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Watch the first Steam Deck hardware reviews — nearly two hours of impressions

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Valve will finally start selling the $400 Steam Deck gaming handheld on February 25th, after a two-month delay — but you won’t have to wait another minute to see hardware in reviewers’ hands. GamersNexus, Linus Tech Tips, and The Phawx have now published extensive impressions to YouTube with the final version of the Steam Deck, giving us their thoughts on ergonomics, performance, battery life, and more.

While you shouldn’t take these as final Steam Deck reviews — Valve only let them test specific games, and they had to stay away from the underlying OS — I’m pretty sure you’ll get useful info from each of them if you’re on the fence.

For instance, none of them are seeing quite the battery life that Valve’s been promising, which is kind of key for a portable, no? Both GamersNexus and The Phawx were able to drain it dry in just 1.5 hours playing Devil May Cry 5 and Control, respectively, on higher settings without VSync, and neither of them was able to reach Valve’s suggested eight hours of light play / remote play no matter what they did.

A few other assorted battery life tests:

  • 2 hours of Devil May Cry 5 at high settings with VSync (GamersNexus)
  • 3 hours of VLC 4K 60fps playback at 50 percent brightness (GamersNexus)
  • 6 hours of Dead Cells at 50 percent brightness (The Phawx, GamersNexus)
  • 6 hours of Steam Link streaming at 50 percent brightness (GamersNexus)
  • 5 hours and 40 minutes of Portal 2 capped to 30fps (The Phawx)
  • 4 hours of Forza 5 capped to 30fps (The Phawx)
  • 3 hours and 21 minutes of Ghostrunner capped to 30fps (LTT)

In general, The Phawx says “it’s pretty easy to get four hours” with the Steam Deck, but only if you’re running games at 30Hz, half the screen’s refresh rate. I might be OK with that in a bunch of titles, but a racing game like Forza? Ehhh. Valve is still working on possible power-saving techniques, however.

The flip side of battery life is performance, though, and there, everyone seems just as impressed as I was in my original hands-on. So far, the Steam Deck seems to totally outrun other recent portable PCs like the latest Aya Neo and the GPD Win 3, and you don’t have to take anyone’s word for that: The Phawx includes 10 straight minutes of side-by-side footage with full performance stats so you can see for yourself.

For ergonomics and other creature comforts, I’d suggest taking a look at the Linus Tech Tips video, where he praises the joysticks, speakers, and screen (including an array of brightness modes, including a nice dim one for night) but pans the rumble. “At the moment, haptics on this device are a poo stain on an otherwise crisp white sheet,” he says.

Intriguingly, The Phawx says the Steam Deck gives you quite a bit of leeway to tweak the Aerith chip’s settings, including parking some of the CPU cores if you want — and that by disabling two cores, he was able to see a 20 percent performance boost in an early scene in Control. Tweaking to get the most out of a handheld PC isn’t unusual, and you shouldn’t need to with the Deck, but it’ll be interesting to see if the community figures out some best practices.

Does all this leave you wondering when The Verge will weigh in? Well, I have one right here right now, and I’ll be bringing you a full review. Hit me up @starfire2258 on Twitter with any questions you’d like answered, and we’ll see how many we can accommodate!

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