For Linux Enthusiasts Especially, The Steam Deck Is An Incredible & Fun Device
For starting out at $399 USD, the Steam Deck hardware is incredible for the price. It's amazing in these times they are still able to offer the base model at $399 with the competitive AMD custom APU, specs, and the build quality of the device itself. There isn't a comparable device for the price that is a computer / open platform. Granted, that base model is with just 64GB of eMMC storage and users will be better off with the $529 USD model having a 256GB NVMe SSD or the flagship $649 model with 512GB NVMe storage. If going for a lower-end model initially, the M.2 2230 storage can be upgraded plus there is the microSD/SDXC/SDHC slot too.
Given that the Steam Deck is already a quarter past its original shipping plans for end of 2021, it's a bit unfortunate that the SteamOS 3.0 / Steam software stack isn't a bit more well optimized yet - particularly with the very significant changes still being made over the past two weeks leading up to launch - and thus the bit shorter article as of today paired with Valve's staggered embargo handling. Over the past week or two the SteamOS experience has evolved into more robust shape and is now certainly good enough for early adopters and those eager for this handheld Steam gaming device and willing to workaround/ignore early blemishes while remaining items get ironed out and further optimizations achieved.
Even if you don't count yourself as a gamer (myself included) but just a Linux enthusiast, the Steam Deck is a great device thanks its openness and being able to easily have a KDE Plasma based desktop or otherwise adapting SteamOS 3.0 with Flatpaks or Arch's Pacman for your own customizations. Or even loading up your own Linux distribution on the device for an interesting Linux portable handheld. This level of openness with the Steam Deck is incredible and much better than the Nintendo Switch and other handheld game consoles. New possibilities for Linux on the Steam Deck should open up as the platform driver lands and other upstream improvements to enhance the experience of running your own custom OS on the handheld device.
In covering Linux gaming over the past 18 years and Linux hardware at large, the Steam Deck is a truly incredible and game-changing device. It's been working out well, Valve continues with their upstream contributions to Mesa and other open-source components to benefit the entire Linux ecosystem, their work on Proton and DXVK have dramatically opened up the potential of gaming on Linux, and the Steam Deck is the culmination of all their exciting work over the past several years. Stay tuned for additional Phoronix articles looking more at the Linux performance and different software customizations/distributions over the weeks ahead and thanks again to Valve for providing the review unit for Phoronix testing and benchmarking.
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