If, like myself, you were interested in x86 handhelds back in July of 2021, then you had already spent a couple of months in excited speculation over the rumored upcoming “SteamPal” from Valve. Releasing in the midst of a healthily growing x86 handheld market, how would this corporate-backed handheld make itself stand out from the crowd? Well with a name like the Steam Deck, it was bound to succeed.

The first answer, it would seem, was the price point. With competitors beginning to start closer and closer to the $1,000 mark Valve shook up the market with an entry model priced at only $399, bringing the price range into closer competition with the Nintendo Switch than with its proper brethren such as the Aya Neo and GPD Win devices. That entry model, of course, being a 64GB eMMC model that raised more than a few eyebrows considering that many modern games easily dwarfed such a capacity. The upgraded models, however, sported faster NVMe storage with 256GB and 512GB options, with price points raising accordingly to $529 and $649.

So already a tempting value offer, Steam knew they needed to implement a system to combat the enormous scalping problem that had been plaguing the tech industry. So, they came up with a queue, where you could only enter once, and only with a mature Steam account that had been opened a couple of months prior to the announcement of the device. When preorders began, the situation was chaotic, with purchase servers failing to properly respond under the load, false flagging of accounts as being too recent, and many people left waiting hours or even days to complete a preorder they had waited eagerly for.

When the dust all settled though, it was time for questions. Would the SD slot be sufficient for running AAA games? Would the NVMe drive be user replaceable? Would Steam abandon this project like they had the Steam Machine and the Steam Controller prior? It would actually seem, in retrospect, that the existence of both of these failed projects did a great deal to inspire the design and software of this machine. And so, despite an initial delay from the December release to the end of February, the Steam Deck was released into the hands of the waiting public, and so here is the Retro Handhelds review on that product now that we’ve had time to tinker with our new toy.


Steam Deck
The Steam Deck is big and beautiful and takes advantage of its size to offer plenty of powerful hardware

Though I mentioned that the price point for the Steam Deck was designed to make it stand out from the crowd, it certainly was not the only card Valve had up their sleeve. Sporting a semi-custom Ryzen chip from manufacturer AMD, also known for providing the central chips for the popular Playstation and Xbox consoles, the Steam Deck was poised to be the first handheld to sport the new RDNA2 architecture for its graphics processor core. This new architecture would mean an uplift in overall performance of the graphics capability, particularly in a watt-for-watt comparison, against the Vega iGPUs still present in many of its competitors.

In a move meant to find a happy compromise between performance and battery consumption, Valve had this APU cut down to 4 cores and 8 threads of Ryzen Zen 2 cores, reasoning that while a 4 core arrangement was not optimal for processor-heavy tasks, it was more than enough for even modern gaming without being a power hog. This move should also allow more of the available wattage to be allocated to the GPU cores, resulting in better performance in games that are GPU-bound. The onboard 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM is shared between both system memory and graphics memory, and it is the first x86 handheld to be using this new type of RAM. It is installed in a quad-channel configuration, in order to maximize bandwidth for the shared usage, and boasts an overall speed of 5500MT/s, which is a measurement of combined clock speed and bandwidth.

Storage is handled by both onboard modules as well as an SD card slot located on the bottom of the device. The onboard storage options include a 64GB eMMC module, as well as two NVMe PCIe Gen 3 solid-state drives at 256 and 512GB. This M.2 storage slot has been found to be easily user-replaceable, even in the base models, and requires a small 2230-sized M.2. The SD card slot maxes out at 100MB/s, an important figure to remember if you’re thinking about shelling out big bucks for high-speed cards, as this limit can prevent you from spending unnecessary money on a card too fast to get your money’s worth. Steam has stated that within the Steam Deck the SD card will be sufficient to run any games including AAA titles without issue but do bear in mind that the NVMe SSDs can theoretically boast speeds as much as 30x faster than the SD card limit in this device.

Powering the device is a 40WHr battery, rated at 5200mAh, which is reasonably average for x86 devices but trails behind the larger capacities of some of its competitors from GPD and Aya. Thankfully due to the focus on power efficiency, this battery can last quite some time with the right tweaks but maxed out and this device could see well below 2 hours in very intensive tasks. Valve has claimed that the Steam Deck can expect 2-8 hours of battery life, which is a metric we intend to test in our gaming performance section.

Steam Deck

Rounding out its onboard capabilities, the Steam Deck boasts dual-band AC Wifi and Bluetooth 5.0 for connectivity. It has a gyroscope built in, as well as haptic feedback. For ports, we’re seeing a reasonably sparse offering, with only a USB type C connection and a 3.5mm headphone jack, as well as the aforementioned SD card slot. Thankfully, the USB type C connection provides video out for docking and features up to the USB 3.1 standard for connectivity.

Of course, the hardware taking centerstage in most handhelds is the screen. Our window into the world of our video games, it’s essential that this element is done well to enhance the user experience. While it’s no OLED display, the Steam Deck’s 7 inch IPS panel is vibrant and responsive, and certainly will not disappoint when compared to its competitors; especially in this price bracket. Sporting a glass panel, the base model and the mid-priced model are standard glossy finish, but the high-end 512GB SKU comes with an etched glass meant to diffuse incoming reflections along its surface for a crisp matte finish. Many owners of the 512 have reported that this finish seems to have an effect of deepening the contrast of the display, though at a small cut to the higher-end vibrancy. This means that those consumers who prefer a bright saturated look will be happy with the base screen, whilst those happier with a balanced more natural display will prefer the upgrade.

Inputs and Comfort

So, let’s talk about how this thing feels in the hand. Handfeel, not like that Mouthfeel that some reviewers are apparently prioritizing these days. Looking at the device, it seems to be nothing more than a large slab at 11.7 inches in width and 4.5 inches in height. However, Valve have definitely done their work on the ergonomics. With the bottom corners rounded for your palms to nestle into, and the rear of the device sporting large, deep handles, this device manages to be a pleasing ergonomic experience for people of all hand sizes, with the sloping deep analog triggers settling directly where your index fingers naturally want to rest, and the horizontal arrangement of the analog and face buttons ensuring that your hand will be kept high on the device to keep those shoulders nice and accessible.

Steam Deck

Overall, it’s a large device that has been smartly designed to fit a wide range of hand sizes. Despite this, however, there will perhaps be a bit of a learning curve for people who are used to traditional controller layouts. This is due to the unusual layout of the controls on the face. Rather than the analog sticks, face buttons, and dpads being above and below each other like the Switch, or diagonal to each other like many mainstream controllers, they are instead horizontally inclined to one another. Some users have reported that this has forced them to relearn certain muscle memory to work properly with the Steam Deck, but the nice thing is that once this learning curve is conquered this layout does a lot of good for the design. It keeps your thumbs straight, and your palms nestled into those curved corners, which helps make this a more equal experience for both dual analog control or more traditional dpad+face button-heavy games.

Steam Deck

In the usual offset below the analog sticks, you will instead find two haptic touchpads, similar to the kind you might find on a laptop. This is an area where the influence of the defunct Steam Controller can be felt. After all, fans of that device did enjoy the extra layer of control that capacitive touchpads added to the experience. However, since the Steam Controller chose to replace the dpad and the right analog stick with these touchpads, the more mainstream audience largely found the controller too foreign and unwieldy to embrace. So, in a move that seems as though they learned from that lesson, Valve decided more was better and added the touchpads as an additional input rather than remove from inputs that were already present. While very useful for general navigation in the desktop interface, these touchpads are also excellent for bridging that gap that still exists in PC titles with little or no gamepad support. This greatly increases the number of playable titles to bring the Steam Deck closer to playing “everything” than it would have without their addition.

Steam Deck

Returning to the traditional controller elements, everything here does well avoiding the “handheld feeling” that devices using Switch or Vita button sets tend to fall into. The face buttons are full-sized, with a nice travel and a familiar capacitive rubber feel like you’d find on a typical Xbox or Dualshock controller, albeit with a B button which feels a bit like it’s teetering on the edge of the device due to the curvature of the sides. The dpad is perhaps nothing to write home about, but it’s dependable and comfortable and has a similar capacitive rubber feeling that the face buttons do. In between these are the analog sticks, full-sized (thank you Valve) and concave, they’re definitely comparable to some of the best analog sticks on traditional controllers with good reach and resistance making them feel excellent.

Steam Deck

If we move to the shoulders, we find that L1 and R1 are clicky with a short travel. While this is otherwise a nice and suitable feel, the fact that they follow so closely to the curvature of the plastic shell can make them feel like they should have been raised a couple of millimeters higher for better comfort and ease of use. The triggers, meanwhile, are again an excellent comparison to some of the best on the market, sporting a nice long smooth pull with the right amount of resistance, and sitting in an area that just feels natural for the index fingers to rest on. Down below these is where we will find the addition of the back buttons, R4/R5 and L4/L5. Mappable, like all of the controls, to a variety of keyboard or controller inputs, these extra inputs are an addition I would really like to see more of in mainstream controllers, as they are often instead relegated to the various expensive “Pro” controllers. They add more input, and in an accessible and comfortable location, what is there not to love? Clicky with a bit of travel like the L1/R1 buttons, they are a little deceptive because it seems like they should push into the handgrips, but push straight back into the body of the device instead.

Software and OS

We’ve talked plenty about its outer beauty, but now we should examine the software that underpins the entire user experience. By default, the operating system installed on the Steam Deck is SteamOS 3.0, a Linux distribution customized and built upon Arch Linux. This will, of course, mean that for many of us who have primarily used Windows PCs over the years, there will be a bit of a learning curve when exiting the friendly gaming-centric interface Steam dubs “Gaming Mode.” While you can install Windows on this device, at present the support is somewhat dodgy, and for now the common advice is to stick with the default Steam OS. That is what we’ll focus on here.

The Gaming Mode interface should be very familiar to anyone who has used Big Picture Mode with the desktop client before, but it integrates nice additional features that provide great quality of life for handheld usage. Pressing the small three-dot button opposite the Steam button brings up a Quick Settings menu that allows for numerous tweaks, as well as providing you access to easy diagnostics data during gameplay. From this menu you can toggle switches for wifi/bluetooth, adjust brightness, set tdp limits or fps limits, enable upscaler modes, quick access to friends list and notifications, and numerous other features that allow you to balance your handheld experience for your optimal performance-to-battery ratio. A big update after release even allowed you to adjust the refresh rate of the display in 1hz increments between 40hz and 60hz. This allows better battery life and frametime smoothness for games that can’t quite hit an unthrottled 60hz, and for when you want something smoother than 30fps. In addition to all that, the killer app here is a working suspend/resume mode that works just like you’re used to on your Android devices or Nintendo Switch: press the power button to sleep, and when you’re ready to jump back in it takes mere seconds to resume exactly where you left.

Besides those features, it does show you the Deck Verified rating of your games to give a decent idea of what kind of performance, if any, you could get out of your favorite games in your Steam library. Since SteamOS is a Linux build, any games that don’t have a native Linux version they will be run through a translation layer called Proton that allows their Windows version to run. Now for many casual users, this could be a nice stopping point. Play the games that run well, the library is still massive even if you exclude all unsupported games (and even then, you’ll find many marked unsupported that seem to run just fine with no tweaks as I did with Sunset Overdrive), and just utilize the small friendly tweaks available to you in Quick Settings. Easy peasy, tons of hours of handheld fun to be had.

However, for the more advanced or perhaps more daring users, the desktop mode is the portal to use to find all the more powerful tools to enhance the Gaming Mode. Perhaps you’re seeking to install alternative versions of Proton, such as the Glorious Eggroll versions that enable support for numerous games that are otherwise unsupported on Steam’s Proton releases. Or maybe you’d like to install emulators, install a plugin that allows you to park cores for better clock speeds, enable a reshade specifically tuned to make the Steam Deck display more OLED-like, or numerous other tweaks and mods. After all, this is a PC, and the sky is the limit.

As I’ve said before this will mean a bit of a learning curve for those of you like myself that have not used Linux. It’s an entirely different beast, with less overall software support and sometimes expecting you to be fairly familiar with command line shenanigans. However, this distribution is fairly friendly, coming installed with an “App Store” of sorts with the Discover flatpak installer, and coming with the Dolphin file browser to enable a somewhat familiar interface for file-related tasks. Be prepared to occasionally have to google how to do a simple task you were able to do on a normal desktop just fine, but you generally won’t be in this interface much except to do very specific tasks unless you’re one of the users who plan to use their Steam Deck as an all-purpose docked PC.

So What Can It Play?

Steam Deck

Would it be hyperbolic of me to say everything? Yes, a bit, but in some ways that has more to do with the software than the hardware capabilities of the device. Allow me to clarify: as stated in the previous section, the Steam Deck is capable of using Windows, but for many who will stay on SteamOS the Proton compatibility layer will pose to be an obstacle for certain games for now. Steam is constantly working on improving this compatibility list, but for the time being the only platform that you can install on the Steam Deck that will provide universal access to all PC games is Windows. Besides that, however, the Steam Deck can be outfitted with a full spectrum of emulators, and there is even a very handy tool to mostly automate the process called EmuDeck available for the device. I personally used EmuDeck to set them up on my device, so let’s take a look at the results of that before moving on to native gameplay.

Fully Playable
Atari 2600, Atari 5600, Atari 7800
Nintendo Entertainment System
Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Nintendo Game Boy
Nintendo Game Boy Color
Nintendo Game Boy Advance
Nintendo Virtual Boy
Nintendo 64
Nintendo DS
Sega Master System
Sega Genesis / Mega Drive
Sega 32X
Sega CD
Sega Saturn
Sega Dreamcast
Neo Geo Pocket
Neo Geo Pocket Color
Sony PlayStation
Sony PlayStation Portable
Sony PlayStation 2
Nintendo GameCube
Nintendo Wii
Nintendo 3DS
Nintendo Wii U
Mostly Playable
Nintendo Switch
Somewhat Playable
Sony Playstation 3
Out of Reach
PS4? Xbox One?

Well, I certainly wasn’t hyperbolic when it came to emulation. For the most part, if there is an emulator available for it on PC, the Steam Deck will run it. In many cases, you will find that even the automatic presets set by EmuDeck will be many multiples of internal resolution scaling higher than you’re used to on the typical Linux handheld. Being an 800p screen, even some of the most modern devices that the Steam Deck can run will be near their native resolution as well.

Obviously calling upon such a powerful device to play the classic Sonic The Hedgehog or Super Mario World is probably a bit overkill. After all, you could play these systems easily on devices that fit in the palm of your hand. Using the Steam Deck is like bringing a Ferrari to a go-kart race. However, if you’re a one-device-fits-all kinda person, then this hot rod will certainly hot dog around the go-kart track like its name is Dale Earnhardt. It’s got the lovely large screen, and the comfortable controls, so by all means load up a session of Tetris on your favorite Gameboy emulator and watch as the Steam Deck doesn’t even break a sweat.

Having said that, we’ll run past the easy devices here, the 8 and 16 bits home consoles, up to the PS1, and let’s just focus on some of the trickier classics, as well as the more power-hungry modern systems, and see how they fared in testing. Please note that all power testing numbers were performed at approximately 50% brightness and volume with wifi enabled but bluetooth disabled.

Nintendo 64

Steam Deck
Despite being the oldest console being emulated here the N64 has traditionally been a janky console for emulation to get right

Ah, the N64, a childhood classic for many 30-somethings in attendance, it has been a tricky system to get just right, but of course on the Steam Deck it runs basically flawlessly. In testing of titles including the often-hard-to-run 007 Goldeneye, the Steam Deck held solid performance at a 4x internal resolution scale on the Mupen64Plus-Next core in Retroarch. System power was measured at between 7 and 8 watts during testing, meaning you can expect roughly 5-5.5 hours of N64 gameplay.

Sega Dreamcast

Steam Deck
Sega Dreamcast is also an older console that has been historically difficult to emulate but I just love some Sonic Adventure 2

Sega Dreamcast. The final swan song of the unfortunately doomed hardware division of Sega. Despite this, the system hosted many beloved classics that have seen multiple modern re-releases on newer systems. This system ran smoothly on the Steam Deck at an internal resolution of 960×720 on the Flycast core of Retroarch, however, I did experience some odd graphical bugs, particularly with regard to shadows during my testing. System power was measured at between 6 and 7 watts, resulting in an estimated 5.5-6.5 hours of Dreamcast on the Steam Deck.

Nintendo DS

Steam Deck
Not especially tricky to emulate but the dual screens and touch functionality will have to be a consideration for game choice

Nintendo’s first foray into dual-screen gaming runs just fine on this device, though it was surprisingly power-thirsty drawing 8 to 9 watts during testing at 5x resolution scale on the MelonDS Retroarch core. You could perhaps get slightly better consumption numbers by lowering the resolution, but this would still afford you 4.5-5 hours of DS gameplay.


Steam Deck
God of War Chains of Olympus is commonly one of the most challenging PSP titles to emulate and easily sailed at a smooth 60fps in this test

The PSP, a time when Sony briefly thought they’d try and stand toe-to-toe with the Handheld King, Nintendo. Beloved by its fans for a plethora of impressive titles, and beloved by hackers and homebrewers who have found the PSP an excellent platform for emulation and tinkering, this device runs great with the PPSSPP emulator on the Steam Deck. In testing at 3x resolution, this device drew 7 to 8 watts, resulting in an estimated battery time of 5-5.5 hours.


Steam Deck
Jak and Daxter Come on Sony Ratchet and Clank are still getting new adventures all these years later what about these two Get Naughty Dog on it

The PS2, otherwise known as the best-selling home console of all time, it’s a no-brainer that plenty of Deck owners would want to emulate this. They’ll be happy to know it runs great on this device, drawing anywhere from 9 to 11w during testing, at 2x resolution scale in the PCSX2 emulator. That gives you about 3.5-4.5 hours of good old classic PS2 fun on a full charge.


Steam Deck
Metroid Prime one of my favorite games of all time and also helpfully one of the more challenging Gamecube titles to emulate It took a lot of willpower for this test not to be a full playthrough

The Gamecube was a cute little thing, and those of us who had one didn’t need a multitap to play with more than one friend, haha. It may be interesting to see four friends trying to crowd in around one Steam Deck though, which runs Gamecube brilliantly. In testing, the Dolphin emulator drew roughly 8 to 10 watts at 2x resolution, netting an estimated battery time of 4-5 hours in Gamecube games.

Wii U

Steam Deck
Super Mario 3D World where Mario dons a fursuit to clobber the bad guys Me OW

The Wii Who? The Wii U, part of Nintendo’s ongoing attempt at making the confusing Wii moniker work, this ill-fated console still housed a solid stable of Nintendo exclusives. Well now you can play them on a PC handheld, just don’t tell Nintendo; it’s a touchy subject. In testing, the CEMU emulator drew between 14 and 16 watts at native resolution, for a roughly 2.5-3 hour battery life for this system.

Wii U emulation was not flawless during my testing, between some slight framerate hitches from time to time and some mild visual bugs, but overall the experience was highly playable.


Steam Deck
Oh look its Metroid 5 it only took them nearly 20 years after Metroid 4 No no Im not mad Just disappointed

The Switch, a pretty big talking point during the run-up to the Steam Deck’s release, though perhaps unfairly lumped into the same category of influence just because they’re both handhelds. Well, you can’t run your Steam library on your Switch, but you CAN run your Switch library on your Steam Deck. Using the Yuzu emulator, testing drew between 16 and 18 watts. This leaves you only 2-2.5 hours to enjoy some Switch games on a single charge, but hey you’re still rocking a V1 Switch to back up these titles, so it’s probably not much of a difference, right?

Needless to say, being one of the newest systems available to emulate, you won’t be running the full Switch library at full speed. However, many of the most popular titles will be well-optimized, and at least in testing Metroid Dread I largely experienced 60fps across the board in Docked mode, albeit with a somewhat unstable frametime.


Steam Deck
Halo Combat Evolved Step into the shoes of the powerful Spartan known as Master Chief if you can bring yourself to leave behind the absolute banger of a title song

Saving the best for last? Unfortunately, no. Though a great system with a wonderful library of classics, Xbox emulation has never been especially great. Meaning that despite residing in the same console generation as the Gamecube and PS2, you won’t be seeing similar performance at all. The first title I attempted to test, a well-liked FPS called Black, was entirely unplayable. In fact, I couldn’t even get past the title sequence, as the entire game chugged along at mere single-digit framerates.

Instead, I loaded up the original Halo game, which did run at what I would consider a playable state on the Steam Deck. Despite this, I did encounter numerous visual bugs and framerate hitches, and fairly extreme dips in performance during scenes with heavy particle effects. It will play, probably start to finish, but be prepared to deal with a host of issues. This is one library you’d need to carefully choose from for Steam Deck Emulation.

In testing of this title at 1x resolution in the Xemu emulator, I experienced a similar 14-16w range of power draw as the Wii U, resulting in the same estimated battery time of 2.5-3 hours in Xbox emulation.

Native x86 Games

Steam Deck
A recent AAA release even Dying Light 2 runs really well on this handheld monster albeit with a few concessions being made

Let’s move on to the native library, which itself is a dizzying number of titles available to play as well. Though their Deck Verified status will often make it seem as though the number of titles is lower than it is, as previously mentioned there are unofficial variants of Proton that allow for a much greater amount of these games to be played. In my testing there was no game I tried that couldn’t be made to work with a little bit of tinkering, albeit I was aware of and didn’t test the limits of some of the games whose anti-cheat software creates a hard block on them functioning properly on the Steam Deck. The power of this spiffy new AMD APU is simply astounding and is putting on a great show.

Little indies? Don’t even worry about em. Games like Dead Cells, Stardew Valley, Celeste, Spiritfarer, Night in the Woods, Shovel Knight, these games will all run beautifully and easily, often netting you battery life in the 6+ hour range due to how little power they sip. You may have seen many of these available on the pseudo-competitor Switch, but on the Stean Deck you’ll get them all in a sleek 60fps, and due to the nature of indie game development you’ll find many more available titles, and often months or years before a Switch release. But enough said about the toaster games, after all I don’t think we were really wondering if they could run, but they will look beautiful and feel comfortable on this device.

Steam Deck
Was anybody really worried something like Stardew Valley wouldnt run on this No Were we worried it would addict us all over again and add another 300 hours to our playtime Yes

Where are we on modern games? x86 handhelds have been around for a bit, but sporting either Intel Iris/Xe iGPUs, or AMD’s older Vega stuff came with really heavy concessions for more current games. I’m happy to report that the Steam Deck’s power is enough to do serious heavy lifting in even the latest and greatest games. Want to play Forza Horizon 5? Dying Light 2? Cyberpunk 2077? Red Dead Redemption 2? Spiderman? It seems as though nothing is quite off-limits for the Steam Deck, however it can often come with compromise to the battery life, as well as requisite reductions of resolution, framerate, and quality settings. Thankfully being a 720p screen, and even allowing lower resolutions by using built-in FSR upscaling from the quick settings menu, you can take a decent amount of load off on the resolution end of things. You might find yourself setting the newest games at Low-Med settings, and 30-40fps, but they’ll run capably and playably at those settings. If you want to play it, you probably can, it just might take some tinkering.

The real sweet spot for the device is more in 7th gen 360/PS3 era titles. Want to revisit Skyrim? Witcher 3? Fallout New Vegas? Mass Effect? Burnout Paradise? Bioshock? Many of the games from this era CAN mostly be maxed out at 60fps if you’re willing to live with the battery life hit. This era alone is full of absolute gems that have only really been properly playable on a small handful of recent handhelds. Moving up the ladder to the next generation will still have very playable games, but you might find yourself bringing all the settings down a notch or two. Expect as little as less than 2 hours for the most demanding of titles, but you’ll find with a few settings changes you’ll find many even slightly older AAA titles netting you 3 or 4 hours easily.

Steam Deck
Running smooth as butter and looking beautiful while doing it Man I gotta play this game again

Take for instance 7th gen Bioshock Infinite, a rather beloved game by fans and critics alike. At Ultra settings it easily holds 60fps throughout gameplay, but it does so while drawing anywhere from 14-17w, giving you only roughly 2.5-3 hours of gameplay. Lowering to Medium/60 nets an extra 2 watts to about 12-14w, bringing you up to 3-3.5 hours, but leaving it at Ultra and lowering the refresh rate saves you even more power to about 11-13w. The sweet spot I found, giving just about 4 hours of gameplay, was High with 40hz refresh for about 10w power draw.

Steam Deck
Fallout 4 plays wonderfully for being such a large open world game

Meanwhile, Fallout 4, a game released on 8th generation consoles, runs at a mostly 45-60fps range in High settings while outdoors, keeping a solid 60 indoors. It does this, however, while taking a whopping 25w of power draw meaning you’d be looking at only perhaps 1.5 hours of battery. Lowering it to Medium/60 allows it to keep a stable 60 at all times for about 20w of draw, or 2 hours of battery life. However, the biggest surprise came when changing the refresh rate to 40hz at Medium, lowering the wattage drain to 13w, giving an entire 3 hours of battery life at this setting.

Overall, whether you want to play old or new, simple or fancy, as you can see this extremely capable handheld will most likely suit your needs in almost any case. Just beware of the few fringe cases, and be prepared to tinker a bit with custom Proton versions to get the most compatibility, but in the end you’ll find a rich, diverse, and extensive catalog of games playable on your Steam Deck straight out of the box.


If Valve’s goal was to provide an excellent, well-built product at a price point that would set the rest of the handheld x86 market ablaze, they succeeded. Having a well-known corporate backer in this industry segment has helped bring plenty of attention to a formerly somewhat obscure niche, and will hopefully drive quite a bit of interest in the next generations of x86 handhelds from the makers who have already been on the field for a bit, as well as the ones surely soon to enter. It stands to reason, after all, that companies would want to profit from a booming industry segment, and we have already seen hints of what’s to come with the new AOKZOE entering the ring to stand off against the likes of GPD, Aya, and OneXPlayer.

For the time being, however long it may be, Valve and the Steam Deck seem to have center stage. Besides competitive pricing, they brought the latest iGPU to market for plenty of power, added input methods that would reach a wider segment of games, and have developed an operating system that will enable both the casual audience to enjoy their games easily and the hardcore audience to tweak and modify their games and experience to their hearts’ content. The Steam Deck is certainly an all-rounder, which means they check all the boxes with competence, but with some drawbacks. There certainly are, and will continue to be, specialized devices that do specific tasks better than the Steam Deck. However, if you’re looking for the “One Device That Can Do It All” then you’re looking for the Steam Deck.


  • Enough onboard graphical power to take on almost any game in your Steam library, and most of your emulation library too.
  • Premium build and comfort, your Nintendo Switch will likely feel like a Fisher-Price toy after a session on the Steam Deck.
  • Built with an eye toward handheld use, the onboard software provides all the tools you’ll need to get things dialed in, and the touchpads allow easy navigation of the interface without workarounds like mouse mode.


  • There’s no getting around the fact that this will probably be the largest handheld you own. It’s big.
  • Battery life. You’re probably going to want to stay near an outlet or keep a battery pack on you for any newer titles.
  • Linux operating system not only provides a learning curve for Windows gamers, but also limits compatibility with games until further Proton improvements are made.

Final Thoughts:

  • If you’re looking to break into the handheld x86 market, the Steam Deck has the power and the price to be the perfect starting point. It might just be the secret sauce to help you finally conquer that enormous Steam backlog, or perhaps tempt you into expanding it.


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