In this article we have a Steam Deck handheld gaming pc, and I’ve had it for about two weeks now. So, I’ve decided to talk about my experience using it as my handheld gaming PC during that period of time. Having a portable PC has honestly been really nice over the past two weeks. However, the Steam Deck doesn’t come without its own problems, which we’ll discuss in this steam deck review.
Also Read: Asus ROG Ally Review
Specs and Price
You can choose from three different models first a 64GB eMMC storage, Second 256GB NVMe storage model, and the third with highest option 512GB NVMe storage model. Apart from the price differences between these models, there are also small perks such as exclusive carrying cases or bags. The 512-gigabyte model, which is the highest tier, features a premium etched anti-glare screen. The base model starts at $496 with 64 gigabytes of storage, while the highest tier is priced at $629.
Just so you know, you can opt for the base model and replace the 64-gigabyte storage with a high-speed NVMe SSD of your choice. However, please be aware that doing so comes with risks, so make sure you are familiar with tinkering before attempting to open up your deck and install new storage. You can increase the storage by using an SD card, although it won’t be as fast as an NVMe SSD. Surprisingly, I didn’t notice a significant difference in performance between gaming on the high-speed NVMe SSD onboard the deck and using an external SD card.
The Steam Deck utilizes an AMD APU, which includes a Zen 2 CPU and eight RDNA CUs for its GPU. It’s a pretty solid setup. And every model comes with 16GB RAM, which is be sufficient for all the games I’ve played on the deck so far.
The hardware and all the different buttons and control options available with the Steam Deck. The hadheld is quite bulky and weighs approximately 1.5 pounds. Unlike the Nintendo Switch, where you can detach the Joy-Cons and make the device smaller, the Steam Deck is a standalone handheld without that option. However, they could definitely work on making it a smaller device with even more power.
If you’re decide to use a case, which adds around 0.5 to 1 pound, the weight of the deck increases further. I have mine in a case primarily to use the kickstand since the device itself doesn’t have one built-in. Additionally, the Steam Deck has some really ergonomic grips that feel great to hold onto. And you can’t simply remove the side attachments like the Nintendo Switch means you’ll have to adjust your hand positions multiple times.
One notable absence is a kickstand, which would have been really useful when using the device with a controller, keyboard, or mouse. On the positive side, Steam Deck supports Bluetooth 5.0, allowing you to connect multiple devices to it. For example, I can connect my keyboard and mouse to use the device in desktop mode, like an actual computer. Additionally, you can connect external controllers such as Xbox, PS5, or Nintendo Switch controllers for gaming. This means you can even use the Steam Deck as a controller for remote play on your PC, while using your computer monitor as the display for the Steam Deck.
Steam Deck Screen
The Steam Deck features a large screen, especially for a device of its kind—a 7-inch IPS LCD touch-enabled screen. I love the touch functionality; it works flawlessly without any issues. The screen has a resolution of 1280 by 800, with a unique 16:10 aspect ratio. It’s not the most common screen resolution like the expected 1280 by 720, but I think it works well for a device of this size. However, they could have opted for a 1920 by 1080 screen, and I would have been even happier. Overall screen looks great regardless.
The screen has a 60Hz refresh rate, which is fantastic for gaming as it provides smoother gameplay by allowing up to 60 frames per second. I’ve been enjoying this feature while playing games like Spider-Man or Assassin’s Creed Origins. The screen also has a typical brightness of 400 nits, which works well for visibility even outdoors. However, I haven’t extensively used it in bright or sunny conditions. I usually take it outside in the evenings, and under that lighting, I can see the screen perfectly fine.
In the highest tier, the screen also features premium anti-glare etched glass, which is supposed to reduce glares and reflections while gaming. I’ve tested it in front of windows, and it works well. There are still some reflections, but they are not as prominent. You can’t completely eliminate them, at least based on what I’ve observed on the deck.
One aspect I’m not fond of is the thick bezels on the screen. Personally, I find them quite distracting, and I generally dislike devices with thick bezels. It gives the impression of an older device.
Buttons and Controls
As for all the buttons and controls on the Steam Deck, we have an ABXY button layout, a D-pad, two analog sticks, and two square trackpads with haptic feedback. And there are view and menu buttons, as well as a quick access button for convenient access to settings such as brightness, battery percentage, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other quick settings while on the go.
There’s also a Steam button, which provides access to your library, the Steam Store, friends and chat, media, downloads, settings, and power options. Moving to the front side, we have a stereo set of speakers that work well for the device, although they don’t offer mind-blowing sound quality. For the best audio experience, using third-party headphones would be recommended.
On the top of the device, there are volume controls, a 3.5mm audio jack, and an opening for heat dissipation. Next to that, there’s a USB-C port for charging, connecting to a dock, or even linking directly to an external monitor. Adjacent to the USB-C port, there’s an LED indicator light that shows the battery charging status. Right beside it, we have the power button. Pressing it once puts the device to sleep, while holding it down offers different power options and allows switching to desktop mode, which we’ll discuss in a moment.
In addition to the above, there are left and right triggers and bumpers (L1, R1, L2, R2) located underneath the device.
SD Card and Storage
We have a slot for an SD card, allowing you to add an SD card of any size up to the maximum capacity. This way, you can have all your games stored on the SD card, providing you with access to even more games on your Steam Deck. Personally, my approach is to put the games I’m currently playing on the onboard NVMe SSD, utilizing the faster storage for those games. I then store the games I’m not actively playing on the SD card, taking advantage of the slower storage for those titles. However, I’ve encountered a frustrating issue when transferring games between the SSD and the external SD card.
Customizable Buttons and Back Grips
On the back side of the Steam Deck, there are four back grip buttons that can be customized to perform various functions. One of the cool aspects of gaming on the Steam Deck is the ability to set up different control configurations for different games. You can have unique controller layouts and assign different actions to the back grip buttons or the X, A, B, and Y buttons based on individual game requirements.
There’s also a single vent on the back side of the device for heat dissipation, adding to a total of two vents. I’ve found that the venting system works well enough for keeping the device cool during extended gameplay sessions. Additionally, the Steam Deck is equipped with a six-axis gyroscope, providing additional control capabilities.
The controls on the device also offer interesting features such as Steam Haptics and game rumble. Steam Haptics allows for haptic feedback, enhancing the immersive experience by providing tactile sensations in response to in-game events. Game rumble, on the other hand, utilizes vibration to simulate physical feedback within the game, further enhancing gameplay immersion.
SteamOS, UI and Game
For a more immersive experience, the Steam Deck comes preloaded with SteamOS, which receives regular updates whenever a new version is available. While it is possible to install Windows on the device if you prefer that operating system, there have been reports of instability with Windows OS. To fully enjoy the Steam Deck’s features, it is recommended to stick with SteamOS and keep all your games on the device.
With SteamOS, you can utilize the device in two different modes: desktop mode and gaming mode. Gaming mode is the default mode and offers a more user-friendly interface. In gaming mode, you have direct access to your recently played games, as well as options like friends and recommendations. Pressing the Steam button on the device brings up various options, allowing you to navigate your library, view different game collections, and determine which games are best suited for the Steam Deck.
In desktop mode, you have the flexibility to download and add applications or games that are not supported by Steam. It essentially functions like a desktop computer, similar to a Windows PC. However, unless you specifically want to tinker with the device, you’ll likely find yourself using gaming mode more frequently.
Gaming mode in SteamOS is highly user-friendly, allowing for quick access to your gaming library. All the games associated with your Steam account can be downloaded directly onto the Steam Deck. It’s worth noting that if you opt for the smallest storage option, you may need an SD card immediately, as the onboard storage will not be sufficient. The ability to access your entire Steam library on the go is a significant advantage of the Steam Deck. Additionally, Steam Cloud Saves enable you to seamlessly continue your gameplay progress from your PC on the Steam Deck, allowing for smooth transitions between the two devices.
While the Steam Deck provides access to a wide variety of games, it’s important to note that not every game is compatible with the device. If you have games purchased on platforms like the Epic Launcher or Origin, there may be ways to install those launchers on the Steam Deck and gain access to your games. Some research may be required to explore these options.
The device relies on Wi-Fi for internet connectivity and does not offer cellular capabilities. However, you can create a hotspot using your phone’s Wi-Fi to connect the Steam Deck to the internet on the go.
I’ve personally been enjoying playing games on the Steam Deck, particularly Spider-Man, which was recently added to the PC library. Everything has been running smoothly, although it’s important to note that the experience is not on par with gaming on a high-end PC with higher frame rates. Nonetheless, the portability of the Steam Deck is what truly sets it apart from a traditional PC gaming setup.
Xbox Cloud and GamePass
For those wondering about Game Pass support on the Steam Deck, it currently doesn’t officially exist. However, there is a workaround to access Xbox Game Cloud, which works well. I have it set up on my Steam Deck, but it requires an internet connection since it involves cloud gaming. Keep in mind that this workaround doesn’t allow you to download game files directly onto the device. If you’re eagerly awaiting Game Pass support on the Steam Deck, you have the option to install Windows OS on the device.
Just like many other handheld devices, the Steam Deck also comes with a dock. However, the official dock is not currently available and has experienced multiple delays. Nonetheless, there are already third-party docks available in the market. Although I haven’t personally tried any of these third-party docks yet, I have connected my Steam Deck directly to my USB-C monitor, which is an ultrawide 5K monitor, just to test its compatibility. It worked well, although it doesn’t support all ultrawide resolutions.
Steam Deck Battery Life
The most significant drawback of the Steam Deck, and the final aspect I’d like to discuss, is its battery life. With a 40 watt-hour battery, it doesn’t last very long unless you’re playing emulators or retro games. If you’re playing AAA games, which is the main reason to own a portable gaming PC, you can only expect about two hours of gameplay. However, even reaching those two hours is challenging in real gaming scenarios. When you check the projected battery life, you’ll see that it depends on your console usage. If you’re not actively gaming, you may get around four or five hours of battery life.
To extend my playtime on the Steam Deck, I’ve resorted to using a power bank. While it allows me to use the device on the go, it adds extra weight and defeats the purpose of having a portable device. It becomes necessary to carry around both the Steam Deck and the power bank, making the setup bulkier. Therefore, if you decide to purchase the Steam Deck, be prepared to invest in a power bank to enhance your playtime. Otherwise, you’ll need to charge the device frequently or keep it plugged in continuously. Additionally, when selecting a power bank, ensure that it can provide the required 45 watts of power delivery to charge the device effectively; otherwise, you may experience battery drain.
Honestly, the Steam Deck portable gaming pc is great who prefer to play PCs games on the go.
Buttons and Controls9
Games and Xbox GamePass9
Ui and Storage8