The Steam Deck is finally releasing across Asia this month, and ahead of its appearance at the Tokyo Game Show (complete with unnervingly large replica of the handheld), Valve held their own launch event with a display of several prototype designs. Unlike the mere low-res images of abandoned Steam Deck designs we’ve already seen, these were mostly functional PC gaming machines. That’s according to Valve engineer Pierre-Loup Griffais, who shared a video of an early, more rounded-looking Deck booting to SteamOS and loading up Half-Life 2.
This particular model is still quite close to the final Steam Deck, save for its circular trackpads, blue face buttons and two-tone hand grip design, but the SteamOS version it’s running looks much less like the eventual UI. It’s still familiar, though, sharing the pixelly startup animation and carousel layout of Steam’s Big Picture Mode on regular desktop PCs.
Griffais’ sneak peek doesn’t actually show Half-Life 2 running, beyond a few seconds of intense G-Man glaring in the intro, but it might not have looked all that impressive; the prototype is packing an older APU, named Picasso, with “about half the GPU power” of the finished article’s Aerith APU.
The best part is that they (mostly) all still boot, serving as an exciting reminder of how far things have come since.
This one has a Picasso APU, at about half of the GPU power of the final Deck. The flatter ergo was an interesting experiment and taught us a ton about comfort. pic.twitter.com/yLwTtDDYlo
— Pierre-Loup Griffais (@Plagman2) September 12, 2022
While the Steam Deck has added all manner of new features and interface tweaks since it became available across the US, UK, and Europe, its software remains unchanged in broader terms, so it’s pretty nifty to see what we might have had if Valve decided against a more bespoke SteamOS. Likewise with the hardware – as far as I know this is the first time we’ve been able to see prototype Decks in the flesh. Griffais’ post also calls the prototype’s flatter design “an interesting experiment and taught us a ton about comfort” – those teachings can be seen in the protruding (but ergonomically pleasant) grips on the final Steam Deck.