With only two handheld consoles making a name in the video gaming community, it makes sense that the new Steam Deck would be compared to its longer-lived rival, the Nintendo Switch. So when a recent announcement revealed that the Steam Deck would not have the same docked functionality as the Nintendo Switch, video gamers’ ears were perked.
In an interview with PC Gamer on August 8th, 2021, Steam Deck designer Greg Coomer explained that Valve chose to prioritize the handheld aspect of the console rather than the distinction between its docked and undocked modes.
“Yes, but we didn’t choose to make [a higher power mode when docked] a really high priority design target… we felt that it was actually better all things considered to not modify based on docked status or mobile status.”
As Coomer explained, Valve chose a simpler design in hopes of improving the overall performance of the Steam Deck rather than its particular performance in any given mode. Coomer described the issue as a matter of prioritization, and since Valve plans for the console to be used primarily undocked, they chose to focus on overall quality and then hone in on other important aspects of the console.
“We really wanted to prioritize for using it in what we thought would be the highest use case, which is actually mobile… And so since we were focusing on that, and we chose like a threshold where the machine will run well, and with a good frame rate with AAA games in that scenario. We didn’t really feel like we should target also going after the dock scenario at higher resolutions. We wanted a simpler design target and to prioritize that.”
This more evenly distributed approach does bring exciting news to those who plan to use the Steam Deck in its handheld mode but may leave others skeptical about the Steam Deck’s performance when docked.
In the past, Valve designer Pierre-Loup Griffais explained that 30 fps would be the minimum level of quality for games running on the Steam Deck. However, this 30 fps is applicable to the Steam Deck’s baseline 800p resolution, meaning this level of quality may not be easily transferable to a higher-quality screen once the Steam Deck is docked.
This contrasts with the Nintendo Switch, which does have an improved graphics quality while it is docked. While this is only one of many differences between the two consoles, it’s a difference that has caught the attention of many gamers and brings anticipation around how the Steam Deck will play once it is released.
With new updates still circulating on this upcoming console, fans will be sure to pay attention to announcements and changes being made to the device. So stay tuned for more news about the soon-to-arrive Steam Deck. And, if you’d like to get your hands on one of these new consoles, they are available for pre-order now on the Steam Deck’s website and will be released in December 2021.