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[Tom’s Hardware] Steam Deck Hands-On: PC Gaming in My Hands

pasterpl

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Hands on with steam deck by tom’s hardware https://www.tomshardware.com/news/steam-deck-valve-hands-on


Less than a month ago, Valve announced the Steam Deck, its AMD Zen 2-based take on portable PC gaming. The next day, pre-orders opened, making all of Steam, the company's launcher and game distribution store creak under the load, signalling vast interest in the Steam Deck, as it was swiftly backordered to Q2 2022. We had the opportunity to go hands-on with the handheld at Valve's headquarters in Bellevue, Washington to see what you'll get before you need to finalize that reservation when the device starts shipping this December.

The major caveats to keep in mind are that what we saw was not the finalized hardware or software, but rather Valve's "EV2" prototypes, which will be shipping to developers as the official launch approaches. So while the device isn't finalized, it's pretty close. The biggest changes you might see, people who work on the console told me, are largely fit and finish, including the possibility of some different plastics, as well as a bunch of work to get the software done in time for launch.

I primarily got to spend my time with the 512GB model, the high-end, $699 device with the etched-glass, anti-glare display. That being said, a unit with the glossy display was there, too. More on the display differences later.


The games pre-installed on the units (I could not install games of my choice, nor could I log into my account) were on a mix of the internal storage and an SD card.
 
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Nov 29, 2019
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I heard that there were over 100,000 reserves within the first hour and they don't expect to ship them all out until late in 2022. I reserved mine like the next day so they'll probably introduce the Steam Deck 2 by the time I get mine.
 
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Reallink

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I heard that there were over 100,000 reserves within the first hour and they don't expect to ship them all out until late in 2022. I reserved mine like the next day so they'll probably introduce the Steam Deck 2 by the time I get mine.

Bizarrely they've mentioned in interviews they have designs on potentially selling "several million" units, yet are evidently backlogged an entire calendar year after preordering 100-200k.
 

Sentenza

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I do think that the biggest obstacle to this thing reaching success past "beloved niche status" will be precisely how many they can actually manufacture and sell.
Can't help but wonder how high sales cold have eventually gone if that wasn't a limiting factor.
 
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ethomaz

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Control low 30fps good, medium not good
The Witcher 3 low default, medium somehow playable combat (hell the combat is bad even in 120fps imagine around 30fps), high not good

Well that is what we expected… 30fps low/mid settings machine.
 
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Ryu Kaiba

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Bizarrely they've mentioned in interviews they have designs on potentially selling "several million" units, yet are evidently backlogged an entire calendar year after preordering 100-200k.
Not enough people bring this up, this is odd. they should have a higher ceiling than 100k for an entire Year assuming thats really all they reserved.
Hopefully, it's just a placeholder and I actually end up getting mine a lot sooner than a year from now.
 
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Whitecrow

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Control low 30fps good, medium not good
The Witcher 3 low default, medium somehow playable combat (hell the combat is bad even in 120fps imagine around 30fps), high not good

Well that is what we expected… 30fps low/mid settings machine.
Which is pretty sad and bad. I dont think the portable aspect makes up for this low quality gaming honestly.
 

hlm666

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Bizarrely they've mentioned in interviews they have designs on potentially selling "several million" units, yet are evidently backlogged an entire calendar year after preordering 100-200k.
The only numbers people have are from the leaked sales/reserves in the first hour for NA, Valve hasn't said a thing about sales only they fixed the website within an hour.
 

Fredrik

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The only real issue I had was that the text in some games was small. When Halo 4 prompted me to pick up weapons, it was very difficult to make out.
This was one of my worries… I have it preordered but this definitely takes away some of the hype for me. Bummer.
 

Orta

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I think its safe to assume this thing is not in any way intended to run a game made over the last five years on max settings and not a chance for new games either.

Its an emulation machine that'll play PS360 era PC games nicely.

Might get one if/when the price drops substantially.
 
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GuinGuin

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Low settings on almost any new game and 30fps? As I have been saying all along this is a retro PC gaming handheld. Good for playing things 10+ years or more but not for new games.
 

Ogbert

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Control low 30fps good, medium not good
The Witcher 3 low default, medium somehow playable combat (hell the combat is bad even in 120fps imagine around 30fps), high not good

Well that is what we expected… 30fps low/mid settings machine.
What’s with your weird hate boner for this machine? You always seem to sift through to find a negative spin.

Where does it suggest Witcher 3 is running at 30fps?
 

Daymos

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I have no interest in this thing.. but as a JRPG guy I'm secretly hoping it's big in Japan and pushes all JRPG devs onto pc and off any console exclusivity.

Basically I already have a pc(and switch), don't need an Xbox, and don't want to buy a 4k tv and ps5.

I seriously doubt the steam deck will take off though. Most of the hype comes from mad Nintendo fans "cheating" on Nintendo due to no switch pro.. if they actually date the steam deck they won't know what to do with her, buncha PC virgins.
 

reksveks

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I have no interest in this thing.. but as a JRPG guy I'm secretly hoping it's big in Japan and pushes all JRPG devs onto pc and off any console exclusivity.
You are fine with 90% of sega, that atlus part is still f-ed. Think in the short term, square enix are taking the upfront money from Sony but hopefully that changed.

But yeah, I want my Jrpgs on pc and/or Xbox.
 
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jaysius

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I'm really not sure who this is for, if you're Richie Rich you'll already have an amazing gaming laptop, if you're Joe Blow you probably can't afford it. If you're a mustard race PC "enthusiast" this is pure trash.
 

Twinguistics

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I'm really not sure who this is for, if you're Richie Rich you'll already have an amazing gaming laptop, if you're Joe Blow you probably can't afford it. If you're a mustard race PC "enthusiast" this is pure trash.
Seriously?

How about someone that wants to play his steam library on a bus/train? Or on lunch at work? In a cafe? Out on the deck when it's sunny?

Laptops don't offer this.
 

Ogbert

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I'm really not sure who this is for, if you're Richie Rich you'll already have an amazing gaming laptop, if you're Joe Blow you probably can't afford it. If you're a mustard race PC "enthusiast" this is pure trash.
If there’s one thing Switch sales have demonstrated, no one is interested in handheld gaming.
 

FStubbs

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I have no interest in this thing.. but as a JRPG guy I'm secretly hoping it's big in Japan and pushes all JRPG devs onto pc and off any console exclusivity.

Basically I already have a pc(and switch), don't need an Xbox, and don't want to buy a 4k tv and ps5.

I seriously doubt the steam deck will take off though. Most of the hype comes from mad Nintendo fans "cheating" on Nintendo due to no switch pro.. if they actually date the steam deck they won't know what to do with her, buncha PC virgins.
Most jRPGs are on PC now. The only ones that are not are either Nintendo exclusive or FF which seems to be retrenching back to being PS-exclusive.

I'd argue the hype from Steam deck is mostly people who hate Nintendo and hope Valve runs Nintendo out of business with it. If the numbers cited above are true, though, then I guess Valve is taking such a loss on this thing (because the Steam Deck is extremely powerful for its price - a handheld that beats the GTX1060 can't be cheap to produce) that they literally can't sell but so many.
 

Whitecrow

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Well people buy switch like hotcakes so...

Seriously?

How about someone that wants to play his steam library on a bus/train? Or on lunch at work? In a cafe? Out on the deck when it's sunny?

Laptops don't offer this.

If there’s one thing Switch sales have demonstrated, no one is interested in handheld gaming.
As far as I'm aware (pardon my ignorance I dont have a Switch), the Switch is designed to play games designed for the Switch, which are very different from the AAA designed for PC and consoles.

The Steam Deck is the shittiest way to play console and PC games. (Fine if you want it as an emulator machine)
The Switch is the best to play Switch games.

Is not that hard.
 
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FStubbs

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As far as I'm aware (pardon my ignorance I dont have a Switch), the Switch is designed to play games designed for the Switch, which are very different from the AAA designed for PC and consoles.

The Steam Deck is the shittiest way to play console and PC games. (Fine if you want it as an emulator machine)
The Switch is the best to play Switch games.

Is not that hard.
Apparently this is up for debate - people are claiming the Steamdeck can run Switch games better than the Switch can.

It's more powerful graphically than the average PC on Steam (sporting a GTX1060), but I don't know how HUDs designed for PCs will translate to the smaller screen. Companies may do Steamdeck patches to account for the screen size.

People will probably "hack" it to run emulators, but clearly that's not an intended feature, Valve wants people buying games on Steam.
 
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jaysius

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As far as I'm aware (pardon my ignorance I dont have a Switch), the Switch is designed to play games designed for the Switch, which are very different from the AAA designed for PC and consoles.

The Steam Deck is the shittiest way to play console and PC games. (Fine if you want it as an emulator machine)
The Switch is the best to play Switch games.

Is not that hard.
Exactly, Switch is bargain bin hardware with strict mandates to create software that meets the dumpster specs.

Steam Deck is a gimped handheld PC that's too expensive for what it is, probably not comfortable for using long periods of time, and is dead in the water if it doesn't get direct mandates for a Stream Deck mode.

Switch is relatively cheap, Steam Deck isn't really. SD is a price that makes you contemplate saving that amount for a real computer

Switch games only work on switch, Steam Deck games work on any PC.
 
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BLAUcopter

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Give It To Me Need GIF
 

Ogbert

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As far as I'm aware (pardon my ignorance I dont have a Switch), the Switch is designed to play games designed for the Switch, which are very different from the AAA designed for PC and consoles.

The Steam Deck is the shittiest way to play console and PC games. (Fine if you want it as an emulator machine)
The Switch is the best to play Switch games.

Is not that hard.
The Steam Deck will not handle AAA games from about 2019 onwards. It will handle everything else before that.

You obviously hate handheld gaming. Personally, I absolutely love it. Just looking through my Steam Library, being able to play games like DS3, Dead Rising 4, Remnant from the Ashes, Prey, Dishonored 2 etc, in handheld, is absolutely amazing.

This machine is pretty much perfect for me and I imagine many other gamers.

I don’t see what’s so hard to understand about that.
 

FStubbs

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The Steam Deck will not handle AAA games from about 2019 onwards. It will handle everything else before that.

You obviously hate handheld gaming. Personally, I absolutely love it. Just looking through my Steam Library, being able to play games like DS3, Dead Rising 4, Remnant from the Ashes, Prey, Dishonored 2 etc, in handheld, is absolutely amazing.

This machine is pretty much perfect for me and I imagine many other gamers.

I don’t see what’s so hard to understand about that.
I think Steamdeck could probably handle almost any AAA game out there considering it only has to get to 800p and 30fps. The HUD would be my only concern.
 
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Ogbert

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I think Steamdeck could probably handle almost any AAA game out there considering it only has to get to 800p and 30fps. The HUD would be my only concern.
I think it will still chug on the latest stuff. I’m not expecting too much from 2019 onwards. Well optimised games maybe, but anything janky will struggle. I’m really keen to see how Destiny 2 (proton aside) runs.

I just find it amusing that people are pretending being able to play, say, GTA 5 on a handheld, isn’t brilliant.
 

Whitecrow

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The Steam Deck will not handle AAA games from about 2019 onwards. It will handle everything else before that.

You obviously hate handheld gaming. Personally, I absolutely love it. Just looking through my Steam Library, being able to play games like DS3, Dead Rising 4, Remnant from the Ashes, Prey, Dishonored 2 etc, in handheld, is absolutely amazing.

This machine is pretty much perfect for me and I imagine many other gamers.

I don’t see what’s so hard to understand about that.

I dont hate handheld game. I just dont use it.

EDIT
Shitpost
 
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KAL2006

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I think it will still chug on the latest stuff. I’m not expecting too much from 2019 onwards. Well optimised games maybe, but anything janky will struggle. I’m really keen to see how Destiny 2 (proton aside) runs.

I just find it amusing that people are pretending being able to play, say, GTA 5 on a handheld, isn’t brilliant.

You can run at half the native screen resolution. At 400p and scale up. Obviously it won't look the best but if you are desperate to get a recent game to run that's a possibility. It won't be as sharp as native res but on a small screen hopefully won't be as bad. Switch already has a ton of games running under the native screen resolution
 

Sean Mirrsen

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I dont hate handheld game. I just dont use it.

I'm not that adicted that I need to game in every place I go.
Read: "I am lucky enough to have solid employment that occupies me fully throughout the day, but still leaves me enough time at home so that I can afford to have dedicated gaming hours."

A lot of people don't, evidently. Either they have many breaks or slow hours throughout the day, or have a job or other responsibilities that do not allow uninterrupted time for gaming. A lot of people also have children, which translates to having a responsibility that consists of many periods of intense occupation interspersed with many short breaks, which are absolutely not conductive to gaming on a PC or console.

A handheld gaming device, such as a Switch, or the Deck, allows for gaming in short bursts, picking up and dropping a game whenever you need, and not having to go to any specific location (or being in any specific pose) in order to keep yourself entertained.
 

Whitecrow

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Read: "I am lucky enough to have solid employment that occupies me fully throughout the day, but still leaves me enough time at home so that I can afford to have dedicated gaming hours."

A lot of people don't, evidently. Either they have many breaks or slow hours throughout the day, or have a job or other responsibilities that do not allow uninterrupted time for gaming. A lot of people also have children, which translates to having a responsibility that consists of many periods of intense occupation interspersed with many short breaks, which are absolutely not conductive to gaming on a PC or console.

A handheld gaming device, such as a Switch, or the Deck, allows for gaming in short bursts, picking up and dropping a game whenever you need, and not having to go to any specific location (or being in any specific pose) in order to keep yourself entertained.
Ok, you win this time : )

My bad.
 

KAL2006

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I dont hate handheld game. I just dont use it.

I'm not that adicted that I need to game in every place I go.

Different things appeal to different people for different reasons.

I don't game on the road or go stay over places. And if I do the last thing I'd like to do is game. I currently own a PS5 so I will do my main AAA gaming on that. However the big TV with PS5 is taken up alot by my daughter and wife. I find handheld gaming appealing where I can lounge around anywhere around the house or garden and play some games. That's where the portability aspect ends for me with the Steam Deck.

The other reason it appeals to me is the reintroduction to PC gaming. I have a few Steam games from back in 2012 when I used to have a gaming PC back then I owned a 787p graphics card and my old desktop stopped working a long time ago. This appeals to me is I can take advantage of exclusive PC games I have missed out on over the years like RTS games. I have a work station in my house with 2 monitors connected to a cheap work netbook where I WFH. I will simply attached my Steam Deck to the same dock and have instant access to a gaming desktop setup with dual monitors to play some good old PC games that are not playable on my cheap netbook my work provided (most likely it's restricted as well as I work for a bank). In terms of best bang for your buck for someone who doesn't really want the hassle or expense on investing into PC gamig again a Steam Deck is quite ideal for me. I can take advantage of Steam Sales, I may even use it as a remote play device for my PS5 I tested it on my phone to do some side missions on Spiderman Remastered while in bed and the lag wasn't too bad.

Basically a Steam Deck for me personally is good value for money is have multiple use purposes for it as it's so versatile. I can play games on handheld mode such as indie games and emulators, I can dock it and play RTS games in my office, I can connect to my TV and play games I missed out on that are not backwards compatible on my PS5 such as Sonic Generations and Spec Ops The Line.
 
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Sentenza

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Man, some of you sound really fucking dense at times.
"This is not going to play next gen games at max setting/60 FPS". No fucking shit, Sherlock. It's a handheld device with a 40w output. It's already impressively powerful for what it is, compared to anything else in the same genre on the market currently (including several products priced higher than this).

Low Spec gamer had a nice video about why that's relevant, by the way:

 

HTK

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I see no reason to own this thing at all, I just don't get it and I don't think it'll do great. Time will tell.
 

Twinguistics

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As far as I'm aware (pardon my ignorance I dont have a Switch), the Switch is designed to play games designed for the Switch, which are very different from the AAA designed for PC and consoles.

The Steam Deck is the shittiest way to play console and PC games. (Fine if you want it as an emulator machine)
The Switch is the best to play Switch games.

Is not that hard.
I didn't say it was the best way to play pc games.

I said it was a way to play them on the bus.

It's really not that hard
 

reksveks

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For some users, sometimes you want to play a game on TV and sometimes you want to play it wherever you can.

I don't mind playing Jrpgs on my phone via remote play when grinding and then will sometimes switch to the TV when i am getting near the end.

If the steam deck can make it easier to go between the two, then it's a win for me.
 

rodrigolfp

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As far as I'm aware (pardon my ignorance I dont have a Switch), the Switch is designed to play games designed for the Switch, which are very different from the AAA designed for PC and consoles.

The Steam Deck is the shittiest way to play console and PC games. (Fine if you want it as an emulator machine)
The Switch is the best to play Switch games.

Is not that hard.
BotW, SMO, Doom and Witcher 3 are games designed for the Switch??

And emulated Switch is the best way to play Switch games ( that not have a native pc version like Doom or TW3).
 

rodrigolfp

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I see no reason to own this thing at all, I just don't get it and I don't think it'll do great. Time will tell.
I see. Play on the go all games that are not shooters or RTSs and can run close to 60+fps...
 
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