The First Steam Deck Reviews Are Making Us Believers

The earliest Steam Deck reviews are in, giving interested consumers their first hands-on look at Valve's upcoming portable gaming console. Though none of the early reviews offer a comprehensive look at the complete product, they do cover the Steam Deck's hardware, including benchmarks, offering gamers an idea of what they can expect when the product launches later this month.

Three different YouTube channels have published their Steam Deck hardware reviews, and though they dig into the benchmarks and components, none of them include a look at the console's software. That, according to reviewer Gamers Nexus, is because Valve needs a couple of weeks to finish polishing the software before the public gets a look.

Though Valve isn't allowing the early reviewers to show off the console's user interface, we do get a look at some games playing on the Steam Deck, not to mention thorough evaluations of the console's performance, battery life, and other key hardware details.

There are some key points that stand out in the reviews, including a teaser from "The Phawx" noting the Steam Deck has more features the reviewers weren't allowed to reveal at this time. That's not surprising, as the Steam Deck won't launch until February 25, 2022 and there's still a chance some plans may change between now and when consumers get their hands on the console.

All three reviewers had favorable comments about the Steam Deck's controls, including the joysticks, with Linus Tech Tips calling the console's overall design "thoughtful." Various games are featured in the reviews, including Street Fighter V and Devil May Cry V, running at various settings ranging from low to max.

The Steam Deck includes a MicroSD slot for expanded storage and, the reviews reveal, loading games from the card results in a slight, but overall very minor, delay compared to loading games from the console's SSD. Battery life was perhaps the most notable critical aspect of the reviews, and the results are mixed.

Based on these early reviews, it looks like Valve's eight-hour battery life claims are...optimistic, to put it mildly. "The Phawx" wasn't able to hit that longevity during battery testing, with the reviewer noting, "I never managed to get up to eight hours." In that review, the "worst-case scenario" regarding battery life was around 90 minutes of runtime, though that may change by the time the console arrives for consumers.

Running the console at 90 fps, turning off VSync, and similar decisions can result in "terrible" battery life, but adjusting settings for times when one is playing away from an outlet can boost the runtime by a number of hours.

Ultimately, all three reviewers were very enthusiastic about the Steam Deck and describe the console as a great way to play your favorite PC games in a highly portable form factor. These are early reviews, which means future evaluations will offer more details and likely better insight into whether the device is worth it for diehard gamers.

Valve previously noted that its review embargo will lift on February 25, 2022, at which time consumers can expect to get an in-depth look at the Steam Deck's UI and any other features currently being kept under wraps. Customers who reserved units will start receiving them as early as February 28, 2022.