Steam Deck and SteamOS 3.0: new information on technical features and operating system

Steam Deck and SteamOS 3.0: new information on technical features and operating system

Steam Deck and SteamOS 3.0

Already a pre-order success, Steam Deck undoubtedly has more appeal than the countless experiments that have already tried to combine the physical and tactile experience of Nintendo Switch with the huge library and great freedom of use of a PC. In the specific case of Valve's new machine, the controls are in fact those of a portable console and the recommended operating system is Valve, based on Linux, while the hardware is custom, with the aim of optimizing the experience, without for this put no limit on the user.

All things known, but which have been enriched with details with the SteamWorks Virtual Confererence a few days ago, dedicated to developers interested in the Valve machine. During the event, we talked about technical characteristics, market strategies, functionality of the SteamOS 3.0 operating system and even colors, in a 5-hour marathon that expanded the picture of everything we know about Steam Deck.

Hardware features

Steam Deck features Let's start with the SoC Aerith which, as noted in the dedicated news, is inspired by one of the most iconic characters of Final Fantasy VII. At the heart of it is a 4-core AMD Zen 2 CPU with 448 GFLOPs of FP32 power and was developed from scratch by the Sunnyvale company together with Valve, to aim for the highest possible efficiency. The brake at frequencies, limited between 2.4 GHz and 3.5 GHz, is not designed so much for consumption as to ensure longevity to the hardware and constant performance. In fact, Valve has held back as little as possible, aiming to guarantee very high performance for a portable device.

First of all it mounted 16 GB of shared LPDDR5 RAM, overabundant for the 720p resolution but useful for guaranteeing a future for the console, and secondly it did not touch the power limit of the SoC, leaving the console to move between 4 W and 15 W. This is to ensure full exploitation of the hardware and avoid the side effects of brakes imposed from above such as those that intervene by detaching the Nintendo Switch from the docking station to use it in portable mode. There should therefore be no performance differences by disconnecting the console from the power supply. However, a universal framerate limiter will be made available in the future, at the level of the SteamOS operating system, in order to give the user an option to extend the battery life. Also, for the same reason, Valve has urged developers to implement options to lock the framerate directly into games so as to prevent games that are able to drain the machine's battery in an instant from being distributed.

Moving on to graphics, the GPU incorporated in the Aerith SoC has a maximum clock of 1.6 GHz and has 8 Compute Units with RDNA2 architecture, the same as the AMD Radeon RX 6000 cards, thus supporting DirectX 12 Ultimate, the Dynamic Rendering of the Vulkan API, thanks to a driver in processing right now, and the various AMD FidelityFX technologies. There will also be the FSR (FidelityFX Super Resolution), where obviously implemented, a feature that could be particularly interesting in portable mode, considering that the 7-inch screen should hide any deterioration in quality related to the spatial-type upscaling process. >
The GPU should still offer relevant performance, at least from a mobile point of view, even without help, thanks to an overall power in single precision calculations of about 1.6 TFLOP. The range is that of low-end video cards, but in this case between resolution, optimization and plenty of memory we are talking about running heavy titles around 30 FPS and lighter titles at 60 FPS.

Steam Deck docking station sports laptop PC connectivity We already know practically everything about storage, starting from the use of eMCC memory with PCIe 2.0 interface for the version with 64 GB of storage space, much more slow in transfer speed compared to the 256 and 512 GB versions that use PCIe 3.0 SSDs instead. In all cases, however, we are talking about M2 2230 units, perhaps replaceable even if Valve has hinted that this possibility will not be granted to the user, which suggests the lack of a quick access slot.

But by opening the Steam Deck it may be possible to expand the storage space without having to rely on the slower microSD. It must be said that the motherboard of the 64GB version of Steam Deck may be PCIe 2.0 bound, limiting the ability to use faster SSDs, but Valve has ensured that both eMMC memory and microSD cards do not castrate that much. transfer speed. The company spokespersons have in fact talked about slower loads of about 12.5 percentage points for games installed on eMMC, with a 25% increase in console startup time, and 18 percentage points for titles installed on microSD cards, of course. compared to the SSDs of the most performing versions.

During the event Valve also spoke about connectivity, confirming the presence of a USB-C 3.0 port with DisplayPort 1.4 that will allow you to simultaneously use two external screens with 4K resolution, at a maximum refresh of 60 Hz Next to this we will find a USB-A 3.1 port, 2 USB-A 2.0 ports, a DisplayPort 1.4, an HDMI 2.0 and an Ethernet port to complete a picture that makes Steam Deck practically in line with a mid-range laptop.

Valve has also confirmed that the USB 3.0 port supports 45W fast charging, can charge the 40 Watt battery while gaming, and is capable of powering mobile devices and peripherals as well, up to a maximum consumption 7.5 Watt.

SteamOS 3.0: all the news

The Steam Deck uploads will not change that much according to the different storage Confirmations and new hardware details have held up for good part of the Valve event, but there was room for divas rse other interesting information starting from the fact that the new SteamOS 3.0, reworked from scratch as a function of Steam Deck, will still be compatible with any PC and will be downloadable for free. The stand alone version of the Arch Linux-based operating system is able to run Windows games thanks to the Proton compatibility layer, but does not yet have an official release date even if it should arrive shortly after the launch of Steam Deck.

Still on the operating system, Valve engineers revealed some details of this new version, including the use of the KDR Plasma desktop environment, the adoption of the Wayland graphics server protocol more suitable for screens touch, the PipeWire sound server to improve the management of audio streams and the read-only root filesystem to increase security. We should therefore see an overall improvement, although much of this will happen behind the scenes.

As anticipated, Steam Deck aims to combine the openness of the PC world with the convenience of the console one, including the ability to suspend consoles and various games and then resume games without waiting due to uploads. We have already talked about this 4 months ago, as well as the possibility of pausing a game on the Valve console to resume from that point on your desktop PC, but during the event dedicated to developers we talked in detail about the changes to which it is. working with Gabe Newell's company to make these features possible. Behind the scenes, the company is changing the way Steam saves sync, moving from the current data upload to closing a game to a system, based on a new cloud library, capable of synchronizing saves in the background as soon as the game is put on hold.

The evolution of SteamOS 3.0 is functional to Steam Deck but will bring benefits to all Steam users. it is likely that it will also be usable with different Cloud Gaming services, obviously using a fixed or wi-fi connection, given the confirmation of the absence of versions with LTE cellular connectivity. Speaking of wireless, the console will support the Wi-Fi 5 standard at most, but according to Valve it is more than enough, in combination with the console's optimizations, to guarantee a first-class remote gaming experience.

The truth is inevitable, we will discover it only at launch and this is where the painful notes come. The launch date has slipped from December 2021 to February 2022, moving subsequent pre-orders further forward, which are now finished in the second quarter of next year. Furthermore, to give an extra disappointment to collectors, confirmation has arrived that the white model of the console inspired by Portal is a prototype and will not be put on the market, even if different colors cannot be completely excluded.

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