Now that Valve’s Steam Deck has been technically available for about 10 months (and widely available for about two months), customers are increasingly wondering what Valve might have in store for an inevitable “version 2.0” of the handy PC gaming carrier. While some gamers may be looking for a more powerful “Steam Deck Pro,” hardware designers Lawrence Yang and Pierre-Loup Griffais say battery life and display quality are the more likely “pain points” they want to address in a new version.
That news comes from a wide-ranging interview with The Verge, in which the pair of Valve designers hinted that it might be valuable to keep the same basic spec target for future hardware. “Right now, the fact that all Steam decks can play the same games and that we have one goal for users to understand what kind of performance level they can expect when playing and for developers to understand what to target – that’s a lot of value in having that one spec,” Griffais told The Verge.
“I think we will choose to keep one performance level a little longer and only look at changing the performance level when there is a significant gain to be had,” Griffais added.
Right now, it’s hard to argue that putting more powerful processors in a new Steam Deck will lead to a “significant gain” for users. As it stands, there are well over 6,000 Steam titles that have been listed as “Verified” or “Playable” on the Steam Deck, meaning they have little or no trouble hitting the system’s 1200×800 resolution with a minimum of 30 fps. It’s not just older titles that are being verified, either; many recent AAA releases such as Fire Ring, Spider-Man: Remasteredand Death Stranding: Director’s Cut has been fully tire verified.
A higher-end “Steam Deck Pro” might be able to squeeze a slightly higher resolution or frame rate out of some of these games, of course. But as long as a critical mass of games are in playable form on the hardware, Valve seems less interested in increasing performance and more interested in increasing battery life. We also wouldn’t mind if keeping the specs consistent meant a new Steam Deck could be thinner and/or lighter than the current bulky version, but that’s just wishful thinking on our part.
Updates past, present and future
Elsewhere in the Verge interview, Valve designers revealed some sneaky internal changes they’ve made to recently produced Steam Deck units. It includes a change to the adhesive that holds the battery in place that should make it easier to remove and replace, improving an issue identified by teardown specialists at iFixit.
A whiny Delta Electronics fan in some earlier Steam Deck units has also been replaced in newer units with one with thicker foam padding, which you can buy and install yourself if you have the noisy version. The latest Steam Deck units also improve the feel of the soft Steam and Quick Access buttons that sit next to the screen, the designers said.
Valve has tentative plans to roll out more Steam Deck features via software updates in the coming months as well. These include the ability to select a new Bluetooth profile/codec to reduce wireless audio delay and use Bluetooth microphones, for starters. Steam Deck users may also soon be able to share power profiles, much like they can currently share custom control profiles for specific games, to help maximize battery life and performance through crowdsourcing.
The Steam Deck’s “trippy” dynamic cloud sync feature – which lets you pick up a game elsewhere as soon as you put the Steam Deck to sleep – will still be up to individual developers to implement. There are no plans to require such support as part of Valve’s Deck Verified program, the designers said.
The interview’s most interesting tease, however, concerned the possibility of Valve reviving the defunct Steam Machines line. That could mean new third-party mini PCs designed to connect to a TV, now running Steam Deck’s new and improved version of SteamOS. While the original Steam Machines effort failed for a number of reasons, they may well be more successful these days if they incorporate the vastly improved game compatibility and feature set that has proven so successful on the Steam Deck.