On the Steam Deck

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After making a reservation on Feb 28th of this year, receiving a “Your Steam Deck is now available” email from Valve on Sept 1st, and waiting until Sept 14th, I’ve finally received my Steam Deck!

For the last few weeks I’ve been gaming, experimenting with desktop mode (insert “I use Kali, btw” meme here), and trying to remember how to to play shooters on a controller. I’ve also had a few friends reach out and ask if it was worth the wait, so I figured I’d put together a few bullets on how I feel 2 weeks in:

  • Wow this thing is big! I knew to expect it, but it’s surprising nonetheless.
  • The carrying case included with the deck is very well built. The stiff construction, thick interior padding, and form-fit mold inside are all confidence inspiring.
  • The build quality of the device itself is great. It feels similar-or-better to most console controllers. Leagues ahead of the Nintendo switch
    • The physical controls are well done: buttons have a satisfying click, sticks are accurate, d-pad is the best I’ve used in awhile.
    • The touchpads were a bit odd at first but I really enjoy using them now. I’ve noticed the haptics on the right touchpad are more powerful than those on the left touchpad. After some googling this seems like a common issue.
    • The customization you get via per-game controller profiles is awesome and painless.
    • The buttons on the backside are a bit awkward to reach. That could have to do more with my hand-size than design.
  • It’s ~alright for long sessions. To be fair, I’ve never found handheld consoles suitable for longer play sessions
    • I’ve done a few 1.5-2 hour sessions with the steam deck already with minimal cramping / hand numbness (for reference, I only make it 30-45 minutes on my Switch)
  • So far I’ve been able to run every game I’ve wanted to without significant issues.
    • Elden ring is by far the hardest hitter as far as I can tell. It can stutter in certain spots but hovers between 40-60fps most of the time.
    • I’ve been able to emulate a bunch of Wii and GameCube games at 60fps with v-sync, 4x AA, and 2x native resolution. Some Switch games even run at 60fps.
    • Other games I’ve played include: Titanfall 2, Slay the Spire, JetLancer, Road Warden, Stacklands, and Portal 2. They all ran at a consistent 60fps or more.
    • The “Great on deck” filter that is useful for finding well-optimized games. Around 35% of my ~250 game library is marked as “great on deck”.
  • Battery life is pretty impressive as well but we’ll see how well that lasts
    • For high intensity 3D / AAA games I’ve seen anywhere from 2-4 hours regularly.
    • For more simple 2D games or emulation I’ve been getting 7-8 hours regularly.
  • Software is good, but not bug free.
    • I’ve had my steam deck just refuse to connect to steam servers 2 or 3 times now. This usually happens when wi-fi drops out, then reconnects. The only fix I’ve found is a full restart.
    • I’ve had a few negative encounters with the keyboard popping out in the middle of a game, and then closing itself instantly.
    • While the interface is mostly consistent, there’s definitely a bit of the usual.

TLDR: I’ve been really impressed by the device, despite some small QC issues with my touchpads. If you’re on the fence and want to game more, but hate sitting in your office while doing it, I’d recommend it.