If you're a PC gamer, there's a good chance you're familiar with Steam. And you're probably one of the 120 million active users on the platform.
Steam is the world's largest digital distribution platform for video games, and it offers an impressive library of over 50,000 titles to choose from.
But what if you could take that library with you wherever you went? With Valve's Steam Deck, you can do that and more.
Here's everything you need to know about this innovative new device.
What Is the Steam Deck?
The Steam Deck is a handheld gaming device made by Valve Corporation, the company behind the popular Steam PC gaming storefront.
The Steam Deck is an all-in-one portable PC gaming device. You can play it on a monitor or as a handheld gaming system, much like the Nintendo Switch.
But what makes it unique is its ability to access your steam library, allowing you to play your favorite steam games wherever you go.
And unlike the Nintendo Switch, the higher-end Steam Deck models can run AAA games with better graphics and frames per second (fps) compared to the Switch.
With a seven-inch LED multi-touchscreen display, PC capabilities, and steam library access, the steam deck is an impressive piece of gaming hardware. And it's an impressive size--at 12" wide and 1.47lbs, it's enormous compared to the Nintendo Switch!
How Well Does It Handle Games?
Let's dive right into the question at the top of everyone's list. How well does the Steam Deck handle the most demanding games in your library? How powerful is it compared to a PC?
Well, expensive gaming PCs are much more powerful, so there's no comparison. To put things into better perspective, the Steam Deck couldn't compare with a Playstation 5.
But it's built on four AMD Ryzen Zen 2 CPU cores, giving it processing power comparable to a Playstation 4.
For a handheld, that's nothing to sneeze at.
That means it can handle a majority of your favorite games. It can play most modern games at 720p and 30fps and it can handle some games at a higher resolution or frame rate.
You'll have full control to adjust resolution, frame rate, and processing power in the settings depending on the game you're playing and how much battery you want to preserve.
Can It Play Any Steam Game?
The short answer is "most likely." Steam has a list of officially supported verified titles to work well on the device. And more games are being verified every day.
Many games in the user's library have a green check mark next to them to signify that they are verified as Steam Deck-compatible titles.
You can also use a search filter to show only games that work well with the handheld platform.
Regardless, many games that aren't verified may play pretty well on the Steam Deck. Developers are motivated to release patches to make more games compatible with the Steam Deck for on-the-go gaming.
How Long Does the Battery Last?
The answer to this question varies depending on your settings and the game(s) you're playing. A 2D indie title will use less battery and processing power than a 3D AAA title.
The device comes with a five-foot charging cable. On average, the battery can last up to eight hours with a full charge and low-medium graphics settings.
If you're running it at unlimited fps in a graphic-intensive game, you can expect the battery to last less than two hours.
How Long Does It Take To Charge?
The max charging speed is 45W, which takes two and a half hours to charge.
The power cord uses a multi-purpose USB-C jack that you can use to connect to peripherals or screens. It allows you to charge your steam deck with relative ease.
How Much Storage Does the Steam Deck Have?
The internal storage depends on which model you choose to buy. The device comes in three different models. The only real difference is the internal storage space.
The system sells with the following internal storage options:
- 64GB (eMMc)
- 256GB (NVMe SSD)
- 512GB (NVMe SSD)
Every model comes with the option to expand external storage with a microSD card.
Players who have many graphics-heavy games may want to consider the higher-end model. The higher the storage space, the faster your games will load.
A Note About the Internal Storage
You should know that you cannot expand the internal storage without significant risk. That's why buying the steam deck with enough room for all your games is important.
All three models come with a microSD card slot. But if you have games that need a lot of memory, you'll want to invest in the 256GB or 512GB model.
What Kind of MicroSD Card Does It Need?
If you want to add more storage space to the steam deck, you'll need to buy a compatible microSD card. Any UHS-I microSD in EXT4 file system format should work.
Get at least 512GB if you can. We'd recommend a Samsung Pro Plus, Sandisk Extreme Pro, or Sandisk Ultra as some of the best-performing SD cards for steam deck gaming.
Do Steam Deck Controls Work With Any Game?
This device has to be versatile to work with thousands of different games. Well, luckily, it is. The Steam Deck controllers are compatible with almost every game.
The Steam Deck features the following control functions:
- Standard A B X Y buttons
- Four shoulder buttons (L1/L2, R1/R2)
- Two analog sticks (L3, R3)
- Four back grip buttons (L4/L5, R4/R5)
- Two trackpads with haptic feedback
- Four menu buttons (Steam, View, Menu, and Quick Access)
It has enough control options to cover most games. But there are still titles that don't have full controller support or are built to be played using a keyboard.
Luckily, you have full control over configuring the Steam Deck controls for any game that isn't fully compatible. You can also use the device's Bluetooth capabilities to connect keyboards and other devices.
What Other Features Does the Steam Deck Offer?
The steam deck features a variety of features that make it a unique and powerful gaming device. Here are just a few of them:
The steam deck features an impressive array of ports, including USB-C, HDMI, and DisplayPort, so you can easily hook it up to any compatible display.
It's easy to connect the Steam Deck with any Bluetooth device. Use Bluetooth to connect to your wireless headphones or a keyboard.
The steam deck also supports steam remote play. You can stream games from your PC to your handheld steam deck device and play steam games from anywhere in the world.
You can back up your steam game data and progress to the cloud. If you ever need to switch out devices or replace a steam deck, you don't have to start over again. And if you're playing on the PC and want to switch to the Steam Deck, your last save is ready to go.
Run Multiple Apps
You can switch between apps and switch between windows while you play. You can run Spotify in the background, voice chat on Discord, or even browse the steam store while playing a game.
Typing on the Steam Deck
You can use a shortcut to bring up a virtual QWERTY keyboard. The virtual keyboard allows you to type in commands and chat with friends.
The screen is multitouch, so you can type more naturally than you would if using the other optional controls.
Multiple Steam Accounts
You can create separate profiles for each steam account if you have multiple accounts. That way, you don't have to log out and log in every time when switching accounts.
Technically, this device is a handheld PC that's built for mobile gaming. That means it can do many things that a PC can do, like browse the internet, download other applications, or connect to various standard PC peripherals.
The steam deck comes with the SteamOS operating system already installed. SteamOS is built on the Debian distribution of Linux.
Its mostly open-source components give you much more control over what you can do with your steam deck. You can customize the user interface, install new applications and software, and even run other operating systems.
You have the option to download or install more from other sources. Its built-in browser can browse the internet right out of the box.
Can It Run Non-Steam Games?
Yes, it can! You can use it to run your DRM-free games or games from other platforms like the Epic Store, Uplay, Origin, GOG, and more. All you need is the game's executable file, and Steam Deck will be able to run it!
Can It Run an Emulator?
Yes! Since it's built on an open-source operating system that functions much like a regular PC desktop, emulators are easy to install. This means you can play your backup classic games from the 8-bit and 16-bit eras right on your Steam Deck.
Can It Connect to External Controllers?
Yes, it can connect wirelessly via Bluetooth. It has a USB-C port for wired connections.
Xbox Game Pass
Getting this to work on Stream can be a little tricky. If you're not a fan of installing a Windows operating system just for these games, your best bet is to use a workaround.
That's why one of the easiest ways to get Xbox Game Pass games to play on the Steam Deck is to stream them.
You can access Xbox Game Pass through desktop mode using the Edge browser. Then you have to copy and paste some manual commands that will give Edge access to your controls so you can play.
Full instructions are here if you'd like to give it a try.
Under the Hood: Technical Steam Deck Specs
The Steam Deck is packed with features that make it a unique and capable gaming device. Here are the steam deck's full technical specs:
- AMD APU
- CPU: Zen 2 4c/8t, 2.4-3.5GHz (up to 448 GFlops FP32)
- GPU: 8 RDNA 2 CUs, 1.0-1.6GHz (up to 1.6 TFlops FP32)
- APU power: 4-15W
The Steam Deck comes with 16 GB of onboard RAM (5500 MT/s quad 32-bit channels). That's not bad for a handheld console.
The display screen is 7" long. It's made with optically bonded IPS LCD for improved readability. Its refresh rate is 60hz, and it includes multi-touch functions.
It is worth noting that it doesn't have a high resolution. It has 1280 x 800px with a 16:10 aspect ratio, which may be unappealing to some gamers.
Audiophiles will be happy to know that the device has stereo with embedded DSP, so you can enjoy being immersed in the game. You can connect headphones through an audio jack, Bluetooth, or USB-C port.
It also features a dual microphone array to voice chat while gaming.
Size and Weight
The Steam Deck is just barely under 1.5 pounds. It's 12" x 4.6", but is made to be comfortable for any size hands. Just don't try to play it in bed while holding it over your head!
To get the full Steam Deck specification list, you can view the official page for more information.
How Much Does the Steam Deck Cost?
The Steam Deck comes in three models with different internal memory storage. Here are the current prices, along with what you get with each model:
The 64GB model is $399 and comes with a carrying case. Even though you can add more storage with an SD card, we'd recommend getting this one if it's used for less demanding games.
The 256GB model is $529. It has faster internal storage, a carrying case, and an exclusive Steam community profile bundle.
The 512GB is the most popular option at $649. It has the fastest storage and loading time, premium anti-glare etched glass, an exclusive carrying case, and exclusive Steam profile and virtual keyboard themes.
Where Can You Buy a Steam Deck?
You can buy one straight from Steam's website. You may be able to find a used or refurbished one on Amazon or eBay, but you'll have to double-check if it's still under warranty.
Tips and Tricks
Once you've unpacked your Steam Deck, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to keep things running well. Here are a few of our favorites:
Improving Battery Life
You can go into the settings to adjust the frame rate, brightness, and other options. That will balance out the battery life and performance. It'll allow you to get more out of your steam deck gaming experience.
Press the Quick Access button to open your settings menu when playing a game. Choose "Performance Settings" and then "Advanced Settings." That's where you can play around with settings that will save some precious battery life.
Consider lowering the following settings:
- Refresh Rate
You can also manage the "Use per game" settings. Since every game affects the battery life differently, you can set specific performance settings per game. Choose the "Use per game" option to set up performance profiles for every title.
You can also invest in a power bank for your Steam Deck.
A power bank works like a battery and will give you an extra power boost while gaming on the go. It's a great way to extend your battery life, so you can play longer between charges.
Another option is to set limits that will save on your battery power. To turn down your graphics power, open Quick Settings and choose Performance.
You should see a setting called Thermal Power TDP. Turn that down to significantly lower your battery usage.
Improving Frame Rate
You can improve the frame rate of your steam deck by turning down the resolution. This will make it easier for it to process frames, and you'll get a smoother gameplay experience.
You can find this setting under Performance Overlay in your menu. Choose "Advanced View" and edit the framerate limit to your desired level.
Using FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR)
Not all games support FSR. But the Steam Deck allows you to manually apply it to any game. You can apply FSR to get a smoother gameplay experience for games that struggle with framerate issues.
Using the Magnifier
Some games have detailed menu systems that may be difficult to read on a seven-inch screen.
You can use the system's magnifier, which is found in the Steam Deck settings. It allows you to zoom into text or other items on the screen and make them easier to read for everyone.
Update Your Games Regularly
It's important to keep your steam deck games up-to-date. Many developers add patches that can improve game performance, bug fixes, and more. You can check for updates in the steam deck library and update your games as needed.
Most gamers will want to add a few accessories to improve their gaming experience. Here are some of the essentials:
If you're like us, you have a lot of games in your Steam library from gaming bundles and Steam sales. A microSD card will give you extra space for all those games and other applications. A Sandisk 512mb micro US card will do the trick.
You can extend the battery life of your console with, well, an extra battery. A power bank can keep your gaming session running for much longer, so you don't have to stop and charge.
We recommend the Anker 74700mAh power bank as one of the best portable options out there.
The Steam Deck Dock
Unlike the Nintendo Switch, the Steam Deck does not have a kickstand and doesn't come with a dock. If you want to use a dock to connect it to a larger screen, you must buy it separately.
The Steam Deck Dock is an essential accessory for anyone looking to get the most out of their steam deck. It allows you to connect the steam deck to a larger monitor to get even more out of Steam's library of games.
It features three USB 3.1 ports, a USB-C port, HDMI 2, and an ethernet connection. You can view the full specifications and buy a dock on Steam's website.
As we mentioned earlier, the Steam Deck doesn't come with a kickstand. But that's okay because there's the SUPCASE UB Pro. It's a reliable case that keeps air vents from overheating.
It's stylish and comfortable to use. It comes in several different colors. And yes, it has a kickstand.
A desktop stand adds extra comfort, allowing you to game at the perfect angle. You can use a universal stand for your phone, Nintendo Switch, tablet, or Steam Deck to view your game on a regular screen or TV.
Final Thoughts On the Steam Deck
The Steam Deck is an outstanding device that allows you to play your PC gaming library on the go. It's not just a device to play Steam games; it's an entire handheld gaming PC that will play games on any platform, even if it's not on Steam.
If you're looking for a way to game on the go or want to extend your steam deck's battery life, these tips should help. You can elevate your gaming experience to the next level with all these options and accessories.
And if you're looking for extra accessories to enhance your steam deck gaming experience, we've got you covered. Visit SUPCASE for rugged, stylish cases, displays, and chargers for your Steam Deck.
So what are you waiting for? Pick up the perfect accessory and start gaming today!