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  • Writer's pictureDavid Baker

Steam Deck tries to put the power of PC gaming in your hands

Valve corporation, the tech company behind the widely used Steam online videogame portal, has released the Steam Deck, a handheld gaming PC that allows you to play (many but not all) your Steam computer games using PC operating systems like Linux and Windows.

First released in December of last year, the Steam Deck is intended to be an alternative to the Nintendo Switch which allows gamers to play only Nintendo games on the handheld device. It also is intended to let you ‘cut the cord’ from your desktop or laptop gaming rig and take your favorite games wherever you go.

The Steam Deck is fundamentally just a PC, uses standard PC hardware, and runs standard PC operating systems using the AMD Zen 2 CPU and RDNA 2 GPU architecture. A portable device with built-in controls, both touchpads and joysticks, the Steam Deck has a seven-inch screen with 1280×800 resolution (that’s a 16:10 aspect ratio.) with ambient light sensors to automatically adjust brightness, just like a modern mobile device. It comes with a carrying case for portability, too.

Valve says users can expect between two and eight hours of battery life depending on what you’re doing.

Different models of the Steam Deck are sold at different prices, depending upon how much storage is equipped: 64GB of storage will set you back $399 while 512 GB will cost $649.

Eventually, Valve expects to offer a docking station so that you can play your Steam Deck games on a TV or computer monitor, but for the time being you can do the same thing using a standard USB-C dock.

Valve is also the company behind such popular videogame franchises as Half-Lie, Counter-Strike, Portal, Team Fortress, Left 4 Dead, and Dota.

WHY IT MATTERS. Reviews have been mostly positive, but there are some definite drawbacks and anyone considering the Steam Deck to play a favorite game would do well to doublecheck with online reviews before purchasing it just in case that favorite game isn’t supported. If it performs as hoped, the Steam Deck should provide a much-needed answer to those gamers who have complained about the inadequacy of other mobile devices, including smart phones, for use as a gaming platform. Nevertheless, the tradeoff from your favorite monster-sized gaming monitor for a seven-inch screen is something to keep in mind. Even my iPad has a much larger screen.

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