Steam Deck: Five big things we learned from Valve’s developer summit

On Friday, computer gaming giant Valve invited the developer community to learn more about Steam Deck, a $400 gaming laptop with a relatively powerful AMD chip. It’s akin to the Nintendo Switch for gaming PCs, and there’s a lot we already know about the delays in hand-carrying it since its announcement, our trip to Valve headquarters, and an official takedown. But today we learned more.

Here are the highlights – unless of course you want to watch Valve’s live broadcasts or full side sessions for yourself. This is good too!

erith life

The AMD chip inside Steam Deck has a name: It’s Aerith SOC, a clear reference to the famous Aerith from Final Fantasy VII. It’s an APU with a power envelope between 4 and 15W, containing both a quad-core, 8-thread AMD Zen 2 CPU operating between 2.4-3.5 GHz and 8 AMD RDNA 2 compute units with a graphics rating between 1 and 1.6 GHz , for a total of 1.6 teraflops of raw graphical computation.

Here’s the entire Steam Deck block diagram, so you can see how the entire system comes together around this chip:

It handles 16GB of standardized LPDDR5 memory, for a total of 88GB/s of bandwidth. Despite having only 1GB of dedicated video memory, Valve says the GPU can access up to 8GB of that shared memory as needed.

Valve says the chip is designed to run continuously and consistently at its set speeds: “The performance you get for your game in the first 10 seconds is likely to be the same as the performance you get two hours from now, or even indefinitely if you’re connected to it,” says Yazan Aldehayyat. from Valve,” adding that the system is designed to perform the same, or not, docking, charging, or not charging, even while downloading games or at high temperatures. “If you’re in Florida in July, you might run out of thermal space,” he says, but until then, Valve says it’ll try to throttle downloads and shift speeds before it throttles your game performance.

Valve warns that developers may need to avoid putting too much pressure on the GPU if they want longer battery life. “We haven’t put any artificial limits on how much power an APU can use.” As a specific tactic, Valve suggests that games limit the frame rate to save battery. It can make a big difference: “You can play Gate 2 For four hours on this thing. If you select 30fps, it will play for 5-6 hours,” Valve said IGN in August.

Another improvement: Valve revealed today that developers can upload versions of their games with lower-res texture packs to Steam’s Depot to improve performance and reduce the amount of storage and time it takes a user to download a game. This is similar to Microsoft’s Smart Delivery system for the Xbox One, Xbox One X, and Xbox Series X/S, which routes the appropriate version of the game to each console. (But where Xbox developers likely target 1080p, 1440p, and nearly 4K respectively, the portable Steam Deck works in 720p and 800p resolutions.)

Designed for docking and broadcasting

With a 45-watt power supply, Valve says the Steam Deck can charge and play at the same time, powering 7.5 watts worth of external peripherals. The USB-C port also provides external display support for up to two 4K displays at 60Hz (using display stream compression), and Valve says it will provide USB 3 Gen 2 “if you choose half the display bandwidth.” The optional dock (not yet filmed or on pre-order) will also provide Gigabit Ethernet.

And if you choose to play on a TV or monitor, you’ll probably be pleased to hear the first full confirmation that Valve supports AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) upgrade using Steam Deck. In fact, AMD representatives confirmed on broadcast that Steam Deck not only works with FSR in games that support it – which makes it look a little better on the big screen – but Steam Deck will natively support FSR at OS level with a future update. AMD says it is working on drivers that will enable the recently announced Vulkan Dynamic Rendering as well.

There’s no Intel proprietary USB 4 or Thunderbolt ports here, and you obviously only get 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) instead of Wi-Fi 6 or 6E, but Valve says the surface is optimized for “reliability and durability even in crowded environments.” So Valve can offer a ‘first-class remote gaming experience’ to move games from their desktop PCs to their indoor deck while using less battery than the original games.

Valve did a great job with Wi-Fi engineering when it built the Steam Link HDMI Tweak, so I’m excited to test that out.

Little slowdown on SD (and eMMC)

The entry-level Steam Deck only $400 comes with 64GB of relatively slow eMMC storage and a microSD card slot for expansion – you’ll have to pay significantly more for faster models with NVMe SSDs, and even then it’s very easy to fill it up with Steam’s game library suitable size.

But today, Valve assured developers that eMMC and SD are not who – which Much slower: Roughly 12 percent and 18 percent slower respectively when it comes to loading games. (Yes, the Y axes are mislabeled and do not align with bar graphs.)

Boot times are 25 percent slower, but I suppose we’ll have to figure out how long they actually take – Valve hasn’t specified the actual number of minutes or seconds it takes for Steam Deck to boot up.

Valve is changing the way cloud work is saved so you can pick up and play

But Valve also thinks of the Steam Deck as an always-on device, as it won’t always do that Need To boot and play games from scratch: There is a pause and resume feature built into Steam Deck that should let you pause games as you would on a Nintendo Switch.

Valve is changing the way Steam’s cloud saves work as a result: Today Steam generally syncs your cloud saves. after, after You’re out of the game, the company is introducing new cloud APIs so developers can sync their games in the background while you suspend the title.

In theory, it could also mean that you can pause the game you’re playing on Steam Deck and quickly pick it up on your desktop PC, or vice versa.

There is a white Steam Deck outside outlet, but you can’t get it

Valve's Greg Comer picks up and shows off a prototype from Steam Deck.  It has the Aperture logo on the back.

It is not for sale.
GIF by Sean Hollister / The Verge

During the entire Steam Deck show, the wallpapers Full of interesting hints in Valve’s prototyping process, many onlookers noted a white steam surface Among them – one straight from the game Valve outlet All the way to the hatch logo around the back.

Unfortunately, it’s not for sale: “This is just a prototype. We love it too, but we’re unable to bring it to market at the same time we ship our Steam Deck,” Valve’s Greg Comer said, adding that the company intends to “look at other color options.” In the future, but that’s really on the way.”

Other tales

Here are some other random things we learned:

  • It is not intended for virtual reality. “We definitely didn’t design and build a VR device,” Valve’s Lawrence Yang says, while acknowledging that gamers will definitely try anyway.
  • There are no plans yet for 5G or LTE configurations. You can hook it up to the phone, says Valve.
  • Valve is working on bringing Steam Deck to Japan and Australia in particular. Other areas as well.
  • Steam Deck has factory calibrated audio. “Each Steam Deck is factory calibrated for optimum performance” and includes a dedicated subwoofer and DSP for stereo speakers. It supports multi-channel audio via HDMI (via USB-C).
  • Once you replace Big Picture Mode on the Steam desktop with the Deck user interface, it will be updated frequently. There is no time frame yet for the transformation, but it is good to achieve standardization. “We can add new features to Steam and you’ll see them almost immediately on the Deck.”
  • Valve will share keyboard APIs with multiple style editors, multiple languages, and emojis.
  • We got our first look (I think!) at the Steam Deck Notification Center and the new console component for assigning your games to Steam Deck controls. More on that in this session.

In fact, we’ll leave you with a whole bunch of Steam Deck user interface screenshots – we haven’t seen much of this before now.

The Console component allows you to set and link a wide range of Steam Deck controls.

It will look the same across the Steam and Deck desktop.

Notifications will have a dedicated button on the deck.

Comprehensive search works across all Steam, not just games.

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