The Valve Steam Deck handheld gaming PC is set to begin shipping later this month, and ahead of that official launch, the first real-world reviews are starting to arrive. And for the most part, they’re good. Very good.

YouTuber’s The Phawx, Gamers Nexus, and Linus Tech Tips have been spending time with the Steam Deck, and they’re starting to share performance notes, impressions of the hardware, and some other key details — although there are a few things that they’re not talking about yet, because Valve is still tweaking the software.

For that reason, the video reviews don’t dig into the Steam Deck’s operating system, which is a custom Linux distribution called Steam OS. And Valve asked reviewers to only test 5 certain games which are known to run well (including some games that are Windows games running on Linux thanks to Valve’s Proton software).

Within those confines though, reviewers were able to look at things like real-world battery life (which seems to range from 90 minutes to 6 hours, depending on the game and graphics settings), game play, thermal performance, and hardware.

Compared with other recent handhelds like the ONEXPLAYER Mini (with an Intel Core i7-1195G7), GPD Win 3 (Intel Core i7-1165G7) and AYA Neo Next (AMD Ryzen 7 5825U processor), the Steam Deck appears to deliver on its promise of higher frame rates thanks to the higher-performance RDNA 2 GPU. It also gets longer battery life.

The display and controllers are said to be very good, but the Steam Deck is a pretty large device which could make it a little uncomfortable to reach some buttons. Haptic feedback, on the other hand, is said to be underwhelming at the moment (although Valve says that could be improved with software updates).

One of the things I’m most encouraged to see is that Valve’s promise that games would load nearly as quickly from a microSD card as they do from built-in storage, seems to be true (at least for the titles reviewers were aloud to test), which could be good news for folks who decided to opt for the entry-level $399 Steam Deck, which has just 64GB of eMMC storage (higher priced models have 256GB or 512GB PCIe NVMe SSDs).

Later this month we can probably expect to see more Steam Deck reviews after another embargo lifts and testers are allowed to talk about the software, test additional games, and maybe even install Windows or other software.

Valve Steam Deck Specs
Display
  • 7 inches
  • 1280 x 800 pixels
  • LCD
  • 400 nits
  • Touchscreen
CPUAMD Zen 2 

  • 4-cores / 8-threads
  • 2.4 GHz to 3.5 GHz
  • Up to 448 GFlops FP32
  • 4-15 watts
GPUAMD RDNA 2 

  • 8 compute units
  • 1 GHz to 1.66 GHz
  • Up to 1.6 TFlops FP32
RAM16GB LPDDR5-5500
Storage
  • 64GB eMMC (PCIe Gen 2 x1)
  • 256GB NVMe SSD (M.2 2230 PCIe Gen 3 x4)
  • 512GB NVMe SSD (M.2 2230 PCie Gen 3 x4)
  • microSDXC card reader
Ports
  • 1 x USB-C (with DisplayPort 1.4 Alt Mode for 8K/60 Hz or 4K/120 Hz video out)
  • 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A
Game controllers
  • 2 x analog sticks with capacitive touch
  • A, B,  X,  Y buttons
  • D-pad
  • L & R analog triggers
  • L & R bumpers
  • 4 x assignable grip buttons
  • 2 x 32.5mm square trackpads with haptic feedback
  • 6-Axis gyroscope
Other buttons & switches
  • Volume Up
  • Volume Down
  • View
  • Menu
KeyboardVirtual
Battery & charging
  • 40Wh battery
  • 45W USB Type-C PD 3.0 charger
Wireless
  • WiFi 5
  • Bluetooth 5.0
Audio
  • Stereo front-facing speakers
  • 3.5mm audio jack
Webcam & micMic only
OSSteam OS (Arch Linux with KDE Plasma)
Dimensions298mm x 117mm x 49mm
11.7″ x 4.6″ x 1.9″
Weight669 grams
1.5 pounds
Docking Station
  • 1 x HDMI 2.0
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 1 x USB Type-C power input
  • 1 x USB-C out to Steam Deck
  • 1 x USB 3.1 Type-A
  • 2 x USB 2.0
Price
  • $399 (64GB eMMC)
  • $529 (256GB NVMe)
  • $649 (512GB NVMe)

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  1. The Gamers Nexus and Linus videos were good.

    I’m surprised Valve sent Phawx a unit (let alone 2 units). His videos need some, ahem, work to put it mildly. I wonder what Valve was thinking.

    1. I was scratching my head around why Valve sent Phawx a unit too. Valve definitely wasn’t thinking about marketing and increasing the Deck sales by sending him a unit.

      I had to stop watching his video. It was painful. He wastes a lot of time on pointless things. There were probably some useful tidbits in there but they’d be needles in that hour long haystack.

      1. Yeah. The Phawx really does waste a lot of time on useless things. He always had in his videos.

        Valve wasted a review unit on him. Should have sent it to someone else.

    2. He’s covered a lot of the handheld PC devices out there and especially likes getting the best out of devices by tweaking TDP, core counts, CPU vs GPU power balance etc. That’s an aspect no one else covered. Actually between the three we got pretty decent coverage of generic consumer interests (ltt), thermals (gn), software knobs for advanced users (phawx).

      Though you’re right he could edit his content better, in particular while stats in an overlay are fine I’d prefer graphs on screen with a bit of voice over per gamers nexus. I also wasn’t interested in minimums and maximums at different TDPs, averages alone or a single combined graph would have been fine as at first I thought min/max were game settings not framerate statistics.