Valve’s Steam Deck is still a couple of weeks away from reservations starting to ship out, and while the two-month delay from December to February left some reservation holders disappointed, early impressions reviews posted by some of the most influential YouTube personalities signal that the delay may have been worth it.
There are only a handful of reviews up right now and most are video reviews. While many are sure to follow, the three reviews featured on YouTube right now include Gamers Nexus, Linus Tech Tips, and The Phawx. Right up top, these “reviews” aren’t quite full reviews—Valve did not let these reviewers talk about certain games or certain elements of the software, including the user interface. This tracks since Valve is still tweaking the Steam Deck to stretch battery life and will likely make other updates before launch.
Valve loaded the Steam Deck with a 40Whr battery that is said to net between two to eight hours of gameplay. But all three reviewers are less than impressed with the battery life, with Gamers Nexus making a crucial distinction between how Valve tests gameplay battery life and how they tested it: Gamers Nexus used active input. Using active input on Devil May Cry 5 with Vsync disabled at higher settings, Gamers Nexus netted just 87 minutes on the Steam Deck, which is clearly lower than the two-hour minimum listed on Valve’s site. Settings and limiting frames will help stretch battery life in any case, though.
Battery life only really comes through in a big way on Dead Cells since it easily provides six hours of battery, according to Gamers Nexus and The Phawx. Still, six hours is short of Valve’s maximum battery life claim. It seems nobody can hit that eight-hour mark.
Looking at performance, things got a bit more interesting. Where some games shined others fell a little short of expectations. While Control was able to reach 36fps on medium settings with a low of 30fps while still looking great, Gamers Nexus noted they would likely turn down certain settings further if they were running a full playthrough.
Forza Horizon 5 is where Gamers Nexus posted underwhelming results, with the game hitting a low of 24.9fps on high. Turning settings down yielded better much better results for Gamers Nexus. Linus Tech Tips reported better frames but a jarring experience in Forza Horizon 5 that looked smooth despite feeling like there was some rubber banding going on.
In terms of control, Linus Tech Tips pointed out that those with slightly smaller hands might have issues reaching every button on the controller. Besides that, the veteran creator had nothing but praise for the controller, going so far as to say it’s on par with console controllers, which is high praise.
The main takeaway for us is that your settings will greatly alter your experience. Given that the Steam Deck is a PC, settings were always going to be key, just like they are on a desktop or laptop. The only big surprise here is how none of the Valve-approved games were able to hit the eight-hour maximum battery life. Still, there’s time for things to change since these are only early reviews.
Valve’s Steam Deck launches on Feb. 25 for first-round reservation holders. Those who have yet to order one can still catch the next batch that ships Q2 2022.