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The Steam Deck, Valve’s Nintendo Switch competitor, breaks cover

It’s been rumoured for a while, but Valve’s Steam Deck handheld has been officially unveiled. 

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Steam Deck announced
Valve / Thumbsticks

It’s been rumoured for a while, but Valve’s Steam Deck handheld has been officially unveiled. 

Sometimes you have to question the timing of things like product announcements. It might be a coincidence, certainly, but if it looks too perfect? It makes you wonder.

Take the Steam Deck, the handheld Steam machine that has just been announced formally today.

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I’m sure Valve was already pretty close to revealing the Steam Deck – it’s been rumoured long enough – but when the Nintendo Switch Pro rumours turned out to be just a mid-generation facelift? It might just have incentivised Gabe Newell and Valve to bring its more powerful handheld into the public eye, to try and snap up some of those disappointed Nintendo fans.

Good timing, then, whatever the reason. But what are the key selling points of the Steam Deck, then, over and above the very-not-Pro Nintendo Switch?

For starters, it will be more powerful. Rather than the weedy Nvidia Tegra part paired with 4GB of RAM in the Nintendo Switch, the Steam Deck is powered by a custom AMD APU with 8 Xen 2 CPU threads, 8 RDNA2 Compute Units on the GPU, and 16GB of RAM.

The Steam Deck is also competitively priced, for something that looks considerably beefier than the Nintendo Switch. It starts at $400 US / £350 for a version kitted out with 64GB of eMMC storage, with upgraded models increasing the storage to larger NVMe drives, and adding some extra bits into the bundle.

And then there’s the library of games. According to Valve, the Steam Deck will allow players to run anything in their Steam library. (Though the Steam Deck does run SteamOS, the custom Linux operating system that Valve built to power its devices like the Steam Deck, which hasn’t always had the best support compared to standard Windows PCs.) You might have to sacrifice some settings to get it to play nicely, and the battery life might struggle if a game is too demanding, but you can play the latest AAA titles, apparently.

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All the other stuff is pretty standard for a Nintendo Switch competitor: the form factor, the screen size, the control layout, the optional dock for playing games on your telly. The Steam Deck will also support voice chat natively, which is a bit of a win over Nintendo’s clunky mobile app solution. The controllers don’t look to detach like Nintendo’s Joy-Con, though.

So that’s it. The Steam Deck is real, it’s coming soon, it’s relatively sensibly priced, and it (apparently) plays your whole Steam library. Pre-orders will open on July 16 at 10am PDT / 6pm BST, in part to help Valve gauge manufacturing levels, but also, to try and deter scalpers.

Also, it looks like a Game Gear, and we’re very much here for that.


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Tom is an itinerant freelance technology writer who found a home as an Editor with Thumbsticks. Powered by coffee, RPGs, and local co-op.