Valve officially pulled the curtain back on the Steam Deck on Thursday--a $399 gaming handheld designed to bring your Steam gaming library to the palms of your hands, powered by AMD hardware and Valve's own Linux-based SteamOS operating system. The Steam Deck looks like the Nintendo Switch, if the Nintendo Switch was created by diehard PC enthusiasts. You'll find a big 7-inch display front and center--the same size as the new OLED Switch--complete with touchscreen functionality. It's not OLED, alas, but Valve says the display shines at a very respectable 400 nits (crucial for outdoor use) and runs at 60Hz, a.k.a. the PC gaming gold standard. The Steam Deck's screen should also be a bit clearer than its Nintendo rival, with a 1280x800 resolution and an "Optically bonded LCD for enhanced readability."
It looks like Valve has done it again. The company that surprised everyone by pivoting from game developer to digital shopkeeper with the launch of Steam, then leapt into virtual reality with the HTC Vive and Valve Index headsets, is now taking on Nintendo with a powerful handheld games console. Announced on 16 July and due to launch in December, the Steam Deck features a 7in LCD touchscreen, an array of analogue and touch-pad controls, a gyroscope for motion detection, wifi connectivity and a base station so it can be hooked up to a monitor. Tech-wise, it's built around a custom Zen 2 AMD processor, AMD RDNA 2 GPU and 16GB of memory. In a recent deep dive on the machine's specs, Eurogamer found it compared to the Xbox Series S console in terms of performance.
Was it merely coincidence that Valve announced its Steam Deck on the same day pre-orders opened for Nintendo's new, OLED-enhanced Switch? Only Valve can answer that question, but the company's reveal surfacing at roughly the same moment fans raced to place pre-orders for a Switch (OLED Model) certainly made a point. Where the new Nintendo device is mostly just a fancier screen running on the same basic underlying hardware that's been out since 2017, Steam Deck is something new. Valve's handheld is superficially similar to the Switch, but it's considerably more machine on the inside and outside both. The Steam Deck sports all the controls you'd expect to see on a modern gamepad: Two thumbsticks, a set of four buttons (using the Xbox controller labeling and layout of A/B/X/Y), two triggers, two shoulder buttons, and a directional pad.
Several years after launching a line of Linux gaming PCs called Steam Machines, Valve is reportedly working on hardware again. According to a new report, the PC gaming juggernaut is currently working on a handheld gaming computer similar to Nintendo Switch. Talks about the new handheld gaming machine from Valve started after SteamDB operator Pavel Djundik noticed some changes on the Steam client's code and shared it on Twitter. Apparently, the recent Steam beta client update added various references to different terms, possibly pointing to a portable console. This includes airplane mode, controller bindings, quick-access menu, wifi, Bluetooth audio, power menu and many others.
The rumors about Valve making a version of the Nintendo Switch for handheld Steam gaming are true. The company has revealed the Steam Deck, which will arrive in December in the US, Canada, the European Union and the UK, with availability expanding to more regions later. The system starts at $399. Although the hardware isn't final, according to IGN, the console currently looks like a mashup of a Switch, a Sega Game Gear and the Steam Controller. It has a seven-inch touchscreen, with a resolution of 1,280 x 800 at a 16:10 aspect ratio, 400 nits of brightness and a 60Hz refresh rate.