Early Steam Deck testing shows you'll get 60 fps gameplay in AAA titles with decent visual...

nanoguy

Posts: 1,018   +14
Staff member
Something to look forward to: The Steam Deck is shaping up to be the most exciting handheld console in years, even if many of you probably won't be able to get your hands on one until next year. Valve says it's targeting an 800p 30Hz experience in modern AAA titles, but judging by early developer kit reviews, you should be able to squeeze a lot more from it depending on how much eye candy you're willing to sacrifice.

Valve started shipping the first Steam Deck developer kits earlier this month, and since then things have been relatively quiet. However, thanks to an enthusiastic Chinese developer (via Tom's Hardware), we now have access to an early look at the hardware and software that makes the Steam Deck such an intriguing product. Granted, the commercial version will be more polished, so there will be differences when compared to the developer kit, especially in the performance department.

The Steam Deck is powered by a custom AMD APU that marries a Zen 2 processor with RDNA 2 graphics into a low-power system-on-a-chip. The CPU has four cores and eight threads that work at a base clock speed of 2.4 GHz and can go as high as 3.5 GHz if thermals allow it. The GPU has eight Compute Units (512 Stream Processors) that work at 1 GHz and can boost to 1.6 GHz when needed. The APU is backed by 16 gigabytes of LPDDR5-5500 RAM, which should be plenty for even the most demanding AAA titles.

Valve has chosen to equip the new handheld with a 7-inch LCD display that has a 16:10 aspect ratio and a resolution of 1280 by 800 pixels. This screen is limited to 60 Hz operation but you can theoretically get a 4K 120 Hz or 8K 60 Hz image when docked.

The Chinese developer tested four popular games using the default SteamOS 3.0 setup -- Cyberpunk 2077, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Doom, and DOTA 2. As expected, Cyberpunk 2077 is the toughest to run at a stable frame rate, and using the High preset will only net you around 20 to 30 frames per second with some occasional stuttering. This is a title where you'll want to use a Medium preset or a combination of Low and Medium settings to achieve 30+ frames per second, but the developer hasn't tested those scenarios.

In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the Steam Deck was able to deliver 30 frames per second on average using the Highest preset, which is a decent result. Dropping down to High brings the average frame rate to 36 frames per second, and using a combination of Low, Medium, and High settings can yield a bit over 60 frames per second.

Doom is a bit easier to run, so using the Medium preset will net you around 60 frames per second on average. The Chinese developer also tried increasing visual fidelity in some areas which still resulted in a satisfactory 46 frames per second, but he didn't elaborate on what settings he changed for the second test run.

DOTA 2 is easily the least demanding of the bunch, running at an average frame rate of 47 frames per second on the highest preset. The developer says dropping all the way down to the low preset yields over 80 frames per second, so with a bit of tweaking you should be able to enjoy good visuals at 60 frames per second.

The developer says the Steam Deck does get a bit toasty under load, with temperatures on the rear of the device reaching over 42 degrees Celsius. The grips remain relatively cool, with a maximum recorded temperature of 29 degrees.

After spending around three hours playing games on the Steam Deck, the 40 Wh battery went from a 100 percent charge to just 46 percent. That said, this likely isn't indicative of what you'll get from the commercial version, as Valve and AMD are currently making good progress on a Linux driver that will improve performance-per-watt to a significant degree.

Overall, these performance results are in line with reports from other developers. For instance, Mike Rose from No More Robots says the downhill cycling game Descenders runs at 50 to 60 frames per second using the maximum graphics settings. And Microsoft Xbox boss Phil Spencer said last month that he'd been testing the Steam Deck with xCloud and found the experience excellent for fans of Xbox Game Pass.

There are still a lot of unknowns at this point, but Valve has confirmed the Steam Deck can also be used as a PC controller. The company also says the handheld console will work with VR headsets, although it wouldn't go into any more details beyond shooting down unreasonable expectations of PC-like VR experiences.

That said, the Steam Deck appears to be a capable first-generation device. If all goes well, the handheld console will start shipping in December at a starting price of $399 for the base version with 64 gigabytes of eMMC storage. If you want more storage, Valve will charge you $529 for a Steam Deck with 256 gigabytes of NVMe storage and $649 if you want to double that.

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Dimitriid

Posts: 1,300   +2,544
Haven't done 1 to 1 on all of them but at least from Cyberpunk it looks about right: right now you can get a 5700g with 3200mhz DDR4 ram to run Cyperpunk on low settings, 900p at average 31 FPS

If you extrapolate a bit the advantage the Steam deck has running DDR5 that's much faster then you get your number to be about right, which *is* an advancement given how much of a power constrain the steamdeck has vs a full 65W tdp chip for the desktop so you get about the best we can get for APUs right now (Outside of consoles) but now with a power limit that's even better than today's desktop on a super small laptop type cooler.

If we get APUs that are RDA 2 and Ryzen 3+ later on but with full ddr5 and cooling capabilities of the desktop form factor I think those APUs might start pulling closer to a 1050ti performance and maybe even close to 1650 levels, not bad at all: realistically good enough for 900p to 1080p gaming at modest framerates, decent ones on e-sports and older titles.
 

dangh

Posts: 320   +463
Looking forward to it, got the preorder, now I hope I will be able to get the os on my desktop as well.
 

Sausagemeat

Posts: 1,036   +863
I don’t really understand the hype for these, there have been other similar devices out there for a while that ship with windows and can run all your games not just your steam library. They do cost more. I guess it’s Valve. But they have never made good hardware. I wish they would go back to making games, they were good at that!

But it’s all wasted on me, I need a mouse and keyboard for PC games. Can’t handle controllers unless the game is designed for it, like Mario kart or something like that.
 

Rock Dirty

Posts: 51   +75
I don’t really understand the hype for these, there have been other similar devices out there for a while that ship with windows and can run all your games not just your steam library. They do cost more. I guess it’s Valve. But they have never made good hardware. I wish they would go back to making games, they were good at that!

But it’s all wasted on me, I need a mouse and keyboard for PC games. Can’t handle controllers unless the game is designed for it, like Mario kart or something like that.

Username checks out.
 

dangh

Posts: 320   +463
I don’t really understand the hype for these, there have been other similar devices out there for a while that ship with windows and can run all your games not just your steam library. They do cost more. I guess it’s Valve. But they have never made good hardware. I wish they would go back to making games, they were good at that!

But it’s all wasted on me, I need a mouse and keyboard for PC games. Can’t handle controllers unless the game is designed for it, like Mario kart or something like that.
Alternatives were expensive, not very well designed and produced, not very well supported. Here I can have a system made with good components, with gaming in mind, and provides for value. It is a game changer.
I still hope for Alienware ufo, but this one is already excellent.
 

Sausagemeat

Posts: 1,036   +863
Alternatives were expensive, not very well designed and produced, not very well supported. Here I can have a system made with good components, with gaming in mind, and provides for value. It is a game changer.
I still hope for Alienware ufo, but this one is already excellent.
I’d be a lot more interested if it shipped with Windows. I hardly use steam these days. I know you can install windows yourself but I’d like it if steam could support it.

Also I have a steam pad and personally I think it’s the worst controller ive ever used by a long way. I will reserve judgement on the steam pads controls until I actually use one but it doesn’t bode well.
 

shark975

Posts: 38   +46
I don’t really understand the hype for these, there have been other similar devices out there for a while that ship with windows and can run all your games not just your steam library. They do cost more. I guess it’s Valve. But they have never made good hardware. I wish they would go back to making games, they were good at that!

But it’s all wasted on me, I need a mouse and keyboard for PC games. Can’t handle controllers unless the game is designed for it, like Mario kart or something like that.


Basically agree. It's a nice device and desirable but a few thoughts:

The 64GB 399 model is a bait and switch joke, obviously. I guess unless you just want to play indies. In real terms 529 is the absolute minimum, and even that 256GB is basically one AAA game nowdays. Heck I've got a 1Tb Series X and I'm amazed how it's already a struggle. 1Tb equals ~800GB after overhead. Master Chief Collection, Gears 5, Destiny 2, are already well over 100GB each. I'm constantly having to delete stuff I dont really want to delete. The real entry price for this is 600 dollars. Which granted given our TP money (thanks Biden) is probably not THAT bad.

Second, It's amazing how not powerful this thing actually is! it has 8CU's. 8. The Series X has 52. 52.

I get it, 720P vs nominal 4k yada yada yada. Still, again, this is an incredibly weak machine. Settings are going straight to lowest in many games and even that may not be enough going forward.

Third, the whole linux thing. It's another layer of overhead and lack of compatibility. They say just install windows, but would windows even have a proper UI on this thing?? How would that even work? Plus it's more money, again.

Fourth: At the end of the day I dont care about portable gaming. I'm an adult. Not this devices fault, but there it is.

fifth: Heat. Battery life. ergonomics. all issues.

Sixth: The switch lite exists. It's 199.

I do believe this thing has SOME niche, but it has a lot of drawbacks and I'm not sure it'll be all that popular. The media (techspot) tend to be Valve suckups/corporate schills so it gets mostly positive press.
 

0dium

Posts: 275   +329
Are you seriously comparing home gaming console with a handheld?
Also, seems like you aren't really familiar with the topic if you think you can launch only steam games on it.
Well, Switch exists for like 200$, sure, but Steam Deck provides the ability to launch games from steam library you already own, launch games bought on GOG and all that, not to mention older discounted games and regular steam sales with huge discounts. Switch with it's 60$ games (which are targeted mostly at Nintendo fans and children, mind you) will end up more expensive in the long run.
Battery life is an issue in any portable device and what I can't understand what heat you are talking about if there is clearly written that grips remain cool.
 

Sausagemeat

Posts: 1,036   +863
Are you seriously comparing home gaming console with a handheld?
Also, seems like you aren't really familiar with the topic if you think you can launch only steam games on it.
Well, Switch exists for like 200$, sure, but Steam Deck provides the ability to launch games from steam library you already own, launch games bought on GOG and all that, not to mention older discounted games and regular steam sales with huge discounts. Switch with it's 60$ games (which are targeted mostly at Nintendo fans and children, mind you) will end up more expensive in the long run.
Battery life is an issue in any portable device and what I can't understand what heat you are talking about if there is clearly written that grips remain cool.
Which one is the home gaming console and which is the handheld? Both terms can be used to describe either the steam deck or the switch!

But yes I agree somewhat. The steam deck will not make any impact on the switch sales. Different customers are buying them. The switch is a mainstream enormously selling console, one of the best selling of all time with an incredible library of exclusive games. The deck is a niche product designed to give a low res experience for your just your steam library away from the desk.

I’d hold your expectations for the deck. A fair chunk of enthusiasts will buy it but I can’t see it being mainstream. And it is just a 720p 60fps LCD screen, that’s ok on a $200 switch with switch optimised games but on a $500 deck trying to play games designed for higher resolutions it’s a bit rubbish. And a handheld is all about the screen, got a bad screen on it and it’s a bad product.