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(Pocket-lint) - Steam Deck is now official, with Valve promising to ramp up shipments for its coveted Switch-like handheld gaming device.

Here's everything you need to know.

What is Valve Steam Deck?

Ever wish you could play more of your favourite PC games on the Switch?

Well, in July 2021, Valve unveiled Steam Deck, a handheld PC for gaming that could shake up the portable market in a big way. With the Steam Deck, you can access your entire existing Steam library immediately upon logging in. It runs a modified SteamOS, allowing you to download and play games with ease. It also lets you install and operate PC software on it, including a web browser, other game stores like the Epic Games Store, and video-streaming services. It even connects to a monitor and gaming peripherals like a keyboard and mouse, or a controller.

And, because of its cloud-saving feature, you can seamlessly pick up game save files between your Steam Deck and PC.

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What does Valve Steam Deck feature?

Display

Steam Deck features a 7-inch 1280 x 800 touchscreen for 720p gameplay. It's touch-enabled to let you control suitable games that way, too.

Specs

In terms of power, every Steam Deck offers the same power 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM and an AMD APU containing a quad-core Zen 2 CPU with eight threads and eight compute units’ worth of AMD RDNA 2 graphics. There are three different storage tiers available, though: 64GB eMMC storage, 256GB NVMe SSD storage, and 512GB of high-speed NVME SSD storage. You can also expand the storage via microSD on any of the models. The Steam Deck boasts 16GB of unified LPDDR5 memory, with a total of 88GB/s of bandwidth. The GPU will apparently have access to up to 8GB of that shared memory. 

Other features include built-in mics, a gyroscope for motion controls, and a "40 watt-hour battery that provides several hours of playtime for most games". Valve says the Steam Deck can charge and play at the same and will come with a 45-watt power supply. 

The claim is up to eight hours of battery life, though in our experience and testing it's more like two to three depending on the game. 

It has a USB-C port, which offers external display support for up to two 4K monitors at 60Hz. That also means Steam Deck supports AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution for upscaling similar to Nvidia's DLSS.

Controls

Steam Deck has two thumbsticks and two Steam Controller-style trackpads beneath the thumbstick that can mimic the feeling of using a mouse. The front of the handheld machine also has ABXY buttons and a D-pad. Similar to the Switch, Steam Deck comes with two shoulder triggers on each side, and there are four back buttons (two on each side) for even more options.

Software

Steam Deck offers access to the Steam library and runs a version of Steam OS that's optimized for mobile gaming. The OS is actually based on Linux. In fact, Steam Deck can be used as a full-fledged Linux computer by more advanced users. Valve says you can plug in a mouse, keyboard, and monitor - plus you can install PC software on it (including Windows), browse the web, and use it to access other game stores. It features cloud saves for the syncing of files between devices, and it has a suspend/resume feature to force the device into sleep mode.

Other features include chat, notifications, and the ability to stream games to Steam Deck directly from your PC via Valve’s Remote Play feature.

Accessories

Valve plans to sell a dock that you can use to prop up a Steam Deck to plug into external displays or TVs. It's not required, however, and has been delayed for a while. Valve said Steam Deck can be plugged into your TV, monitor, or "even your old CRT if you have the right cables.” The Stem Deck comes with USB-C ports that contain HDMI, Ethernet, and USB data, as well as Bluetooth.

Verified games

Valve is keen to make sure that as many games as possible are playable on the Steam Deck.

The company has said that many games will run out of the box. But it's also been working with developers to ensure there's plenty of compatibility. Valve has created the Steam Deck Compatibility program to verify which games will and won't work with the console. You'll be able to use this to see which games work with various labels. These labels include: "verified" where the games will work as they should right away, "playable" where they might need manual controller tweaks, "unsupported" where the games likely won't work on Steam Deck, and "unknown" where the game hasn't been tested.

The officially verified games will no doubt increase over time. In the meantime, one fan has created a list of compatible games based on data pulled from the Steam database. That list shows there are currently over games that have been tested so far. The testing includes everything from ensuring text is readable to the controls being functional.

There are also other ways to see which games will work with your Steam Deck so you can be sure you'll be happy with your purchase. 

Obviously, this is going to be an important system for ensuring games are working before you buy. 

Epic Games compatibility

Naturally, Steam Deck is designed to primarily work with Steam and games from that library, but because Steam Deck runs on Linux it will also potentially support other things. One of those things is games in your Epic Games library. You might need to do a workaround though. There's a games launcher called Heroic which is open source and runs Linux compatible games including games from the Epic Games Store.

It will theoretically be possible to install this and then use that to launch your games. 

Valve Steam Deck: FAQ

On the FAQ pages, Valve has answered a number of burning questions:

Would Valve be interested in having any Steam Deck exclusive titles?

No, that doesn't make much sense to us. It's a PC and it should just play games like a PC.

How many sound channels does Steam Deck support?

We support two when using the onboard speakers, but we support multi-channel when using HDMI or Bluetooth. 

Are there any plans to add 5G or LTE at this point in time?

No plans to add cellular, however, you can always tether to your phone.

How Much VRAM does Steam Deck have?

Steam Deck has 16 gigabyte of unified memory. One gigabyte that's dedicated for the GPU, but depending on workload the GPU can access up to 8 GB. 

Will Steam Deck performance be any different, depending on if it's plugged in or if it's running on battery?

We are focused on providing you the full performance available from the APU both on battery and when you're plugged in. Our expectation is that performance is the same across the board in either configuration.

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Does Deck only support full screen mode?

The Steam Deck will automatically run games in full-screen by default.  However, if you drop to desktop, you can run games in windowed mode.

Will Steam Deck support VR?

Technically it's possible. We've seen people jury rig it, but we didn't design and optimize Steam Deck for VR.

Will AMD FSR be incorporated into Steam Deck?

FSR is already available for some applications that support it. Games that already include FSR will work as is, but also FSR support will be included as part of an OS future release. Once that happens, games could potentially make use of FSR even if the games themselves don't natively support it.

Does the Steam Deck support Local Multiplayer/Couch Co-op?

Definitely - you can play local co-op on the Steam Deck in a few different ways. You can hook controllers in via Bluetooth, or directly via USB.  You can also play with Remote Play Together, where other players are on other Decks or PCs.

When will Steam Deck be available in more countries?

We're still finalizing plans with a bunch of other countries and territories. Nothing solid to announce or confirm yet, but we can say that we're working really hard on making Steam Deck available in Japan and Australia.

How much does Valve Steam Deck cost?

  • 64GB eMMC storage for $399/£349
  • 256GB NVMe SSD storage for $529/£459
  • 512GB of high-speed NVME SSD storage for $649/£569

The models and their prices scale up based on your preferred storage and processing speed.

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When did Valve Steam Deck launch?

Valve began shipping its much-anticipated Steam Deck handheld console in February 2022.

Keep in mind Valve first announced Steam Deck last July 2021, with the promise it would start shipping by December. Valve ultimately delayed its release date by two months due to supply chain issues.

How to reserve Valve Steam Deck

Reservations for the units are currently open on the Steam website. Steam allows you to reserve any of the three models of the console for a $5 fee - this counts towards the Deck's purchase price. Reservations will only be available via your Steam account, and the account must both be in good standing and there must be purchases made on the account before June 2021. Only one console can be reserved per account.

If you cancel within 30 days of making your reservation, you can get your fee refunded to your payment method, whereas if you cancel after that, it'll be refunded to your Steam wallet. 

How to buy Valve Steam Deck

Once you've made your reservation, you will be placed in a queue. When it's your turn to buy a Steam Deck, you will receive an email from Steam. All models of the console have started shipping, but in general, the higher-end models seem to arrive later.

Where is Valve Steam Deck available?

Reservations are currently open to Steam users in the US, Canada, European Union, and U.K., with more countries to follow later in the year. 

Writing by Maggie Tillman. Editing by Adrian Willings.