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Valve Steam Deck, a $399 Nintendo Switch-like PC console, arrives in December

Preorders start July 16 for a handheld that lets you take your Steam library on the go.

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The $399 Steam Deck arrives in December.

Valve

Rumors began circulating earlier this year that Valve was working on a handheld, Switch-like gaming console for portable PC gaming. Now, it's official: The $399 Steam Deck goes up for presale Friday, with devices slated to ship in December.

If you ever wished for a Nintendo Switch Pro for PC games, this might be your chance.

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The device sticks close to the Nintendo Switch playbook, with full-size controls and a separately sold dock that lets you easily connect to an external display. It features a 7-inch touchscreen, dual trackpads, built-in mics, network connectivity over Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, a microSD card slot, a headphone jack and a USB-C jack for charging, docking or connecting peripherals. The 40-watt-hour battery promises several hours of gameplay between charges. There's also a suspend feature that lets you pause the action with a quick press of the power button, then resume right where you left off later.

"We partnered with AMD to create Steam Deck's custom APU, optimized for handheld gaming," the device's launch site reads. "It is a Zen 2 + RDNA 2 powerhouse, delivering more than enough performance to run the latest AAA games in a very efficient power envelope."

Preorders begin at this link at 10 a.m. PT (1 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. GMT) on Friday, July 16 in the US, the UK, Canada and the EU. (It's £349 in the UK, according to GamesRadar.)

Will it be a perfect Switch for Steam?

The Steam Deck looks very Switch-like, no surprise, and its relatively low price means it's directly aimed at console buyers. Will it be the perfect handheld gaming PC? It's hard to tell from a distance. It has its own custom AMD chip with a Zen 2 CPU and RDNA 2 graphics, along with 16GB of RAM and internal storage ranging from 64GB to 512GB (64GB is $399; 256GB is $529; 512GB is $649). But there's also a microSD card slot to expand storage. The 7-inch, 1,280x800-pixel LCD screen is the same size as the upcoming Nintendo Switch OLED, with nearly as many pixels.

Like a Switch, the Steam Deck can dock in front of a TV or monitor via USB-C, but according to Valve it also works with any powered USB-C adapter or dock -- which sounds promising. The separately sold dock (price TBA) has a lot of ports: DisplayPort 1.4, USB 3.1, two USB 2.0, HDMI 2.0 and Ethernet.

This isn't the first time someone's tried to build a PC gaming handheld: Razer did it way back in 2013, and Alienware's Concept UFO promised a similar idea in 2020.

The Steam Deck taps directly into Steam's store and library, making it a download-only handheld device. It'll be interesting to see how many games it's compatible with, but Valve promises it'll work with many of its AAA titles.

There are controls galore, which sets the Steam Deck apart: dual analog sticks, shoulder and triggers, four buttons on one side, a D-pad on the other. But there are also dual trackpads on the front, and four extra control spots on the back. 

It's not all that lightweight, though: Valve lists it weighing in at 1.47 pounds (0.67 kg), considerably bigger than the Nintendo Switch but lighter than almost any PC.

It runs SteamOS and Linux, could run even more software

The Steam Deck runs Valve's own SteamOS for playing Steam games, on top of Linux. According to an exclusive hands-on from IGN, the handheld/dockable will also be able to run Windows and Linux apps via Proton as, essentially, a full mini-PC.

How flexible does that make the Steam Deck, then? Good question. Valve told IGN that the Steam Deck could install any software you want, and work with a wide range of peripherals. Which suggests... a lot of ways to get games to play on the Steam Deck. But we haven't tried one yet.

According to IGN's hands-on impressions, the hardware was robust enough to play Portal 2, EA's Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, Death Stranding and Doom Eternal. That sounds promising indeed.

Which version should you buy?

Valve is selling three different configs: one with 64GB of storage for $399, a 256GB version for $529 and 512GB for $649. The 512GB version also has an anti-glare etched glass on the display. While the Steam Deck has microSD support for game storage, and Valve said to IGN that it's aiming to have games load and play from microSD, performance should be best with internal storage. Considering Steam game sizes, the 512GB version sounds like the safest bet for a serious game-player who's intending on keeping this handheld around... but again, we haven't even tried the Steam Deck yet. Hopefully we'll get a chance to see one soon.