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Steam Deck Gotted!

published 17/03/2022 in Games | tags : Linux, Steam, Steamdeck, Gaming

Estimated read time: 7 min.

I got my Steam Deck and it’s amazing!

I happen to get a reservation for Q1, so my Steam Deck came in on Monday morning this week.

Now that I’ve had a couple days to play around with it, I’m going to be attempting a review from a couple different perspectives and a bit of an overview of what lead to the Deck.

Perspectives:

  • as a console
  • as a handheld
  • as a PC
  • as a platform for tinkerers

Preface:

It has been a fantastic last few years for Linux and Gaming thanks mostly in part to Valve.

The 2000ft view from Valve bringing Steam to Linux, the Steam Controller , Steam Link , Steam machines, Index, Proton and finally the Steam Deck itself.

Enough cannot be said to emphasize the foresight Valve had to move the needle where no other company or individuals. Below I will try…

Steam on Linux

A huge milestone for Linux gaming. Gone are the days of banging rocks together to get your games working in Linux. To think it’s been 10 years of Steam on Linux so far! More on this with Proton.

Steam Controller / Steam Input

Perfecting haptics and unifying controller support, layouts and settings for PC gaming leading to Steam Input which allows just about anything to be used and configured as a peripheral.

Allowing all but the most PC centric games to be played comfortably on the Steam Controller and by proxy on the Deck itself.

Not everyone was a very big fan of the controller, but you can’t argue that the controller support in Steam has been greatly improved (not just for the Steam Controller).

Steam Link

Again, not overly successful product (as in sales numbers) that Valve put lots of R&D into. However numerous software implementations (RPi Steam Link anyone?) and apps for iPads and phones, and paving the way for remote play. The Steam Link lives on in the back-end and the Deck itself should you choose to remote play Games on the console.

Steam Machines

Again no real success regarding sales numbers. Largely due to the small number of Linux native games available at the time. A by-product of the right idea at the wrong time.

Kinda like the Steam Deck, but only for native games (of which there were few).

However the work they put forth didn’t get lost, since it gave them the platform to build up the Linux gaming foundation that we have today.

Index

I’m sure some of their experience building custom high quality hardware with the Index came in handy with the Deck. However it wasn’t as foundational as the machines, Link or Controller. Although it does work great in Linux.

Proton

Just as crazy as bringing Steam to Linux, Proton is a massive success.

Along with Vulkan, VKD3D, Proton cements Linux as a first class Gaming platform.

Borrowing heavily from Wine, Valve has now built up their translation layer to a point where it’s no longer ‘reaching’ parity with DirectX but actively providing more features and optimizations than running native games.

We are at a point where it would almost make sense to run Windows native games in Proton (on Windows) to allow for better features and performance than the developers themselves were able to produce.

Examples of this include FSR for games that don’t support it. Allowing for better performance due to running it through the translation layer.

Proton on the Steam Deck changes the game significantly allowing for optimizations to be in the hands of Valve.

Deck

The Deck is the culmination of all the above. And being jammed into a tiny box, with a built-in controller.

Review / First impressions

As I mentioned above, I will be trying to review the device from a few different perspectives.

As a Console

There is no other console on the market that allows you the ability to play most (if any) the games that you already own. I cannot count the number of times I’ve had to re-buy games for several platforms (looking at you, Dark Souls, GTA and Skyrim) as the years have gone by.

The ability to pair controllers and output to a TV or monitor is a huge plus allowing this console, to not only be a handheld (similarly to the switch, but with any controllers and actually decent games).

Opening up the possibility of playing just about any PC game on the console while in the living room, traveling or at a friends house is just something that’s a bonus.

I happen to already have a Steam library loaded with games, however I imagine, that even if I didn’t, having the steam store available along with it’s Sales, that it wouldn’t be very hard to amass a library that vastly outpaces the PlayStation, MS, Nintendo, Epic or Ubi’s offerings at a fraction of the cost.

Not only cost, but the experience of the Steam store as the primary source of games is a huge plus as the experience of the competing stores are a train wreck.

This isn’t even taking into account that RetroArch is available directly in the Steam Store, and that just about any emulator can be installed as well, more on this later.

As a handheld

The Deck is pretty large, compared to other handhelds, however it is very comfortable to hold. Having the ability to essentially play every other handheld’s games through emulation is also a perk.

Instantly having the largest library of games available on the console.

The sleep / resume works like a dream so far.

With cloud-sync the ability to carry on where you left off is great when switching from the PC to the Deck.

The ability to remote play also opens up the possibility of playing games that aren’t compatible with the Deck directly from your PC.

As a PC

It’s pretty much the best cheap computer you can get. And it’s a handheld.

Needing a dock to properly operate as a PC replacement would be it’s only downside, but with the ubiquity of USB-C hubs, this isn’t a huge obstacle to overcome. And being an X86 you can still use all your Docker containers etc without any fiddling like with the M1 macs.

It’s a very nice, solidly built Linux device, that happens to also run SteamOS and allow you to play games on it.

Based on Arch Linux, it’s updates have been coming fast and hard, and with each update, it seems to get better and gain more functionality, just as with Arch Linux I’m excited when there are updates, rather than dreading updates like most of my friends that run Windows or have “actual” consoles.

Shipping with KDE Plasma by default, which is a decent WM and all the hardware works out of the box as you’d expect. And being able to just use it as a regular Arch box is amazing.

You can even add applications or other games to the new SteamOS interface through the Desktop mode.

As a platform for tinkerers

This is the most important aspect of the Deck for me personally. The mod-ability and openness of the platform is bar none the killer feature of this amazing hardware.

There has never been a better time to start tinkering with Linux, modding and gaming.

The Deck provides an even better platform for than I could have ever imagined, and I’ve been running Linux for close to 25 years now on just about every device and console I can get my hands on.

This is the first time I was able to buy a device like this with Linux on it by default. And it just so happens it’s my favorite distro powering the whole thing.

I can’t wait to see what people are going to do / add to the Deck.

Overall thoughts

Almost everything is positive, only a few quirks that I’m sure will soon be worked out. Only one USB-C port (a hub or dock is a must), this is easily addressed.

For me playing games is a social event with friends.

So the one feature I would want would be for Valve to add a bindable push-to-talk button to the controls / steam chat room. 110% would buy again. Can’t wait to see what comes out in the next updates!

Un-boxing and pictures

Below are some pictures / un-boxing and game testing I was doing when I first got the device.

Opening up the box.

Steam Deck open

A nice case inside.

Steam Deck case

Setting up the Wifi.

Steam Deck wifi Steam Deck installing Steam Deck updating Steam Deck updating

Some shortcuts.

Steam Deck shortcuts Steam Deck tutorial

KDE running in Desktop mode.

Steam Deck KDE

Aperture Desk Job.

Steam Deck Aperture Steam Deck Toilet

Dark Souls 1

Steam Deck DarkSouls 1

Dark Souls 2

Steam Deck DarkSouls 2

Dark Souls 3

Steam Deck DarkSouls 3

Elden ring and MangoHUD

Steam Deck Mango / Elden Ring Steam Deck Download Elden Ring

A couple memes in the non-verified section.

Steam Deck Non-Verified

Remote playing Sekiro (it also runs fantastic on the Deck directly).

Steam Deck remote sekiro Steam Deck remote play

Battle Brothers on the Deck.

Steam Deck battle brothers

Bonus: Garbage (Dark Sasi) running on the Deck

Steam Deck dark sasi