Once in a while, I got super excited about some hardware or software. It's not happening often as it's hard to impress me. Over the time it was Fujifilm X100 (best camera to date), RTX cards (and the software it powers like Quake2RTX, Broadcaster, Canvas), affordable 3D printers, electric scooters, Cyberpunk 2077. It's time for the next big thing - Steam Deck mobile PC.
I have a high-end notebook and not so high-end PC at home. This notebook is traveling with me to work for serious work (3D, game dev). It's nice but very big (15") and extremely heavy (~3kg). It's more like an easy-to-move stationary PC than anything close to the mobile category. It barely fits in my bag. But it's powerful. On the other hand, I have an old Fujitsu notebook for DOS, BASIC, and WordStar. I'm writing this post on it. It's super mobile but its display is barely usable outside. The technology was not there at the time. As you can see there is a gap that needs to be filled.
Here comes Valve's Steam Deck. At first, I was just curious but more and more I read about it I began interested and finally obsessed. It's exactly what I want. It is affordable, light, good-looking, and has quite good hardware. But the most important part is the software - at last someone got it right. It's tuned Linux distribution with Steam as the main software database.
Everyone is talking about games. Will it work, how many FPS it will push, and so on. I do not play games so much those days but I love to make them. And Deck is completely capable of doing that. It's the dream indie game development computer. I could take it to the game jam with a keyboard and have a fully working developer machine. Just looking at the Steam catalog alone it has Blender, Godot Engine, Krita, Aseprite. We made a lot of games on the exact software stack.
Yes, the hardware lacks a keyboard. It's not a notebook. I like to use mechanical keyboards. I have a few of them in 60% size. For Deck, I will get 40% and it'll be a perfect companion. This lack of a keyboard makes the device smaller and better looking. Also, they would for sure not include anything close to a mechanical keyboard. For me, that is a good decision. The screen has a touch so there is always a virtual keyboard for some light usage.
Many comments say the screen is too small for any serious work. Look around, everyone is looking at the phones. Many do some kind of editing and creation stuff on them. Not to mention tablets. The Deck has the same size screen as that iPad mini. I was very happy with my mini I owned years ago. I like small devices and this will be the last thing to worry about. When I'll need to do some serious work it will be connected to an external monitor and/or Wacom Cintiq. On the go, it's the main point of this device to be small. Bottom line is that the screen is OK. The only problem it has is low NIT brightness.
For years I dreamed of the "console PC" aka reference hardware. Something like an MSX standard. A set of hardware lists for X years that all the developers can target and optimize for. I was thinking of PC form factor but mobile is even better. As much as I like my standalone PC it's hard to use on a couch and impossible to take it to the hammock. The form factor of the Steam Deck is a nice solution for those. Back to the standard. As a developer, I know how this will help. Just think of Switch and its impossible ports. Now, compare it to the Deck hardware and openess. It will inspire many studios to make their games push this hardware to the limits. It'll be the Amiga of our times. That's my prophecy. As of wishes I wish the demoscene jumps on it and shows its true potential.
Last but not least is the OS, Linux, Arch. Completed with an updated version of Proton. We all, Linux users, will benefit from this. And if someone will need a Windows go ahead, it's a PC you can just install it. Dual-boot. The freedom is there. When Gabe says he doesn't care and you can do whatever you can on any other PC I was sold. It was that last remaining ingredient that made me order that waiting spot. It extends the life of this device significantly and completely removes any worries about Valve ditching the hardware after poor sales or whatever other reason. It will always have some usage.
Is this device doesn't have cons? Of cores it has. Poor battery life, no RTX, no DLSS capable graphics, mediocre screen. But considering the price and today's technology, it's an acceptable compromise.
How this will hold up in real no one knows. We'll need to wait until the end of the year.
BTW: Q1 2022