Steam Deck 2.0 could focus on battery life instead of better performance

No word on whether the next Steam Deck will help protect the wood on your deck.
Enlarge / No word on whether the next Steam Deck will help protect the wood on your deck.

Sam Machkovech

With Valve’s Steam Deck now technically available for about 10 months (and generally available for about two months), customers are increasingly wondering what Valve have in store for an inevitable “version 2.0” of the handheld PC gaming portable could. While some gamers are looking for a more powerful “Steam Deck Pro,” hardware designers Lawrence Yang and Pierre-Loup Griffais say battery life and screen quality are the more likely “pain points” they want to address in a new release.

This news comes from an extensive interview with The Verge, in which the two Valve designers hinted that there might be value in keeping the same basic spec target for future hardware. “Right now, the fact that all Steam decks can play the same games, and that we have a goal in mind, is for users to understand what kind of performance levels they can expect while playing, and for developers to understand what to aim for – there’s a lot of value in having that one spec,” Griffais told The Verge.

“I think we will choose to keep one level of performance for a little longer and only change the level of performance if there is a significant gain to be made,” added Griffais.

Right now, it’s hard to argue that putting more powerful processors in a new Steam deck would result in a “significant win” for users. As it stands, there are well over 6,000 Steam titles that have been listed as “verified” or “playable” on Steam Deck, meaning they have little to no trouble using the system’s 1200×800 resolution achieve at least 30 fps. It’s not just verifying legacy titles either; many recent AAA releases like elden ring, Spider-Man: Remasteredand Death Stranding: Director’s Cut have been fully deck verified.

Of course, a higher quality Steam Deck Pro might be able to squeeze a slightly higher resolution or frame rate out of some of these games. But as long as there is a critical mass of games in playable form on the hardware, Valve seems less interested in boosting performance and more interested in increasing battery life. We also wouldn’t mind if keeping the specs meant a new Steam deck could be thinner and/or lighter than the current bulky version, but that’s just wishful thinking on our part.

Updates past, present and future

Elsewhere in the Verge interview, Valve designers revealed somewhat covert internal changes they’ve made to recently manufactured Steam deck units. This includes a change to the adhesive that holds the battery in place, which should make it easier to remove and replace, addressing an issue identified by iFixit’s teardown specialists.

A whine fan from Delta Electronics in some earlier Steam Deck units has also been replaced in newer units with one with thicker foam padding that you can purchase and install yourself if you have the noisy version. The latest Steam deck units also improve the feel of the squishy Steam and quick access buttons that sit next to the screen, the designers said.

Valve has tentative plans to also introduce additional Steam Deck features via software updates in the coming months. These include the ability to select a new Bluetooth profile/codec to reduce wireless audio lag and use Bluetooth mics to get started. Steam Deck users may soon be able to share performance profiles as well, much like they are currently able to share custom control profiles for specific games to maximize battery life and performance through crowdsourcing.

However, the Steam Deck’s “trippy” dynamic cloud sync feature – which allows you to resume a game elsewhere as soon as you hibernate the Steam Deck – will still be up to individual developers to implement. There are no plans to require such support as part of Valve’s Deck Verified program, the designers said.

However, the most interesting teaser from the interview concerned the possibility that Valve might revive the defunct Steam Machines line. That could mean new third-party mini PCs designed to connect to a TV, now running Steam Deck’s new and improved version of SteamOS. While Steam Machines’ original efforts failed for a number of reasons, they may well be more successful these days if they incorporate the vastly improved game compatibility and feature set that have proven so successful on Steam Deck.

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