Valve’s upcoming Steam Deck handheld gaming PC will ship with a Linux-based operating system called Steam OS with a user interface designed to put gaming front and center, making the little computer feel more like a game console.

But that new UI isn’t just for the Steam Deck. According to Valve, it will also be available for Steam’s desktop client for Windows, macOS and Linux eventually… although it will be an optional feature rather than a replacement for the main Steam user interface.

Steam Deck UI

While the Steam Desktop client’s user interface is designed for keyboard and mouse input on computers with large screens, the Steam Deck UI is optimized for smaller touchscreen devices like Valve’s upcoming handheld computer. That means everything is larger and easier to tap with your fingers or navigate using game controllers.

Game artwork and preview images? Those are larger. Search boxes? Larger. Menu icons, text and status bar notifications? All bigger.

And there are some situations where you might want those bigger, full-screen elements when using the Steam desktop client. Maybe you’re running Steam on a different handheld gaming computer. Or maybe you’ve got it hooked up to a big screen TV and you’re sitting on a couch 10 feet away rather than at a keyboard inches away from the screen.

Steam Big Picture mode

Steam already offers an optional full-screen, everything-is-bigger user interface called Big Picture mode. The company added it as an optional feature for Steam almost a decade ago and it was the default user interface for Steam Machines, the company’s unsuccessful attempt to get PC makers to ship gaming desktops running Steam OS a few years ago.

This week, in response to a question in the Steam forum, Valve employee austinp_valve confirmed that the company plans to eventually replace Big Picture Mode with the Steam Deck UI. But it’s unclear exactly when that will happen.

The Steam Deck user interface has a cleaner, more modern looking design that appears to be optimized for small screens rather than big – after all, the Steam Deck has a 7 inch display. But I imagine Valve will adapt it in a way that looks decent on larger, higher-resolution displays.

Steam Deck

Valve plans to begin shipping the Steam Deck to customers in December, although folks who make a pre-order reservation today may not receive one until the second quarter of 2022 due to high demand.

Prices range from $399 for a model with 64GB of eMMC storage to $649 for a version with a 512GB PCIe NVMe, although customers only have to put down $5 now to secure their place in line.

More Steam Deck news

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via PC Gamer

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  1. Does anyone else think, no pun intended; that this may be a game changer? I don’t mean an en masse move to hand held gaming per se, but that Steam has made Linux the default OS for the Steam Deck, and most gamers that buy this thing will probably stick to the default… Consider the enormous resources Valve has — not just Bezos scale cash reserves, but the massive game catalog they have to bring to bare with this product, the priced point they’re targeting, and that all estimates for presales have exceeded not merely sell-through, but Valve’s own expectations by many orders of magnitude. What might it mean if game developers are able to target a more universal and popular platform, obviating DirectX and its liabilities. Might this be something Valve had in mind from get go? Maybe this explains some of the design decision in Windows 11 as well, as it seems many insiders knew this product was coming. Could this become the impetus and shift where Linux becomes the most popular platform for game development, perhaps popularizing it as a consumer OS as well?

  2. What these portable gaming devices really need is easy connection to large tv/monitor and a physical key that zooms/resizes the output.

  3. I wonder if the new ability to suspend and resume a game in SteamOS will be ported to the desktop Steam client too.