News hardware Despite all its shortcomings, the Steam Deck is the best portable console I have ever had
Until 2022, Nintendo was considered the only true handheld console specialist. That’s completely true, and it still is, all Sonys on Earth can do nothing about it. But a few months ago, a new challenger landed with a heavy, bulky product with low battery life … and yet ingenious. Yes, Valve, I’m talking to you: With Steam Deck, you managed to offer me the ideal portable console.
Before I unfold arguments that I know are unstoppable, even if they are completely subjective, let me paint you my player portrait. Since the early 90’s I have been firmly attached to the PC, having grown up with Pentiums, 3dfxs, Dooms and Baldur’s Gates in my living room or in my bedroom. However, I have always had a major weakness for portable consoles. They have always seemed to me to be the ideal complement to my microcomputer, offering different experiences to take everywhere. I’ve spent thousands of hours playing Nintendo DS / 3DS, GBA, Game Boy and of course Switch. At this point, I like to admit: Nintendo is invincible.
But I had never before had a mobile machine that manages to create the connection between the PC world and the console world. Yet the Switch almost got there in a way. If we play on PC, we are necessarily interested, at least a little, in independent games, and that’s good: the Switch is THE ideal console for that. It was on Switch that I discovered – and loved – Hollow Knight, it is on Switch that I devoured 100 hours in Dead Cells. I had reached a point where, when a new indie game that interested me arrived on the PC, I preferred to wait for the port on the Nintendo laptop, even though it meant waiting a while … But all that’s over since I now have a Steam tire.
Steam Deck is the do-it-all console
We get to the heart of the matter: Valve’s portable console and its incredible versatility. I will not dwell here on the qualities and technical defects of the machine: Therefore, I invite you to read the entire test published in February last year. Just know that Valve’s follow-up is exemplary and that many things get better with updates. Fan noise, for example, has been much quieter since a recent life-saving patch, and you no longer feel like a Boeing takes off in your living room when you fire up a AAA.
No, here we are talking about uses and above all the use I have of Steam Deck. At first glance, and this is how Valve presents it, Steam Deck is made to play the latest PC hits under good conditions. And the promise is generally kept: yes, it’s great to see Final Fantasy VII Remake run so well, to continue your game Elden Ring in the subway or to find Lady Dimitrescu from Resident Evil Village on a 7-inch screen. It’s great and at the same time that’s not really why I like Steam Deck so much. I prefer to make these games on my comfortable 34-inch ultra-wide screen (though the Fire Ring stays fixed at 16: 9 … but that’s a different story), to look full.
For me, the interest in Steam Deck can be summed up in 4 words: Backlog, indie games and emulations. We therefore move on point by point.
Boomer’s portable console?
Let us remember here what is called backlog on PC: these are all the games that you collect during various sales and that you have never had time to launch, or so little. For me, Steam Deck is it the perfect excuse to discover or rediscover those titles that date a little, but not too much : I therefore recently made The Stanley Parable Forever (in its ultra deluxe version), I relaunched Skyrim, Deus Ex Human Revolution and Fallout New Vegas, with the pleasant surprise of discovering impeccable compatibility, even though the label “perfect for Steam” Deck “was not attached. Titles that are 3 or 4 years old are thus mostly perfectly playable, in versions that are much more accomplished than its cumbersome Switch ports (hi The Witcher 3 and Doom Eternal) … and I do not have to buy them back.During exploring my Steam backlog I was very pleasantly surprised by the number of compatible games, even in an unofficial way.
As for indie games, no need to draw you a picture, I was already talking a little louder about it when I mentioned Switch. But to take a more personal example, in this category, i love metroidvania and rogue-lite, but these are genres that I think are much better suited for a portable console. So you will not be surprised that I have recently been enchanted with Rogue Legacy 2 or Souldiers and do not need to download them on Switch (knowing that the former just is not available there).
Finally, for the emulation, I am aware that we are arriving here in a “gray” zone and do not expect to give you addresses and instructions. But be aware that there is an ultra-active community that creates particularly effective “frontends”, like Recalbox on PC (just to name the best known example). Turnkey solutions that seamlessly integrate with Steam OS and allow Steam Deck to become the ultimate portable console for 8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit and even 64-bit game playback. Watching Silent Hill 2 alongside Wind Waker and Streets of Rage 2 on the same interface is something, believe me.
A “V1” perfect but terribly captivating
I’m aware that my player profile is a bit special: I like to play old titles, I like to hack into my catalog, I’m a nostalgic old man … But I like to think that I do not is the only . That’s why Steam Deck is my primary slot machine right now.. The possibilities are so great, the device is incredibly versatile and it can only get better with time. As soon as Valve makes it easy to install Windows 11 in “dual boot”, and that we can install Gamepass, Battlenet and Epic Game Store, the possibilities – already huge – will be tenfold.
But I recommend buying a Steam Deck now, knowing that you have several months to wait to get it anyway? ? It is difficult to answer this question categorically. Like any first-generation product, this Steam Deck is pretty much perfect: bulky, with an average screen, limited battery life … There’s no doubt that the V2 will be much better. But at the moment, this V2 simply does not exist, even though rumors are starting to run. All I know is that right now Steam Deck is giving me tremendous satisfaction.