Valve Steam Deck Review: Glitchy but Promising

I have been taking part in PC video games since I used to be a child—I keep in mind making an attempt SkiFree on my mother’s desktop after I was too sick to go to high school. Since then, I’ve amassed an enormous library of video games on Steam, the platform created by Valve; it is how most individuals play video games on their computer systems. (Valve can also be the creator of hits like Half-Life and Portal.) I used to be intrigued when Valve introduced the Steam Deck final yr, a handheld transportable gaming console that allows you to play your PC video games anyplace. It is the potential kick I wanted to get via my ever increasing Steam backlog. 

Properly, I have been utilizing the Steam Deck for a number of weeks, taking part in AAA and indie video games on my sofa, in mattress, whereas sitting on an workplace chair, in my automotive, at a café, and on a airplane. A few of my fears after I first heard in regards to the gadget had been validated—it is cumbersome, and the structure of the controls is not very ergonomic, attributes you do not actually need in a handheld console.

It additionally seems like Valve might’ve used just a few extra weeks (months?) to shine the software program expertise. (The Deck was alleged to launch again in December, so it is already been delayed as soon as.) This console has been in improvement for 4 years, via a pandemic, so it isn’t stunning to see last-minute points to right. However since I acquired it, Valve has pushed system updates each single day—that means I’ve needed to retest sure features time and again. Valve says it should proceed pushing out frequent updates to squash bugs after launch. 

That is each good and unhealthy. It means the software program wants extra work, but it surely additionally reveals how dedicated Valve is to the Steam Deck. I am glad to see it, as a result of this factor has a ton of potential.

Cumbersome Machine

{Photograph}: Valve

I acquired the top-end Steam Deck that retails for $649, which features a 512-gigabyte solid-state drive. You’ll be able to pay as little as $399 for the Deck, however you will solely get a paltry 64 GB of storage. Contemplating that AAA video games are 50 to 70 GB lately, if no more, you will in all probability need to pay up for the 256-GB model ($529) on the very least. 

That mentioned, the MicroSD card slot is palms down my favourite function. You’ll be able to hot-swap in MicroSDs as soon as they’re correctly formatted to leap in and play a distinct recreation, primarily giving the Deck an entire lot extra storage. I bought a 1-terabyte SanDisk Extremely MicroSD card, and it holds all 41 video games I needed to obtain, together with Mass Impact Legendary Version (110 GB), ARK: Survival Advanced (101 GB), Future 2 (74 GB), Cyberpunk 2077 (67 GB), and Loss of life Stranding (64 GB). 

The load pace distinction between the interior SSD and the MicroSD is minimal—Loss of life Stranding took about 19 seconds to load up on the SSD and 30 seconds on the MicroSD, although this does fluctuate. To date I haven’t seen any main variations. I additionally tried this with 32-GB and 256-GB SanDisk Excessive MicroSD playing cards, and the outcomes had been no totally different. When you’re frightened about Valve’s low storage choices, MicroSD playing cards can have your again.

This Steam Deck is cumbersome, however not as heavy as I had imagined nor as uncomfortable to carry. It weighs 672 grams; for reference, the Nintendo Swap OLED is 436 grams, and the iPhone 13 is 174 grams. A lot of this weight sits on all sides of the console, which is curved on the again to suit extra comfortably in your palms. It feels bizarre to carry such a large handheld (12 inches in comparison with the 9-inch-long Swap), however you get used to it. Actually. The primary time I performed for an hour straight, my proper hand went numb. I now combine in just a few breaks and stretch my palms out recurrently and it hasn’t occurred since.

My largest concern was the structure of the buttons, particularly since you may’t detach the controllers like you may on the Swap. Not like most controllers, the place the buttons and thumb sticks sit on a diagonal—a design iterated on over a long time of testing to scale back pressure—the Deck’s D-pad and ABXY buttons sit horizontally subsequent to their respective thumb stick. They’re fairly excessive as much as make room for 2 trackpads on all sides of the console. There are additionally triggers on the console’s shoulders and paddles on the again, which really feel nice and remind me of the Xbox Elite controller.

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