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The Steam Deck is upon us and no, you won’t be getting one if you put an order in now. Reservations might have opened last July, but Valve’s newest piece of hardware is not going to be hitting the masses for a while. Those lucky few who made it through Steam’s minor heart attack at the sight of a new PC being available and got their orders early should be seeing there’s in the next week.
February 25th is the supposed release date, after a delay from last year and the hectic madness of the chip shortage having no real end in sight, Valve will be finally birthing their next project.
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Valve’s hardware history
Valve aren’t strangers to hardware at this point. Their virtual reality efforts have been lauded as some of the best – and most expensive. Valve’s Index followed from their partnership with HTC and the Vive, eventually spawning an exclusive, VR-only Half-Life game, the first since 2007.
Prior to VR, Valve also developed the Steam Controller and Steam Machines, both of which can be seen in the Steam Deck.
The Steam Controller was a hybrid between the traditional controller and bringing the elegance of the mouse to allow for games that traditionally don’t map well to a controller. This meant that things like Civilisation and games without controller bound menus could be played comfortably on a TV.
At the same time, Valve’s living room gaming initiative was also producing the Steam Machine, which was Valve providing the first real iteration of the SteamOS to companies to create gaming PC hardware around it. The idea was that by building a custom OS, they would be able to convince developers and publishers to port their games to Linux and away from Microsoft’s Windows.
This didn’t take off, as the companies willing to port to Linux was minimal due to the low player counts. Similar to Valve’s attempt at making macOS a gaming alternative, it just wasn’t popping off the way that was expected. Meanwhile, the idea behind the Steam Controller also didn’t take off.
Steam Machines were silently killed behind the shed, while the Steam Controller was produced in such quantities that it was able to stay in stock until 2019 when Valve did a firesale to get rid of both those and their other product, Steam Link. The Steam Link lives on as an app on both Android and iOS, allowing people to play their games in any room, but the original Steam Link was a piece of hardware that streamed the video feed from one room to another over your network.
However, the whole thing wasn’t a waste of time. The VR department has completely upended the entire industry by finally producing a game that after nearly two years, is yet to be topped, as well as hardware that is routinely recommended despite its price.
But also, the Steam Deck has literally pulled features from the two other devices. It runs an updated SteamOS that is also running Proton, Valve’s intermediary layer to get non-native games running on Linux with no real effort on the developer’s part while considering a native Linux version.
On the hardware side, there are two thumb pads that act as the mouse controller from the Steam Controller and the sticks look similar too.
What is the Steam Deck?
The Steam Deck is a Linux based, AMD APU equipped handheld that is designed to bring Valve’s entire Steam catalogue to an audience that might not be truly ready to either pay up for a PC, build their own or for those of us with an extensive backlog that we can play on the go.
It comes equipped with a touch screen, mouse touchpads and all the buttons you need to get things going with your library of games.
Valve has said it’s just a regular PC, so you can install whatever you like, however you like on it. The bottom has a USB-C port for accessories, allowing you to invest in some cheaper alternatives than the Steam Dock.
Valve is actively verifying whether games can be played or not on the console, with a list that is always growing.
How much is the Steam Deck?
The Steam Deck comes in three variations, starting with a piddly 32GB storage space, jumping up to 256GB and 512GB on NVMe drives. These cost 349, 459 and 569 respectively.
Storage shouldn’t be an issue though, as the Steam Deck will support UHS-I microSD cards.
Where to buy the Steam Deck?
You can currently buy the Steam Deck via Steam directly, but when it finally unleashes into the public, please don’t buy the scalpers’ collections off of eBay.
When is the Steam Deck shipping?
Theoretically, those who have gotten their orders in the earliest should see them post-Feb 25th or on the day of, but those of us who were too slow or caught up in the mayhem, won’t be able to see them until Q2 2022 or later. This means the second quarter of 2022, so some time in April or later.