Steam Deck Review Test Suite: Games, SteamOS And Desktop Scenarios

UPDATE: My Steam Deck review is live, but it’s just the beginning. Stay tuned for extensive coverage, including 30 days of “Desktop Mode!”

40 games being tested on the Steam Deck

As I write this, we’re a mere 296 hours from the Steam Deck review embargo lifting. (But hey, who’s counting?) I can’t wait to start discussing Valve’s innovative Linux-powered handheld PC gaming console thingy, but before we get there I want to set some expectations and give you a glimpse into what my coverage will look like.

I’ll preface this by saying I strongly believe initial reviews are just the beginning of the conversation. Especially when it comes to a product that will live or die based on its ever-evolving software. I’ll definitely publish that big review on February 25 at 10am PST, but the Steam Deck represents the culmination of 10+ years of work at Valve (and Codeweavers). As such, it deserves deep dives on so many fronts. Performance, GameScope, AMD FSR, SteamOS 3.0, basic desktop functionality, battery life, user customization options, comfort, software availability, connectivity…

Bottom line: expect a lot of content here and a lot of commentary on Twitter.

I’ve set up a dedicated Steam Deck category here, and it has an RSS feed. You can also talk to me on Twitter @Linux4Everyone.

But what exactly am I evaluating and benchmarking? You played a giant role in that, and I really appreciate all your feedback! Here’s the plan.

My Steam Deck Review: The Games

I’ve carefully selected a giant list of 40+ games to check out, representing a little something for everyone. You’ve got less demanding indie titles, a handful of retro games via RetroArch, and brand new AAA releases. Racing, action, adventure, RPG, fighting, roguelikes, shooters. I think it’s a well-rounded mix.

Before I run down the complete list, know that I’m also planning to test 3rd-party game platforms like Epic Games (via Heroic) and Lutris.

For the majority of the titles below, I’ll also evaluate them with AMD FSR On/Off, as well as on an external 1080p display. In addition, I plan to compare loading times between the built-in 512GB NVMe SSD and a pair of microSD cards.

OK, here’s the list!

  • Age of Empires IV
  • The Ascent
  • Borderlands 3
  • Bravely Default II
  • Chorus
  • Control
  • Cyberpunk 2077
  • Dark Souls II
  • Death Stranding
  • Deathloop
  • Devil May Cry 5
  • DIRT Rally 2.0
  • DOOM Eternal
  • Dota 2
  • Dying Light 2
  • Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Anniversary Edition)
  • Final Fantasy VII Remake
  • Forza Horizon 5
  • God of War
  • Hades
  • Halo: The Master Chief Collection
  • Hellish Quart
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • ManEater
  • Mass Effect: Legendary Edition
  • Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020)
  • Monster Hunter Rise
  • Nier: Automata
  • No Man’s Sky
  • P4G: Persona 4 Golden
  • Phasmophobia
  • Portal 2
  • Project Heartbeat
  • Red Dead Redemption II
  • Resident Evil Village
  • RetroArch (various titles)
  • Risk of Rain 2
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider
  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
  • Star Wars Squadrons
  • Tekken 7
  • Tetris Effect: Connected
  • Titanfall 2
  • Warframe

My Steam Deck Review: Everything Else!

What if you wanted to install Pop OS or Garuda Linux on your Steam Deck?
What if you wanted to install other distros like Pop OS or Garuda Linux on your Steam Deck? I’ll test that too!

Starting at $399, the Steam Deck also doubles as a surprisingly affordable PC. And right out of the box, the Arch Linux-based SteamOS 3.0 will give us a KDE Plasma desktop to use. Plug in an external monitor and some PC peripherals, and you have an instant dual monitor workstation!

But we don’t know much about Valve’s new iteration of SteamOS, so I’ll want to get into the weeds a bit on that front. And the best way to explore it is simply using the Steam Deck as my daily driver.

I’m not sure when all of this will land, but the following will be tested:

  • General impressions of SteamOS 3.0 as a desktop daily driver…
    • Ease-of-use installing software via Flatpak.
    • Connecting bluetooth devices like mice, headphones and gamepads. Evaluating if they stay connected after sleep/resume.
    • Video editing with Kdenlive.
    • Using Discord for voice chat while gaming.
    • Battery life in desktop mode.
    • Using internal Steam Deck display as a secondary monitor during workstation/desktop usage and while gaming.
  • Adding non-Steam games to the Steam Deck UI.
  • Extensive Phoronix Test Suite benchmarks, compared to Intel NUC, various Linux laptops, and the MinisForum UM700. Including disk load times and CPU-focused tests.
  • SteamOS 3.0 on non-Steam Deck hardware (pending public release).
  • Installing and using Windows on Steam Deck.
  • Select Windows vs Linux gaming benchmarks.
  • Installing other Linux distros on Steam Deck.
  • Dual-booting with Steam Deck.

So that’s what on my list so far. Is there anything you’d love to see tested? Drop your idea in the comments and I’ll integrate it into my review process if possible. If you can’t get enough Steam Deck content, check out my dedicated category for Valve’s handheld console. And stay tuned for Episode 3 of Games For Everyone!

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16 Responses

  1. This might be oddly specific but how about video streaming on Steam Deck (Steam Broadcast, Twitch, YouTube, etc)? Or how effective it is with Remote Play, especially for those getting the 64 gb storage version?

    I think testing out the cloud save feature between Deck and PC would be interesting to see if it was implemented well.

  2. I’d like to see how things like auto-cpufreq, zram, ananicy, tlp, xanmod-tt, undervolting, adjusting swappiness, etc could impact performance/battery life.

  3. I’ve had difficulties in the past applying patches to Steam games that run through Proton. I’d like to read about the experience of patching games on the Steam Deck. A couple games I’ve had the need or urge to patch are “Beyond Good and Evil” and “Steins;Gate 0”. I have no real game preferences, so feel free to cover the experience of performing patches with more popular games.

    1. What kind of difficulties are you having? From what I know, it should just happen automagically in the background in a way similar to desktop Steam.

    1. Excellent idea, but a bit difficult for me to test. I’m quite limited by my current location (Croatia). I think only GFE is available here.

  4. I’d like to see whether FreeSync on external monitors works at launch (beware of USB-C to HDMI adapters, they sometimes don’t support FreeSync).

    Also could you play Alien: Isolation while hiding in a locker? 😓

  5. What interests me are the more usual use cases that I would have on a desktop. Things that might get a lot less coverage than just gaming performance.

    discord calls and chats while gaming, maybe a discord overlay
    ease of multitasking while handheld gaming – opening a browser, maybe using a guide from online, discord/slack
    some sort of work or dev environment setup – gaming while commuting, then plugging the switch in a hub and switching to an IDE like webstorm and maybe gitkraken or smth. Plugging out and commuting home with some stuff still running in the background

What's your opinion?