Valve’s Steam Deck entered the scene as one of the most anticipated gaming consoles ever.
Powerful enough to provide access to an entire Steam library while still offering similar levels of portability as the Nintendo Switch, it’s a device that promises plenty on paper.
Particularly for PC gamers, the potential to access a collection of games even when away from their hardened setup is tantalising. And with multiple updates landing since launch, some of the early kinks appear to have been ironed out by Valve.
Is this a legitimate way to take your PC gaming collection on the go, then, or is it a concept that doesn’t quite live up to expectations?
We’ve been relaxing on the sofa and gaming in the wild in order to find out.
The Steam Deck is undoubtedly a fantastic piece of gaming hardware. We like to think of it as a grown-up version of the Switch, but, more than that, it’s an outstanding alternative for PC gamers who want to play away from their main machine.
We thoroughly enjoyed testing it for a number of reasons. It’s easy to game on, it’s easy to pick up and put down on a whim and it’s surprisingly capable. With regular updates being pushed by Valve, and more and more games being tested and verified, it just keeps getting better, as well.
Battery life and storage space are our main complaints, but they’re relatively small issues that will vary wildly depending on the games you’re installing and playing. All told, it’s a great gaming machine that we heartily recommend.
Inside its rather sleek frame, the Steam Deck packs some fairly decent specs, which is to be expected with a console that’s aimed at PC gamers who are likely to demand the best.
After all, the Steam Deck is built to give you access to games available on Steam’s platform, and that includes all manner of titles – old and new, indie and AAA games. So, it needs to be able to stand up to some rigorous activity.
We’ve written before about how to see which of your PC games will run on Steam Deck and check those that are tested as “verified” or “playable”. That list of compatible games is constantly expanding, but it’s still worth checking to see which of yours will work before you buy to avoid disappointment.
Within our library of 900+ games, we found that there are just 94 currently marked as ‘Great On Deck’, with many of the rest able to work on the console with a little bit of tweaking.
Within the collection of playable games are a number of solid favourites, and some pretty power-hungry titles that you’d expect to need a decent PC or gaming laptop in order to run nicely. That list includes games like Control, Dirt 5, Forza Horizon 5, God of War, Death Stranding, Sniper Elite 5, The Witcher 3 and more.
Though you can’t exactly max out the graphics on the more intensive games and expect the same results you’d get on PC, that doesn’t mean the experience isn’t eye-pleasing. We were actually thoroughly impressed with how the Steam Deck ran all of the games we tested.
From the Deck’s options, you can change both the refresh rate and the max FPS, with settings also available to adjust and improve battery life or simply smooth out frames, if you need to. Moving sliders up and down to make your gaming experience even more pleasurable is a great touch, but we actually rarely found we had to do this, as the default experience is satisfying enough.
It’s a testament to the design that we rarely had to think about the brightness, never mind actually tinkering with the settings. The screen does of course suffer mildly from some reflections if you’re in a brightly lit room, we should say, but the joy of a console like this is that you can just tilt it or move position to sort that out. No problems.