News hardware For all its flaws, the Steam Deck is the best portable console I’ve ever had
Until 2022, Nintendo was considered the only true handheld console specialist. It’s completely true and it still remains so, all the Sonys on Earth can’t do anything about it. But a few months ago, a new challenger landed with a heavy, bulky product, with low battery life… and yet brilliant. Yes, Valve, I’m talking to you: with the Steam Deck, you managed to offer me the ideal portable console.
Before unfolding arguments that I know to be unstoppable, although totally 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, 3dfx’s, Doom’s and Baldur’s Gates in my living room or in my bedroom. However, I’ve always had a big 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. On this point, I readily admit: Nintendo is unbeatable.
But I had never had, until now, a mobile machine which manages to make the link between the PC world and the console world. Still, 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 PC, I preferred to wait for its port on the Nintendo laptop, even if it meant waiting a while… But all that is over since that I now have a Steam Deck.
The Steam Deck is the do-it-all console
We come 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: for that, I invite you to read
the complete test published last February. Just know that Valve’s follow-up is exemplary and that many things are improving with updates. Fan noise, for example, has been much quieter since a recent lifesaving patch, and you no longer feel like a Boeing is taking off in your living room when you fire up an AAA.
No, here we are going to talk about uses and, above all, the use I have of the Steam Deck. At first glance, and this is how Valve presents it, the Steam Deck is made for playing the latest PC hits in good conditions. And the promise is generally kept: yes, it’s great to see it running so well
Final Fantasy VII Remake
, to continue his game of Elden Ring in the subway or to find Lady Dimitrescu of Resident Evil Village on a 7 inch screen. It’s great and at the same time it’s not really why I like the Steam Deck so much. These games, I prefer to do them on my comfortable 34-inch ultrawide screen (even if Elden Ring remains stuck in 16:9… but that’s another story), in order to take full view.
For me, the interest of the Steam Deck can be summed up in 4 words: Backlog, indie games and emulations. We will therefore proceed point by point.
The portable console of boomers?
Let’s remember here what is called the backlog on PC: these are all those games that you accumulate during various sales and that you have never had time to launch, or so little. Well for me the Steam Deck is the perfect excuse to discover or rediscover these titles which date a little, but not too much : I thus recently made The Stanley Parable for good (in its ultra deluxe version), I relaunched Skyrim, Deus Ex Human Revolution and Fallout New Vegas, with the pleasant surprise of discovering an impeccable compatibility, even though the label “perfect for the Steam Deck” was not affixed. Titles 3 or 4 years old are thus for the most part perfectly playable, in versions that are much more accomplished than its laborious Switch ports (hello The Witcher 3 and Doom Eternal)… and I don’t have to buy them back. Throughout the explorations of my Steam backlog, I was very pleasantly surprised by the number of compatible games, even in an unofficial way.
Regarding indie games, no need to draw you a picture, I already talked about it a little higher when I mentioned the 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 to a portable console. So you won’t be surprised that I’ve recently been enchanted by Rogue Legacy 2 or Souldiers and don’t have to pick them up on Switch (knowing that the former just isn’t available there).
Finally, for the emulation, I am aware that we arrive here in a “grey” zone and do not count on me to give you addresses and tutorials. But be aware that there is an ultra-active community, which creates particularly effective “front ends”, like Recalbox on PC (to cite only the best-known example). Turnkey solutions that seamlessly integrate with Steam OS and allow the Steam Deck to become the ultimate portable console for replaying 8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit, and even 64-bit games. Seeing Silent Hill 2 alongside Wind Waker and Streets of Rage 2, on the same interface, is something, believe me.
A “V1” perfectible, but terribly endearing
I am aware that my player profile is a bit special: I like to replay old titles, I like to peck in my catalog, I am nostalgic… But I like to believe that I am not the only one . That’s why the Steam Deck is my primary gaming machine right now.. The possibilities are so vast, 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 the Epic Game Store, the possibilities – already immense – will be increased tenfold.
However, do I recommend buying a Steam Deck now knowing that, in any case, you have several months to wait to get it? ? It is difficult to answer this question categorically. Like any first-generation product, this Steam Deck is largely perfectible: bulky, with an average screen, limited battery life… There’s no doubt that V2 will be much better. But for the moment, this V2 simply does not exist, even if rumors start to run. All I know is that right now the Steam Deck gives me immense satisfaction.