The internet has very high hopes for Valve’s forthcoming Steam Deck, but the handheld console’s actual ability to play graphics-intensive titles has yet to be seen. The lowest-tier, $399 model in particular — with its slower eMMC storage — could potentially present some gameplay issues on AAA titles.
As far as Valve is concerned, though, hardcore gamers have no need to fear the Steam Deck’s hardware potential. In fact, Valve developer Pierre-Loup Griffais says the Steam Deck’s architecture is so very impressive that it even took the dev team by surprise.
“This is the first time we’ve achieved the level of performance that is required to really run the latest generation of games without problems,” Griffais says in a new video about the device. “All the games we wanted to be playable is — really — the entire Steam library. We haven’t really found something we could throw at this device that it couldn’t handle.”
For anyone teetering on the edge of skepticism around the idea of a handheld that can play graphics-intensive titles, the dev team’s comments will be refreshingly reassuring. It almost sounds… too good to be true.
That hardware definitely sounds impressive — The concept of a handheld PC gameplayer isn’t new, but Valve’s take on the idea is turning heads because of its unique balance between price point and top-tier hardware. One might assume bringing the price down to $399 would sacrifice much about the console’s ability to play AAA titles, but the dev team ensures would-be owners that this is not the case.
“We weren’t going to sacrifice on fit and finish quality,” says developer Joh Ikeda. “We needed this device to be premium and feel premium.”
The developer team’s commitment to creating custom hardware is where the handheld will really shine, it seems. Valve worked directly with AMD to create a custom APU (a combination GPU/CPU) that they say rivals the performance of Ryzden’s 3000-series processors. The Steam Deck also includes LPDDR5 RAM — the kind included in Samsung’s ultra-speedy Galaxy S20 lineup.
Hedging no bets — Very few people in the world have actually played video games on the Steam Deck. Add to this the fact that a $399 handheld capable of playing AAA titles really does sound like a hardcore gamer’s fever dream and you end up with quite the burden of proof on Valve’s shoulders.
The company really has to convince us the Steam Deck is worth the money (and the wait). So it only makes sense that Valve is working overtime to prove the Steam Deck’s worth.
Whether or not the console will be able to uphold these promises very much remains to be seen. Even if it has to drop to slightly lower frame rates to make it work, the ability to play games like Cyberpunk 2077 would still be very impressive on a $399 handheld.
The dev team is dead-set on messaging that centers on the Steam Deck’s AAA potential. That’s a savvy business move, if nothing else. And the possibility all that talk might actually be true is a very bright light in an otherwise status quo console industry.