If you’re a diehard PC gamer, you might have heard about Valve’s flashy new Steam Deck device. The handheld hanging system offers impressive performance for its size and price point and promises to allow Steam users to take their libraries with them on the go. This makes it one of the most compelling new handheld gaming systems on the market – but is it worth the price tag?
The Steam Deck features a 7-inch display, a Custom AMD Zen 2 “Van Gogh” APU, and 64 GB of internal storage by default. It’s comparable in a number of ways to the Nintendo Switch, a similar-looking device with the same landscape-style display and broad industrial design. Both systems feature face buttons that emulate the look of a normal home console controller, and both are notable for allowing you to take full-sized games on the go.
Unlike the Switch, the Steam Deck features pretty impressive technical specs. It’s a beefy system, capable of playing modern titles like Elden Ring and Sony’s Spider-Man with a few graphical tweaks. The Switch, by comparison, struggles to run a highly-optimized version of The Witcher 3 and chugs even while playing some first-party titles.
Right now, the Steam Deck feels like a bit of a proof of concept. The technology works, and that alone is impressive enough. You can take Elden Ring on the bus with you! This is as revelatory as the first time you brought Breath of the Wild along on a plane ride. It’s truly mind-boggling to see these huge games running on handheld hardware.
However, the Steam Deck has a few issues under the surface. Not every Steam game flows perfectly on the hardware. Some games that require heavy amounts of mouse and keyboard controls are basically impossible to play on a gamepad, and the Steam Deck offers little in the way of a solution. Its twin touch pads, which can emulate mouse movement, don’t really cut it for most games.
The Steam Deck retails for $399 to start, but adding more memory to the base unit can run you a lot more. If you’re a fan of Steam games that play well with a traditional controller, you’ll likely love the device. However, if you already own a Nintendo Switch, or you simply prefer games that use a mouse and keyboard control system, you’ll probably be better off saving your money.