In 2021, Valve threw the gaming world a curveball by announcing the Steam Deck, a handheld gaming device most similar to the Nintendo Switch, complete with a small screen and controls on the left and right-hand sides.
With the Steam Deck on the way, you probably have lots of questions. So do we.
When is the Valve Steam Deck release date?
The Valve Steam Deck released on February 25 in a few markets, with initial preorder models sent to early purchasers on around February 28. Since going on sale, Valve has been emailing reservation holders frequently to tell them they can purchase the Steam Deck. That’s meant a lot of people have been patiently waiting to get their hands on the highly sought-after gadget, but that wait could soon be shorter. On Monday, Valve posted this:
Welcome to Q2! We've just sent out the first set of order emails to Q2 reservers (in order of reservation time). Starting today we're ramping up Steam Deck shipments, and will be sending more order availability emails every week. Sometimes even twice a week! pic.twitter.com/54TAoCQXfd— Steam Deck (@OnDeck) April 4, 2022
Unfortunately, every market acknowledged by Valve for release is currently the U.S., UK, Canada, Germany and France. Valve has outlined some rough estimates as to when you can expect the Steam Deck in other markets, but it’s basically “after Q2 2022”. Sorry Aussies, we don’t have an exact region release date down under just yet.
How to preorder the Steam Deck in Australia
Through some online wizardry, it is in fact possible for an Australian to preorder a Steam Deck when it launches in the U.S.. You’ll need a VPN set to an American location – after setting this, the order page should unlock and you should be able to preorder when stock becomes available. This is the same thing Aussies had to do to get the Valve Index early. So yes, it’s possible to get the Steam Deck in Australia, but it’s best to fully understand what that might mean for small things like access and charging and big things like your consumer protections and warranties.
Steam Deck price
This isn’t a cheap piece of kit and will set you back several hundred dollars. There are three models available, so you get a fair amount of choice in terms of what you want to get out of the device. We’ll be converting prices from USD to AUD below, but as we know, simply converting the cost of tech in the U.S. into Aussie dollars doesn’t give us the full price (how good* is the Australia tax?).
Consider shipping when making a purchase, too. Also, if storage is super important to you, you can expand it using a MicroSD card.
- The cheapest option is $US399 (converted, that’s around $555), packed with 64GB eMMC internal storage and a carrying case.
- The mid-range model is $US529 (around the $740 mark, straight conversion), packing 256GB SSD internal storage, a carrying case and a Steam Community profile bundle (for your Steam profile).
- Finally, the most expensive model is $US649 (converted, $903, so likely tipping $1,000), complete with 512GB NVME storage capacity, anti-glare etched glass, an “exclusive” carrying case, an exclusive steam community profile bundle and an exclusive virtual keyboard theme.
Here’s a quick teardown video of the Steam Deck
Last year, Valve released a handy little video of a Steam Deck teardown, revealing what it looks like internally.
The company mostly did this as a warning, recommending that users don’t try this at home, but not discouraging system disassembly and modification. You’re allowed to do it, it’s just… be careful.
“Even though this is your PC, or will be once you receive your Steam Deck and you have every right to open it up and do what you want, we at Valve really don’t recommend that you ever open it up,” the narrator says.
What are the Steam Deck specs?
The most interesting question to a PC gamer such as myself – what are the specs? Well, they’re actually really impressive for such a small device. Here’s a quick rundown:
- Processor: AMD Zen 2 APU
- GPU: 8 RDNA 2 CUs
- Memory: 16GB LPDDR5 on-board RAM
- Storage: 64GB eMMC, 256GB SSD or 512GB NVMe SSD (all models are upgradeable with a MicroSD card)
- Display: 7-inch 1280 x 800 IPS LCD touch display with a 16:10 aspect ratio, 60hz refresh rate and a 400 nits brightness
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0 and Dual-band Wi-Fi
- Audio: 3.5mm headphone jack, multichannel audio via USB-C, two inbuilt microphones and stereo sound on board
- Battery: 40Whr battery providing 2 – 8 hours of gameplay depending on game
- Port: USB-C charging and data port
- Size: 298mm x 117mm x 49mm, 669 grams weight
- Software: SteamOS 3.0
- Modes of use: handheld and plugged into a display.
Steam Deck features and design
The Steam Deck is most similar to the Nintendo Switch, in both form factor and features. It’s designed to be a modern handheld gaming console, rectangular in shape with your hands meant to grip the sides of the device, where the buttons are.
The main way that Valve wants people to use the Steam Deck is in handheld mode – using the inbuilt buttons, joysticks and triggers, Valve wants gamers to use the Steam Deck on the go or simply away from their main setup. It also features cloud capability for owned Steam games and MicroSD storage.
However, the Steam Deck can also be used when connected to a display. Much like the Nintendo Switch, the Steam Deck can be played on a monitor or TV. Unlike the Switch, you don’t need a special Dock to do this. Instead, the user simply needs to connect the USB-C port to the display of choice. It’s that simple.
Beyond the two modes of use, the Steam Deck has a range of features. Games can be played from the cloud on the Steam Deck (provided you own them on Steam and have them installed on a computer) and your storage can be expanded by a microSD card. The device is powered by SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system, but can also run Windows 10.
There is a dock coming, though
While you don’t need a dock to connect the Steam Deck to a TV or monitor, Valve is currently developing one. Though you’re unable to preorder it, the dock comes with three USB 3.1 ports, a DisplayPort 1.4 port, HDMI 2.0, and a USB-C cable that connects to the Steam Deck. There’s also an ethernet port that supports gigabit speeds. It’s not necessary, but those ports are handy.
Steam Deck gameplay
While we haven’t gone hands-on with Valve’s handheld just yet, our colleague in the U.S. has. This is a snippet of his review:
Valve is rushing to fix bugs, add features, and improve the performance of its software before the Steam Deck lands in customers’ hands. Even today, after weeks of pushing out updates, the software very much remains a work in progress. You should be somewhat relieved knowing things are moving in the right direction. I’m a fan of the overall SteamOS interface.
If you’d like specific gameplay footage, you can find Cyberpunk 2077, Grand Theft Auto V and Elden Ring gameplay below, as recorded by TheRelaxingEnd.
Grand Theft Auto V
If you’re after gameplay footage from Valve itself, here’s the trailer the company put out.
Valve is in the process of verifying games for the Deck, Valve has a running list of what you can expect to play and we’ve broken that down a little further via that link.
Steam Deck accessories
Ordering the device will score you a carrying case for the console, however, that’s about where it ends as far as official accessories go, apart from the earlier mentioned dock.
Although there aren’t any official accessories except for the carrying case, the device is compatible with keyboards, mice, headsets, headphones, Bluetooth devices and wireless devices like controllers. Functionally, it’s capable of all the accessories you’d expect from a PC for basic gaming.
Can I use the Steam Deck for more than just Steam Deck games?
This is an interesting question – Yes, the console can do more than just play Steam Deck (or simply Steam) games. Here’s how it works: Steam doesn’t use Windows, although it does use a Linux-based operating system called SteamOS. SteamOS on the Steam Deck includes a compatibility tool called Proton, allowing any game built for Windows to run on the Steam operating system. It’s a neat trick. Alternatively, if you’re not a fan of SteamOS, the system allows for dual booting into Windows 10 and Valve is even collaborating with AMD to make sure Windows 11 works well on the device.
What’s even neater is that the device allows you to have more than just the Steam Launcher inbuilt, meaning you can have non-Steam games running on it, provided they’re compatible with the hardware.
How does the Steam Deck compare to the competition?
The Steam Deck has some competition, although until the device is commercially available, it’ll be difficult to tell how it compares to these other consoles.
Compared to other PC-based handhelds, the closest counterpart is the AYA Neo, a crowdfunded PC gaming handheld running Windows 10. This boasts impressive specs similar to the Steam Deck, with two models available at higher prices.
Moving on from the AYA Neo, there are a few other options. The OneXPlayer is much like the AYA Neo, packed with a larger screen and similar specs. The OneXPlayer also runs an Intel CPU and an Intel Iris XE GPU, as opposed to the AMD CPU of the Steam Deck.
Additionally, the GPD Win 3 is a handheld Windows 10 machine intended for handheld gaming (including a sliding screen that reveals a small keyboard), running an Intel CPU instead of the Deck and Neo’s AMD CPU.
Australian availability of these Steam Deck alternatives vary, but if you’re simply after a handheld gaming device, the Nintendo Switch is readily available.
This article has been updated since it was first published, and we’ll keep it updated as we learn more, so make sure you check back.