Valve Steam Deck Review: Glitchy but Promising

I have been taking part in PC video games since I used to be a child—I bear in mind attempting 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 be the creator of hits like Half-Life and Portal.) I used to be intrigued when Valve introduced the Steam Deck final 12 months, a handheld moveable gaming console that permits you to play your PC video games wherever. It is the potential kick I wanted to get by way of my ever-expanding Steam backlog. 

Effectively, 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 restaurant, and on a aircraft. A few of my fears from after I first heard in regards to the gadget had been validated—it is cumbersome and the structure of the controls aren’t very ergonomic, attributes you do not really 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, by way of a pandemic, so it is not stunning to see last-minute points to appropriate. However since I acquired it, Valve has pushed system updates each single day—which means I’ve needed to re-test sure capabilities time and again. Valve says it’s going to proceed pushing out frequent updates squashing 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 strong state drive. You may pay as little as $399 for the Deck, however you may solely get a paltry 64 GB of storage. Contemplating AAA video games are 50 to 70 GB today, if no more, you may most likely wish to pay up for the 256 GB model ($529) on the very least. 

That mentioned, the MicroSD card slot is fingers down my favourite function. You may hot-swap in MicroSDs as soon as they’re correctly formatted to leap in and play a distinct sport, basically giving the Deck a complete 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 Developed (101 GB), Future 2 (74 GB), Cyberpunk 2077 (67 GB), and Loss of life Stranding (64 GB). 

The load velocity distinction between the inner SSD and the MicroSD is minimal—Loss of life Stranding took nearly 19 seconds to load up on the SSD and 30 seconds on the MicroSD, although this does fluctuate. Thus far 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. In case you’re fearful about Valve’s low storage choices, MicroSD playing cards may have your again.

This Steam Deck is cumbersome, however not as heavy as I had imagined nor as uncomfortable to carry. It is 672 grams; for reference, the Nintendo Change OLED is 436 grams, and the iPhone 13 is 174 grams. A lot of this weight sits on either side of the console, which is curved on the again to suit extra comfortably in your fingers. It feels bizarre to carry such a large handheld (12 inches in comparison with the 9-inch lengthy Change), 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 fingers out usually and it hasn’t occurred since.

My greatest concern was the structure of the buttons, particularly since you possibly can’t detach the controllers like you possibly can on the Change. Not like most controllers, the place the buttons and thumbsticks sit on a diagonal—a design iterated on over many years of testing to scale back pressure—the Deck’s D-pad and ABXY buttons sit horizontally subsequent to their respective thumbstick. They’re fairly excessive as much as make room for 2 trackpads on either side 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.