33 votes

Two weeks with the Steam Deck

I received my Steam Deck on June 6th and have used it literally every day since then. Here are some assorted thoughts that might be of value to people either waiting on theirs or on the fence about ordering:

The Good

  • I had no idea until I got it that there's an official Deck test game: Aperture Desk Job. It's essentially a cute test/tutorial for the Deck's controls, set in the Portal universe. Takes about half an hour, but it's a fun onboarding for the device.
  • On the past two Saturdays, I have woken up and played Vampire Survivors with one hand while I held my morning coffee in the other. This is the way.
  • The control remapping options are absolutely incredible. It is a very robust system. Even simple fixes (like putting A on a back paddle so I can play Vampire Survivors one-handed) can make a world of difference.
  • I haven't run many heavy games on it, but I started up Bugsnax, and it was keeping a solid 60 FPS and looked great.
  • Emulation on the device is a dream. I haven't done anything past OG PlayStation games yet, but the power of the device, the robust control customization, and the ease of installing emulators (adding Flatpaks in desktop mode) make this absolutely ideal for revisiting older consoles. I've spent probably 80% of my time on the device in PSOne games.
  • Battery life is fine, but I don't really use it. I bought a long power cord and spend most of the time with it plugged in on my couch since it has passthrough. I thought the cord sticking out the top of the device would bother me, but it hasn't really been an issue.
  • Game selection is increasing steadily (1700+ verified games currently). If you're buying it to play specific games you might be disappointed, as there's still a lot that doesn't work. If you're buying it for games in general though, there is plenty to keep you occupied.
  • The grips are MUCH more comfortable for bigger hands than standard Switch joycons. Those would always cramp my hands, but the Deck feels natural and comfortable.
  • The middle of the device gets warm to the touch during gameplay, especially on more demanding stuff, but the grips remain cool and you won't feel the heat at all unless you specifically move your hands to the back middle of the device.

The Bad

  • The paddles on the back are a little awkward, and I accidentally click them more than I like. In most games they're not mapped to anything so it's fine, but in emulators I use them for save states. I had to set them to respond to long presses only so my accidental clicks didn't mess things up.
  • The software is... still getting there. I get navigation issues on store and profile pages frequently, along with frequent UI lag. It's a bit unpolished at the moment.
  • Don't know if it's specific to my hardware or a software bug, but sometimes it won't log me in to my Friends list and the only fix is a reboot.
  • I wish the control sticks had deeper indents for your thumbs. They're pretty flat, and my thumbs tend to slip off on stick-focused games (most noticeable on my right (aiming) thumb during 20 Minutes Till Dawn).
  • Bluetooth headphones have to be manually reconnected in the Settings menu each time. No idea why this is, but it's a bit of an inconvenience.
  • Mid-game suspending is still clunky. I don't really do it, as I don't trust that it'll save like it should. It also still counts playtime while suspended but seems to have a rollback feature? I put the device to sleep with a game open that I'd played for 20 minutes and came back to it saying I'd played it for 3 hours. The playtime ended up dropping back down to 20 minutes, but only after I restarted the device.

The Ugly

  • There isn't any ugly. I absolutely love this device. Despite my nitpicks above, I think it's nothing short of splendid. I'm more excited about this than I've been about anything in videogaming in a long time.

If anyone has any questions, ask away! Also if any other people here have their Steam Decks and want to chime in with their experiences (@Autoxidation), go for it!

17 comments

  1. JCPhoenix
    Link
    I got mine last month. I love it. At first I was a bit ambivalent, but once I really started using it, I found that it's the best handheld console without a doubt. I love being able to play in bed...

    I got mine last month. I love it. At first I was a bit ambivalent, but once I really started using it, I found that it's the best handheld console without a doubt. I love being able to play in bed or while lounging on the couch.

    I went out of town for work last week, and instead of bringing my gaming laptop, I brought my Deck. I also brought a slim wireless keyboard, a wired mouse, and a headset, all connected via a USB-C hub. It all worked perfectly. It may seem silly to bring all that instead of the laptop, but I'm pretty sure it was still less weight than the laptop. Really, the only addition is the wireless keyboard, but I can go for a slimmer and lighter one if I wanted. With my gaming laptop, I still bring a mouse and headset. Plus the Deck, again, allows for versatility.

    Switching into Linux desktop mode, it also functioned as my regular computer for browsing reddit, email, etc. I used Discord and Teamspeak on it to talk with friends. The screen (and therefore, text) is a little tiny for general Internet browsing, but it worked for me nonetheless. I should've hooked it up to the TV in my hotel room. I tested connecting the Deck to an external monitor via USB-C hub and it worked well enough. At least in SteamOS mode; haven't tried Desktop mode yet.

    As a JRPG player, I'm hoping that more of the big-name games and series get released on Steam and become Deck-playable. I still use my PSP, Vita, and of course Switch. But if I can consolidate all to one system, how nice would that be? Obviously Nintendo's first-party series like Fire Emblem will never make an appearance. But that's about the only series that's still exclusive to anything.

    I'm the first of my friends to have a Deck. I couldn't recommend it enough to all of them.

    5 votes
  2. Autoxidation
    Link
    Thanks for the shoutout, glad you're enjoying it! I just finished up Ori and the Blind Forest tonight on it, and being able to remap the abxy buttons to the back buttons made the game so much more...

    Thanks for the shoutout, glad you're enjoying it! I just finished up Ori and the Blind Forest tonight on it, and being able to remap the abxy buttons to the back buttons made the game so much more functional to play instead of darting a thumb around trying to hit multiple buttons at the same time. Felt really good. It took a little time adjusting to them but I'm glad they're there.

    I haven't seen that issue you've had with the friend's list, but I do recommend restarting the device once a week or so. That tends to happen anyway now with the frequent system updates.

    With the latest update adding Remote Play Together, I picked up Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl (Nick Smash clone) and tested it out hosting with the deck. I was impressed with how seamless the experience was, and there was no noticeable lag for me or that my friends mentioned.

    I've really been impressed with the device so far, and I haven't even really dug into the emulator side of it at all yet. Gotta make more of a dent in that steam backlog first.

    4 votes
  3. [10]
    knocklessmonster
    Link
    How's battery life, usb power and charging under different loads? I may be travelling a lot, and these are things I want to prepare for.

    How's battery life, usb power and charging under different loads?

    I may be travelling a lot, and these are things I want to prepare for.

    4 votes
    1. [9]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      I wish I could give you better information, but I pretty much only use mine plugged in to either the official charging cable or a separate 45W charger that I have. There have been a few times I've...

      I wish I could give you better information, but I pretty much only use mine plugged in to either the official charging cable or a separate 45W charger that I have.

      There have been a few times I've used it with battery, and the total life was probably in the 3-4 hour range (though this probably depends significantly on what you're running).

      3 votes
      1. [5]
        lou
        Link Parent
        You probably shouldn't keep it plugged at all times, that's not good for your battery.

        You probably shouldn't keep it plugged at all times, that's not good for your battery.

        2 votes
        1. [4]
          kfwyre
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Maybe not! See below.

          It has passthrough power input, so it's safe to do!

          Maybe not! See below.

          5 votes
          1. [3]
            Diff
            Link Parent
            If I'm scanning this right, I only see that in reference to the Deck Dock and not the Deck itself.

            If I'm scanning this right, I only see that in reference to the Deck Dock and not the Deck itself.

            3 votes
            1. [2]
              kfwyre
              Link Parent
              You’re right. I never actually noticed that. Good catch! A quick search turns up discussions of people who made the same mistake I did. Maybe the Deck itself doesn’t actually have it then? I’m...

              You’re right. I never actually noticed that. Good catch!

              A quick search turns up discussions of people who made the same mistake I did. Maybe the Deck itself doesn’t actually have it then? I’m going to keep looking around for something definitive…

              2 votes
      2. [3]
        knocklessmonster
        Link Parent
        You pretty much hit what I wanted. I'd hate to be on a five hour flight and be screwed because my system died.

        You pretty much hit what I wanted. I'd hate to be on a five hour flight and be screwed because my system died.

        2 votes
        1. [2]
          cfabbro
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          If you're worried about that, you could always just take a power bank with you on longer flights. I bought an Anker 20000mAh for $60 last year that I keep in my "everyday carry" bag and take with...

          If you're worried about that, you could always just take a power bank with you on longer flights. I bought an Anker 20000mAh for $60 last year that I keep in my "everyday carry" bag and take with me practically everywhere. It's remarkably compact, reasonably lightweight, works great, and I've used it to recharge almost all my portable devices at this point; Nintendo Switch, Kindle, iPad, iPhone, bluetooth speaker, flashlight, wireless keyboard, even my vape.

          4 votes
          1. knocklessmonster
            Link Parent
            I have something similar, it got me through 6 hour schooldays with my Surface charging off it. I rarely need it, but it comes in clutch when I do. It'll even do a usb-pd capable laptop.

            I have something similar, it got me through 6 hour schooldays with my Surface charging off it. I rarely need it, but it comes in clutch when I do. It'll even do a usb-pd capable laptop.

            3 votes
  4. [2]
    vord
    Link
    FYI I've heard that Valve is super responsive to people reporting software bugs and UI improvements. https://steamcommunity.com/app/1675200/discussions/0/3186864498792143401/ Your writeup does...

    FYI I've heard that Valve is super responsive to people reporting software bugs and UI improvements.

    https://steamcommunity.com/app/1675200/discussions/0/3186864498792143401/

    Your writeup does have me further hyped though!

    3 votes
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Nice! Thanks for the link. The next time I run into a bug, I’ll reproduce the steps and write up a report for it.

      Nice! Thanks for the link. The next time I run into a bug, I’ll reproduce the steps and write up a report for it.

      3 votes
  5. Pistos
    Link
    Thanks for taking the time to write this up. You may or may not find some that will fit (since this is a new device on the market), but you could try thumb stick extenders. They're better for FPS...

    Thanks for taking the time to write this up.

    I wish the control sticks had deeper indents for your thumbs. They're pretty flat, and my thumbs tend to slip off on stick-focused games

    You may or may not find some that will fit (since this is a new device on the market), but you could try thumb stick extenders. They're better for FPS games, too (than not using them).

    3 votes
  6. [2]
    jwong
    Link
    Thanks for the detailed write up! Mine is in holding for several months, but this is making me hyped for it. When I got the preorder I didn’t know what to expect. Now it looks like I can expect a...

    Thanks for the detailed write up! Mine is in holding for several months, but this is making me hyped for it.

    When I got the preorder I didn’t know what to expect. Now it looks like I can expect a pretty polished Linux machine with a nice gaming frontend.

    Is there any Pststion 1 games you particularly enjoyed on the steam deck?

    What are you using for a portable casing?

    2 votes
    1. kfwyre
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      The polish is constantly improving (when I got my model it was already a night and day difference from what they released at launch just a few months ago). The wait for yours is no doubt a pain,...

      The polish is constantly improving (when I got my model it was already a night and day difference from what they released at launch just a few months ago). The wait for yours is no doubt a pain, but all that interim time means you’ll be getting a better product in the end — more fixes, more features and more games!

      As for the case, I got the official one. No plans to add a while-using case or skins or anything, though I might get some silicone nubs for the thumb sticks for better grip.

      For PlayStation games: I’ve played through most of Einhänder, RayStorm, Vib-Ribbon, and Silent Bomber. My main focus at the moment is Tomba!. I played and loved the second game as a kid but never got a copy of the first game, so I’m emulating it for the first time and loving it. It’s a cult classic that has held up well.

      I’ve also played 5-10 minutes of like, twenty different games. I’m going back and demoing a bunch of stuff that looked cool when I was a kid but that I never actually got to play, just so I can get a feel for what I was missing out on. Most of them haven’t aged well, but I’m still finding it fun revisiting the era as a whole.

      2 votes