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Steam Deck Review Roundup: Is This The Portable PC You've Been Waiting For?

The Steam Deck has been a source of fascination and trepidation for gamers everywhere, ever since it was announced last year. The portable device by Valve touts itself as a solution for PC gamers on the go, but fans have been worried about everything from the device's size to the existence of three different models. Pair that with the revelation that there were several games that the Steam Deck wouldn't be able to play, and gamers have found themselves cautiously optimistic, at best.

Now that the Steam Deck has officially launched, critics have been able to reveal their thoughts on the handy-dandy little powerhouse. Although there are still a few blindspots in the portable console's library, reviewers managed to blaze through a number of titles to see what Valve's pet project is capable of. From its design aesthetics to its pure processing power, here is what critics had to say about the Steam Deck.

The Steam Deck is an excellent value

Critics have praised the Steam Deck for its ability to bring PC gaming to your fingertips in a compact package. Polygon's Chris Plante called the Steam Deck his "new favorite console," arguing that the ability to synch the system with a user's Steam library means the handheld has "the greatest launch lineup ever" by default.

Many reviews expressed amazement at how well the Steam Deck is able to handle demanding games. As noted by Jeff Grubb of GamesBeat, "Steam Deck delivers nearly 60 frames per second with reasonable settings for most games that I tested." In addition to the impressive display, Grubb also applauded the definition of sound provided by the handheld's speakers. Grubb concluded that the Steam Deck is his "favorite gaming PC ever made," and that Valve absolutely "lived up" to its promises.

GameSpot's Alessandro Barbosa also pointed to the sheer value represented in the Steam Deck as a major plus. Considering the lowest-tier model is $400 and the 512GB NVMe SSD version caps out at $650, Barbosa argued, "it's head-and-shoulders above the Intel XE and Radeon Vega-powered portable gaming devices that made it to market first, creating a situation where you shouldn't really be looking at an alternative if you can get your hands on a Steam Deck." Barbossa also made specific mention of the comfort and ease of play, praising the device for its smart button layout and cooling system that keeps players from getting toasty fingers.

The Steam Deck has its drawbacks

PC Gamer's Wes Fenlon had a few issues with the Steam Deck, mainly its short battery life and "chunky" size. Fenlon found the Steam Deck to be 68% heavier than the Nintendo Switch, making it feel a little less portable than intended. The reviewer also found the cooling system to be a bit annoying, as it is accompanied by a near-constant "whirring" sound. Ultimately, however, Fenlon felt that the Steam Deck accomplished what it set out to do, and may be able to fill the high-definition void left by Nintendo's apparent refusal to make a Nintendo Switch Pro. Still, Fenlon isn't alone in critiquing the console's design, as outlets like Wired and Tom's Hardware have also taken issue with the Steam Deck's somewhat awkward button layout.

Even reviewers who absolutely adore the Steam Deck, like Chris Plante at Polygon, have bemoaned the fact that several major games are still unplayable on the platform. As Plante noted, "How and why a game doesn't work can be unpredictable and unclear." However, representatives from Valve have promised Plante that more games will be evaluated and fixed by Steam in the future, making them more compatible with the Steam Deck.

Ultimately, your mileage may vary (including how many miles you take the handheld from your home), but it's looking the Steam Deck is checking most of the boxes for people looking for a solid alternative to a dedicated gaming PC.