Valve’s Steam Deck is a $400+ Portable Gaming PC

Posted on July 15, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Mobile gaming with 34 Comments

Anyone looking for a Nintendo Switch-like portable gaming PC will want to check out the Steam Deck, which will start shipping in late 2021 for $400 and up. It’s made by Valve, the company behind the Steam gaming service.

“Steam Deck brings the Steam games and features you love to a powerful and convenient form factor that you can take wherever you go,” the Steam Deck website notes. “

Like most portable gaming machines dating back to the Atari Lynx, the Steam Deck is an all-in-one design with an integrated display—in this case, a low-resolution 7-inch touch display with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels and a 16:10 aspect ratio—and all the buttons and controls one would expect here in the 21st century. But Valve says that Steam Deck will run the latest AAA games—as opposed to using AAA batteries, I guess—and … I guess we’ll have to see.

The $400 model comes with just 64 GB of slow eMMC storage, so it’s unclear how well that could possibly perform. For $529, you can get a version with 256 GB of faster NVMe SSD internal storage. And there’s a $649 option with 512GB NVMe SSD internal storage and “premium anti-glare etched glass.” Each version is powered by an AMD Zen 2 CPU and GPU and 16 GB of RAM. It promises 2-8 hours of battery life.

As for the software loadout, it comes with the Linux-based SteamOS, and Valve says that your existing Steam library will be available. But you’re free to buy and install Windows if you want.

Steam Deck starts shipping in December 2021, and you can reserve yours now. For more information, please visit the Steam Deck website.

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Comments (34)

34 responses to “Valve’s Steam Deck is a $400+ Portable Gaming PC”

  1. awright18

    Although I'm seeing lots of noise about this already, I really don't believe this is how most people want to play PC games. I could be wrong

    • vladimir

      well... the Switch is selling millions of units so there are users that want to play on the move. I am going to buy this on day one to replace my gaming laptop that I use only when I travel. I hope the performance is satisfactory.

    • skyczy08

      This device is boxed into such tight hardware parameters. They didn't even mention upgradability..... that is a HUGE RED FLAG!

      People don't play on steam because its simple fun "Toy" games like Nintendo's switch. People play on steam because its powerful on a gaming PC. This is a HUGE risk by Valve, but they had to do something. I think this will ultimately fail, which means they will realize their value is making good games like L4D, CS, Portal, otherwise. This is all I want from Valve. Im making Gabe angry.....

      • Chris_Kez

        Is this really a “huge” risk for Valve? Even if it fails spectacularly how much will they have lost? They’re using mostly off the shelf parts, running Steam OS which has been around for a while, and it will play existing games— that doesn’t sound like much of an investment. Wort case scenario they sell zero then continue to rake in millions of dollars from their game store.

    • curtisspendlove

      I dunno. I can see a whole slew of games being pretty fun on this system.

      Although most of them are probably already on the Switch.

      But I can see people wanting to do some RimWorld or similar kinds of games on this. Stardew Valley, etc. I’ve wanted to try Factorio with a controller for a long time…see if it’s even playable.

      I doubt it’s going to be very popular for the trigger-shooter crowd.

    • Paul Thurrott

      I agree. But choice is always a good thing. And locally-downloaded games will be a necessity for many for a long, long time.

    • Greg Green

      Mobile gaming is 52% of gaming revenue (US$90b), with consoles second at 28% and PCs trailing with 20%, according to Newzoo. They’re trying to go where the money is.

      • MoopMeep

        its different though. Mobile is the games on Apple and Android that only cost a few dollars. Would be interesting to see the 52% mobile statistic broken down to each platform

  2. polloloco51

    Just the mere thought of lying on the couch, playing Half-Life 2 and Portal, makes this extremely compelling to buy!

    Also, a handful of other older games too (Roller Coaster Tycoon, Fallout New Vegas)!

    With this being a full PC experience, this would also make an excellent PSP, and PS2 emulator too! ?

    • red.radar

      If your going to be on your couch…why strain your neck by looking at your lap on a tiny screen vs naturally looking up at your tv?

      for the cost wouldn’t it be better to just get a console ?

  3. mefree

    I don't understand why they would do sub 1080p screen and a weird aspect ratio..... Not to mention I doubt that hardware is going to run AAA titles at decent visuals... I guess we'll see, but for that kind of money (basically an Xbox Series X price tag) that seems far too expensive with too low of specs.

    • waethorn

      Yeah this is going to suck. I see lots of PC games with UI/hud/text that's sized for a huge PC monitor sitting less than 2 feet from your face. Playing games on a PS5 on a 1080p 42" TV about 6' away, I can tell you that you can really notice when you're playing one of those PC ported games because small text is unreadable at that size, and PC game developers that port their games to consoles often don't realize the difference in screen scaling and visual acuity at distances.

  4. codymesh

    Honestly...very compelling device. It's unfortunate that they demos they showed were FPS games because I think third person games and platformers would be an excellent experience on this thing

    (what i'm saying is...can't wait to play Cuphead all over again on this)

  5. ringofvoid

    If I were an enterprising developer, I'd be looking to add a set of Steamdeck presets and a "Optimized for Steamdeck" branding

  6. anthonye1778

    Very compelling console. Valve seems pretty confident that this can run AAA games but based on the hardware my guess is that they will run on medium-low settings. 30fps (even though the panel is 60). We shall see, I am open to being pleasantly surprised.

  7. curtisspendlove

    I’m actually very interested in seeing how this performs in its mid-level config.

    I’d love to play me some Factorio in bed.

    Also, even if it’s just a decent experience for Steam Link it might be worth the entry fee.

    On the other hand the resolution on that screen’s pretty rough. So this might be a “wait for revision 2” kinda thing.

    :: shrug ::

  8. bettyblue


    • Greg Green

      Surpassingly here and at PCGamer reaction is fairly positive. It’s becoming a very mobile world and desktop gamers are a distant third place.

  9. dspeterson

    Where did you see some mention of being able to install windows? I didn't see that mentioned other places.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Several places. For example:

      • waethorn

        But which version? I can't imagine they would put Microsoft's Secure Boot keys in a system that ships with Linux.

        • solomonrex

          Pretty sure you can generate those, how do you think hobbyists are going to continue to build PCs? This is like any other random x86 PC that doesn't ship with Windows.

          • waethorn

            The motherboard has to have Microsoft’s CA cert already loaded into it. You can’t just “generate” that. When it’s loaded, a Windows boot loader will install its own certificate into the UEFI store. If it can’t be validated against the CA, it fails the check and Secure Boot won’t load it.

  10. waethorn

    But will include a TPM 2.0 chip and Microsoft Secure Boot keys in the UEFI to make it compliant with Windows 11’s system requirements?

  11. waethorn

    Did anybody else notice that they were squirrelish about being asked if it’s compatible with Steam VR? I think it’s pretty telling that the company who releases games themselves so infrequently doesn’t want to face the question about playing their latest title, Half Life: Alyx.

    • spacein_vader

      Just like Amazon is no longer a shop revenues wise but a cloud computing juggernaut that also happens to have a shop attached so Valve is not a game developer but a game sales and publishing platform that also happens to develop the odd game.

    • skyczy08

      Your comment is in line with my comment above about boxing themselves into hardware requirements. THis thing isn't upgradable. If they made it upgradeable (even for storage....) that would be something.... ANYTHING. But I digress, nothing is upgradable? I'm already talking myself out of this. Who needs to game AAA titles on a small screen? This is reserved for "toy" games that Nintendo sells. And why Nintendoi has sold 85 MILLION SWITCHES!

      However, the magic pudding is in the fact that "You can run windows" on it if you want to. So, *Some* people will choose to load Yuzu and download every ROM They can. Boom, a glorified SWITCH. Thats all this is. So why are we excited?

      • curtisspendlove

        Making it upgradable would make it way chunkier and has a whole slew of extra challenges.

        If it were a $1000 device it would be different. But they are targeting the “hand it down to the kids and buy the newest model every couple years” crowd.

        Gaming isn’t the same as it used to be. Most people don’t want to buy and maintain expensive gaming rigs.

        I think it’s pretty clever. And I expect it will be able to SteamLink to a “real” gaming rig for the heavy lifters.

        I figure this is more a companion product for people like us who do want powerful gaming rigs.

      • Chris_Kez

        I’m not a gamer myself, but I can imagine there are people that have huge game libraries in Steam and would like to play some of those games on the go. The Switch is great but based on my admittedly limited exposure to both platforms it seems like it would be much more expensive to build up a comparable games library on the Switch.

    • vladimir

      They said it works but it's not optimized for VR so the performance might not be enough

  12. mattbg

    I can see the appeal of this. I'm not a big gamer, but I like Steam and the games I've accumulated there, and I know enough to know that my Steam library is pretty much land-locked, unless I want to take it on the road with an expensive laptop and a messy bag of paraphernalia. This seems to solve that problem.

    There are obvious questions about performance and those that come from the presumption that I will be able to play some games but not others on this device: where are those boundaries, and how discoverable are they?