will continue. Like a console, it needs games to be successful. Assuming the compatibility gets settled, Steam holds an endless list of games for all genres. It doesn’t need a launch title, but I hope it gets one.
Rumors of an asymmetrical multiplayer game, codename Citadel, has made the rounds. The rumor is it’s a PC vs VR game, but there’s no way they’d skip some role for the Steam Deck reservation in this equation. Valve could really put an exclamation point on their release with an included Steam Exclusive game, one that can be played with all other steam players, including those in VR.
I’m excited to see additional news and really can’t wait for true hands on reviews. Good luck with you reservation if you made it or plan on making one.