Steam Deck: Five big things we learned from Valve’s developer summit

On Friday, PC gaming large Valve invited the developer neighborhood to be taught extra about its Steam Deck, a $400 handheld gaming PC with a relatively highly effective AMD chip. It’s akin to the Nintendo Change of gaming PCs, and there’s rather a lot we already knew concerning the delayed handheld from its announcement, our journey to Valve’s headquarters, and an official teardown. However at this time, we learned much more.

Listed below are the highlights — until, in fact, you’d prefer to watch Valve’s entire livestream or breakout sessions for your self. That’s effective too!

Aerith lives

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The AMD chip contained in the Steam Deck has a reputation: it’s the Aerith SOC, a transparent reference to the well-known Aerith from Final Fantasy VII. It’s an APU with an influence envelope of between 4 and 15 watts, and it incorporates each an 4-core, 8-thread AMD Zen 2 CPU that runs between 2.4-3.5GHz, and eight AMD RDNA 2 compute items value of graphics clocked between 1 and 1.6GHz, for a complete of 1.6 teraflops of uncooked graphical compute.

Right here’s the Steam Deck’s whole block diagram, so you may see how the entire system comes collectively round that chip:

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It interfaces with 16GB of unified LPDDR5 reminiscence, with a complete of 88GB/s of bandwidth. Whereas there’s solely 1GB of devoted video reminiscence, Valve says the GPU can entry as much as 8GB of that shared reminiscence as wanted.

“In the event you’re in Florida in July, chances are you’ll run out of thermal headroom”

Valve says the chip’s designed to run frequently and persistently at its quoted clockspeeds: “The efficiency your recreation will get within the first ten seconds is more likely to be the identical efficiency you get two hours from now, and even indefinitely should you’re plugged into the wall,” says Valve’s Yazan Aldehayyat, including that the system’s designed to carry out the identical docked, undocked, charging or not, even whereas downloading video games or at an elevated temperature. “In the event you’re in Florida in July, chances are you’ll run out of thermal headroom,” he says, however even then Valve says it’ll attempt to throttle downloads and switch speeds earlier than it throttles your recreation efficiency.

Valve does warn that builders could have to keep away from pushing the GPU too arduous if they need longer battery life. “We didn’t place any synthetic limits on how a lot energy the APU can eat.” As one particular tactic, Valve’s suggesting that video games cap their framerate to avoid wasting battery. That would make a big distinction: “You may play Portal 2 for 4 hours on this factor. In the event you restrict it to 30 FPS, you’re going to be enjoying for 5-6 hours,” Valve told IGN in August.

One other optimization: Valve revealed at this time that builders can add variations of their video games with lower-fidelity texture packages to Steam’s Depot to enhance efficiency and scale back the quantity of storage and time it takes a consumer to obtain a recreation. That’s just like Microsoft’s Sensible Supply system for the Xbox One, Xbox One X and Xbox Sequence X/S, which routes the right model of a recreation to every console. (However the place Xbox builders are possible concentrating on 1080p, 1440p and near-4K respectively, the moveable Steam Deck runs at 720p and 800p decision.)

Designed to dock and stream

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With a 45-watt energy provide, Valve says the Steam Deck can cost and play on the identical time, and energy a 7.5-watt value of exterior peripheral. The USB-C port additionally presents exterior show help for as much as two 4K displays at 60Hz (utilizing Show Stream Compression), and Valve says you it’ll supply USB 3 Gen 2 “should you go for half the show bandwidth.” The non-compulsory dock (which has but to be pictured or go on preorder) may even supply Gigabit Ethernet.

And should you choose to play on a TV or monitor, you’ll in all probability be joyful to listen to the primary full affirmation that Valve is supporting AMD’s FidelityFX Tremendous Decision (FSR) upscaling with the Steam Deck. In truth, AMD representatives on the stream confirmed that not solely does the Steam Deck work with FSR in video games that help it — probably making them look a bit higher on the big display screen — however that the Steam Deck will natively help FSR at an working system stage with a future replace. AMD says it’s engaged on drivers that can allow the recently announced Vulkan Dynamic Rendering, too.

There’s no USB 4 or Intel-proprietary Thunderbolt right here, clearly, and also you’re solely getting 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) as a substitute of Wi-Fi 6 or 6E, however Valve says the Deck is optimized for “reliability and robustness even in congested environments” so Valve can supply a “first-class Distant Play expertise” to beam video games from their desktop PC to the Deck inside their very own houses whereas utilizing much less battery than native video games.

Valve did an nice job with Wi-Fi engineering when it constructed the Steam Hyperlink HDMI puck, so I’m excited to check that.

Scant slowdown over SD (and eMMC)

The entry stage $400 Steam Deck solely comes with 64GB of comparatively gradual eMMC storage and a microSD card slot for growth — you’ll should pay notably extra for the sooner fashions with NVMe SSDs, and even then they’ll be pretty straightforward to fill with a decent-sized Steam library of video games.

However at this time, Valve assured builders that eMMC and SD aren’t that a lot slower: roughly 12 p.c and 18 p.c slower respectively in terms of loading video games. (Sure, the Y-axes are mislabeled and don’t line up with the bar graphs.)

Valve says video games 64GB eMMC Steam Deck is perhaps 12 p.c slower at loading a recreation and 25 p.c slower booting, in comparison with the NVMe mannequin.

18 p.c slower loading a recreation from SD card.

— Sean Hollister (@StarFire2258) November 12, 2021

Boot occasions are 25 p.c slower, however I suppose we’ll should see how lengthy they’re in actuality — Valve didn’t specify an precise variety of minutes or seconds it takes for the Steam Deck in addition.

Valve’s altering how cloud saves work so you may decide up and play

However Valve can also be considering of the Steam Deck as an always-on system, one the place you gained’t at all times have to boot and launch video games from scratch: there’s a droop and resume characteristic constructed into the Steam Deck that ought to allow you to shortly pause video games such as you do on a Nintendo Change.

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Valve’s altering how Steam’s cloud save system works because of this: The place at this time’s Steam typically syncs your cloud saves after you’ve stop out of a recreation, the corporate’s providing new cloud APIs so builders can get their video games to sync within the background on the time you droop the title.

Theoretically, that would additionally imply you possibly can pause a recreation you’re enjoying on the Steam Deck and shortly decide it up in your desktop PC, or vice versa.

There’s a white Steam Deck proper out of Portal, however you may’t have it

Valve’s Greg Coomer picks up a white Steam Deck prototype and shows it off. It’s got an Aperture logo on the back.

It’s not on the market.

GIF by Sean Hollister / The Verge

Throughout all the Steam Deck presentation, the backgrounds had been filled with intriguing hints at Valve’s prototyping process, and lots of onlookers observed a white Steam Deck amongst them — one straight out of Valve’s hit recreation Portal proper right down to the Aperture brand round again.

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Sadly, it’s not on the market: “It is a prototype solely. We like it too, however we’re not in a position to carry it to market on the identical time we’re delivery the Steam Deck,” mentioned Valve’s Greg Coomer, including that the corporate intends to “take a look at different colour choices sooner or later, however that’s actually down the highway.”

Different tidbits

Listed below are another random things we learned:

  • It’s not made for VR. “We positively didn’t design and construct the system for VR,” says Valve’s Lawrence Yang, whereas admitting that players will virtually actually attempt anyhow.
  • There are nonetheless no plans for 5G or LTE configurations. You may tether it to a telephone, Valve says.
  • Valve is working to carry the Steam Deck to Japan and Australia specifically. Different territories as effectively.
  • Steam Deck has manufacturing unit calibrated audio. “Each single Steam Deck has been calibrated on the manufacturing unit for finest efficiency” and features a devoted amp and DSP for the stereo audio system. It helps multichannel audio over HDMI (by way of USB-C).
  • As soon as Big Image Mode on desktop Steam will get changed by the Deck UI, it’ll get up to date extra usually. There’s no timeframe but for the switchover, however it’s excellent news for uniformity. “We will add new options to Steam and also you’ll see them virtually instantly on Deck.”
  • Valve will share keyboard APIs with a number of IMEs, a number of languages, and emojis.
  • We received our first look (I believe!) on the Steam Deck notifications heart and the brand new controller configurator to map your video games to Steam Deck’s controls. Extra of that in this session.

In truth, we’ll go away you with entire bunch of Steam Deck consumer interface screenshots — we haven’t seen a lot of this prior to now.

The controller configurator permits you to map and bind the Steam Deck’s appreciable array of controls.


It’ll look the identical throughout Steam desktop and Deck.

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Notifications can have a devoted button on Deck.

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Common search works throughout all of Steam, not simply video games.

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