How will the Steam Deck handle emulation? - New Era for the gaming world

How will the Steam Deck handle emulation? – New Era for the gaming world

You may have seen the announcements for this device here which is called the steam deck. Its valve’s newest product aims to bring pc gaming to the handheld market. A lot of people are really excited about this device.

Because it packs a lot of power for what it does, and it has seamless integration with steam. I got to admit it, and I was so impressed with it that I pre-ordered it myself.

But not really for the same reasons that most other people are probably buying it. Personally, I think this has a lot of potentials when it comes to a retro emulation device. So that’s what I’m going to focus on here in this article.

In this article about all the,

  1. Specs and features available for this device
  2. How it pertains to retro handheld gaming?
  3. The hype is definitely there for this model. There’s already a new subreddit with nearly a thousand members in just two days
  4. A new discord server.

Regardless, I’d love to spend some time today talking about the features that I really think are going to be intriguing and some of the aspects of this device that are giving me some pause.

Of course, bear in mind as I’m making this article that this device was only announced a couple of days ago. So, some of these features and parameters may be going to change over time. But don’t worry if any changes happen definitely. I will update my full article.

Let’s dive into the Hardware specs details and see what this is all about

Let’s run through the spec sheet of this device in particular and some of the things that are really worth highlighting.

Caveat by saying that “I am not one of those like in-depth pc gamers.”

Some of these specs kind of fly over my head. But at the same time, I’m reasonably familiar with how these specs will play out when it comes to emulation.

For example, we’re looking at a clock speed that can go up to 3.5 gigahertz with this chipset.

Because a lot of the harder to run emulation processes are very CPU intensive, this is an excellent sign.

This thing will have 16 gigabytes of onboard ram, and while the storage space is going to depend on which model you buy. Even if you get the lowest tier, it’s still going to work just fine for emulation.

Each model comes with a microSD port, and of course, microSD cards are not going to be as fast as something like an NVMe solid-state drive.

It’s still going to be plenty fast for retro game emulation. Honestly, just the fact that the company put a microSD port in this device. It really expands the opportunities we have for custom firmware and other things like that.

But we’ll get into that more later.

Controller layout

Here it’s a little bit odd-looking, mainly because the d-pad, the face buttons, and the analog sticks are all near the top of the device.

Steam Deck Layout
Steam Deck Layout

But as we’ll see later when it’s actually in somebody’s hands, it actually looks reasonably comfortable.

Other things to mention here I like the fact that

  1. The thumbsticks are clickable – So you have L3 and R3 right there on the device
  2. Front-facing speakers
  3. The elephant in the room is these two very prominent trackpads.

These trackpads are supposed to provide an exact input, which will be really good when playing an FPS game or something like that’s going to require that mouse precision.

Early reviews of these trackpads are very positive, and I hope they’re helpful because they take up some premium real estate here on this device.

But I think until we get it in our hands, we really can’t say for sure.

On top of Steam Deck

  • Volume buttons
  • Headphone jack
  • USB C port
  • Power button
  • Fan and Status LED
  • Stack shoulder buttons here, and it looks like the triggers. The L2 and R2 are going to be analog inputs.

On the back Steam Deck

There are customizable buttons, which might come in really handy for macros and things like that.

Controls of the Steam Deck

The device and the trackpads themselves have haptic feedback, which will probably give an immersive experience.

The thumbsticks themselves have capacitive touch – Which means that just resting your thumbs on the thumbsticks. It is going to be treated as an input of its own, so it’ll be exciting if developers actually use these inputs and haptics in a way that improves the gaming experience for us.

The last piece about the inputs for this device is that it has six-axis gyro input.

Apparently, by this picture, if you rest your finger on the trackpad, it’ll turn on the gyroscopic controls. It is the same thing with that capacitive touch there on the thumbstick.

How to use Steam Deck
How to use Steam Deck

So, that’s interesting, but we’ll see how that all plays out now.

In terms of Ergonomics

You can see here when someone’s actually playing the device because the buttons are up near the top.

It kind of treats the rest of the device as grips. So, I think that’s really going to be comfortable for a wide variety of hand sizes.

This is one of those parts where I think that it looked kind of weird on paper. But then, when you see someone holding it in their hands, it kind of starts to make sense.

So, I’m excited about this layout.

Display Steam Deck

  • It’s going to be a seven-inch display with a 1280×800 resolution, which will be really great for 720p gameplay.
  • It also runs at a 60hz refresh rate, which is going to be perfect for classic gaming.
  • I’ve seen a few people say that they’re disappointed that it’s not an OLED display. (But honestly, I think the amount of battery life you’re going to be saving with an LCD is going to be worth it.)

It now personally, I’m a big fan of 5-inch displays when it comes to handhelds. But I’m also optimistic that valve has probably tested different sizes of handhelds. And they stuck with this one for a good reason.

I think that a 7-inch screen will give you a charming and premium feel, and luckily this device is a touch screen as well, which will make navigation and keyboard inputting that much easier.

Connectivity and Size

Steam Deck Size
Connectivity and Size
  • It has Bluetooth 5.0
  • Dual-band wi-fi with 2.4 and 5 gigahertz
  • It does have a headphone jack
  • It does have built-in microphones
  • Ability to do Bluetooth audio unlike the Nintendo switch
  • The USB C port we saw earlier is going to provide power
  • 40-watt hours of battery life anything from 2 to 8 hours depending on what type of games
  • In addition to using the USB C port for power and you can also use that for video out
  • According to the specs, you can do it up to 8k at 60 hertz or 4k at 120 hertz

Size and the Weight of the device

Size and the Weight of the Steam Deck device
Size and the Weight of the device

As you can see in the image, the dimensions are giving in millimeters and grams.

Compare with real-world context.

So, the device weighs 669 grams.

Original Nintendo switches 416 grams. The slim PS vita is 223 grams.

Original Nintendo switch and slim PS vita together, they’re 639 grams. So, this device is going to be heavier than both of these two combined.

Let’s see about the length of this device. This is going to be 298 millimeters across. So, just about 12 inches.

As you know, here, it’s about 20 percent longer than the original Nintendo switch.

With compare that with a PS Vita, it’s about one and three quarters PS Vitas.

When we make the comparison of an actual retro handheld gaming device,

Suppose you were to line up the pal kitty RGB 10 and the amber neck RG 351p. These two combined are going to be the same length as this steam deck.

So, I think in the context of retro handheld devices, which have been blowing up in popularity these past couple of years. This thing is going to be absolutely massive.

So, the way I’m starting to think about it,

“It is that the valve steam deck… It is not going to be a pocketable device in any sort of way, and even the idea of it being portable is kind of a stretch to me.”

So, instead, I’m starting to think of it as just a very travel-friendly computer and definitely something you could probably play on the couch or maybe something like a road trip.

So, it kind of fits in this weird category where it’s definitely smaller than a laptop. But in no way was something you could discreetly put in your pocket. And have available for pick up and play gameplay.

Steam Deck handling
Steam Deck size

As you can see here with some of these photos, the device is massive. When they actually get the device delivered to their home, I think a lot of people are going to be surprised at just how big this thing is.

Personally, I’m not a massive fan of large devices like this. But at the same time, I remain optimistic that I’m going to adjust to the size of it.

Dock Mode and Software

We’ll see how it all plays out on the flip side. I am excited about the idea of using this thing as a potential docked pc.

The fact that you can just plug a USB c dock into it and hook it up to a monitor or a tv really expands its usability.

I’m hoping this seven-inch screen is going to be very two-player friendly.

Valve has mentioned they’re going to be selling a dock for this device. It’s not ready for reveal yet. But I’m also excited to see how this all plays out.

What spec sheet says

Spec sheet mentioned that they have already teased a DisplayPort and HDMI output, several USB C inputs, and an Ethernet jack.

All of those are very welcome additions to a dock for this device.

Software and the emulation potential of the steam deck

This device is going to ship with a version of steam OS. That’s supposed to integrate with your Steam library seamlessly. So, theoretically, you could install any of the games you already own directly onto the device.

That seamless integration with the steam interface.

“For example, messaging and netplay is really exciting to me.”

On top of that, when it comes to emulation, “Retroarch” is now available at least in a test phase for steam. This means that on top of playing Retroarch natively on the device.

You’re going to have the ability to integrate with the social system. This means things like online netplay will be integrated into the steam experience instead of relying on Retroarch netplay, which has never honestly been all that great.

So, this is an exciting factor to consider if you want to remain on the steam operating system while still be able to emulate some systems.

One of the things that’s most exciting about this device is,

The fact that the valve has come out and said that you’re going to install any operating system on this device. This means that operating systems like Bodacera, which you see here, will probably get supported on the steam deck.

What is Bodacera?

Bodacera is a very lightweight Linux distribution that runs an emulation station as its front end.

What is Bodacera
What is Bodacera?

As you can see in the picture, it has a beautiful seamless integration with various emulators. Given the power and performance of this device, I would expect that we’re going to see up to PS3 available as an emulation core on this device.

So, here’s what I’ve been thinking about if the device will allow you to use the MicroSD slot as a boot priority. That means you can flash an operating system like Bodacera directly onto the microSD card. If you get a big enough card, say something like 500 gigabytes. You can just load it up with a bunch of retro games.

So, all of a sudden, you’re to have the ability to use the steam operating system. Then put in the SD card and immediately be able to play all of your favorite retro designs.

You know, thanks to things like its touch screen, you’re going to be able to use Nintendo ds games with no problem, probably even 3ds games as well.

You’re going to be able to upscale things like PSP and Nintendo 64 so that they look just beautiful on this screen.

Examples for potential custom firmware

Additionally, this device is going to be plenty powerful for things like GameCube, Nintendo Wii.

Up through Nintendo Wii u and I think that PlayStation 2 and, as I mentioned before, PlayStation 3 will also be playable. So, in a nutshell, you’re going to have the ability to play triple-A titles and pc games through the steam operating system, using the existing games you’ve already probably bought over the years using the steam summer sales and things like that.

But on top of that, you’re probably going to be able to emulate the entire back catalog of video games up through the PlayStation 3 era. I mean, at that point, what is it that you’re not going to be able to play? It’s kind of amazing.

Pricing and Recommendations for Steam Deck

Really what sold me on the device is the fact that the base model is actually really affordable.

The amount of value you’re getting for the lower tier of 399$ is imposing. Valve is probably selling these at a loss initially.

Steam Deck Price
Steam Deck Price

If you’re focused on retro gaming, in particular, the lowest tier model will still be perfect for you because it will have the same chipset. Everything else inside the same amount of ram and the 64 GB of storage will be plenty for the operating system in a couple of games as well.

But then you can use the microSD card slot to boot into all of your retro systems so if you’re only thinking about this as an exclusive retro handheld 399$. I think it is more than enough.

The middle and the upper tiers are going to have that NVMe storage space. This is going to be a lot faster and probably something you’re really going to want to need if you’re going to be playing triple PC games.

The highest here is going to have a glass display. Which I’m really hoping is going to improve the clarity of the screen itself.

So, which one did I order?

I ended up getting the highest tier, and it isn’t because of the NVMe speeds. Because honestly, I’ll probably install a few steam games. But it’s that glass display that really won me over.

I’m all about my games looking as good as possible. But I’m still kind of torn about the fact that it was 250 dollars more expensive just to get a glass display.

If I put it in that context, it makes me sound crazy that I paid for the highest tier, mainly because I plan to use the MicroSD slot primarily for all my retro gaming needs.

I hope you enjoy and get complete knowledge of the Steam Deck handle simulation. If you have any questions regarding the Steam Deck, please comment below, and as I promise you, if any update regarding the SD, I’ll make the update on the post.


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