Valve has announced a new portable Steam Deck powered by a custom Linux operating system. The 7″ device can play the latest AAA games, and since it’s a PC, you can also install Windows. This means that the Steam Deck could be the perfect Xbox handheld, given Microsoft’s investment in bringing all future Xbox Game Studios titles to PC.
“The Steam Deck is a PC, so you can install third-party software and operating systems,” says Valve. That said, this hardware isn’t fixed in the way tech companies see it.
The Steam deck itself comes with SteamOS, a custom Linux operating system that loads into the familiar Steam interface you’re used to on your PC. Linux support for games has improved in recent years, but less than 15% of all games on Steam officially support Linux and SteamOS, especially thanks to Valve’s Proton efforts. Of the 54,280 games available on Steam, 7,586 are compared to 13 games on Steam that don’t work on Windows.
Installing Windows on your Steam deck will open thousands of Steam games that aren’t yet compatible with SteamOS and Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass subscription on this device. You can check if the game you’re playing is supported on Valve’s Steam site or the Proton database.
Proton does most of the work for running games on the Steam Deck, but titles with anti-cheat software are still an issue on Linux. But that may change soon. “We are working with BattlEye and Easy Anti-Cheat to get support for Proton before launch,” says Valve. It can mean titles such as: Apex Legends, Destiny 2, PUBG, Fortnite, And gear 5 It will work on Proton and Steam Deck soon.
Looking at the hardware inside the Steam Deck, it’s much closer to a portable Xbox than expected. A custom AMD GPU runs the Steam Deck with 8 RDNA 2 CUs and up to 1.6 teraflops of performance. This is slightly higher than the Xbox One S (1.4 teraflops) and slightly less than the PS4 (1.8 teraflops). It’s a modern RDNA 2 architecture, so it’s hard to compare on teraflops alone, but it looks powerful enough for portable PC gaming.
Obviously, the possible downsides of installing Windows are the lack of full driver support and the difficulty of a desktop UI that isn’t optimized for handheld devices. It’s also not clear how well the game will perform on Windows on Steam Deck, so there’s a lot of uncertainty until the device launches in December.
That said, portable gaming PCs are slowly emerging as viable alternatives to the massive rigs or heavy laptops typically required to play PC games. The Switch-style Neo handheld and 5.5-inch GPD Win 3 launched by Indiegogo earlier this year are the latest in a series of GPD handhelds.
We’ve been getting closer to Switch-sized gaming PCs for over a year now, and Valve’s Steam Deck unit is the first to bring this idea to the mainstream. Now we know how well this Really You can see how easy it is to run the game and get Windows up and running.
Update, July 15 at 4:15 PM EST: Article updated with new details from Valve on Proton support for games with anti-cheat.