Technology

Steam Deck One Month Later: The Best Laptop I’ve Ever Owned

I’ve had the Steam Deck for almost a month now and I still love it. As silly as it sounds, I can’t believe I can play Steam games locally on a portable device. I’ve had systems like the PlayStation Portable and PlayStation Vita that delivered a console-quality experience. I also bought a Nintendo Switch at launch. But these portable devices feel like prototypes compared to the Steam Deck.

In simple terms, the PSP, Vita, and Switch went so that the Steam Deck could work.

The Steam Deck is exactly what I’ve always wanted from a portable device. No wonder it won the Tom’s Guide Awards 2022 for Best Game Innovation. This is wonderful technology. It is my understanding that the Steam Deck should serve as the standard by which future iterations and contenders are judged. While not perfect, it is the best portable computer ever made.

Below I will go over the pros and cons of Steam Deck after a month of use. For a complete understanding of handheld specs and performance, be sure to read my full Steam deck review.

Why did I get a Steam deck?

As weird as it sounds, I don’t really play handheld games that much. Yes, I had the original Gameboy back in 1990 and purchased the handhelds mentioned above. I also had a Nintendo 3DS and even dabbled with systems like the Game Gear, Atari Lynx, and TurboExpress at friends’ houses. But even though I’ve spent hundreds of hours playing on handheld devices over the decades, I’ve always preferred to play on a big screen or monitor. Of course, I love handhelds, but at heart I play consoles and PCs.

So why did I get a Steam deck right after instant pre-orders went live? While being able to play Steam games anywhere was a major benefit, I also wanted to show my support for such an impressive technology. Valve didn’t have much experience with hardware like the Steam Controller and Steam Machines. But I liked the simplicity of Steam Deck: play PC games on the go. I wanted it to succeed.

Steam Deck Portable Games

Games like Doom Eternal run smoothly on Steam Deck. (Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

And as petty as it sounds, I also wanted to lower the price of the Nintendo Switch. While the successful Nintendo handheld may have the strongest lineup of the major Big Three console makers (Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft), the Switch’s underwhelming specs disappointed me. Yes, it was more powerful than the PS Vita, but for a 2017 PDA, it could have been much more. To that end, I wanted (and still want) the Steam Deck to serve as a warning to Nintendo. If it doesn’t start making tech-savvy handhelds, it will lose this particular battlefield to Valve.

Finally, I’m a fan of cool technology (of course). How could I not buy what is essentially a Pocket PC? To that end, I made the right choice by pre-ordering Steam Deck over a year ago. Not only did it exceed my expectations, but it made me want to incorporate portable gaming into my regular routine. Considering I have a fancy LG CX OLED TV, getting me to play on a portable device is an achievement.

The Steam Deck Experience

Steam Deck portable computer playing Sonic

Steam Deck is perfect for both graphic-rich games and classic 2D platforms. (Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

The SteamOS user interface is very similar to the desktop version of the Valve app. Because of this, playing on Steam Deck feels familiar because almost all of the same UI elements and options from Steam are present. I thought the Steam Deck UI would be the same as the desktop Big Picture mode, but it’s much more robust. My understanding is that Valve eventually plans to make Big Picture Mode similar to SteamOS. (will open in a new tab). I’m all for it.

The fact that Steam Deck comes with a lot of games that you can play right out of the box (provided you have a Steam account) is one of its biggest strengths.

Unlike my previous laptops, I don’t need to buy dedicated Steam Deck games—I already have hundreds of Steam games. The fact that Steam Deck comes with a lot of games that you can play right out of the box (provided you have a Steam account) is one of its biggest strengths.

There are currently over 2,000 “verified” games on Steam Deck that you can play. So far, I haven’t run into any compatibility issues. Of course, I mostly play multi-platform games released in the last six years. Most of the compatibility issues I’m aware of are related to older PC games. While there are exceptions, if it’s a Steam game that’s also on the console, it will most likely work fine on the Steam Deck. This means I’ve enjoyed games like God of War, Doom Eternal, Elden Ring, Cyberpunk 2077, and more with little to no technical hiccups.

While it’s fun to play graphic-intensive games on a portable device, I lean towards games with simpler graphics. TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge, Streets of Rage 4, Sonic Mania, Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection is a great game on the Steam Deck. Recent indie games like Death’s Door and Hades are also great for this device.

Speaking of indie games, I usually don’t care much about them, as they usually don’t impress me as much as “blockbusters”. At the same time, indie games look and work great on Steam Deck. I’ve only ever played the indie games I review, but Steam Deck can get me to play those games in my spare time.

Steam Deck is still under development

While I’m generally happy with Steam Deck, it does have a few issues.

The main one being its less-than-accurate touchscreen and trackpads. Sometimes I have to tap the screen multiple times for the actions to register. The trackpads below the analog sticks (specifically the right trackpad that doubles as the mouse cursor) move either too slowly or too fast.

Fortunately, I rarely play games that require mouse and keyboard controls, but I wish the touch interface was faster and more responsive. Using desktop mode can be frustrating due to fuzzy touch controls.

Steam deck management

Steam Deck trackpads need work. (Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

The ingenious interface and somewhat intrusive on-screen keyboard make it difficult to use Steam Deck in desktop mode. I’m raising this as a complaint because you need to enter desktop mode to search for and install programs through a web browser in order to play games outside of the Steam ecosystem. I won’t elaborate on what I mean, but I’m sure you can guess.

Needless to say, one of the main selling points of Steam Deck (installing your own software) is not something I’m willing to spend a lot of time on, as desktop mode is frankly a headache. Let’s hope that future updates – along with community support – will make using the desktop more convenient.

The future of handheld gaming

While the Steam Deck isn’t perfect, I still find it amazing. This is the portable device we deserve. Things are going well for now, but I see an even brighter future for Steam Deck. Updates to fix touch controls and an expanded list of compatible games should make it a more powerful device.

I may feel differently about Steam Deck in six months. Won’t I get bored of it like it was with the Nintendo Switch? It’s possible. But I have yet to fully delve into what this machine can do. And as I said, future updates will most likely make the game better. The PC version of Marvel’s Spider-Man will release on August 12, 2022, and I haven’t even tried playing Xbox Game Pass games on the Steam Deck. There’s a lot on the horizon. Because of this and more, I think the CCP will hold my attention for a long time.

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