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What is a Steam Deck? Everything you need to know about Valve's console

It's a portable gaming station, a mobile Linux computer, and a tinkerer's delight.
By
January 30, 2024
steam deck
Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

Gamers have plenty of choices when it comes to picking a new console. While the Nintendo Switch ruled the portable gaming roost for quite some time, it’s now facing new challengers. The Valve Steam Deck is one such device. But what is a Steam Deck, and which should you get if you’re interested? We cover the portable console in more detail below.

What is a Steam Deck, and how does it work?

The Steam Deck is a portable, handheld gaming console developed by Valve. In short, the console allows users to access titles from the popular gaming storefront Steam while on the go. But this isn’t its only use case. Valve’s console is far more versatile and user-customizable vs the Nintendo Switch.

Although the console runs a Linux-based distribution by default, it can also run Windows if desired, with Valve making the necessary tools and drivers freely available. Beyond gaming, the console doubles as a portable PC replacement. It supports external controllers, mice, keyboards, monitors, and external displays when connected to a Steam Deck dock.

What games can you play on a Steam Deck?

Steam Deck Portal in hand
Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

The Steam Deck allows users portable access to some of the best Steam games, including classics like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Portal 2, and more. SteamDB’s lists of verified and playable games are a great way of discovering which titles are supported. Steam’s content library is constantly expanding, too, and with it, the Steam Deck’s list of supported titles.

How to check if a game is compatible with Steam Deck

Steam has also rolled out a verification system known as Deck Verified. The program indicates to users which games are fully functional on the machine, as tested by Steam staff. You’ll notice one of four distinct icons located below each game’s title that indicate the following:

  • A green checkmark suggests the game is verified and compatible with the Steam Deck and should run without issue.
  • A yellow circle with an i indicates that the game runs on the device effectively, but users may have to jump through a few more hoops to run it flawlessly.
  • Unsupported games will wear a gray no-entry symbol.
  • Finally, a question mark within a broken circle suggests that Steam staff hasn’t yet checked the game. It may work, it may not.

Importantly, the Steam Deck is a handheld computer, so installing third-party game launchers, like Battle.net, GOG, and the Epic Games Store, is also possible. You can also access NVIDIA’s GeForce Now cloud gaming service to play heavier titles that might not run natively on the Deck’s hardware.

Alternatively, the Steam Deck runs on Steam OS, but users can install an alternative operating system to broaden game support. Installing Windows on the machine allows you access to more standalone titles or subscription programs like Xbox Game Pass. For instance, you’ll also need Microsoft’s OS to play Genshin Impact or Honkai: Star Rail on the Steam Deck. This is largely due to the anti-cheat systems used by HoYoVerse.

Additionally, if the games on Steam don’t appeal to you, there are plenty of emulators for the Steam Deck for those who prefer the games of yesteryear.

Steam Deck specs

Find a table below detailing the core Steam Deck specs, including the original and OLED models.

Steam Deck 64GBSteam Deck 256GBSteam Deck 512GBSteam Deck OLED
Operating System
Steam Deck 64GB
SteamOS
Steam Deck 256GB
SteamOS
Steam Deck 512GB
SteamOS
Steam Deck OLED
SteamOS
Dimensions
Steam Deck 64GB
298 x 117 x 49mm
669 grams
Steam Deck 256GB
298 x 117 x 49mm
669 grams
Steam Deck 512GB
298 x 117 x 49mm
669 grams
Steam Deck OLED
298 x 117 x 49mm
~640 grams
Chipset
Steam Deck 64GB
AMD Aerith APU system-on-chip (7nm)
Steam Deck 256GB
AMD Aerith APU system-on-chip (7nm)
Steam Deck 512GB
AMD Aerith APU system-on-chip (7nm)
Steam Deck OLED
AMD Aerith APU system-on-chip (6nm)
Memory
Steam Deck 64GB
16GB of LPDDR5 RAM
Steam Deck 256GB
16GB of LPDDR5 RAM
Steam Deck 512GB
16GB of LPDDR5 RAM
Steam Deck OLED
16GB of LPDDR5 RAM
Storage
Steam Deck 64GB
64GB eMMC
microSD
Steam Deck 256GB
256GB NVMe SSD
microSD
Steam Deck 512GB
512GB NVMe SSD
microSD
Steam Deck OLED
512GB/1TB NVMe SSD
microSD
Power
Steam Deck 64GB
45W charging via USB-C
40Whr battery (estimated 2-8 hours of gameplay)
Steam Deck 256GB
45W charging via USB-C
40Whr battery (estimated 2-8 hours of gameplay)
Steam Deck 512GB
45W charging via USB-C
40Whr battery (estimated 2-8 hours of gameplay)
Steam Deck OLED
45W charging via USB-C
50Whr battery (estimated 3-12 hours of gameplay)
Display
Steam Deck 64GB
7-inch IPS LCD touchscreen
60Hz refresh rate
1280x800 resolution
Steam Deck 256GB
7-inch IPS LCD touchscreen
60Hz refresh rate
1280x800 resolution
Steam Deck 512GB
7-inch IPS LCD touchscreen
60Hz refresh rate
1280x800 resolution
Steam Deck OLED
7.4-inch HDR OLED touchscreen
90Hz refresh rate
1280x800 resolution
Connectivity
Steam Deck 64GB
Bluetooth 5.0
Wi-Fi 5
1x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2
3.5mm headphone jack
Steam Deck 256GB
Bluetooth 5.0
Wi-Fi 5
1x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2
3.5mm headphone jack
Steam Deck 512GB
Bluetooth 5.0
Wi-Fi 5
1x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2
3.5mm headphone jack
Steam Deck OLED
Bluetooth 5.3
Wi-Fi 6E
1x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2
3.5mm headphone jack
Extra features
Steam Deck 64GB
Carrying case
Steam Deck 256GB
Carrying case
Steam Community profile bundle
Steam Deck 512GB
Anti-glare etched glass coating
Exclusive carrying case
Exclusive Steam Community profile bundle
Exclusive virtual keyboard theme
Steam Deck OLED
Carrying case with removable liner
Steam profile bundle
Exclusive startup movie
Exclusive virtual keyboard theme
Price
Steam Deck 64GB
$399
Steam Deck 256GB
$529
Steam Deck 512GB
$649
Steam Deck OLED
512GB: $549
1TB: $649

Steam Deck performance

Steam Deck controls
Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

The Steam Deck is a powerful system for its size. It’s not the most powerful in its category, but its balanced specs sheet ensures a solid experience across multiple games and use cases. However, users must choose the optimum graphics settings for best performance. Valve has included several settings to help users customize their gaming experience on the Steam Deck. This includes a frame rate limit toggle, a TDP limit toggle, and the inclusion of AMD’s FSR (FidelityFX Super Resolution) tech, which aims to upscale game details without tanking the frame rate.

Regarding raw processing numbers, the Steam Deck packs a GPU capable of 1.6 teraflops — more computing power than the original Xbox One but slightly less than the PS4. That’s plenty of power to run most titles on the Steam library. When it comes to more demanding PC games, the device may struggle, but this is where cloud gaming services might come in handy.

How much does a Steam Deck cost?

  • Steam Deck (64GB eMMC): $399
  • Steam Deck (256GB NVMe): $529
  • Steam Deck (512GB NVMe): $649
  • Steam Deck OLED (512GB NVMe): $549
  • Steam Deck OLED (1TB NVMe): $649

Valve originally offered consumers three Steam Deck configurations, the only difference being their storage type and capacity. The cheapest version, packing 64GB of eMMC storage, starts at $399, while the most expensive 512GB NVMe variant asks for $649.

In late 2023, Valve rolled out revised OLED screen models, introducing a 7.4-inch AMOLED display, a larger battery with more efficient chipset, and a 1TB storage option. It starts at $549 for the 512GB model and $649 for the 1TB model — the same price as the 512GB LCD option.

Where can you buy the Steam Deck?

Steam Deck Valve logo
Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

The Steam Deck has been around for a while, but you may still have difficulty finding one beyond Valve’s channels. The company says the only official way to buy the Deck is through Steam in Canada, the EU, the UK, and the US. However, you can find many of the best Steam Deck accessories beyond Valve’s storefront.


FAQs

The Steam Deck battery can last between two to eight hours, but performance heavily depends on the game you are playing.

It’s tough to give a definitive answer. Generally, the Steam Deck should arrive within two weeks after you place your order, however, this window can fluctuate based on your location and the time of year that you’ve ordered your Deck.

The Steam Deck is available to purchase through Steam; however, it rarely (if ever) fluctuates from its launch pricing scheme.

Yes, the Steam Deck has a built-in microphone.

Yes, the Steam Deck has a microSD card slot for quick storage upgrades. However, you can also replace the Steam Deck’s 2230 SSD.

There are several ways to connect the Steam Deck to a computer to transfer files, chief of which is KDE Connect.

Yes, you can take a screenshot on the Steam Deck by pressing the STEAM and R1 buttons simultaneously.