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Round Up: Here Are The First “Hands-On” Impressions Of Valve’s Steam Deck

Steam Deck
Image: Valve

When Valve revealed the Steam Deck last month, the system was compared a lot to the Switch. It’s got to the point where Valve has responded – stating how it’s “going after” a completely different audience.

What do the critics think about Valve’s new system though? A number of media outlets as you might have already seen, have now gone hands-on with the system, so we’ve rounded up some early impressions – many of which make comparisons to Nintendo’s hybrid hardware.

Sean Hollister from The Verge noted how the Steam Deck was much more comfortable to hold and mentioned how his fingers “just melted” into its grips and grooves:

What I didn’t necessarily envision when I walked into Valve’s lobby: just how gigantic the Steam Deck looks next to a Nintendo Switch — and yet, how much more comfortable it is to hold. While it just barely fits into a deep cargo pants pocket (if you can call “bulges out in every direction” a fit), I now believe Valve when it says the Deck was sculpted for long play sessions.

The first time I picked it up, it felt like my fingers just melted into its grips and grooves, placing every control at my fingertips — including far meatier joysticks and a deeper, softer throw to its triggers than the stiff, clicky controls I’ve come to expect from the Switch and Switch-like PC competitors.

The weight of the system was immediately noticeable but wasn’t a problem:

While I immediately noticed the extra half-pound of weight compared to the Switch, it didn’t bug me during my brief session. The Deck may be heavier, but these prototypes seem light for their size, with a slightly hollow feeling that — come to think of it — might be polarizing. I wonder if Valve will keep it that way and if the screen finish and the plastics might improve.

Wes Fenlon from PC Gamer said the Steam Deck was “way bigger” than he expected – especially next to a Nintendo Switch, and highlighted how he preferred the system’s analog sticks to the Switch ones:

It took me maybe 10 seconds with the analog sticks to be certain I vastly prefer them to the Nintendo Switch’s joycons. It helps that they’re much bigger, with a fluid rotation and design I’d compare to an Xbox analog stick. They’re not exactly the same, but the Steam Deck’s sticks have a slightly ridged edge and a flat, concave top to nestle your thumb into. Unless they end up having any surprise issues after heavy use, I think they’ll please pretty much everyone.

While PC Gamer’s playtester wouldn’t consider the Steam Deck a “one-to-one replacement” of Nintendo’s device, the system apparently has the potential to become the best portable device to play games that Switch may not have the muscle for:

After spending a far too brief couple hours with the Steam Deck, I’m not sure if I would consider it a one-to-one replacement for the Nintendo Switch. Its bigger size isn’t as ideal for throwing in a backpack and playing on the go. But as a portable PC gaming machine, it really is impressive: it’s comfortable, feels great to hold, and seems to have the power to play games like Death Stranding with decent settings. If SteamOS really can deliver the compatibility Valve’s aiming for, the Steam Deck is going to become my go-to system for playing games that I wish I could play on the Switch, lounging on my couch, that it just doesn’t have the muscle for. And I’m convinced it’s going to be the best emulation device ever made.

Andrew E. Freedman from Tom’s Hardware said “the dream” of playing PC games on the go is on track thanks to Valve’s efforts:

my first impressions suggest that yes, this can work, and I’m looking forward to PC gaming in bed and on planes. Games won’t look as pretty as they do on my desktop. But for those who dream of Switch-like portability and playability with PC games, it feels like Valve is on track.

Like many other impressions, Freedman was also a bit surprised by the overall size of the system – noting how Switch users would definitely feel the difference:

the Steam Deck is far larger than I expected. It is tall and it is wide. It feels surprisingly natural in the hands, though. Don’t get me wrong. You can feel that 1.47-pound weight, but it’s pretty evenly distributed across both sides of the system. If you’ve done most of your handheld gaming lately on a Nintendo Switch, you’re going to feel a difference. The Steam Deck is far heavier, but that’s the tradeoff for its capabilities.

The 7-inch standard screen on certain models of the Steam Deck (which is the same size as the screen on the Switch OLED model) also had some reflection, but no more than other devices.

While I spent most of my time with the etched-glass, anti-glare screen, Valve did have a glossy model around. There’s no getting around it: the anti-glare screen is nicer. Of course, I happened to have them both next to each other. I’m not sure if it makes me regret reserving the 256GB model with the standard screen, but there was a pang of jealousy. Either way, both are 7-inch screens with a 1280 x 800 resolution and 16:10 aspect ratio…I could see my reflection more in the standard screen, but no worse than in my Nintendo Switch or even my smartphone.

GamesRadar+ managing editor, Rachel Weber, summed the Steam Deck up as a “more serious” gaming device compared to Nintendo’s system:

Compared to my Nintendo Switch, it definitely feels like a more serious gaming machine with the extra controls and bigger screen, and it’ll be interesting to compare the new OLED screen Switch and the Steam Deck later this year.

If you like to see how the Switch OLED has been received so far, you can read hands-on impressions about it in the following post:

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