In 2021, Valve threw the gaming world a curveball by announcing the Steam Deck, a handheld gaming device most similar to the Nintendo Switch, complete with a small screen and controls on the left and right-hand sides.
The Steam Deck has been available overseas for months, though there’s been no word on it coming to Australia (apart from a vague “soon”). Valve has, however, expanded the markets in which you can get your hands on one.
Here’s what Aussies should keep in mind about the Steam Deck.
What is the Steam Deck?
The Steam Deck is a portable gaming console developed by Valve, the gaming company behind The Valve Index VR headset, Half-Life, Portal, Team Fortress 2, DOTA 2 and CS:GO. Oh, and of course Steam, the most popular PC digital games market.
It’s most similar to a Nintendo Switch, in that it’s a handheld gaming device with joysticks, buttons and controls on the left and right of a touch screen. The controls, unlike the Nintendo Switch, can’t be removed, however, the Deck can be interfaced with a monitor or TV, and can have a controller or keyboard/mouse combo connected to it.
However, it has long avoided the Australian market. Since its debut, it still hasn’t become officially available through Valve or authorised retailers in Australia.
How to buy the Steam Deck in Australia
It is possible to buy a Steam Deck in Australia, however, while some online retailers have started to stock the device in the country, you need to keep some things in mind.
As our friends over at Kotaku Australia outline, the model that’s available through online retailers isn’t localised. This means that you’ll need to consider foreign power conversions and charging adapters. Additionally, the Deck may be linked to the market it originated from.
Perhaps the biggest issue, however, is the warranty. Make sure you’re confident in the reseller’s ability to facilitate a refund, repair or replacement before you buy. If you’re confident in the reseller you’ve chosen, go ahead and make the purchase.
Through some online wizardry, it is also possible for an Australian to buy a Steam Deck from the likes of the U.S.. You’ll need a VPN set to an American location – after setting this, the order page should unlock and you should be able to purchase a Deck when stock becomes available.
This is the same thing Aussies had to do to get the Valve Index early.
So yes, it’s possible to get the Steam Deck in Australia, but it’s best to fully understand what that might mean for small things like access and charging and big things like your consumer protections and warranties.
Steam Deck price
This isn’t a cheap piece of kit and will set you back several hundred dollars. There are three models available, so you get a fair amount of choice in terms of what you want to get out of the device. We’ll be converting prices from USD to AUD below, but as we know, simply converting the cost of tech in the U.S. into Aussie dollars doesn’t give us the full price (how good* is the Australia tax?).
Consider shipping when making a purchase, too. Also, if storage is super important to you, you can expand it using a MicroSD card.
- The cheapest option is $US399 (converted, that’s around $579), packed with 64GB eMMC internal storage and a carrying case.
- The mid-range model is $US529 (around the $768 mark, straight conversion), packing 256GB SSD internal storage, a carrying case and a Steam Community profile bundle (for your Steam profile).
- Finally, the most expensive model is $US649 (converted, $942, so likely tipping $1,000), complete with 512GB NVME storage capacity, anti-glare etched glass, an “exclusive” carrying case, an exclusive steam community profile bundle and an exclusive virtual keyboard theme.
Here’s a quick teardown video of the Steam Deck
Valve released a handy little video of a Steam Deck teardown, revealing what it looks like internally.
The company mostly did this as a warning, recommending that users don’t try this at home, but not discouraging system disassembly and modification. You’re allowed to do it, it’s just… be careful.
“Even though this is your PC, or will be once you receive your Steam Deck and you have every right to open it up and do what you want, we at Valve really don’t recommend that you ever open it up,” the narrator says.
What are the Steam Deck specs?
The most interesting question to a PC gamer such as myself is what are the specs? Well, they’re actually really impressive for such a small device. Here’s a quick rundown:
- Processor: AMD Zen 2 APU
- GPU: 8 RDNA 2 CUs
- Memory: 16GB LPDDR5 on-board RAM
- Storage: 64GB eMMC, 256GB SSD or 512GB NVMe SSD (all models are upgradeable with a MicroSD card)
- Display: 7-inch 1280 x 800 IPS LCD touch display with a 16:10 aspect ratio, 60hz refresh rate and a 400 nits brightness
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0 and Dual-band Wi-Fi
- Audio: 3.5mm headphone jack, multichannel audio via USB-C, two inbuilt microphones and stereo sound on board
- Battery: 40Whr battery providing 2 – 8 hours of gameplay depending on game
- Port: USB-C charging and data port
- Size: 298mm x 117mm x 49mm, 669 grams weight
- Software: SteamOS 3.0
- Modes of use: handheld and plugged into a display.
According to Deck Handheld, the graphics specs give the Steam Deck the equivalent power of an Nvidia GTX 1050.
Steam Deck features and design
The Steam Deck is most similar to the Nintendo Switch, in both form factor and features. It’s designed to be a modern handheld gaming console, rectangular in shape with your hands meant to grip the sides of the device, where the buttons are.
The main way that Valve wants people to use the Steam Deck is in handheld mode – using the inbuilt buttons, joysticks and triggers, Valve wants gamers to use the Steam Deck on the go or simply away from their main setup. It also features cloud capability for owned Steam games and MicroSD storage.
However, the Steam Deck can also be used when connected to a display. Much like the Nintendo Switch, the Steam Deck can be played on a monitor or TV. Unlike the Switch, you don’t need a special Dock to do this. Instead, the user simply needs to connect the USB-C port to the display of choice. It’s that simple.
Beyond the two modes of use, the Steam Deck has a range of features. Games can be played from the cloud on the Steam Deck (provided you own them on Steam and have them installed on a computer) and your storage can be expanded by a microSD card. The device is powered by SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system, but can also run Windows 10 and 11.
A dock is also available, with three USB 3.1 ports, a DisplayPort 1.4 port, HDMI 2.0, and a USB-C cable that connects to the Steam Deck. There’s also an ethernet port that supports gigabit speeds. It’s not necessary, but those ports are handy.
Steam Deck gameplay
While we haven’t gone hands-on with Valve’s handheld just yet, our colleague in the U.S. has. This is a snippet of his review:
Valve is rushing to fix bugs, add features, and improve the performance of its software before the Steam Deck lands in customers’ hands. Even today, after weeks of pushing out updates, the software very much remains a work in progress. You should be somewhat relieved knowing things are moving in the right direction. I’m a fan of the overall SteamOS interface.
If you’d like specific gameplay footage, this video from Game Benchmarks includes the Steam Deck running 20 different games at optimised settings, including an fps counter throughout the video. Valve also has a running list of what you can expect to play.
Steam Deck accessories
Ordering the device will score you a carrying case for the console, however, that’s about where it ends as far as official accessories go, apart from the earlier-mentioned dock.
Although there aren’t any official accessories except for the carrying case, the device is compatible with keyboards, mice, headsets, headphones, Bluetooth devices and wireless devices like controllers. Functionally, it’s capable of all the accessories you’d expect from a PC for basic gaming.
Can I use the Steam Deck for more than just Steam Deck games?
This is an interesting question – Yes, the console can do more than just play Steam Deck (or simply Steam) games. Here’s how it works: Steam doesn’t use Windows, although it does use a Linux-based operating system called SteamOS. SteamOS on the Steam Deck includes a compatibility tool called Proton, allowing any game built for Windows to run on the Steam operating system. It’s a neat trick. Alternatively, if you’re not a fan of SteamOS, the system allows for dual booting into Windows 10 and 11 and Valve is even collaborating with AMD to make sure Windows 11 works well on the device.
What’s even neater is that the device allows you to have more than just the Steam Launcher inbuilt, meaning you can have non-Steam games running on it, provided they’re compatible with the hardware.
How does the Steam Deck compare to the competition?
The Steam Deck has some competition, although until the device is commercially available, it’ll be difficult to tell how it compares to these other consoles.
Compared to other PC-based handhelds, the closest counterpart is the AYA Neo, a crowdfunded PC gaming handheld running Windows 10. This boasts impressive specs similar to the Steam Deck, with two models available at higher prices.
Moving on from the AYA Neo, there are a few other options. The OneXPlayer is much like the AYA Neo, packed with a larger screen and similar specs. The OneXPlayer also runs an Intel CPU and an Intel Iris XE GPU, as opposed to the AMD CPU of the Steam Deck.
Additionally, the GPD Win 3 is a handheld Windows 10 machine intended for handheld gaming (including a sliding screen that reveals a small keyboard), running an Intel CPU instead of the Deck and Neo’s AMD CPU.
Australian availability of these Steam Deck alternatives varies, but if you’re simply after a handheld gaming device, the Nintendo Switch is readily available.
When is the Valve Steam Deck release date?
Unfortunately, every market acknowledged by Valve for initial release was the U.S., UK, Canada, Germany and France.
Valve expanded that in August 2022. It announced the Steam Deck was coming to new regions, allowing those in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong to reserve a console. But not Australia.
Steam Deck is coming to new regions! Starting today you can reserve a Steam Deck in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, with the help of Komodo, Steam Deck’s authorized reseller in those regions: https://t.co/jVvhAGq5MA
— Steam Deck (@OnDeck) August 4, 2022
Valve has outlined some rough estimates as to when you can expect the Steam Deck in other markets, but it’s basically “after Q2 2022”. Sorry Aussies, we don’t have an exact region release date down under just yet.
This article has been updated since it was first published, and we’ll keep it updated as we learn more, so make sure you check back.
The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans
It’s the most popular NBN speed in Australia for a reason. Here are the cheapest plans available.