We spent two days playing the Steam Deck and talking to Valve about its origins, capabilities, and its future as a platform. So before we left, we asked them a bunch of questions about the Steam Deck that we thought you’d want to know the answers to. Here’s what they had to say:
IGN: First of all, what’s in it? CPU GPU wise, what is in this thing?
Pierre-Loup Griffais: So there’s four cores of AMD, Zen 2 CPU with eight threads, and eight CUs of RDNA2 GPU. These are all the latest architecture.
IGN: How much RAM is in it?
Pierre-Loup Griffais: 16 gigabytes.
IGN: Storage wise, what are we looking at?
Lawrence Yang: We have three SKUs and it’ll be 64 gigs, 256 gigs, and 512 gigs.
IGN: Is the storage upgradable?
Lawrence Yang: The internal storage is not, but every deck will come with a SD card slot. So you can put an SD card slot, whatever size you want. Whenever you want.
Pierre-Loup Griffais: The 64 gigabytes storage will be $399. The 256 gigabytes will be $529 and the 512 gigabyte will be $649.
IGN: Is there a difference in performance with regard to the storage speed – flash memory versus NVMe – as you step up and go higher?
Pierre-Loup Griffais: Yeah. As we go higher, the read and write speeds are going to be faster.
IGN: And then next up, screen size and resolution. What are we looking at there?
Greg Coomer: It’s a seven Inch screen. It’s a 720p native resolution.
Pierre-Loup Griffais: The aspect ratio is 16 by 10. So the exact resolution is actually 1280×800. [Editor’s note: The 512gb version also has a premium anti-glare etched glass treatment on its screen.]
IGN: Battery life? That’s a big one in any handheld device. What are we looking at there?
Pierre-Loup Griffais: Well, there’s a wide variety of experiences there. It’s about 2-8 hours, depending on what you’re doing. You can play Portal 2 for four hours on this thing. If you limit it to 30 FPS, you’re going to be playing for 5-6 hours.
IGN: What is included in the box?
Lawrence Yang: The Deck itself. It will [also] come with the power adapter [and] a carrying case.
IGN: Are there built in microphones in this for multiplayer chat?
Pierre-Loup Griffais: Yep.
IGN: Is there a cellular connection? So I can download games from anywhere or is it wifi-only?
Pierre-Loup Griffais: Wifi-only.
IGN: Is there an ambient light sensor in it for the, to auto adjust the brightness of the screen depending on the lighting conditions?
Lawrence Yang: Yep.
IGN: What operating system does it run?
Pierre-Loup Griffais: This is running the new version of SteamOS.
IGN: Is it for gaming only or can it run other PC applications? Can it do other things?
Pierre-Loup Griffais: It can pretty much run anything you can run on a PC.
IGN: So we can go to ign.com on it?
Pierre-Loup Griffais: Absolutely.
It can pretty much run anything you can run on a PC.
IGN: Is there a docking station or any way to play it on a bigger screen?
Greg Coomer: Yes. We’re producing a dock. It’ll be sold separately.
IGN: Is there a price on that yet?
Greg Coomer: We don’t have a price for you today.
IGN: Okay. Will that be available at launch?
Greg Coomer: Don’t have that answer for you, yet.
Pierre-Loup Griffais: There’s plenty of existing off the shelf solutions that I don’t think will be providing this nice experience, but a similar function.
Lawrence Yang: Any USB-C dock that you can buy off the shelf will work with this and it’ll do USB, ethernet, and HDMI. All of the things you would expect from a dock.
You can use anything that can be plugged in via USB and anything that can be plugged in or accessed via Bluetooth.
IGN: What peripherals, headsets, controllers can we use with it?
Greg Coomer: Anything that can be plugged in via USB and anything that can be plugged in or accessed via Bluetooth. There’s an onboard USB-C connection.
IGN: Excellent. Yeah, I tried my Apple AirPods earlier and they worked just fine. So I don’t even have to buy anything else for Bluetooth audio.
Pierre-Loup Griffais: Yep.
IGN: Can I play VR off of it?
Pierre-Loup Griffais: I mean, it has all the connectivity. You would need [a lot] to do that, but that’s not really what we’re optimizing the performance for.
IGN: So you can try it, but your mileage may vary.
Pierre-Loup Griffais: Yeah.
IGN: Can you adjust graphic settings within it or is it sort of locked into a specific settings profile based on the horsepower of the machine?
Pierre-Loup Griffais: All the normal options that you’d get in PC games are accessible. That being said, most games start with a pretty balanced graphic settings that work really well out of the box.
IGN: Is the core hardware, not the storage, but is it the core hardware upgradable in any way?
Pierre-Loup Griffais: Not really, due to the small form factor. Everything is pretty, it’s pretty tightly packed.
IGN: Can I log into my Epic Games Store account?
Greg Coomer: Again, you can really do anything that you would expect a [Linux-based] PC to be able to do. So the answer to those things is yes.
The Deck has connectivity so you can play multiplayer games, you can play local multiplayer with multiple controllers connected to it.
IGN: How about mod support?
Greg Coomer: Really the same answer because a PC can do those things. So we’ve built this device to support all of that.
Pierre-Loup Griffais: And the version of Steam that runs on this is the same version of Steam just adapted with different UI and control. So all these features, team workshop, and all that built-in support for mods will be there as well.
IGN: How about multiplayer? How does that work with the device? Be it a local multiplayer or otherwise?
Lawrence Yang: Yeah, I think same story as with any PC. So it has connectivity so you can play multiplayer games, you can play local multiplayer with multiple controllers connected to it. All of the things that you would expect.
IGN: So all you need for multiplayer on a split-screen/same-screen multiplayer would be a second controller input, via Bluetooth.
Pierre-Loup Griffais: Or use a phone and Steam remote play app.
People will be able to reserve the Deck and then purchase it in a queue-based system.
IGN: What other buttons are hiding on it?
Pierre-Loup Griffais: Yeah. There’s a set of [four] extra buttons on the back for programmable rear buttons.
IGN: How about supply? We have a chip situation globally, but scalpers and bots have rained on the parade of many it would-be next-gen gamer as well. Do you anticipate being able to meet demand this Fall?
Greg Coomer: We’re using a reservation system that we’re going to roll out shortly after this announcement and we’re really going to use that, [but] obviously can’t make all of the devices at once that we think people will want over the next year or two.
Greg Coomer: So as those become available and as they’re manufactured, people will be able to reserve and then purchase those in a queue-based system.
We look at this as a new category of device in the PC space.
IGN: What’s the reasonable shelf life for this? What is the sort of long tail of it? Is it something that is going to be upgraded or will there be a 2.0 version of this in a few years? Do you anticipate or want other hardware makers to use the same SteamOS and make their own version? Do you look at this as a platform?
Greg Coomer: We look at this as just a new category of device in the PC space. And assuming that customers agree with us that this is a good idea, we expect not only to follow up in the future with more iterations ourselves, but also for other people, other manufacturers to want to participate in the space.
Pierre-Loup Griffais: All the technologies and the OS and the building blocks that we’ve been working on over the years, that kind of means the Steam Deck will be available free of charge for people that want to build devices like that as well.
Lawrence Yang: We want to make sure people know that the SteamOS 3 is available free, for a free license for any manufacturer that wants to make a similar product.
Have more questions about the Steam Deck? Leave them in the comments below and we will do our best to get them answered by Valve.