Valve Steam Deck Review: Not a Pocket Monster

Content

  1. We meet by clothes
  2. Let's go through the mind
  3. To take or not to take

What have always been good

game consoles? The absence of complex settings, problems with games and instant readiness for entertainment. Convenience is the main word that has always gone hand in hand with consoles.

Alas, in modern consoles it has become much moresettings than before, and now, often, you can’t just turn on the game and start playing right away - first you have to tinker with the graphics and quality settings properly so that the game looks the best on your TV or monitor. But even despite these nuances, you clearly know that having bought a game for a particular console, you most likely will not encounter its unpredictable behavior, and the console will not start to behave somehow wrong during the game or its loading. Of the hundreds of games that have been released over the past couple of years, you can literally recall a couple of egregious violations of this rule.

What about handheld consoles?Ideally, they should be light, compact, ready to play at any time without being tied to an outlet. You can always take them with you and they do not take up much space. There is only one such console on the market right now - the Nintendo Switch. But then came the Steam Deck from Valve, designed to change our understanding of portable consoles and games on them. Did he succeed? Now let's figure it out.

Specifications Valve Steam Deck
Firmware SteamOS 3.0 (based on Arch Linux)
KDE Plasma in desktop mode
Screen 7", touchscreen, 60Hz, 1280 x 800, IPS, 400 nits, 16:10
Chipset AMD hybrid processor
CPU: Zen 2 4c/8t, 2.4-3.5 GHz (up to 448 gigaflops FP32)
GPU: RDNA 2 with eight compute units, 1.0 GHz-1.6 GHz (up to 1.6 teraflops FP32)
APU Power: 4-15W
Ram 16 GB LPDDR5 (5500 MT/s, four 32-bit channels)
ROM 64 GB eMMC (PCIe Gen 2 x1)
256 GB NVMe SSD (PCIe Gen 3 x4)
512 GB NVMe SSD (PCIe Gen 3 x4)
SIM and memory card no, microSD
Battery 40 Wh, 2 to 8 hours of play
Charging 45W USB Type-C PD 3.0
Wireless interfaces Bluetooth 5.0 (support for controllers, accessories and audio devices)
Wi-Fi, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, 2 x 2 MIMO, IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Sound Stereo with built-in digital signal processing for total immersion
Multi-channel audio via DisplayPort over USB-C, standard USB-C or Bluetooth 5.0
3.5 mm jack
Dimensions and weight 298 x 117 x 49mm, 669g
Price from $400

We meet by clothes

The console comes in max.an unremarkable box that tells you where you can take your Steam Deck with you on the inside. You can play in the toilet, in the tree, on the subway, anywhere. But it's all just words. As it is in practice - we will discuss a little lower.

The device itself is packed in a tight case, similar totool case. It even has a carrying handle on top. This case adds about half of the device's weight (669g) to the device, bringing the total set closer to a kilogram. The case takes up half the backpack and about a third of the sports bag, so carrying it with you in this form is a real torment. Every time I took a Steam Deck with me, I cursed both the size of the console and the size of the case for it. The device is simply impossible to immediately pull out of the bag and start playing.

Dimensions are the main problem with Steam Deck.It's 298 x 117 x 49mm without the case. At the same time, size is its main advantage. This is a real game "board", which is convenient to hold with two hands, because all the buttons, bumpers and triggers are located exactly where they are needed. But in order to comfortably use the Deck for a long time, you still have to look for some kind of foothold - for example, your knees if you play sitting.

This brings us to how portabledevice device completely failed. It is impossible to quickly get it out of the bag, it takes up too much space and it is inconvenient to keep it for a long time without a fulcrum. The fact that he has excellent buttons with a clear move and high-quality triggers immediately fades into the background. In addition, there are too many buttons here.

Perhaps you are one of those users who in ordinarygamepads lack buttons on the back, and instead of one touchpad, you wish you had two. Then Steam Deck is what you need. You can customize the controls in any game or take advantage of the most exotic layouts created by the community of players.


Layouts for every taste

But for everyone else, having so many waysmanagement will only lead to confusion. In most games, they are not used in any way, because games that support gamepads, as a rule, do not need so many buttons. They are designed for the Xbox or PS gamepad.

Give up Valve everything superfluous - and the console has becometwice as compact. Yes, for some buyers this would not be enough, but most people who play on PS, Xbox controllers or have a Nintendo Switch would only be happy.

Despite the large weight and size, Deck is notfeels solid and solid. Here and there, squeaks are heard, if you squeeze it a little harder. I would not advise dropping or sitting on him, because he may not survive this. Screen quality also raises questions. The display here is like a Nexus 7 - seven inches, HD resolution, low viewing angles, instantly turning the picture into a purple glow when tilted. You can look at it comfortably only at a right angle or with a slight deviation. Plus, the screen has a lot of glare, and in order not to glare, if you please, fork out for a version with 512 GB of memory. Only in it the screen received an anti-reflective coating. You can turn a blind eye to all this if you manage to buy Deck at its real price, but at a price of 150 thousand or more (namely, this is how much they are now asking for on average in the market), such workmanship is simply unforgivable.

Maybe he can be forgiven for all this for excellent gaming performance, unattainable by any other console on the market? Oh.

Let's go through the mind

The device is instantly ready for games after the firstsetting up and entering a Steam account. There is a main page with quick access to chats, a folder for screenshots and videos, and settings. You can immediately go to the store with games optimized for Deck and any other. At first glance, everything is convenient and clear.


This is how the main page and its sections look like


This is what the game store looks like

But as soon as you go into the settings, thenyou meet a million different parameters that you will most likely never touch, because the maximum you will use is the Steam buttons and the "Quick Menu" - to start / close games and call up performance settings, screen brightness or power right during the game . You'll need this if the game isn't running very well, or if your console runs out of battery quickly and you want to make the most of it by fiddling with power, scaling, or framerate caps.


System settings


Quick Menu


Other menus

You will see a lot of crooked and unoptimized games.I have only 15 games in my library, I downloaded 10, 9 of them are optimized - it seems to be not bad, right? Then I added the account of a colleague who has 245 games. Guess how many of them are optimized for Deck? Only 45. That is, not even a third.

Go ahead and add an account for 400 games -we get a total of 84 projects optimized for Deck. All other games will either not run, or will run completely unpredictably. Some will work fine, some will require reassignment of control. Others will force you to fiddle with performance or scaling settings. All games optimized for Steam Deck are marked with a green checkmark, but even this does not mean anything - games can crash after loading the opening credits, simply refuse to start, or require the installation of some additional files.


Compatibility Information

How can you call a device a full-fledged gamingconsole, if out of 400 games in your library, only plus or minus 100 will work fine? Maybe, of course, from a couple of thousand different projects on Steam, a couple of hundred more working games will be typed, but no one knows how future new games will go and whether they will go at all. You will have to check personally. Can this be imagined with any other console? No. What does it look like? On any PC. Steam Deck is a real gaming PC in a console case, with all the typical problems of such devices. Considering the form factor, we have before us rather a severely cropped gaming laptop with cool hardware, a weak battery and poor optimization of even proprietary software. But back to games.

From what I have checked:DmC and The Stanley Parable crash on load, Shadow Warrior 1 and 2 run great at max speed at 60 fps, Dirt Rally runs at ultra at 30-45 fps, Cyberpunk 2077 runs at 30 fps with Steam Deck settings in-game at medium-high, Bright Memory Infinite on Highest settings runs at 40-45 fps - in my opinion, this is the best game for Steam Deck, demonstrating not only impressive graphics capabilities, but also excellent optimization. Plus, it can be completed in 3 hours - just enough batteries.


Bright Memory Infinite

Great going Brutal Legends, Life is Strange,Battletoads. Deus Ex: Human Revolution has control issues. For the sake of interest, I launched Age Of Empires 2 - the game is going superbly, but controlling the touchpads instead of the mouse is a pain. The most unnatural sensations, because the cursor moves either with some kind of acceleration, or as if it is late. I can say that on such a small screen, it is the old games that you are unlikely to run on a monitor or TV that look best. Here they literally find a second life.


Cyberpunk 2077

Many are amazed when they hear thatYou can play Cyberpunk 2077 on medium-high on a steam deck, but do you know where else you can play it? On any smartphone or tablet with a gamepad via GeForce NOW or GFN. Only there you will get 45 fps on "ultra" with RTX at 1080p, and not soapy 30 fps at 720p without RTX. Yes, there may be queues and problems with the Internet, but the game itself will look much better and give you a more enjoyable experience.

Say, a strange comparison, because SteamDeck can be taken with you at any time, play on the road and not be tied to the Internet? That's just most often you will sit at the outlet, because when you run such heavy games, the console lives only 2 hours. And since you are tied to the outlet, then what's the difference on what to play? There would be internet nearby. And I'm not talking about gaming laptops, which for the same 150 thousand now will give about the same gaming experience.

Since we have almost a PC in front of us, the games can betake not only from Steam. With dances and tambourines, you can install some third-party launchers. You can enable Xbox Game Pass support via xCloud by typing a few commands in the terminal. You can install Windows as a second system and put everything you want there, but you will greatly lose in stability and speed of work, which does not shine anyway. Before the release of the latest firmware, even the menu was lagging here, but the games and the system worked without any failures, however, the latest firmware broke a bunch of everything: the device freezes while loading games, stops responding to buttons and actions, it seems that it even rebooted a couple of times by itself at moments just me. And I am still silent about the heat and noise that accompany you not only during games, but also during their download or installation.

The console should just work, but it doesn'tconsole, not PC. It's like Valve hasn't fully decided what kind of device it's making. You can not only play games, but also reboot into a Linux desktop, connect a special docking station or USB dongle, keyboard and monitor to Deck to work on it, surf the Internet, download files, and so on. Cool, but why? Who in their right mind would need to work on a Steam Deck with a PC or laptop at home? No one will buy it as a single PC and run it as a full PC.

Do you want to work on the console like a laptop?buy a laptop and do not rack your brains with connecting a monitor, keyboard and mouse to a device that is not designed for this. You don't need it. You may think that you need it, that as soon as you buy a “steam deck”, you will start using it as a PC that is always with you, but you will immediately realize that this is the most inconvenient device for everything except games. But even with the games here, not everything is good.

To take or not to take

For big money you get very rawa product that would do well to cut out everything superfluous from the system, except for games and the store, cutting off half of the body with extra buttons along the way. It would not hurt to optimize the operation of the system itself, focusing on its stability and speed, and only then on compatibility and support for both old and new game projects. What's the point in supporting a bunch of games from Steam if the console is dumb and freezes tightly while loading them?

This is a cool piece of hardware that is for enthusiasts andLinux fans may be a real revelation, but for ordinary users and those who want the most powerful console in a portable case, it is better to pass by for now. You get tired of getting the Deck out of the case, your hands will constantly get tired if you do not hold the console on your knees, and it also works 3 hours in mixed mode, is noisy as hell and heats up very much.

This is a cool concept, prototype, first pancake,which will become a normal product in one or two generations, if Valve stops trying to cram everything into one device at once, and instead makes a really cool and powerful console without a bunch of extra attributes.

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Thanks to the Big Geek online store for the provided Steam Deck.

    © Maxim Kurmaev.