How to plug PC into “Switch”? Steam gives the optimal solution

An indisputable fact is that with the discontinuation of the Nintendo 3DS series, the traditional handheld console has basically come to an end.

Although Nintendo’s Switch handheld mode is also born to adapt to the mobile game scene, the subsequent Switch Lite is one step closer in portability, but the shape of the handheld is still there, and its distinct handheld game system has withered long ago.

The enthusiasm of mobile games has made the handheld lose its uniqueness of "palm game", and the ever-increasing performance of mobile phones has also made it unnecessary to carry a handheld to play games.

Small and beautiful handheld games such as "Legend of Zelda Shrink Cap", "Random Story", and "Kabi" have been "killed" by mobile games. If the handheld wants to re-conquer the player's palm, some experience must be made. Break through and keep a distance from the mobile phone-such as playing console games.

This is a beautiful idea, but in order to achieve it, manufacturers need to create a handheld with excellent hardware experience and provide a rich game platform for players to consume. Nintendo is the first manufacturer to have such a strong software and hardware coordination capability, and Valve is likely to be the next.

Build a game console, not a downsized PC

For experienced players, Valve is one of the most legendary players in the gaming industry.

Whether it's popular games such as the Half-Life series created by it, or Steam, which has grown into the largest gaming platform for PC, players are awed by this veteran gaming company founded in 1996.

In July of this year, Valve suddenly released a Steam Deck game handheld. The former handheld players expressed their expectations. They saw the spark of the revival of the handheld on the Steam Deck.

According to Valve, most of the games in the Steam store can be played on Steam Deck, which means that large games such as "Sekiro", "Horizon 5" and "GTA 5" can also be played by players like "Super Mario Kart 8" Hold it in the palm of your hand to play. The scene of playing the game changes, and the meaning of the game is naturally different.

Valve only announced the core hardware of the Steam Deck at the time, including the APU with Zen2+RDNA2 architecture, 16GB LDDR5 memory, and an LCD screen with a resolution of 1280×800.

At the recent developer conference held in Valve, we finally got to know some details of Steam Deck-it is a handheld gaming PC, but to move PC games to the palm of your hand, it is not just about making the hardware smaller.

The first is the CPU chip. Steam Deck uses a Zen2 architecture APU customized by AMD. Valve named it Aerith SOC. The name is probably inspired by the heroine Alice of Final Fantasy 7.

Aerith SOC has 4 cores and 8 threads, and TDP is controlled between 4W-15W. Valve stated that their debugging is aimed at stable operation, rather than squeezing the performance of this APU as much as possible. According to Valve's performance data, Aerith SOC needs to be slightly Weaker than Ryzen 3 Pro 4450U.

Steam Deck uses a unified memory architecture similar to MacBook, equipped with 16GB LDDR5 memory. Valve stated that even if the GPU memory is only 1GB, the GPU can still use 8GB of unified memory as the video memory.

The biggest advantage of Aerith SOC is that it has very good operational stability. Valve said at the conference that even if players continue to play for two hours, the performance will be the same as when they just started up, and there will be no big discounts due to heat, and no matter what Whether it is an external power supply or not, the performance of the Steam Deck will not be compromised.

Generally, for PC products such as gaming notebooks, the pursuit of ultimate mobile performance and operational stability is usually not the first consideration, but for a handheld, this is a must-test question.

After all, no one would be willing to play games with a hot "brick" on the subway, not to mention that the picture quality of the game will change due to GPU downscaling every two stations.

In order to reduce heat as much as possible and save power, Valve recommends that developers lock the game's running frame rate. For example, when playing "Portal 2", the Steam Deck's battery life is 4 hours without locking the frame, and if Lock the frame rate at 30fps, and the battery life can be extended by about 2 hours, which is a considerable improvement for a device that emphasizes mobile scenes.

In terms of scalability, Steam Deck supports 45W input and 7.5W output. It can be used with external mouse, keyboard and other peripherals, and can be used with two external 4K monitors, which can be extended to host use.

And if an external monitor is used, Steam Deck also supports AMD's FidelityFX super-resolution enhancement function, which can improve the edge details of the picture through algorithms, thereby bringing a high-quality experience that approximates the increase in resolution.

In addition, Steam Deck supports the Vulkan dynamic rendering function. Simply put, the picture quality of Steam Deck does not make much sacrifice because of the handheld mode, but as much as possible to match the desktop screen.

Unfortunately, Steam Deck does not support the Thunderbolt interface, nor does it support the more advanced Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E. Instead, it uses Wi-Fi 5. However, Valve said that Steam Deck still supports streaming to play PC games, and the power consumption through streaming is lower.

Hard disk configuration may be the biggest difference between different versions of Steam Deck. Steam Deck has 3 storage versions, 64GB (eMMC), 256GB (NVMe SSD) and 512GB (high-speed NVMe SSD).

For 3A masterpieces with hundreds of GB at every turn, this capacity is still stretched, so Steam Deck also supports Micro SD card expansion.

Under different storage media, the reading speed of the game is slightly different. According to the test data given by Valva, the download and storage speed of eMMC and SD card is about 12% and 18% slower than NVMe SSD, and the startup time is 25% slower. .

There is a price difference of nearly 2,000 yuan between the 64GB and 512GB versions. The choice between cost-effectiveness and a more extreme gaming experience is the first multiple choice question left by Valve for players.

Prior to this, Valve also released a very interesting video-teaching players how to disassemble Steam Deck. At the beginning of the video, Valve made it clear that the official does not recommend players to dismantle their own game consoles, but if players insist on dismantling, they have to provide a safe and correct tutorial.

In the film, Valve introduces how to replace the Steam Deck joystick and solid-state hard drive (conscience of heaven and earth), but replacing the hard drive by yourself may cause unknown consequences such as electromagnetic interference, which need to be borne by the player.

From the perspective of hardware level, Steam Deck with customized chips, unified memory, and AMD's special optimization has very good hardware qualities, but this does not mean that Steam Deck can become a qualified game console, as mentioned above That way, Valve needs to work harder on the software.

The game console must have the "look of a game console"

Will Steam Deck be the opponent of Nintendo Switch? This question may have been a false proposition from the beginning. Although both Steam Deck and Switch regard the palm as the main battlefield, the game categories and nature of the two do not overlap too much.

You can’t remove the handle on the side of the Steam Deck to play Mario Tennis with your girlfriend, and you can’t use the Switch to play IGN’s “Death Loop” with full marks. Therefore, having Steam Deck and Switch at the same time does not conflict, and Steam Deck is the real opponent , It should still be a mobile phone.

Steam Deck needs to give players a reason to be willing to pick up a heavy one on a lazy couch in a crowded subway instead of a lightweight mobile phone. Prior to this, its predecessor, Switch, has already handed in a good answer-an Always-On gaming experience.

What impressed me the most about the Switch is not to split the handle to achieve the flexible transformation of the three forms, nor is it the first-party masterpieces such as Mario and The Legend of Zelda, but the player can press the power button to start or pause the game at any time. There is no need to wait for a long switch machine process.

This "play and play" experience greatly reduces the psychological burden on players for heavy games. On the other hand, it also lowers the threshold for playing games. Compared with the experience of turning on the PC, logging in to an account, and waiting for a long time, the game console’s The experience is obviously better.

Therefore, Valve believes that Steam Deck should also be such a device. This is also the biggest difference between Steam Deck and a handheld PC: it is not a PC born for games, but a purer game console.

For this reason, the Steam Deck development team developed SteamOS 3.0 based on Linux, instead of using the common Windows system (of course you can also flash it in). The UI of the Steam software is optimized for the Steam Deck screen and is more suitable for small screens. Operation in combination with the joystick button.

The most important thing is that Valve has developed a pause and resume mechanism similar to Switch. You can turn off the screen at any time when you are tired. When you have time to pick up the Steam Deck, you will continue the adventure from where you paused.

And Steam Deck also supports Steam's cloud save function. In theory, the player's progress on the desktop can be relayed on the handheld, allowing the game to be extended in life.

At this developer conference, Valve also showed a white Steam Deck prototype with a very interesting little detail behind it: Logo is the Aperture company in "Portal"! However, it is a pity that Valve said that the white version has no plans to go on sale yet.

According to the Steam user report released by Valve, Steam's monthly active users have reached 120.4 million, and the average daily active users are close to 20 million. The current PC game market is quite large, so Valve is also optimistic about the prospects of Steam Deck.

The Steam platform already has a fairly mature production, sales and community system. All Valve needs to do is to move these authentically to the players' hands.

So the question is, how long will it take to play "Metro 2033" in the subway? Valve gave bad news at the conference: Due to a shortage of chips, Steam Deck will be shipped in February 2022 (2 months later).

Stop talking nonsense.

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