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Discussing Steam Deck – Everything You Need to Know

Written by: Jermaine
Steam Deck FAQ

I can’t say that I wasn’t jealous of your regular Nintendo Switch owner once titles like Fortnite, Apex Legends and others started hitting the store. Having a cheap and portable esports machine has it’s perks, even Glenn agreed with it in its latest Nintendo Switch Review. Now, I can’t say that spectating your team mates while enjoying a midnight snack at the kitchen table isn’t a game changer, I truly enjoyed the portable aspects of the machine, but the sheer power of the device just wasn’t enough for me, and I had to give it back.

Luckily, Steam finally got an answer for all of us who love to jump around the house between loading times, map changes or just spectating your team mates that are still alive, while my dead ass is taking a leak and waits for them to respawn me.

The device is called a Steam Deck, not to be confused with the Stream Deck, and it’s one of the latest handheld gaming PC’s that are all the craze in 2022. If you’re looking to buy one, this guide will definitely help you out.

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So, What is the Steam Deck Actually?

Steam Deck is a portable gaming PC that runs Steam OS, which is a modified version of Arch Linux that was originally released with the Steam Machines back in 2015, and now makes its return in a portable version. The operating system has a subsystem called Proton, which enables it to run applications specifically designed for the Windows operating system.

What are the Steam Deck Specs?

Steam Deck is essentially a mid-range gaming laptop with a quad core CPU and a GPU similar to GTX 1660. The official specifications have been announced and you can find them below, but keep in mind that they might change with the final product due to the global chip shortage.

  • 7-inch LCD touchscreen display, that runs on 1280 x 800 resolution and at a 60 Hz refresh rate.
  • AMD Zen 2 as the CPU of choice, which comes with a 4-core/8-thread capability and a clock speed that ranges between 2.4 GHz and 3.5 GHz.
  • AMD RDNA 2 as the GPU, with 8 compute units and runs between the ranges of 1 GHz and 1.6 GHz clock speed.
  • 16 GB LPDDR5 of RAM, set at 5,500MT/s 32-bit in quad-channel, which should provide more than enough memory for a device that is mostly aiming at single-app workflows, e.g. running just one game.
  • 40 wh Lithium-ion battery, that should offer anywhere betweeen four to six hours of battery life, more on that later.
  • Storage comes in three versions, with either a 64 GB eMMC for the $399 model, 256 GB NVMe SSD for the $529 model, or 512 GB NVMe SSD for the $649 model.
  • Regarding Audio, the Steam Deck has two stereo speakers paired with a 3.5 mm audio jack for wired headsets or earphones.
  • For recordings, there’s a dual mic setup built on the upper portion of the front-facing plate.
  • Connectivity wise, there is one USB USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type C port with DisplayPort 1.4 support, Bluetooth 5.0 for controllers, accessories and audio, with a Dual-band Wi-Fi radio. For now, WiFi6 has not been confirmed.
  • Size and weight, the device has will weight approximately 1.47 lbs (669 grams) with the following dimensions: 11.7 x 4.6 x 1.8-inch (298 x 117 x 49mm).

I personally sent out an e-mail to Gabe asking if there would be a possibility for a WiFi6e module, but I kinda doubt the first version will have it.

Valve Steam Deck Guide 1Valve Steam Deck Guide 2Valve Steam Deck Guide 3

How Long Does the Battery on a Steam Deck Last?

Steam Deck’s Battery will last anywhere between two to eight hours of play time, depending on the game and settings. As per Valve developer Pierre-Loup Griffais [2], depending on ‘what you’re doing’. Citing Portal 2 as an example, the developer claims that it could run on the device’s battery for ‘four hours’, but it can be extended to five to six hours if running on 30 frames-per-second.

When Is the Steam Deck Coming Out?

Shipping of the Steam Deck is officially set for February 2022. Originally set to launch for the holiday season in 2021, the Steam Deck was pushed for a Q1 2022 release due to production issues [1].

How Much Does the Steam Deck Cost?

Steam Deck comes in three variants ranging from $399 to $649, priced according to its specifications, namely:

  • The 64 GB storage variant, which has the smallest storage size and the slowest data transfer, at $399.
  • The 256 GB storage rendition, which has quadrupled the storage size of the cheapest model and a faster data transfer rate, at $529.
  • The 512 GB storage version, which is the most expensive, but is also the best in specifications according to storage size and data transfer rate, at $649.

Where Can I Pre-order the Steam Deck?

There’s a dedicated Steam page for pre-ordering the device, you can find it here. Pre-ordering comes on a per reservation basis and costs $5 upfront. Interested buyers will have to pay the fee just for the chance of buying their preferred version of the handheld, once it is made available at a later date. Selected buyers will be contacted directly by Valve. Buyers will only get to purchase the model they initially reserved.

Can I Use My Steam Wallet Funds to Buy the Steam Deck?

Yes, you can use your Steam wallet funds to pre-order and purchase the Steam Deck. According to Valve’s customer support representative, yes. Anyone who has more than sufficient funds in their Steam Wallet can use it to reserve or pay for the Steam Deck.

Which Steam Deck Version Should I Buy?

The 256 GB one is the sweet spot due to hardware disparity. It’s price is closer to the 64 GB model, while the performance is equal to the 512 GB model. And if you need more storage, you can always go for an SD Card, which brings us to the next question:

What Types of SD Cards Does the Steam Deck Support?

Steam Deck SD Card support is limited to Ultra High-Speed-1 class cards. This comes with the implication that whether there’s a better class of micro-SD card (UHS-3, for example) inserted into the Deck, the theoretical maximum transfer speed would still be limited to 104 MB/s. As for the capacity, the largest micro-SD card that money can buy is still 1 TB. If you’re looking to get one, you can find our suggestions under this link: Best Steam Deck SD Cards.

Does the Steam Deck Support Other External Storage?

Yes, you can connect all sorts of external storage that sports an USB Type-C connector. The difference of which, aside from the physical design and internal structure, is the data transfer rate. As a general rule of thumb, solid-state drives (SSDs) are generally faster than hard disk drives (HDDs) and therefore are more expensive than the latter, relative to storage capacity. We covered most of the differences in our article on gaming storage that you can find here: HDD vs SHDD vs SSD vs M.2 SSD vs U.2 SSD.

Will the Internal Parts in the Steam Deck Be Replaceable?

Yes, some internal parts can be exchanged, but it’s not advised. There is a risk of potentially damaging your hardware and voiding the warranty. So, you may want to weigh in on those risks before making any attempt at dismantling the Steam Desk for any hardware upgrade. Valve released a video demonstrating the disassembly of the Steam Deck, which you can check out below:

Does the Steam Deck Have Support for Cellular Connection or Only WiFi?

Only Wi-Fi is available, while cellular connectivity like 4G or 5G are not. Your best bet for now is to manage the internet connection via your home modem or router. In the worst case scenario, you can always make a hotspot with your mobile phone and connect that way.

Does the Steam Deck have LAN Support?

Yes, support is there, but you will need a USB Type-C dongle or connect to a hub to make it possible. That way you can enjoy the stable speeds and ping, with a limit of 10Gbps in download and upload.

How Many Games Will the Steam Deck Support?

Around 50,000 titles are available for the Steam Deck right now, but the number could theoretically grow more as SteamOS’s Proton comes into maturity. This all depends on the support of developers and how quickly they transfer their games to Linux.

Should I Install Windows on the Steam Deck?

You can install Windows on Steam Deck, but it’s not recommended. Since Windows 10 or 11 are not (yet) optimized for the Steam Deck, you will not only have issues with navigation and general battery life, but your hardware longevity might go down pretty quick. The only reason to do so is if you’re planning to experiment with the device, e.g. create a dedicated streaming machine or an emulation station, which brings us to the next point.

Is the Steam Deck Good for Emulation?

Yes, it’s probably one of the best handheld devices you could get for emulating older games. Linux is a versatile platform and already supports several emulators, but if you’re used to Microsoft, you could also install the latest Windows edition and work your way throughout the emulation scene. Both operating systems work well at managing them.

Does the Steam Deck Have External GPU Support?

The Steam Deck does not have support for external GPU (eGPU). This heavily implies that the console’s graphics-processing prowess is strictly dependent on its embedded graphics hardware, the AMD RDNA 2. Plugging in an external GPU will simply amount to nothing.

Can I Play Non-controller Games With the Steam Deck’s Built-in Controls?

Yes, The Steam Deck has a touchscreen display that functions similarly to a smartphone or tablet. If there is a game in the Steam library that plays best on the touchscreen, then the portable device can definitely deliver on that. But for other non-controller functionality, such as a gyroscope, the Steam Deck, unfortunately, does not have that built into it. Meaning, you cannot tilt it at any angle or any direction and expect a response: there will be none.

Can I Connect a Wired or Wireless Controller to the Steam Deck?

Yes, the Steam Deck features one USB Type-C port and support for Bluetooth devices,mMeaning that you can connect your favorite controllers either through a USB Type-C cable or directly over Bluetooth. In case you’re looking for the best ones, we would recommend a look at our list of Best Gaming Controllers.

Can I Connect a Keyboard and a Mouse to the Steam Deck?

Yes, the Steam Deck features one USB Type-C port and support for Bluetooth devices, meaning that you can connect your favorite combo either through a Hub or through Bluetooth, depending on your preferences.

Can I Connect an External Monitor to the Steam Deck?

Yes, the Steam Deck’s USB Type-C port also acts as a link between itself and an external display. It may require the use of an additional accessory or USB C Hub, but you will be able to connect your monitor.

Can I Connect a High Refresh Rate Gaming Monitor to the Steam Deck?

Yes, you can connect a high refresh rate gaming monitor to your Steam Deck, but it will not make use of it. The Steam Deck is limited to 60 HZ, you could unlock it, but the GPU is not adequate to run games at 144 Hz. In other words, save your money.

Can I Connect a Portable Monitor to the Steam Deck?

Yes, but it depends on the monitor. If the portable monitoring is drawing energy from the Steam Deck, then your battery life will suffer, but if the portable monitor has its own power cable, then you’re good to go.

Can I Connect a USB Type-C Hub to the Steam Deck?

Yes, ideally a powered one. Otherwise, it might entail additional power draw from the Steam Deck. There are already a handful of products that provide that level of functionality.

Can the Steam Deck Run 4K/60 Hz?

In an interview with Rock Paper Shogun, Valve designers Lawrence Yang and Greg Coomer admitted to state that ‘achieving 4K and having a display that runs at that resolution wasn’t really a design target’ for Steam Deck. Despite this notion, the hybrid console is technically capable of running certain games in a 4K display. But such a feat is not without struggle for the Deck when it comes to performance. In light of that limitation, there’s a rumour citing Valve’s plan to incorporate FHD in ‘Steam Deck 2’ [via The Gamer].

Is the Steam Deck Good for Esports Gaming?

Yes, the Steam Deck is good for esports.  But, there is no contending the fact that a dedicated mid to high end gaming machine is still better in terms of connectivity options and raw power. It all depends on your preferences.

Does Steam Deck Have a Built-in Webcam?

No, the Steam Deck has no webcam. If you’re looking to use it as a dedicated streaming machine you will need to buy a separate webcam and connect it to the device either through the USB Type-C port or through a hub.

Can I Stream With the Steam Deck or Use It as a Dedicated Streaming Machine?

Yes, you can stream with the Steam Deck. Most of the software packages for streaming games will be ready out of the box, so it all depends on your USB Type-C hub and your peripherals (webcam, mic etc).

Should I Buy the Steam Deck or the Nintendo Switch?

It really depends on what you want from your device. The Steam Deck is essentially a mid-range gaming laptop that is placed somewhere between a desktop PC and a Nintendo Switch. If you love to tinker with your gadgets and want to experiment on a new category of hardware, the Steam Deck will be a perfect choice.