Steam Deck is finally here, and gamers across the world have now had a chance to get their hands on Valve's very first handheld/console/PC hybrid device. Now, many are wondering what's next for Steam Deck. Nothing's been officially confirmed just yet, so we'll be speculating, but there is a very real limit to what Valve can put into a new Deck. These upgrades aren't guaranteed, but they'll give you a good idea of what you can expect in general from a Steam Deck successor. So, in this article, we'll explain everything you need to know about Steam Deck 2, Steam Deck Pro, and the future of Steam Deck.
What's Next for Steam Deck: Hardware
AMD's Aerith APU, built from the ground-up for Steam Deck, is the heart and soul of Steam Deck. Packed with RDNA2 tech and an impressively low power consumption of between 4W and 15W, this chip enables Steam Deck to bring PS4/Xbox One-level fidelity to games on the go. This tech is far more powerful, and far more advanced than the likes of the hardware powering the Nintendo Switch, but it's not all there is when it comes to portable tech.
For example, AMD is charging ahead towards RDNA3 tech that brings with it not just more power but more efficiency, too. Plus, AMD's upscaling solution, FidelityFX Super Resolution 2.0, has recently made headlines with its ability to deliver image quality about on par with NVIDIA's celebrated DLSS 2.2 tech alongside similar performance gains. An RDNA 3 APU combined with robust FSR 2.0 support would make a Steam Deck 2 meaningfully more powerful than the already-powerful original Deck.
However, FSR 2.0 is a piece of software (and it's open-source), and Deck can already make use of the tech, so it's likely that the original Deck will eventually be able to take full advantage of AMD's upscaling solution. Nonetheless, a beefier CPU and GPU would doubtlessly push that upscaling tech even further, allowing for resolutions and framerates never-before-imagined on a portable gaming machine.
Another major upgrade we could expect from a Steam Deck is a better display. The Nintendo Switch recently was refreshed to come with an OLED screen, and this kind of display would be a great fit for Steam Deck. Naturally, a 120Hz display or HDR support would be awesome, too, but 120FPS is a big ask of a handheld device and the effect of HDR on such a small screen wouldn't be as impressive as on a more normally-sized display, so these additions are probably less likely.
With 16GB of RAM on Deck now, a serious increase is both unlikely and unnecessary, but things like next-gen haptics as seen in Sony's DualSense controller, more storage, better battery life, faster Wi-Fi, and the like would always be appreciated and are pretty reasonable expectations for a Steam Deck 2, albeit not very exciting expectations.
What's Next for Steam Deck: Software
Steam Deck runs SteamOS, which is a Linux-based operating system. Naturally, this means Steam Deck can run Linux games with no problems, but for Windows games (the majority of PC games out there), Valve needed another solution. Enter Proton, a Valve-designed 'translation layer' that allows Windows code to be run on SteamOS.
To be clear, Proton is an amazing piece of technology, but it can't make every game work faultlessly on Deck. Right now, there are a good number of huge, popular games that can't run on Steam Deck, which is mostly down to things like anti-cheat that are specifically designed to detect and stop any connections not coming from a normal Windows instance. By the time we see a Steam Deck 2, we'd like to see these kinds of issues ironed out for the most popular games out there, if not most Steam games.
Steam Deck supports multiple operating systems, like a PC. Go ahead and install Windows on it, if you want. But for a Steam Deck 2, we'd like to see options for Decks coming preinstalled with Windows and packed with a suite of drivers and software specific to Steam Deck that make the Windows experience as full-featured and smooth as possible.
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Proton handles the vast and overwhelming majority of games playable on Deck, but with a Steam Deck 2, we'd like to see more of a concerted effort on the behalf of Valve to partner with major publishers to bring ports of mainstream games directly to Deck such that they can run natively on the machine. If Deck continues to be popular, and if a second-generation of Deck is popular, more direct support of the device is an extremely reasonable thing to expect.
What's Next for Steam Deck: More Decks
Valve has talked about how the company doesn't want Deck to become another staid platform like PlayStation, Xbox, or Switch in the sense that these devices are built and designed exclusively by a single company and if you want improvements or different versions of the device, you've gotta hope that the company that makes your favorite device decides to make the kind of device you want.
Accordingly, Valve wants to partner with other manufacturers to let them design Decks of their own, much like how NVIDIA partners with various companies, like MSI, ROG, etcetera, to make versions of their graphics cards that they also sell directly. We'd like to see this too, as more Decks only mean a healthier, more vibrant Deck ecosystem.
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By the time of Deck 2 from Valve, we'd like to see Decks courtesy of HP or Dell that target professionals as well as gamers; we'd like to see Corsair or Razer make their own deck filled with their own tech. We'd like to see a variety of Decks with different features and hardware such that the platform continues to grow and be supported by a variety of different companies, services, games, and applications.
A Steam Deck 2 is also another great excuse for Valve to further develop Steam and its suite of features. With SteamOS coming preloaded on Deck, Steam is the primary mechanism through which gamers will interact with Deck. Accordingly, building in robust livestreaming features, Discord-like communication/social network features, recording/capture features like OBS, and even post-processing tech like ReShade or NVIDIA Freestyle would be a huge win for gamers not just on Deck but anybody who uses Steam.