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Steam Deck is coming: Valve’s Nintendo Switch rival explained

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It's official: Valve is set to take on Nintendo with a handheld console of its own – and it's coming this year.

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Valve has confirmed the existence of Steam Deck via a newly launched website. The console promises to transform traditional PC gaming into a handheld experience similar to the Nintendo Switch. Here's everything we know about the device, including the price, specifications and release date.

What is Steam Deck?

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Steam Deck is a portable PC games console that follows the same basic design template as the Nintendo Switch: it comprises a 7-inch touchscreen with controls on either side and a separate docking station that you can use to connect the device to external monitors and TVs. In other words, it's an all-in-one PC gaming device that puts portability at the forefront.

Here's the official video:

The Steam Deck uses Valve's existing digital distribution service, meaning all your games will be freely accessible on the new device. The hardware also supports Windows OS and xCloud functionality has also been confirmed. This means you will be able to play Xbox games through the cloud and download PC games outside of Steam.

Steam Deck specs

Valve is touting Steam Deck as the most powerful gaming handheld in the world. The unit is powered by a custom Zen 2 + RDNA 2 chipset from AMD that can comfortably handle the most graphically demanding video games on the market.

The 7-inch display reportedly has a native resolution of 1280x800 pixels, which isn't hugely impressive. While that's slightly higher than the Nintendo Switch Lite (1280x720 pixels) its screen is also 1.5 inches bigger.

Here's how the Steam Deck specifications compares to the latest version of the Nintendo Switch:

Steam Deck

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Nintendo Switch OLED Model

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Dimensions298mm x 117mm x 49mm241.3mm x 101.6mm x 14mm
Display7-inch LCD7-inch OLED
ProcessorAMD Custom APU
  • CPU: Zen 2 4c/8t, 2.4-3.5GHz (up to 448 GFlops FP32)
  • GPU: 8 RDNA 2 CUs, 1.0-1.6GHz (up to 1.6 TFlops FP32)
NVIDIA Custom Tegra processor
Inbuilt sensors6-Axis IMU, HD haptics feedbackAccelerometer, gyroscope and brightness sensor
External storageSupports SD, SDXC and SDHCSupports microSD, microSDHC and microSDXC
Operating systemSteamOS 3.0 (Arch-based)Nintendo Switch system software
Dock connectors1 x USB-A 3.1 port, 2 x USB-A 2.0 ports, Ethernet, DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.03 x USB port (USB 2.0 compatible), AC adapter port, Ethernet, HDMI 2.0

As you can see, the Steam Deck is a bigger beast than the Switch, both in terms of size and processing power. The Zen 2 + RDNA 2 APU will provide an estimated performance of 1.6 TFLOPS, while the onboard memory sits at an impressive 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM.

This will translate to far more realistic and immersive graphics than the Nintendo Switch could ever hope to handle. But all that power comes at a price.

Steam Deck pricing

The Steam Deck will initially be offered in 3 iterations:

  • 64GB model: US$400
  • 256GB model: US$530
  • 512GB model: US$650

In Australian dollars, that's a starting price of $539 which doesn't sound too bad. However, once GST and other taxes are factored in, don't be surprised if the actual launch price is well north of $600 in Australia. That's still a lot less than a decent gaming PC or laptop though.

In addition to a higher capacity, the more expensive versions include extras like faster storage and an anti-glare etched glass screen. The core specifications are the same across all 3 models though.

Steam Deck release date

According to Valve, the Steam Deck is set to launch "December, 2021". A precise date has yet to be announced. We expect it to be sometime before Christmas to capitalise on holiday shoppers.

How do I get one?

Valve is inviting customers to reserve their Steam Deck for a downpayment of $5. However, the console is not currently available for reservation in Australia. Presumably, you will be able to buy one through Valve or its suppliers sometime after launch.

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