Today, Valve, the team behind Steam, announced the long-awaited portable gaming “powerhouse,” the Steam Deck. Sporting a 4-core 8-thread AMD Zen 2 processor and an 8-core RDNA 2 GPU, there’s plenty of power to play your favorite games on the go. There’s quite a lot to unpack here, including the fact that all models ship with the same performance spec with prices starting as low as $399. Pre-orders open tomorrow and it’s slated to start shipping by the end of the year. Let’s take a closer look.
Steam Deck offers budget PC performance on-the-go
Let’s start off by saying this: No, Steam Deck won’t solve the GPU shortages or replace your desire for an RTX 3080. Heck, it won’t even replace an RTX 3060. However, given its price of $399, you can’t get any computer that will offer anywhere near this performance for the price.
Based around AMD’s previous-generation Zen 2 processor, you’ll be getting four cores and eight threads of up to 3.5GHz processing here. On the graphics side, there’s eight RDNA 2 cores with up to 1.6GHz processing, delivering 1.6TFLOP of graphics power. To put that into perspective, Microsoft’s Xbox One S had a 1.5TFLOP GPU. So, you can expect Xbox One S-like performance here, which, on the 1280×800 display, will be quite great all things considered.
We’re used to price separating performance when it comes to gaming. The Series X is more powerful than the Series S, and costs more. NVIDIA’s RTX 3090 is more powerful than the 3080, and costs more. The Steam Deck? All models have the same amount of power. In fact, all versions even have the same 16GB LPDDR5 RAM. The difference then? Well, let’s break it down.
For $399, you get the Steam Deck with 64GB of eMMC storage and a carrying case, though you can add extra space through a microSD slot. Upgrading to $529 bumps things up to a 256GB NVMe SSD, as well as also includes a carrying case and an “exclusive Steam Community profile bundle.” The most expensive Steam Deck costs $649 and takes things to the next level with a 512GB NVMe SSD, the screen has a “premium anti-glare etched glass,” and then you’ll get an exclusive carrying case, profile bundle, and virtual keyboard theme.
As you can see, the main difference between the price points really is the storage, not the power. This means that, if you’re alright with just 64GB of storage, your Steam Deck will be just as capable as the model that’s nearly twice as expensive.
What does this mean for mobile gaming?
For the longest time, the Nintendo Switch was really the only option in the mobile gaming space. Sure, you could game on a phone or tablet, but there’s just something about a dedicated machine. Others have entered and exited the space over time, and with the increase in cloud gaming through Microsoft and Google, everyone’s eyes turned to that as the future of portable entertainment. Steam, however, decided that the world needed a portable gaming machine with console-like power at a fantastic price.
This is a huge step forward for on-the-go gaming. Sure, you won’t have a 4K OLED 120Hz display on the Steam Deck, but it does support DisplayPort 1.4 output with up to 8K60 or 4K120 if you want to hook up to an external display. The initial model won’t have enough horsepower to drive that, obviously, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the next generation couldn’t do it.
As someone who used to game exclusively on console but fully converted back to PC-based gaming last year, having an on-the-go machine that runs the same games as my desktop with the same save files is very intriguing. I love No Man’s Sky and Apex Legends, both of which are on Steam and use cloud saves for progress. Up until now, I’ve not been able to play those games on-the-go unless I was doing streaming. With the Steam Deck? Well, I could fire up No Man’s Sky offline and explore vast galaxies and discover planets with ease while on a plane, in a car, or even just at the coffee shop. I’m excited for what’s to come with the Steam Deck, and am heavily considering picking one up in December when it launches, what about you?
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