While Valve has already announced that the Steam Deck will support dual-booting between SteamOS and Windows 10, new info from a Steam Deck designer has also revealed that Valve is working with AMD to help ensure support for Windows 11 as well.
In a recent interview with Valve’s Greg Coomer, one of the Steam Deck’s designers, PC Gamer learned that while Valve’s main focus so far has been on optimising Steam OS and the Steam Deck’s performance when running Windows 10, Valve is also leaning on insight from AMD to help ensure support for Microsoft’s next OS too, which is due out sometime later this fall.
In regards to Windows 11, Coomer said “We’ve focused so much on Windows 10, so far, that we haven’t really gotten that far into it. Our expectation is that we can meet that.”
One of the issues for Valve is that some of the new hardware requirements like TPM chips that are expected to be part of Windows 11 require the company to do some extra work to provide baseline compatibility. That said, Coomer seems optimistic that thanks to the collaboration between Valve and AMD (who is making the custom APU slated for use in the Steam Deck), the Steam Deck should get support for Windows 11.
“It’s also a conversation that’s going on with AMD, to make sure that, at the BIOS level, we can accommodate that. So there’s nothing to indicate to us yet that there’ll be any issues with Windows 11,” said Coomer.
Out of the box, the Steam Deck is slated to run the latest version of Valve’s Linux-based Steam OS, which uses a compatibility layer called Proton when playing games that don’t have native Linux support. And while Valve has been clear that its focus with the Steam Deck will be to deliver the best experience when gaming on SteamOS, support for both Windows 10 and 11 remains quite important, especially because right now it’s unclear if anti-cheat protocols in games like Apex Legends, Gears 5, and others will function properly outside of Windows.
In one of its FAQs about the Steam Deck, Valve says “We’re working with BattlEye and EAC to get support for Proton ahead of launch.” So even though Steam OS will be the default OS for the Steam Deck, it’s really encouraging to see Valve also looking to beef up the Steam Deck’s compatibility with Windows 10 and 11. Not only will this move potentially provide gamers with more options when it comes to playing a wide range of titles, but it also reinforces the ethos that the Steam Deck is much more open and flexible compared to more locked down console alternatives like the Nintendo Switch, which is something Valve founder Gabe Newell has been talking about a lot.
Unfortunately, unlike the Nintendo Switch, according to another story from PC Gamer, it appears that the Steam Deck doesn’t have a performance boost setting when connected to a dock. This means the Steam Deck should provide similar performance in handheld mode or when connected to an external display, which might be a bummer for people dreaming about playing games on a big 4K TV with the Steam Deck.
Coomer explains Valve’s thought process by saying “We really wanted to prioritise 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 prioritise that.”
And while Coomer says that it might be possible to create a higher power mode for the Steam Deck when docked, currently it’s not a “high priority design target.”
So while new info about the Steam Deck is trickling out as we get closer to its official launch sometime before the end of the year, the excitement about an upcoming handheld gaming machine built for the PC crowd continues to grow. Some of Valve’s early gaming hardware like the Steam Controller may have been somewhat clunky (especially at launch), but the Steam Deck is quickly shaping up to become Valve’s second attempt to make its Steam Machines initiative from back in 2014 a reality, and this time, it just might work.