Valve’s Steam Deck prototypes leave us wanting more

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Pierre-Loup Griffais

Members of the press had the opportunity to see nearly a dozen Steam Deck prototypes during the console’s launch event in East Asia. These prototypes date from mid-2019 and feature a wide range of design quirks that we’d love to see in a next-gen handheld console.

Photos of the prototype Steam Decks were shared on Twitter by Pierre-Loup Griffais, a programmer on Valve’s Steam Deck team. According to Griffais, the first prototypes were built by hand before the project entered the early stages of mass production.

In particular, early Steam Deck designs look like a Nintendo Switch combined with a Steam Controller. They are relatively small and use two circular touchpads instead of square-shaped touchpads. Instead of a typical D-pad, they have four analog directional buttons and are completely flat, with no grips.

It appears that Valve added a bit of girth to the Steam Deck to improve ergonomics, increase hardware performance, and use larger components. Early Steam Deck prototypes use slower CPUs than the final design and their joysticks are shockingly small.

But we can’t get over how stylish some of these prototypes look. They’re reminiscent of the PS Vita, and feel much more portable than the final Steam Deck design.

That said, competing products like the Aya Neo use a fancy design language, but they don’t meet the Steam Deck specs. Valve made a smart compromise when it adopted the great Steam Deck design that we know today. We can only hope that the new technology will allow Valve to get the best of both worlds in future Steam Deck models.

A second generation Steam Deck is on the cards, according to Valve. But the release date is unknown, and frankly, we don’t expect a new Steam Deck to arrive anytime soon. Valve is not yet done fulfilling orders for the first generation Steam Deck. Why would you rush to launch the second generation?

Font: Pierre-Loup Griffais via XDA Developers