Steam Deck: A Few Months In

in Hive Gaming6 months ago

Steam Deck: A Few Months In.jpg

Now that I have had the Steam Deck for several months, I'm ready to write a longer impressionabout the machine. Pretty much everything from the first impressions still holds true... it is a joy to use, with the trackpads being a great addition to a handheld device, and the weight and balance of the machine just being such a pleasure to hold and play with. Of course, it is huge for a handheld device... but that just doesn't matter when it is balanced well, and you really don't feel like you are really holding something that big. It is only when I put it back in the case and into a carrying bag, then I notice how big it is! Juts for reference, that is a 15-inch XMG laptop in that photo!

So, where do I start with this? I have to say that the machine is everything that I had hoped for in a portable handheld and more! When people see it... when they either know what it is if they are fellow nerds, and they are more than a touch jealous and want to try it out... after all, it still isn't available in Australia! And if they don't know what it is... people still ask, because they do see that it isn't a Switch... and that leads to the question as to WHAT it is. In the end, I've settled on the explanation that it is a fully fledged (almost...) gaming laptop in a handheld form factor (yes, that sort of explanation still gets a few confused looks from, most of my colleagues!).

I guess the biggest testament to my enjoyment of the Deck is the way that it has actually replaced my equally beloved XMG gaming laptop as my go-to machine for many games. I have shifted a great batch of games, rogue-likes and turn-based tactics/strategy games to the Deck... whilst leaving the shooters and grand-strategy games on the XMG.

The Deck has given me the ability to segment more fully my gaming preferences across different machines... the desktop machine housing the heftier shooters, the XMG housing grand strategy, RPGs or builders, and Deck having all the great travel games.

... and this is where the Deck has really shone. When on the coach between cities, on the plane, or just killing time between teaching or backstage... this is the perfect machine to just fire up a quick game of Cult of the Lamb, or Divinty: Original Sin, or something like that. It takes no time to fire up the machine from sleep, unlike the laptop which still needs to boot up Windows from a cold start... the Deck generally will just sit in a sleep state, which means that it is an instant jump into gaming. Plus, it doesn't take up additional space in front of you... and for those who have tried to use a gaming laptop in the confines of a plane seat will know that it is just no fun at all... especially if you want to use a proper mouse, and you will always live in fear of the person in front of you jamming their seat back and down into your display.

Now, what has been really great has been the fact that the sound on the Deck is really quite decent. Front firing speakers... it makes a difference, HTC did it for their phones, and too many companies shy away from this feature in order to keep the front of the device clutter free... but speakers facing you... it makes sense, and you really hear the difference!

Now that I've really settled into a proper use routine for the Deck, I starting to explore the more esoteric options that the machine offers. It has a single USB C port... but with a dongle, it can easily serve as a proper laptop that powers an external monitor! Plus, you can also plug in an external mouse and Keyboard! Holy crap! This is the portable gaming PC that I was always craving! Imagine just having this gaming machine and then plugging it up with the IO peripherals to do some "work"!

I just discovered how to boot into the desktop UI as well... and that is a pretty interesting experience, with the graphical Linux UI all there. So, you can install a web browser and have it accessible in the gaming mode... and that means that you can watch Netflix and whatever else direct on the little gaming screen! Amazing!

The little downsides are still there... battery life is pretty damn short if you are playing something quite graphically intensive... Yakuza Like a Dragon will chew through the battery in less than hour... but something gentler like Cult of the Lamb will easily go a couple of hours.

... but the more annoying thing is still the janky WiFi... it mostly works, but sometimes, it conks out and needs to be coaxed back into action. Not crazily annoying, as I'm in offline mode most of the time when I'm using it... but sometimes, you need to update all the games and sync the save files when you are at home.... which does lead me to the other slightly odd choice that even when it is plugged in and charging, the Deck will not be downloading anything unless the screen is ON?1?!?!?... I get that if you are off the charging port and running on battery, and perhaps I have missed a toggle somewhere in the settings.... but it is an unusual decision.

But, in the end... this is one awesome machine... and I'm still stunned that it is a first commercial iteration of the product as well! Most first iteration tech products are janky messes and compromises... but the Deck is not that. It is pretty damn well polished, and you can see that the company has really let the designers and engineers create the machine that they wanted, and none of this penny pinching and "improvement/guidance" from clueless managers.

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Amazing device, extremely niche but amazing. I'm glad to see that it manages to fullfil his expectations

Pretty bloody amazing! I think it would be much better for those who like playing 3rd person/1st person on console controls... but I need my keyboard and mouse!