For those that know me or even just follow me on the various social media sites, you know that I am attached at the thumbs to my beloved Steam Deck. Although I do spend some of my gaming time on my Xbox Series X, these days I would say I spend more of my gaming time on my Steam Deck. So, when I was trying to think of ideas for something to post on here, I thought I would give my thoughts on just how amazing the Steam Deck is and how it has been a complete game changer. So lets go!
As of the last few years, the landscape of the gaming industry has shifted dramatically. It’s not just about high-end gaming PCs or popular consoles anymore. Portable gaming, once dominated by Nintendo with their Game Boy and DS series, has entered a new era with Valve’s introduction of the Steam Deck. Released in December 2022, it has already gained a significant fanbase and for a good reason.
So why is the Steam Deck such a sought-after device? There are numerous factors that contribute to its status as a standout gaming device. Here’s a deep dive into what sets the Steam Deck apart from devices like the Nintendo Switch.
Incredible Hardware Power
What sets the Steam Deck apart is its remarkably powerful hardware, capable of running AAA games smoothly. It utilizes a custom AMD APU, coupling a quad-core Zen 2 CPU with RDNA 2 graphics, which allows it to effectively manage both older games and the latest releases. The Steam Deck is more akin to a gaming PC in terms of performance rather than a traditional handheld, pushing the boundaries of what portable gaming can be. I usually get a very impressive experience when playing Red Dead Redemption 2 on the Deck and I know others that play games like Cyberpunk 2077 on it which really pushes the system to its limits.
Full Steam Library Access
One of the core features of the Steam Deck is its compatibility with your Steam library. That’s right – most of your Steam games, available to play right from the palm of your hand. Imagine playing your favorite AAA games while lounging on your couch, or tackling your backlog during a long flight. It effectively blurs the line between PC gaming and handheld devices. Ok, maybe not ALL of your steam games but most of them likely are. Some do better than others and some require a little extra help with certain versions of Proton which adds some great gaming compatibility with Windows games. And if nothing in your Steam library speaks to you, the Steam Deck can run perhaps every console emulator there is giving you access to thousands of games from the past.
The Steam Deck is powered by SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system developed by Valve which is based on Arch Linux. The move to an open-source platform like Linux emphasizes Valve’s dedication to giving users the freedom to tinker and optimize their device as much as they please. It’s more than a gaming device; it’s a portable computer, even with a full desktop mode! I constantly find myself going from playing a game to jumping into the desktop mode to do everything from browsing the web to coding. Especially if you hook it up to an external monitor, mouse and keyboard, it could really be a full gaming laptop replacement.
Versatile Control Options
The Steam Deck provides numerous control options to suit your gaming needs. It’s equipped with a D-pad, thumbsticks, a 7″ touchscreen, and, interestingly, trackpads. The inclusion of trackpads alongside traditional controls offers an entirely new layer of precision, especially for games that were initially designed with mouse control in mind. The trackpads are what really sets it apart from the offerings that have come out from other companies like ASUS. They may have some beefy handheld gaming machines, but they lack the trackpad which is critical with some games, especially if you are an RTS fanatic like I am. Not to mention it makes using the desktop mode a LOT easier!
Impressive Battery Life
One of the concerns with portable gaming devices is the battery life. However, the Steam Deck has got you covered. Depending on the type of game you’re playing, you can expect between 2 to 8 hours of gameplay on a single charge. This broad range is due to the variability in processing demand between different games. So whether you’re playing an indie title or a graphics-intensive AAA game, you won’t find yourself constantly reaching for the charger. For example, if you are playing RDR2, don’t expect to get a lot of battery life because the game is just too intensive on the hardware. However, if you play something like that new(ish) TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge, it seems like it just sips juice from the battery. My advice for playing the really intensive games and still get good battery life is to stream them. Whether you are streaming over Steam to your gaming desktop or streaming from a console like the Xbox or using Microsoft’s xCloud game streaming service, it might use a bit of bandwidth but it barely uses any power. I found it a great way to have long play sessions of Jedi: Survivor because I would stream it from my Xbox and then I wouldn’t have to take up the TV to play it when my fiance wanted to watch her TV shows.
Dockable and Playable on Larger Screens
In addition to its handheld mode, the Steam Deck can also be docked to play games on larger displays, similar to the Nintendo Switch. This adds another level of flexibility to where and how you play your games. It ensures the Steam Deck is suitable for both on-the-go gaming and more immersive home sessions. I find it also really nice for doing some coding too because to do it on the device’s small screen is just painful. You really need a big monitor for that.
In conclusion, the Steam Deck stands out as a powerful, versatile, and user-friendly portable gaming device. It merges the portability of handheld consoles with the power and extensive game library of PC gaming. It is indeed a game-changer and a significant milestone in the evolution of portable gaming. Only time will tell how this innovative device reshapes the gaming landscape, but for now, the future of handheld gaming looks brighter than ever.
If you don’t already have one and would like to check it out, you can head over to Valve’s page for it to learn more!