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This PC handheld runs Steam OS, but it's not a Steam Deck (Updated)

Update: It turns out this isn't the official Steam OS, but rather the unofficial HoloISO platform.
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Published onJanuary 10, 2024

TL;DR
  • The Aya Neo Next Lite is the first third-party handheld to use Valve’s Steam OS platform.
  • However, this is an unofficial version of Steam OS rather than an official release.
  • This still marks a change from other non-Valve PC handhelds, which typically run Windows.

Update: January 12, 2024 (6:40 AM ET): It turns out that the Aya Neo Next Lite handheld isn’t running an official version of Steam OS. Instead, the company has updated its blog post to note that the handheld is running an unofficial version dubbed HoloISO. Either way, you’re not getting Windows on this PC-based handheld.

Original article: January 10, 2024 (1:41PM ET): The Steam Deck wasn’t the first PC-based handheld console, but it was the first one to use Valve’s Steam OS platform instead of Windows. Now, it turns out that another company is using Steam OS for its own handheld.

Handheld stalwart Aya Neo has announced the Next Lite handheld (h/t: Liliputing), and it’s indeed the first PC handheld to officially run Steam OS.

Why is this a big deal?

There are a few benefits to running Steam OS over Windows on a portable console, with the user experience being arguably the biggest upside. Steam OS offers a UI that’s adapted for both touch and control inputs, whereas Windows can be finicky with a controller and touchscreen.

Another reason to use Steam OS over Windows is cost. OEMs need to pay for a license to use Windows on their products, which adds to the total cost of the device. So devices with Valve’s Linux-based platform will theoretically be cheaper than identical products running Windows.

It’s also worth noting that Steam OS supports quick-resume functionality, allowing you to suspend and resume a game in a similar manner to a Nintendo Switch. Windows handhelds like the ROG Ally have similar functionality but it’s generally less robust than Valve’s effort.

There are benefits to running Windows instead of Steam OS, though. This includes a bigger library of games (such as Game Pass), easier access to third-party app stores and sideloaded games, and wider support for anti-cheat software used in various multiplayer games.

What else should you know about the Next Lite?

We don’t know much else about the new handheld just yet, save for some details published by Aya Neo on its website. The company has confirmed it will offer a 7-inch 800p display (in line with the Steam Deck), a 47Wh battery that’s larger than Valve’s machine, Hall effect analog sticks, and X-axis linear motors for haptic feedback.

A closer look at one of the Next Lite images (seen above) confirms that the handheld will have two USB-C ports and a 3.5mm port as well. However, the device lacks the trackpads seen on the Steam Deck.

Would you buy a non-Valve handheld with Steam OS?

166 votes

Unfortunately, there’s no word on other specs such as the chipset, RAM, and storage. There’s also no word on pricing save for the handheld being “cost-effective.”

Brands like Aya Neo tend to offer PC-based handhelds at a starting price of $900 to $1,000, so we hope the company doesn’t merely mean it’s “cost-effective” compared to its other devices. Then again, Aya Neo can’t rely on its own massive gaming storefront to subsidize the cost of the handheld, so those hoping for ~$400 pricing like the Steam Deck might be disappointed.

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