SteamOS is a Linux-based OS that loads a full screen steam interface and plays Steam games. It was meant to work with the Steam Controller, and be its own platform, supported by the Steam store. That didn’t take off, and it seemed to be abandoned for a while. Now it’s back, and on a Steam Deck Console handheld with serious hardware to support it.
A brief history of SteamOS
SteamOS was first launched in 2013 as a way for partners to make Steam Machine hardware. By 2015, it had become clear that this wasn’t working out, and Valve continued to release SteamOS for hobbyists to run, until 2019.
The last release of SteamOS was based on a Debian version released in 2015.
What’s the handheld?
Powered by an AMD APU, with RDNA 2 graphics, the Steam Deck Console shares that architecture with the PS5 and Xbox Series S and X consoles.
It’s got a 1280×800 resolution display, optically bonded so that the display is as close to the glass as possible, rather than appearing below glass.
The game pad controller has controls that will be familiar to most gamers:
- ABXY buttons
- L & R analog triggers
- L & R bumpers
- View and menu buttons
- 4x assignable grip buttons
- 2 full size analog sticks with capacitive touch sensors.
- 2x 32.5mm trackpads with haptic feedback
- 6 axis gyroscope
Inside, there’s either 64GB eMMC, 256GB NVMe, or 512GB NVMe storage. 16GB of RAM should be enough for any game you care to throw at it.
External display support is provided by DisplayPort over USB-C, with 8K@60Hz, or 4K@120Hz.
Power is provided by USB-C PD @ 45W, to charge a 40Wh battery, giving you 2 to 8 hours of battery life.
Connectivity is Bluetooth 5 or dual band 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
And in a surprise move, the software is powered by SteamOS 3, running on Arch Linux instead of Debian.
What’s it like
Steam Deck Console is about bringing the full Steam experience to the handheld, but also keeping it synced with your PC.
Steam chat with any of your friends, and have all your notifications in one place so you can check-in without leaving a game.
When you save progress, it syncs, so you can resume playing on your PC where you left off.
And you can stream them from your home PC to the Steam Deck console, wherever you are. Traditionally, you’d have to worry about whether or not a game would play on SteamOS, if it was meant for Windows. Here, Valve is using Proton, a compatibility layer, to allow Windows games to play on SteamOS/Linux using a modified version of WINE (Wine Is Not an Emulator, the Windows emulator.)
Where to get it
Right now, you have to reserve the Steam Deck Console at steamdeck.com. Steam Deck starts shipping December 2021. The Steam Deck Console is available for $399, $529, or $649, depending on which amount of storage you choose.