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Valve’s Steam Deck is by no means the first device of its kind — far from it, in fact — but it is nonetheless the most feature-rich, well-rounded and, perhaps most importantly, affordable.
It stands out from the crowd because of its efficiency, versatility, and, frankly, price. Steam Deck’s biggest competitors often cost two times as much, if not even more, and while they do offer some nifty “benefits and whistles” like higher resolution screens, more powerful APUs, addressable RGB lighting and what not, they’re not as well-rounded nor have they been bought by millions of gamers across the globe.
Moreover, they have to be sold at a premium because the companies making them can only turn a profit through hardware; Valve, on the other hand, can afford to sell the base SKU of the Steam Deck at a loss because it can generate revenue through game sales — we’re talking about a 30% cut here.
It’s an ingenious move, all things considered, and it has surely paid dividends.
Regardless, with the Steam Deck making such a tremendous splash, it’s hard not to wonder about its (inevitable) successor.
Steam Deck — A Well-Rounded Bargain
Valve has knocked it out of the park. That much is a fact, and the Steam Deck, despite no longer having that novelty factor, is still selling like crazy. It’s also growing and evolving with each passing month — there are many talented developers working diligently to make it not only the best possible device of its kind, but to also diversify the number of use-cases and workflows one can use it for.
There’s very little to complain about, especially given the asking price. $400 for a device that good is a steal. A comparatively spec’d laptop would cost two and a half times as much, so explaining the entire value proposition which the Steam Deck brings to the table would be quite redundant.
It’s Not All Perfect
Still, running AAA titles doesn’t always result in a smooth experience. Moreover, you sometimes need to tinker with a myriad of different settings so as to attain the best possible frame rate (without incurring too big of a penalty in regards to battery life). Steam games, at least more often than not, run almost flawlessly, but setting up Battle.net or Epic Games Store requires a fair bit of tinkering which, for those who aren’t tech savvy — or are just used to the simplicity of, say, a Nintendo Switch — may be a dealbreaker.
Ditto for installing and setting up Windows. It’s just not a plug-and-play experience unless all your games happen to be linked to your Steam account.
These are by no means dealbreakers, but they are slight complications and they do, in all fairness, raise the barrier to entry for a sizable chunk of the gaming population.
The Hardware Itself Is a Bottleneck
Moreover, due to numerous hardware-related limitations — and the fact that its CPU and GPU are constantly fighting for power — it’s not exactly a stellar option if you’re interested in playing today’s latest and greatest titles.
Its CPU is still sporting AMD’s Zen 2 cores and the RDNA 2-based graphics, while certainly tremendous and “revolutionary,” cannot shine quite as bright because of the constrained power envelope.
For indie titles and less demanding legacy ones, the Steam Deck is more than sufficiently powerful. Emulation, too, is a blast. But once you start pushing it, you’ll quickly notice that there’s a very tangible limit to its power, despite the fact that it can, in theory, run any game you want it to.
Gaming on the go on a device like the Steam Deck is a dream many of us had dreamt for years if not decades. And now that it’s finally here, we are elated beyond measure, but are also wondering just how long we’ll have to wait before getting a true AAA experience in the palms of our hands — one that doesn’t come with as many sacrifices to frame rate, resolution, and graphical fidelity.
Steam Deck 2 — It’s Inevitable
The folks over at Valve have already confirmed that a successor to the Steam Deck is in the works; that’s the good news. The bad news is that it won’t be released for a while. And, frankly, that’s a rational decision. Steam Deck’s adoption rate is still growing and the system itself still has numerous little quirks that need to be ironed out.
It’s a million times better, more versatile, and feature-rich than it was upon release, but there’s nonetheless ample work ahead of Valve before its full potential can be harnessed. Although, to be fair, it may well be just right depending on your use-case and the kind of games you play.
Still, AMD’s RDNA 3-based iGPUs are finally starting to hit the market and, based on all metrics, can offer a sizable performance uplift within the same power envelope. Moreover, due to Steam Deck’s incredible popularity, those other companies like AYANEO and ONEXPlayer basically have a larger target demographic.
This means that the Steam Deck, while undeniably the best possible option, has a lot more viable competition than one would expect.
Valve doesn’t want to rush things and that, in today’s day and age, is highly commendable. Still, it might have to speed things up as there’s a slew of handheld gaming computers on the horizon, most of which have numerous sought-after features like high resolution displays, OLED panels, more powerful internals, and so on and so forth.
Case in point:
ASUS ROG Ally — A New Challenger Rises
The upcoming ROG Ally from ASUS has a much more powerful APU (RNDA 3 graphics, Zen 4 CPU cores), a 1080p display that’s 120Hz (and has 500 nits of maximum brightness), and even the proprietary XG Mobile port — that way users can connect ASUS’ custom external GPUs (with eight PCIe lanes as opposed to just four in a regular Thunderbolt set-up) and get a stupendous boost in performance.
Better yet, it has a much beefier cooling solution alongside two fans to dissipate the heat. The result? It’s barely audible when under load.
We’re talking about a device that is many times more powerful and, by the looks of it, can offer a noticeably better gaming experience.
Moreover, ASUS is fully aware that, in order for the Ally to thrive and succeed, it needs to match Valve’s pricing. It’s not going to retail for a measly $400, that’s a given, but it’s not going to be as expensive as, say, an equivalent handheld gaming PC from AYANEO.
Steam Deck 2 — When Could It Be Released?
We can only guess at this point, but it’s probably not going to “hit the shelves” in the next year/year and a half.
Valve is most likely waiting for AMD’s RDNA 3+/RDNA 4 graphics to become available, at which point creating a true Steam Deck successor would be worth the R&D (and any potential hurdles the entire team might have to face so as to bring it into existence).
Gaming on integrated graphics was inconceivable for the longest time, but the winds of change are blowing, and we, the end consumers, are bound to benefit the most.
The Steam Deck 2 is coming, but it’ll still take a while before it fully materializes.