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Valve announces the Steam Deck gaming handheld


jaxa
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https://www.theverge.com/2021/7/15/22578783/valve-steam-deck-gaming-handheld-pc

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Valve just announced the Steam Deck, its long-rumored Switch-like handheld gaming device. It will begin shipping in December and reservations open July 16th at 1PM ET. It starts at $399, and you can buy it in $529 and $649 models as well.

The device has an AMD APU containing a quad-core Zen 2 CPU with eight threads and eight compute units’ worth of AMD RDNA 2 graphics, alongside 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM. There are three different storage tiers: 64GB eMMC storage for $399, 256GB NVMe SSD storage for $529, and 512GB of high-speed NVME SSD storage for $649, according to Valve. You can also expand the available storage using the high-speed microSD card slot.

 

It's about time to play TDM on a 720p handheld Linux PC.

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It's worth nothing that you'll be able to put Windows on it if that's your thing. If the marketing is to be believed it's a full-blown PC with all the flexibility it affords. In some ways I consider that more interesting than the gaming aspect.

A word of warning, Agent Denton. This was a simulated experience; real LAMs will not be so forgiving.

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13 hours ago, Xolvix said:

It's worth nothing that you'll be able to put Windows on it if that's your thing. If the marketing is to be believed it's a full-blown PC with all the flexibility it affords. In some ways I consider that more interesting than the gaming aspect.

It compares well in price/perf to anything that isn't a desktop, probably better graphics than low-end desktops, and could be used as a mini PC with a dock.

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2 hours ago, roygato said:

I was always annoyed that I had to stop playing when going to the toilet. No more.

Other than that, seems like a curious alternative to a laptop, especially if playing games is of importance.

You can dock it to a monitor or TV and connect a keyboard and mouse.

As far as I can tell, the graphics performance of the Steam Deck should be better (when docked or plugged in, running the graphics at 1.6 GHz) than any laptop with integrated graphics, and they typically inhabit a similar $400 to $600 price range. It's 8 RDNA 2 compute units vs. 6/7/8 Vega at moderately higher clock speeds, or the equivalent Intel Tiger Lake APUs with 80/96 EU Xe graphics.  It won't beat laptops with discrete graphics cards but those are more expensive and could be less portable.

A Ryzen 5 4500U (6 Vega) or Ryzen 5 5500U (7 Vega) laptop costs about $450 to $500.

How well the controls work is an open question, and probably depends on what controls you're used to. So preordering it without ever touching it could lead to disappointment.

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Yes, gaming laptops are both ridiculously expensive, and incredibly bulky.

The ergonomics are definitely important, don't think Deck really compares easily to anything else, what with the double touchpad/trigger setup.

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It definitely seems like a neat device.  I personally have no interest in actually using something like it so I see no reason to get it.  However there are two things that stick out to me:

 

(1) If I were a kid this would be a the perfect on-ramp to PC gaming.  It's cheap (a decent GPU costs more than this) and has everything you need integrated (screen, battery, IO)--imagine if in the 90s you could get a fully capable PC for just $225 ($400 adjusted for inflation).  It's powerful enough to play the latest games and FSR will extend its life span.  It's simple/streamlined through SteamOS but you can hack around with it as you can any PC.  You can upgrade the storage and bring it to a friend's house (which the kids love I guess--mobility doesn't matter to me).

And when you're ready to take off the training wheels, you can connect a mouse, keyboard, and external monitor.  And then longer term you'll be primed to buy a desktop PC.  I see a lot of Valve enthusiasts lining up with reservations to buy this thing "just because it's a cool device" but I hope Valve goes out of their way to market this to kids--that's where this could be really successful (I'm thinking a lot of these existing Steam users won't actually use it much because ... why not just use your PC?)

 

(2) This will hopefully warm AMD up to the idea of making cheap PC gaming SoCs.  Consoles are cheap not just due to subsidization but also due to the efficiencies that come with the tight integration of mass produced SoCs.  And most PC gamers don't even upgrade their PCs--they just buy a whole new system all at once, so the direct benefits of modularity and specialization are lost on them.  So if Valve could convince AMD to make SoCs with performance in line with the major consoles (that's the target games are designed around anyway), that could go a long way toward making decent PC gaming systems cheaper.  Right now just a decent GPU costs as much as a modern console.  From what Gabe has stated, they're probably even subsidizing this thing--which helps justify their 30% take if this is the direction they're going.

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56 minutes ago, woah said:

Right now just a decent GPU costs as much as a modern console.

Right now most GPUs are practically impossible to get hold of. There seems to be some global supply shortage. Amazon are currently listing an RX 550 (which I wouldn't use for anything more than web browsing and video playback) for over £220, which is more than I paid for my nearly-top-of-the-range R9 290 several years ago, and almost as much as 5600 XTs were selling for a few years ago.

I haven't seen anything available in the mid-range affordable price bracket since the beginning of Covid. It's either ridiculously inflated bottom-dollar GPUs or the totally unaffordable super high-end.

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7 hours ago, woah said:

(2) This will hopefully warm AMD up to the idea of making cheap PC gaming SoCs.  Consoles are cheap not just due to subsidization but also due to the efficiencies that come with the tight integration of mass produced SoCs.  And most PC gamers don't even upgrade their PCs--they just buy a whole new system all at once, so the direct benefits of modularity and specialization are lost on them.  So if Valve could convince AMD to make SoCs with performance in line with the major consoles (that's the target games are designed around anyway), that could go a long way toward making decent PC gaming systems cheaper.  Right now just a decent GPU costs as much as a modern console.  From what Gabe has stated, they're probably even subsidizing this thing--which helps justify their 30% take if this is the direction they're going.

AMD is probably wary of making a "super APU" outside of what they sell to the console manufacturers, for various reasons.

The high-end desktop APUs we do see are just the TDP-up-up versions of the laptop APUs. The 65W TDP Ryzen 7 5700G probably uses the less efficient dies that would otherwise become the Ryzen 7 5800H or Ryzen 7 5800U in laptops. AMD relaxes the TDP limit, boosts the clocks, and OEMs can add it in cheap desktops with lower quality cooling, lower-wattage power supply, and no discrete GPU. 

If you look at next year's "Rembrandt" successor to the 8-core 5700G, it will probably have 75-100% more graphics performance due to an increase to 12 RDNA 2 CUs, instead of 8 RDNA 2 CUs in the Steam Deck or 8 Vega CUs in the 5700G. It will deliver decent 1080p gaming performance. According to Steam, 84.75% of players are at a display resolution of 1920x1080 or lower. Forget 4K gaming, even 1440p is irrelevant at the moment. It will be sold in complete OEM systems for around $600. Add another $100 for a cheap monitor or TV, and maybe $50 for peripherals. So a $750 gaming setup. A 6-core version could be cheaper.

A Rembrandt desktop APU should actually be around the performance of the Xbox Series S. The CPU will be better, so no worries there. Xbox Series S has 20 CUs at 1.565 GHz for about 4 teraflops (RDNA 2). Rembrandt will have 12 CUs. I doubt it will run at 2.6 GHz, although maybe it can when overclocked. Then there's memory bandwidth. The Xbox Series S uses GDDR6 for 224 GB/s for 8 GB, and only 56 GB/s for the remaining 2 GB. Rembrandt should support DDR5-5200 and can use larger amounts.

In the future, we will see more exciting APUs. They could stack gigabytes of memory on or near the chip to increase performance. But even without that, each new iteration of laptop APUs will raise the bar for low-end gaming.

7 hours ago, woah said:

It's powerful enough to play the latest games and FSR will extend its life span.

My understanding is that FSR is less effective at lower resolutions like 720p and 1080p, because there are less pixels in the first place for the algorithm to work with. So the Steam Deck using FSR to upscale to 1280x720/1280x800 might not make much sense. FSR is pretty good at turning 1440p into 4K (maybe that says something about the necessity of 4K). That said, FSR 1.0 is just the beginning, new versions are coming soon, and RDNA 3 may have specific hardware acceleration for FSR, so 2023+ AMD APUs with RDNA 3 graphics could benefit even more. Intel/Nvidia graphics can also benefit from FSR.

Edited by jaxa
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https://www.techspot.com/review/2277-amd-fsr-analysis-benchmark/

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Moving on to 1440p image quality, FSR isn’t quite as good at this lower resolution, and there’s a narrower range of quality modes which are usable in my opinion. There are only small differences between the 1440p native image, and 1440p using FSR in its Ultra Quality mode, but as we move down to the Quality mode, the image becomes softer. As expected, when we use the Balanced or Performance modes, image quality falls away substantially and is quite blurry, especially in the Performance mode. FSR is simply not very good at upscaling a 720p image to 1440p and retaining the clarity of the native presentation.

Then at 1080p, FSR is not amazing. Even using the Ultra Quality mode, there's a noticeable loss to detail compared to the native presentation.

 

So each FSR quality preset has a different scale factor:

Ultra Quality = 1.3x
Quality = 1.5x
Balanced = 1.7x
Performance = 2x

Technically a game could use any scale factor, but most are just going to have those presets.

So at the 1280x800 resolution of the Steam Deck, Ultra Quality mode is upscaling a 985x615 image (I rounded to the nearest integer, not sure how FSR does it). Performance mode would be upscaling a 640x400 image. There could be a dramatic increase in performance but quality will suffer.

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