Steam Deck Review: The Year Of The Linux Gaming PC

Steam Deck with DOOM Eternal in daylight.
Steam Deck with DOOM Eternal in daylight.

Buckle up kids, and get comfortable for a Steam Deck review that’s nearly 6000 words, yet barely scratches the surface of its capabilities.

The Steam Deck is truly peerless and exists in a class all its own. Name another PC that costs $399 and can run the demanding Cyberpunk 2077 or Elden Ring on High Quality presets (yep, seriously). Prefer to label this thing as a console? Fair enough! Name another console that delivered nearly 1000 playable games on the day of its launch (with thousands more waiting in the wings), has a touchscreen display, and can transform into a fully-functional, open-source desktop computer capable of activities like video editing and music production. 

That flexibility is absolutely one of Steam Deck’s pillars. But regardless of how you choose to categorize it, Valve’s innovative Linux-powered handheld PC has no competition. Not the Switch. Not anything in the GPD or AYANEO stable.

With its enormous library of games, variety of control inputs, open-source approach to software, and a price tag that seems inconceivable in this era of price hikes and silicon shortages, no other dedicated gaming device on the market can match the Steam Deck’s value proposition. 

It’s not a perfect product. There are bugs and quirks to work out. But — and I can’t stress this loudly enough — it’s an absurdly exciting product to use. To hold in your hands. To get your game on. Let’s explore why. 

2011: The Journey Begins

The seeds of development for Steam Deck can be traced back at least 11 years. In the summer of 2012, Valve published the bizarrely titled “Steam’d Penguins” on a new blog devoted to Linux and open source. It’s an intriguing historical artifact that shares how the company took its first small steps in 2011 toward building Steam (and Left 4 Dead 2) for Linux. 

This milestone was followed a few years later by Gabe Newell’s very public condemnation of Windows 8. Which led to the introduction of the ill-fated Steam Machines. And, of course, to SteamOS, a Linux-powered distribution with Steam as its centerpiece. 

But the failure of Steam Machines wasn’t due to lack of ambition. It was lack of content, lack of choice. Since SteamOS relied on native Linux games to populate its digital shelves, the size of the Linux gaming library paled in comparison to Windows. It just wasn’t ready for primetime back then. 

Things have changed considerably in the last 3 years. 

Proton: The Savior of (Linux) Gaming

Along the way, a partnership with Codeweavers (the creators of Wine) blossomed into Proton. At the beginning of 2018, exactly zero Windows games published on Steam would run in the Steam for Linux client. 

After Proton debuted, there were instantly thousands

This “compatibility layer” has improved dramatically, and rapidly, since then. Performance is neck-and-neck with Windows despite these games not even being developed to run on Linux. And the only major obstacle remaining on the path to every single Windows game “just working” is anti-cheat systems like BattlEye and Easy Anti-Cheat (EAC). And yes, Valve is beginning to work miracles on that front, too. 

Proton made enough of an impact that mainstream major outlets like IGN, Gamespot and yours truly at Forbes started covering it.

Crucial to the Proton story is that game developers don’t need to spend months or years porting a game to Linux. We’ve reached a point that for the vast majority of cases, games will “just work” on Linux using Proton.

Linus Tech Tips was so intrigued that it released a series of “Linux Gaming Challenge” videos where two of the hosts switched their expensive gaming PCs from Windows to Linux. The experiment didn’t last long, though. While Linus Sebastian in particular had lots of praise for Linux gaming, he repeatedly sparred against technical hurdles or bricked systems, and frequently expressed frustration. 

So why, only 2 weeks ago, did the same Linus Sebastian call the Linux-powered Steam Deck “the most innovative gaming PC in the last 20 years?” 

I’ll tell you: it isn’t that Linux lacks the power to perform, or the potential to impress. It’s just that it’s never been executed this perfectly. 

The Steam Deck is the most elegant marriage of software and purpose-built custom hardware I’ve seen in years. It simply could not have worked before today. Not until Valve had designed the Steam Controller. Not until it learned more about hardware design and production via its HTC Vive partnership, and later the Valve Index VR system. 

It never stood a chance of succeeding until all these pieces and lessons came into sharp focus. A perfect storm of experience culminating in the Steam Deck, a piece of tech I strongly believe will become a permanent, pioneering fixture in the gaming PC and console spaces. 

Now that I’ve dispensed with the hyped-up history lesson, let’s get grounded and tackle the good stuff. Beginning with the hardware.

AMD’s Console Dominance Continues

The Steam Deck’s custom “Aerith” APU is powered by AMD.

As it has with Sony and Microsoft, AMD continues its dominance in the console space with custom silicon built from the ground up exclusively for Valve. In this case, it’s a 4-core, 8-thread “Aerith” APU loaded up with Zen 2 and RDNA architecture. The Steam Deck CPU clocks up to 3.5GHz, and the GPU up to 1.6GHz.

Rounding out the package is a generous 16GB of LPDDR5 quad-channel unified system RAM.

Despite operating within a 4W to 15W power envelope (by comparison, AMD’s cheapest current-generation GPU requires up to 160W), the Steam Deck’s “Aerith” APU delivers remarkably consistent performance. Valve guided this design decision, as it wanted to ensure gamers would get peak frame rates 3 minutes or 3 hours into their play sessions. And I’m happy to report you will get the same performance if you’re plugged in or running on battery. There’s no throttling here at any time, in any power state.

Unless you choose to dial back the performance using a variety of toggles. We’ll tackle that further down in this review.

The visual gateway to your Steam Deck games is the 7” touchscreen IPS LCD, configured with a 16:10 aspect ratio at a resolution of 1280 x 800. It outputs a maximum of 400 nits, though you’ll never need maximum brightness indoors.

The anti-glare coating on the 512GB Steam Deck model makes outdoor use comfortable. 
The anti-glare coating on the 512GB Steam Deck model makes outdoor use comfortable. 

My review unit, the 512GB NVMe model, also boasts anti-glare glass coating, which is a godsend for gaming at the park, on the bus, or on the beach. In actual practice, direct sunlight will probably hinder your gameplay sessions, especially in darker in-game environments. If you’re merely outside in the daylight, cranking up the brightness should yield a comfortable experience.

Can this compare to the Nintendo Switch OLED in terms of visual pop and brightness? Absolutely not. It’s a perfectly average display that’s serviceable for gaming. And considering the Deck clocks in at only $50 more than the Switch OLED but packs exponentially more performance and versatility, I’m not inclined to complain about the choice. Costs have to be cut somewhere to reach an appealing price tag.

And let’s toss in a quick reminder that the original Switch display only reached 300 nits brightness, while the Deck goes to 400 nits. If I recall, the Switch sold just fine.

That said, I’m crossing my fingers that Valve releases a “Steam Deck Pro” with an OLED screen down the road.

Do You Need The 256 GB Or 512GB Model?

Each Deck is also outfitted with a microSD card slot, so it’s more affordable to buy the entry-level $399 64GB model and ramp up your storage with a quality Samsung or Sandisk microSD card.

You’ll want a class of microSD capable of 100MB/s read and write speeds.

Sequential and random read/write speeds for the 512GB model's NVMe drive. 
Sequential and random read/write speeds for the 512GB model’s NVMe drive. 

Loading times will be slower than the built-in SSD, but not by much! I ran a few gaming speed tests and was impressed that the differences were in seconds, not minutes. In the results below, I’ve measured the time it takes (in seconds) to go from launching the game to arriving at the main menu.

  • Art of Rally | Internal SSD: 19.1 | Sandisk Ultra microSD: 19.3
  • Horizon Zero Dawn | Internal SSD: 23.9 | Sandisk Ultra microSD: 28.1
  • Borderlands 3 | Internal SSD: 91.5 | Sandisk Ultra microSD: 121

So take this into consideration if that $250 difference between the 64GB and 512GB models is weighing heavily on your mind or your bank account. If you don’t care about the anti-glare screen or the custom carrying case, the $399 model becomes a ridiculously affordable option for what you’re getting.

Bonus observation: microSD cards that have been formatted for use on Steam Deck are hot-swappable. Yank it out and stick another one in, and within seconds you’ll see your “Installed / Ready To Play” titles adjust accordingly.

Taking Control

The topic of comfort tends to be highly subjective and personal, so I’m only relaying my feelings here, not facts. And my feeling is that Valve nailed the ergonomics. Having the Deck’s heft distributed evenly across its longer-than-average length results in gaming sessions that are quite comfortable. 

Dozens of Steam Deck prototypes

The photo above displays dozens of Steam Deck prototypes, some with radically different approaches. Many of them feature removable controllers reminiscent of the Nintendo Switch. I can’t speak to the comfort and practicality of those prototypes, but I’m incredibly satisfied with the final design in my hands. 

Photographed next to a PlayStation Vita or even the chunky Sega Game Gear of yesteryear, the Steam Deck looks monstrous, doesn’t it? At first glance your brain initially wants to believe it’s as heavy as a brick. When I removed the Deck from its carrying case and handed it to my wife, her hands instinctively lowered a bit, as if to cushion the incoming weight! She immediately remarked that it was surprisingly light. 

Getting A Grip

I even played God of War for 3 hours laying down on my back, elbows propped up on the bed and holding the Deck above my chest. I honestly expected it to annoy me, but I just melted into the game without fidgeting or needing to adjust my grip. 

Speaking of grip, the position of the shoulder buttons and triggers could have been a dealbreaker. I was puzzled when seeing initial hardware previews complaining about needing to adjust grip to negotiate the shoulder buttons. (These are the buttons that would be marked R1 and L1 on your Xbox controller.) 

Sequential and random read/write speeds for the 512GB model's NVMe drive. 
Sequential and random read/write speeds for the 512GB model’s NVMe drive. 

Their placement on the Steam Deck is just as genius as they are on the Xbox gamepad. It still seems like a curiously well-kept secret that the shoulder buttons on Xbox are meant to be pressed without needing to lift your finger. You can remove your finger from the trigger and press down on the the inner part of the L1 or R1 button. Or you can simply move the underside of your knuckle down to tap the outer edge. That’s thoughtful design, and Valve was rightly inspired by it. 

I’ve looked enthusiastically forward to discussing this next aspect of the controller experience: the assignable grip buttons. You know, those 4 buttons nestled into the Deck’s underside. These are what your middle and ring fingers will rest on, requiring dedicated pressure to activate. Not so much that it’s an effort, but not so little that you’ll accidentally click them. 

Folks, these are awesome. Pun totally intended: the grip buttons are game-changers for me. I mapped them as paddle shifters in Dirt Rally 2.0. I assigned the top right one as my 180-degree quick turn in God of War; it was faster and more comfortable for me to execute than the default D-pad down command.

I’m positive I’ll find a valuable use for them in Microsoft Flight Simulator or in the Deck-optimized No Man’s Sky. As long as your muscle memory cooperates, these grip buttons will deliver an immersive new layer of customization.

These can be mapped to do anything in-game, or anything on a system level. Needless to say, the possibilities are endless. I encourage experimenting and finding custom commands that make the game more fun for you. After all, PC gaming is about playing your way. 

Valve’s commitment to providing a variety of input methods doesn’t stop with the grip buttons. There’s also dual touchpads on the Deck, but I haven’t used them enough for gaming to render a verdict. Frankly, I didn’t feel the need to use them for gaming.

I enjoy the textured touch, but in practice, they feel awkward to use. That’s not a knock on their design. Rather, it’s me admitting that I’m not accustomed to using them yet. This may change over time as I branch out and play more games. In my brief time with the Deck, I’ve gravitated toward controller-driven titles, where the Deck’s traditional dual-stick layout + assignable grip buttons are immensely satisfying. 

The Microsoft And Apple Bluetooth Party

The touchpads are incredibly useful while in Desktop Mode, or using a browser, but we’ll get to that later. If you prefer to play with an Xbox One S, Xbox Series, or PlayStation DualShock controller, there’s great news: they both “just work” when paired via Bluetooth.

Valve knows that Cyberpunk 2077 may not properly display the controller glyphs for your external pad of choice. 
Valve knows that Cyberpunk 2077 may not properly display the controller glyphs for your external pad of choice. 

To this day I still can’t reliably pair Bluetooth controllers with several Linux distributions, and keep that connection locked in. It’s another testament to the elegance with which Valve has approached Steam Deck software, understanding that things need to “just work” like a console.

One minor complaint is that you can’t rename them in the Bluetooth devices menu. My PS4 DualShock is listed as a generic “Wireless Controller” while my Xbox Series pad is named “Xbox Wireless Controller.” 

Xbox and Apple peripherals work flawlessly on a Linux-powered game console.
Xbox and Apple peripherals work flawlessly on a Linux-powered game console.

Beyond just controller variety, the Steam Deck made a lasting impression on me when I first plugged it into an external 4K monitor. I figured I’d explore using it as a desktop Linux PC. It’s easy to boot into: just exit the default Steam Deck UI by holding down the power button and select “Switch To Desktop.”

I grabbed my Xbox Series gamepad, Xbox Wireless headphones, and my Apple Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad. Within seconds they were all paired and connected, and there I was with an ultra compact workstation. I dragged my Plex app over to the Steam Deck’s 7” display, blasted some music and got to work.

OK, that’s a lie. I was playing God of War.

But the moral of the story is that it’s quite a versatile little machine. I marveled at the peaceful co-existence of Apple and Microsoft peripherals on a handheld Linux PC. (I’ll have deeper impressions of using Desktop Mode in separate, ongoing coverage).

SteamOS: Coming In HOT!

Steam Deck logos in the wild...
Steam Deck logos in the wild…

Before we get into game performance and battery life, I’ll devote some space to SteamOS and the Steam Deck UI. After all, you’ll spend a considerable amount of time in this console’s namesake software.

What you need to know up front is that press received two to three emails per day from Valve, chock full of feature updates and improvements to SteamOS. Just yesterday, for example, Valve added terrific one-click installation functionality for non-Steam apps. I have a separate article exploring that here.

But the takeaway is that with constant polishing, bug fixing and performance improvements, you might see some inconsistency across reviews. You might notice that crucial features are absent from coverage altogether. It was challenging to conduct this review with the software constantly in flux, which is why mine will merely kick off the conversation, not conclude it.

A Note On Desktop Mode and Dual-Booting With Windows:

Unfortunately, this also means I’ll be tackling SteamOS’s Desktop Mode in separate coverage. This review will focus strictly on the console experience.

Additionally, I’m eager to test dual-booting the Steam Deck with Windows, but AMD’s GPU driver is still going through legal clearance and wasn’t ready at time of publication (and there’s still no ETA).

Rest assured I’ll be tracking that and plan to do comparison benchmarks between SteamOS and Windows.

A Brief Video Tour Of The Steam Deck UI

I hope Valve interprets the following as positive feedback: vanilla Steam is garbage compared to the redesigned Steam Deck interface. I can’t stand using classic Steam or Big Picture mode on my desktop PC now.

Valve skillfully translated the core Steam software experience into an elegant console UI, anchored by the STEAM and Quick Access buttons.

Tap the STEAM button and a sidebar menu gives you access to core Steam features: Library, Store, Friends and Chat, Media (all of your screenshots), Downloads, and system settings. From within the system settings menu, you can easily manage the console’s display settings, audio outputs, Family sharing, remote play options, storage capacity, Bluetooth connections, keyboard themes and much more.

While Valve figured out how to drive Steam with a controller years ago, on the Deck it feels more intuitive and streamlined. But the real magic starts happening on the right side of the console when you slap that Quick Access (. . .) menu.

This menu groups your notifications, the chat system, toggles for display brightness, audio levels, haptics, connectivity, and performance.

The Performance tab deserves its own series of articles. Valve has given users an unprecedented level of control over the hardware. This area of the UI gives you the following:

  • 3 performance overlay toggles (it’s MangoHUD but easy to use!), showing everything from FPS and frame time graphs, to per-core utilization and system power consumption.
  • A universal 30 FPS frame limiter.
  • A Thermal Power (TDP) Limit slider.
  • Manual GPU clock control.
  • 4 types of scaling filters: FSR, Linear, Nearest and Integer.

It’s a power user’s dream setup, dramatically simplifying processes that would take hours or days of repeated use and training to master on a typical PC, whether the OS is Windows, macOS or Linux. There’s so much to explore and unpack with just this one section of the console’s interface that a separate article (or series of articles) is required. However, I’ll briefly touch on the effects these settings can have in the game performance section below.

Steam Deck "learns" about games. in the case of Wasteland 3, it suggested I use the Magnify tool for text that's too small to read. 
Steam Deck “learns” about games. in the case of Wasteland 3, it suggested I use the Magnify tool for text that’s too small to read. 

Over the course of using and reviewing the Steam Deck, I’ve stumbled across so many helpful built-in tips and tools. As just one example, lets look at “Playable” games like Wasteland 3.

Valve says that the in-game interface text is legible, which it is. I suppose that’s factual. But it’s tiny to my 46-year old eyes. It’s difficult to glance at onscreen enemy data, and I need to squint to see some elements of the game’s UI. And the game doesn’t let you increase the size of the text beyond a “medium” setting, which can be rough on a 7″ display. 

Fortunately, Valve prepared for scenarios like this on a hardware level. Pressing the Steam + L1 button combo toggles a magnifier that works while any game is running. You can then use the thumbsticks or trackpad to scroll around.

OK, Let’s Talk About Game Performance

I know you have dozens of burning questions about game compatibility and performance, but limited time and bandwidth mean I can’t answer all of them in a single review. For now, I can offer this incredibly reassuring conclusion: there isn’t a single game that the Deck’s powerful hardware can’t handle.

Obviously, there are games that won’t even launch due to compatibility restraints. Stuff like Lost Ark, Destiny 2 and Halo Infinite first need to enable EAC (anti-cheat) support for Linux/Proton, which is basically an email away according to Valve.

But of the nearly 900 Valve-certified Playable and Verified games so far (and thousands more waiting to be checked by the company’s army of QA testers), even the most demanding run shockingly well.

I could benchmark this system for months (and I will) but I want to present the most compelling results first. The results are guaranteed to make you do a double-take and swear that Valve and AMD employed voodoo magic to accomplish this level of performance on a $399 PC.

On a $399 Linux-powered PC running games developed exclusively for Windows…

Borderlands 3: The Steam Deck utilizes Valve’s Gamescope compositor to render graphical applications and games. There’s a lot of technical jargon involved in explaining it, but what’s important to know is that the built-in 30 FPS frame rate limiter is invaluable. Borderlands 3 is the first game I tested and presented the first clue about the limiter’s importance. You can safely play this one on Medium settings and get about 45 FPS, but leaving the frame rate uncapped sees the game bounce between a very choppy 30 and 48 FPS. Flick the 30 FPS cap on, and it feels exponentially smoother.

Cyberpunk 2077 is a workout for the Deck, but it looks breathtaking and performs surprisingly well. 
Cyberpunk 2077 is a workout for the Deck, but it looks breathtaking and performs surprisingly well. 

Cyberpunk 2077: Not only does it run flawlessly, but somehow the Steam Deck cranks out an average of 47 FPS on the Low quality preset. And frankly, even that baseline graphics setting looks beautiful on this 800p display. Upgrading to the Medium quality preset and activating the in-game AMD FSR feature (I recommend “Performance”) yields a 56 FPS average!

Alternately, you can toggle the Deck’s universal 30 FPS frame limiter and play comfortably on the High quality setting, while still enjoying a smooth experience thanks to Gamescope’s exceptional frame pacing. I think a pattern is emerging…

DOOM Eternal: What an absolute showcase for the Deck. You need to see this, so check out the video just above.

I set the quality preset to Ultra and was blessed with an average 55 FPS in the second area of the main campaign. When things get faster and more frantic, such as in The Ancient Gods, that drops down to about 40 to 45 FPS on average. Suffice to say, if you want a rock solid 60 FPS, dropping down to High quality will do the trick. And once again, Valve’s Gamescope still turns in an awesome experience with the 30 FPS frame cap toggled on.

Forza Horizon 5: This was a somewhat poor experience. While it’s certainly a beautiful technical achievement, the canned benchmark runs much smoother than the actual open-world driving environment. That benchmark told me I would get an average of 52 FPS with the Low quality preset. But switching over to the actual game told a vastly different story. There were frequent frame rate dips and stutters, but again Valve’s 30 FPS limiter saved the day. Unfortunately, playing Forza Horizon 5 at 30 FPS isn’t wonderful, as the game doesn’t feel smooth until hitting 60 FPS. Playable? Yes. Enjoyable? Ehhh.

God of War: Then there’s God of War. A former PlayStation exclusive, ported to Windows, running like an absolute beast on a handheld Linux-powered console. Now this is a technical achievement. Running at the “Original” quality preset, the Deck delivered a stable, smooth as silk 30 FPS. It not only felt great to play, but looked stunning on the small 800p display.

And this is where the critical importance of proper frame pacing comes into focus. It’s not how many frames you get, it’s how smoothly those frames are rendered. The difference between God of War at 30 FPS and Forza at 30 FPS is night and day. Valve’s Gamescope continues to employ outstanding frame pacing here, making 30 FPS on the majority of games an acceptable target.

No Man’s Sky: Hello Games’ ceaselessly expanding space survival adventure was recently optimized for Deck, so this was a natural fit. Out of the box, the game defaulted to the “Standard” preset and gave me 60 FPS. However, stretching beyond that to “Enhanced” or “High” resulted in some rare but harsh frame drops. I think I’ll be losing many hours to NMS on Deck.

Titanfall 2: As one of the best shooters ever made (no arguing allowed), I had to test Titanfall 2’s performance on Deck. But the dominant reason was my curiosity about Origin. Would Steam install EA’s Origin client automatically? How would that look?

The Deck knows when you're using a launcher like Origin, and displays clear tips on how to navigate them. 
The Deck knows when you’re using a launcher like Origin, and displays clear tips on how to navigate them. 

What happened is that the “Install Origin” window appeared, but was covered by the Deck default splash screen for launching a game (see above). Hitting the Steam key and then “Resume Game” solved it. After that, you can use the touchscreen or trackpad to navigate the quick Origin installation, something the Steam Deck will actually point out for you. Subsequent launches shouldn’t exhibit these issues and you’ll jump right into the game.

As for performance, Respawn’s fast-paced shooter plays like a dream. Smooth and stable at 60 FPS with the game’s default recommended High quality settings. What a blast!

I’m also impressed with the Deck’s suspend and resume feature. Tapping the power button puts the unit to sleep in less than 2 seconds. Tapping it again wakes it up, resuming whatever you were doing in less than 2 seconds. It’s fast and it’s reliable.

A Brief Note About Audio And Speakers

While playing, I was floored by the audio quality this little unit kicks out. These are tiny speaker drivers but deliver an impressively loud, wide soundstage. Watching videos or playing games in a semi-noisy environment won’t be a problem.

An annoying hiccup emerged in several games that I tried, though, such as No Man’s Sky and Tetris Effect Connected: occasional, but not frequent, popping or clipping in the game’s audio. Again, I’ll stress that I’m technically using pre-release software, and the furious frequency of Valve’s updates have improved a number of things since receiving my review unit, so this may not reflect the consumer experience. I’ll keep an ear on it, though.

Let’s Talk About Steam Deck Battery Life

Valve’s battery life estimate was pretty broad: between 2 and 8 hours. In my real-world testing, the results are a bit narrower and I don’t think 8 hours can be achieved under realistic usage. (I’m not going to dim my screen to its lowest setting or throttle the power to 3 watts, and I’m never going to leave my Deck just idling).

I’ll have a separate article soon with battery optimization tips, but one simple option will have the biggest impact: that magic 30 FPS switch.

I tested all of the following scenarios with brightness at 50% (more than adequate for indoor use), volume at 50%, WiFi on and Bluetooth off. Adaptive brightness was disabled.

Playing DOOM Eternal (High Preset): Playing the campaign with an uncapped frame rate gave precisely 1 hour and 47 minutes. But flicking the 30 FPS switch in the Deck’s Quick Access menu yielded an impressive battery life gain: 3 hours and 57 minutes! Try doing that with a gaming laptop…

Playing God of War (Original Preset): Using the same testing criteria, I enjoyed the opening set pieces of the campaign on the same Original quality preset used for benchmarking. With the 30 FPS toggle deactivated, I got just shy of 90 minutes. But activating the 30 FPS frame limiter (again, still a smoother gameplay experience) resulted in power consumption decreasing by more than 50%, and battery life jumping to 3 hours and 10 minutes.

Playing Portal 2 (High Preset): There’s never a bad excuse for playing this classic again. So I set the Quality to “High” and used the game’s built-in “Laptop Power Saving Mode.” I think the resulting battery life was awesome: 5 hours and 53 minutes. And remember, this is actually playing, not just sitting idle.

Watching YouTube with Firefox: I added Firefox to my Steam library and watched a remarkable 7 hours and 10 minutes of content before the Deck shut itself off.

Battery life claims are always overly optimistic, and while I can’t imagine getting 8 hours in any realistic scenario, I’m content with the results. If you flat-out refuse to play games at 30 FPS, however, you’re in for some short unplugged sessions. At least when it comes to more graphically demanding AAA games. (I simply ran out of time to test 2D indie games like Castle Crashers or Mark of the Ninja Remastered.

That said, I’m positive Valve and AMD will continue optimizing battery life through software updates and tweaks to image sharpening techniques. On that note, it’s entirely possible to extract a bit more time away from the charger by using AMD FSR. In many cases, having the Deck upscale an in-game resolution of 480p or 540p up to 800p will absolutely result in less power consumption, but these tests are time-consuming.

On the bright side, those of you curious about all aspects of Steam Deck can look forward to tons of ongoing content from myself and others in the industry.

I Forgot I Was Using Linux!

Playing Stardew Valley on Steam Deck
Playing Stardew Valley on Steam Deck

The Steam Deck has a split personality. It proudly boasts the beating heart of a handheld console, but it can transform into a full-fat Linux desktop environment with the touch of a button. But I’ve been so enthralled with the console experience, the fact it was running Linux completely melted away.

And that’s the mark of thoughtful, elegant, inspired design. That’s the indicator that Valve is onto something huge. Not just for more Linux adoption and awareness, but huge for all gamers in general. Because yea, you absolutely should have the right to order replacement parts and repair your own hardware, or to 3D print components, or to customize your console, and, most importantly, to buy the thing at a fair market price in the first place.)

Yes, technically I’m using SteamOS with a customized Linux 5.13 kernel and an Arch base. There are Flatpaks and repos and compositors and compatibility layers and all this complicated stuff happening under the hood.

But when I pick it up and start gaming, I’m just playing a Steam Deck. That should speak volumes coming from the guy who pivoted his professional writing career to exclusively covering Linux.

And what of the fact that a Steam Deck also happens to be one of the most affordable “laptops” in existence? That’s worthy of an entirely separate review. We’re at 5500 words, my friends. And you probably have other reviews to check out!

Conclusions and Bold Predictions

The 512GB Steam Deck with a glorious mechanical keyboard theme. 
The 512GB Steam Deck with a glorious mechanical keyboard theme. 

All told, this is a thrilling piece of technology that can only evolve and improve from here. I promise you it will be copied and coveted. Companies will iterate on the design, and possibly develop customized, “branded” versions of SteamOS. Major game developers and publishers will increasingly optimize their new games for Steam Deck.

You’ll see Xbox Game Pass arrive on Deck. Netflix will eventually develop a Steam Deck app. You’ll see gaming accessory makers scrambling to make backpacks, cases, skins, and storage adapters. You’ll see future game reviews touch on how well a new release runs on Deck.

While it’s true that many of your favorite games remain unsupported right now, that number shrinks a little more every day. Besides, no console can play “all the games.” (And if you absolutely must play that unsupported game, Valve and AMD will both support Windows installations as soon as the GPU driver is available, which should be days from now at most.)

I believe at some marvelous point in the not-too-distant future, even games like Fortnite 2 and Apex Legends will come to Deck because its audience will be too sizable to ignore.

(UPDATE: Apex Legends is working on Deck)

It’s only a matter of time and sales.

Welcome to 2022, the year of the Linux gaming console.

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