Valve’s Steam Deck is here and, since we’ve had our hands on it, we’ve discovered several little things – both good and bad – that it can and cannot do.
Here’s a round-up of the most unexpected things we discovered during our first few weeks with the Steam Deck. Please take note of time of publish, as we’ve discovered the Steam Deck is constantly evolving and some of these may change in the future (wanna know how it’s evolving? Check out our review-in-progress).
You Can Use OBS and Livestream From It
With only a dongle that allows USB input, you can actually install OBS and plug in all of your streaming equipment to start streaming. While this method might result in a chuggier stream, it was one of the cooler features we did not expect to be this functional.
You Can Use It as a Work PC
Even though Windows did not have any graphic drivers available the entire duration of our early access, it does come with a built-in Steam version of Linux. And the desktop Linux environment is similar to Windows. Once you figure out how to install things, you can simply install Chrome, or keep on using the pre-installed firefox for all your online needs.
Now that most of us use slack, google docs, and other browser-based applications, it’s not that much of a stretch to use your steam deck in a pinch. Hey, I even wrote the script for this video on my steam deck!
A Lot of Games That Should Work… Do Not
Some of the more popular games that include anti-cheat will not work with Steam Deck. So that means optimized games like Destiny 2 or the insanely popular Lost Ark did not run on our machines at the time of launch. But neither did Apex Legends and now people are playing it on Steam Deck, so it’s probably just a matter of time. Except for maybe Destiny 2.
It’s Actually Not That Hard to Modify
Valve has been pretty forthcoming with modification options, going so far as to put out a cad file for the shell of the machine. What we did not expect was just how easy it is to take off the back and make changes.
Sure, it always looks easy when a pro does it, but taking off that backplate and poking around is as simple as removing a few screws. (If you’re a newbie taking apart their first machine, we still recommend using an online tutorial!).
You Can Dual-Boot Windows and Linux (But not SteamOS)
Kind of odd, but you can use a boot manager to install Windows on one partition and Linux on another. BUT… the only downside is that SteamOS can not be one of them: SteamOS requires the entire disk to run, and itself has eight (!) Partitions.
But if you wanted to use desktop or Big Picture Steam in Ubuntu (or Mint, or any other Linux distro), and have what’s actually a pretty quick (if a little underpowered) Windows machine, you can achieve your dreams using the boot manager of your choice. Just remember, though: if you do reinstall SteamOS, you’ll have to format the entire drive.
You Can Make It a Portable Media Center
Since SteamOS is based on Linux (Arch Linux, to be exact), you can install anything with Linux compatibility. That means video players like VLC are just a download away, allowing you to load up movies and shows on the hard drive, or a microSD card for on-the-go entertainment.
There’s even a Linux version of Spotify, so as long as you have a hotspot to connect to, you can stream music and podcasts as you would from any other portable device.
Steam Deck Images
You Can Become An Elite Hacker With It
If you have any knowledge of Linux, the Steam Deck is a wide open platform for you to do as you please. Just add yourself as a super-user and delve deep into the depths of Linux through its command line in Desktop mode. You can even load up programs like Wireshark to monitor your network traffic, or impress your friends with your studio skills.
Just remember it’s based on Arch Linux now, so you’ll need to become familiar with the Pacman package manager. Does any of this make sense to you? If so, the world is your portable oyster now. You could even install an open-source emulator for systems like the C64 or MS-DOS and live out your 1980s cyberpunk dreams.
These are the most unexpected things we discovered that you can and cannot do with the Steam Deck. What has surprised you about Valve’s portable handheld? Let us know in the comments.
For more, check out Valve’s promising response to early stick drift issues, why there is hope for Xbox Game Pass on Steam Deck, and what Valve is doing to optimize Elden Ring for the handheld gaming PC.