Valve Left Me Unsupervised: Steam Deck Hardware Review
clock ticking bell rings Now We are finally ready to fully explore the hardware of the Steam Deck that includes thermals battery life and even performance in an assortment of Valve approved titles. That range from this is a great experience to vinyl record scratches. I am really surprised they wanted us to talk about this.. I could not be more excited.. The seeds of the Steam Deck were planted over a decade ago with the announcement of Steam Big Picture mode.. I love that this page is still out by the way you guys. And with all the innovations packed into it, whether you realize it yet or not. You are looking at what is arguably the most innovative gaming PC in 20 years, more maybe.. Now a lot of the secret sauce is software, but given its current rough edges were not gon na, be showing that until Valve lifts a separate embargo, but there is still a lot to jump into here.. Starting with this message from our sponsor Project – Killswitch very punny name dbrand by the way. But theres – nothing punny about dbrands upcoming case for the Steam Deck.. It kinda looks like their grip phone cases and their horrible attitude had a baby and then gave it a cheesy. Name., You can check out the teaser page at the link down below. bright electro music. While I can assume that most of you have watched our previous Steam Deck coverage leading up til now, I cant assume that you remember all the details.
So lets blitz through the basics. Three configs, with identical key specs, varied storage and aggressive console like prices that Valve Ceo Gabe Newell described as painful to hit.. The highlights are the custom AMD SoC featuring four Zen, 2 processing cores and RDNA 2 graphics, mobile DDR5 memory and what essentially amounts to an integrated Steam controller, giving gamers a whopping five Z inputs per side, including the joystick clicks and re mappable rear paddles that are In my opinion, perfectly tuned to be easy to press, but nearly impossible to accidentally mash. In games. Youre gon na have the choice between analog sticks, a D pad a haptically, enhanced dual touch pad thing and even onboard gyro controls that by default are activated by placing a finger on the capacitive surface of the right joystick.. It is an impressive arsenal of input options that promises to make everything from shooters to mouse dependent games like Civ, enjoyable with a little bit of kajiggering.. Of course promises mean nothing if the hardware doesnt live up to the hype., And I want to start with the controller. Since my rushed hands on and my initial unboxing on Short Circuit. I have logged hours of gaming time on the Steam Deck. And while I can reach every button comfortably from a neutral relaxed position, I do find a number of them a little awkward to use., And I dont really know how to describe this other than to say Its kind of like spooning someone taller than you.
Cuddling is fine, but dont try and do anything too ambitious or you might strain a muscle. If you have larger hands. You might not share these concerns, but my wife and I both had similar issues, albeit with different buttons.. For example. I struggled to reach the shoulders without shifting my grip, a little., And she found the ABXY was a little bit awkward for her, but Jake had no issues at all., So your mileage may vary., And even for myself, I think its a small price to pay for The unprecedented input flexibility afforded by Valves design. And did I even mention the touch screen yet Did I even mention lttstore.com yet Get a water bottle. And it gets even better., The feel of the sticks, buttons triggers and even the D pad, which I am very particular About are all right up there with my favorite console controllers.. The joysticks in particular are miles ahead of every other handheld that I have touched with the exception of the Aya Neo Next and Valves, repair friendly approach to the joystick promises a long gaming life for your Deck.. Of course, a big part of hardware. Longevity is cooling. And Im extremely pleased to say that temperatures were well under control in all of our test. Scenarios., The thoughtful design of the Deck keeps touch surfaces at or near skin temperature, even during an extended gaming session, which is a big advantage over more compact, portable gaming, PCs, like the Aya Neo, 2021 Pro and the OneXPlayer Mini.
, And even though the fan looked kind Of wimpy in Valves official tear down video get subbed by the way cause our own tear down is coming. It managed to do its job effectively and without complaint, even in Control. A demanding AAA game on Valves approved list., Even in the most aggressive SoC power profile, which allows it to draw its full 25 Watts. We saw both CPU and GPU temps that were well within the range that wed consider safe all, while remaining at the reasonable noise levels that we recorded in our tests.. One oddity we observed, though, the Steam Deck ran at its peak clock rate, for about 15 minutes. After which it appeared to settle into a ever slightly lower clock, speed like on the order of 10 to 20 megahertz slower.. Now, at this time, we dont have a tool to measure fan RPM, but one theory we came up with just now. We have not verified this is that we might have reached Valves, target GPU temperature. And then, when the fan ramped up, maybe the system was left with slightly less power budget for the SoC.. Hopefully, we can dig into this in more depth in our full review, but even if we dont Im comfortable saying that its a non concern, because performance was nearly identical after it settled in. Also, this difference was not nearly as significant as what we saw on the Aya Neo 2021 Pro., And that is just the tip of the exciteberg when it comes to thermal and power.
Management. Valves promised TDP and clock controls mean that, while you can just leave the SOC on auto and for most people, wed recommend doing just that and using FPS limits to extend your battery life while offering predictable performance for the hard cores. You can also expect to be able to fine tune your power profile to optimize for your exact use, case. Wan na emulate PS3 games and need your CPU going hard. For example, Youll be able to. And Im really excited to see what the community comes up with. Here. And the community, for this thing, Do not kid yourself is gon na be enormous. Like Ive seen haters out there. Theyre like this thing is not gon na take off.. You are wrong. And now that I can show you these performance numbers, youre gon na see just how wrong you were. Its important to keep in mind that Valve did hand select each of the games for our preview embargo today.. But I also havent seen anything to make me believe that their goal was to mislead us about the Decks capabilities., So kicking things. Off. Control is a DirectX game with no native Linux port, but a platinum rating on ProtonDB, meaning that it should run perfectly on Linux. Out of the box. And thats exactly what we saw. More than perfect Id say, given that the Steam Deck absolutely ran away with the performance crown here.. Another worth mentioning side note is that on a screen this size, even at the low preset Control, looks absolutely amazing.
. What a time to be alive right, Continuing on Devil May Cry. 5 is arguably an even bigger win for the Steam Deck which basically never dipped under 70 FPS on medium settings with anti aliasing enabled., Okay, its cheapo basic anti aliasing, but come on And it looks. Great. Ghostrunner continues Valves dominance here with the Steam Deck. Putting up a clear win and DirectX 11 and creating a new standard for mobile gaming performance in DirectX 12., I mean the Decks lows here: managed to nearly outstrip the average frame rates of competing devices powered by Intel, Xe, Graphics and AMDs. Last gen Vega architecture GPUs., But it also isnt a completely one sided fight. Here. Dead Cells is the first of our. Why did Valve want us to look at this games. On the surface? It actually seems like the Steam Deck puts up an embarrassing fight here coming in dead last., But we also observed that, even though we unlocked the frame rate, SoC power, consumption was quite low in this game. Weve got a couple of theories about this, maybe around optimization Or Valve doing something in the background to save power rather than push past 150 FPS., But were not sure at this time, and we have no reassuring explanation for this next one. Massive credit to Valve, first and foremost for getting Forza Horizon 5. A Microsoft game running at all., But while the in game benchmark reports, industry leading performance here, the gameplay experience does not hold up.
. Both Jake and I experienced what I would describe as kind of a physics, rubber banding effect, where the animation stays smooth. True to the frame rate report, but the experience of playing the game is uneven and jarring.. It kind of reminds me of when a video call gets buffered and then the speakers voice goes slow and then goes fast to catch up and then slow and fast to catch up.. But issues with Forza aside, two things are clear.. One is that the hardware is damn impressive.. I mean Im sure that if we had a working Windows, GPU driver in time for this preview, the Steam Deck wouldve, peeled away from the competition in Forza as well.. And the second is that Valve software team and the open source community are just S tier., Theres, no other way to put it. The fact that any of this works at all is a modern technological, miracle. Theres a lot more to gaming than FPS however. And honestly, This is where the Steam Deck both shines and loses some of its luster.. I mean it speaks volume about the efficiency of the APU that AMDs custom SoC division put together that, in spite of its mere 40 watt hour battery thats almost 20 lower than the competition, the Steam Deck puts up better battery longevity numbers than its competitors.. That eight plus hours under light loads is particularly interesting to me as a retro emulation, enthusiast., Im gon na put a lot of hours on this thing.
, But its not even the star of the show in my opinion., Compared to the OneXPlayer Mini and everything that Ive Seen from Aya, including the limited edition Next preview unit that they sent me, the screen on the Steam Deck stands out as just plain better., Its not shockingly vibrant, like the Switch OLED. Nor does its 1280 by 800 resolution give it the sharpness of the OneXPlayer Mini, but its a very complete package., Deep enough blacks that you wont find the glow of black bars. Distracting., Indiscernible input lag in motion blur and out of the box color performance that isnt gon na win any awards, but didnt look off either until wed run diagnostic tests in a controlled environment.. The best thing about it to me, though, was the excellent, exemplary job that Valve has done of making the display usable under any conditions.. The anti glare coating on the 512 gig version does a fantastic job of minimizing reflections in daylight without having any noticeable. In my experience effect on sharpness., But I should make it clear that I dont think I would personally spend the extra if I didnt need more storage. Since I find myself doing the vast majority of my gaming at night and regardless of screen finish, the Steam Deck is by far the most comfortable handheld that I own to look at in a dimly lit environment.. It just gets so much dimmer than anything else, and details like that really illustrate the care and attention that Valve has poured into this project.
. Do not underestimate the difficulty of producing a screen that manages acceptable, color performance across such a wide range of brightness settings. And believe it or not. The screen pales in comparison to the speakers.. I was able to use Bluetooth or three and a half millimeter headphones., No problem. They performed as expected, but the speakers man. The other devices that Im reminded of when gaming on the Steam Deck are the original HTC One and the latest generation M1 MacBook. engine revving Car crashes Like to be clear, theyre still tiny speakers Valve cant bend the laws of physics, but I was genuinely surprised that a pair of drivers, this small, could create a sound stage. This wide. As I have cars ripping past me in Forza Horizon 5., I mean, I guess, given the performance of both the nearfield speakers and the microphone array on the Index, VR headset, I shouldnt be that surprised. So Valve. Can you hurry up and make a gaming headset already? I promise you it would immediately obsolete most of the other crap that exists and you would sell millions. Seriously. I promise., But I said it wasnt all good right. I wan na talk about haptics. By Valves. Own admission Rumble was an afterthought on the Steam Deck. Compared to the space power and cost downsides. They felt that the benefit was too small and respectfully I disagree., Even if I hadnt already experienced the tight responsive linear motors in the Aya Neo Pro 2021.
I would have immediately noticed the loose cheap toy feel of the touch pads motor whirring, both when using them as a mousing surface and when theyre providing pseudo haptic feedback for the rest of the controller. Theres. Just no nice way to put this. At the moment. Haptics on this device are a poo stain on an otherwise crisp white sheet. And Valve says theyre gon na fix it with software, but were gon na have to wait for the full review embargo to find out. If I need to stop mashing X for doubt over here, sorry. Heres, my X button., Though Valve hasnt, given me much reason to doubt them yet., They claimed at the hands on that. Both the internal SSD and the microSD card would manage similar load times. And I didnt believe them, but so far it appears as though I was wrong.. I still do need to get more detail from them about whether this involved some kind of fancy trickery or if you can actually just copy paste the game folder off of your other desktop onto the Steam Deck., And I also need to find out whats gon na Happen as game titles that are optimized for the blazing fast storage of the PS5 and the Xbox series start to arrive.. But for the time being, I can say this: you can expect to slot a terabyte of storage into your Steam Deck with very little compromise to the experience.. And what that means is that, if youre brave enough to tear down your Deck and upgrade it with the latest from Micron, you could rock as much as three terabytes of storage in this thing.
. Its not as much as the eight terabytes that I have in my Aya Neo Next right now, thanks to its support for full size, 2280 M.2 drives, but that kind of brings up an awkward conversation that we needed to have at some point.. I have spent a lot of this video talking about the Steam Deck compared to competing handheld gaming PCs.. But the truth is that there arent any competing handheld gaming PCs. I mean. Obviously there are other handheld gaming PCs.. We showed them in the video. Its just that they dont compete with the Steam Deck in the same way that a BMW, M5 doesnt compete with a Tesla Model 3. Sure they both have four wheels and they get you from point A to point B and quickly.. But those vehicles are built for very different customers and at very different price. Points. Thats, the bottom line here. Starting at US400, the Steam Deck, is less than half the price of anything else. We looked at in this video., So I could complain that the tactile feel of the Steam and quick access menu buttons are poo poo. Or that the width of the Deck means that playing in unusual positions like lying on. My side in bed is a little uncomfortable cause. My top arm is up and the blood drains out of it., But Im not gon na complain about those things because it is half the price. And even the top spec one has a pretty compelling value proposition with the anti glare screen and the surprisingly nice included Carrying case.
– And this is the real kicker if Valve, follows through on even half of their game compatibility promises. The Steam Deck is projected to have more titles available at launch than any other game console in history., So its time to order a Steam Deck. Ladies and gentlemen, is what I would say if I was irresponsible, because the software is still make or break for this puppy. And Valve has some big questions to answer about funky stuff, like the game engine rubber banding, that we saw in Forza Horizon 5 game compatibility Across the Steam library and things like their auto resuming game, play. Lets say your Steam Deck wasnt online. The last time you were playing. Are you gon na overwrite, a bunch of your progress when you switch to your desktop Were gon na? Have a lot to talk about next time when we get to look at the software., And I have a lot to tell you about Project Killswitch. Thats right dbrand made a case for the Steam Deck.. I have no idea how they got their hands on one to prototype this thing, but it looks like kind of like their grip case., Its got. This sort of ruggedized rubberized, finish to it., Looks like its gon na be extremely comfortable., And one of the features Im really looking forward to is the kickstand in the back, because that is one thing Valve did not include that. I think Nintendo made pretty clear.
Is a good feature to have. Having a little kickstand you can plug in your dongle, get a wireless controller plugged into this thing, and that is gon na be a freaking awesome. Experience on the plane that Valve just doesnt really have an answer to out of the box., So guys you can check out the product page on dbrands website. Were gon na. Have that link down below. Theyre bad people that make good products. Thats? All you really need to know about them. JK, JK love, you dbrand. And lots of love to Valve for sending this over for the preview.. I look forward to covering it in more depth as we go. Forward. Did. I include an LTT Store mention on this video No.. Oh crap.