Valve ‘put as much battery as we possibly could’ into the Steam Deck
Steam Deck battery life was a key topic of discussion both before launch and after we actually received Valve’s portable gaming PC. And obviously, that was a key theme for the designers as they sketched out what they could cram into the deck. From a recent conversation with two of Valve’s designers, it was clear that the underlying theme was “how big can we achieve?”
Inside the deck is a 40Wh (or 5313mAh) battery, but it has a slightly odd L-shaped design. If you check the excellent iFixit disassembly device, you’ll see an x-ray they took that clearly shows a two-cell design in which Valve angled the battery around the limited space offered inside the case.
I spoke with Greg Coomer and Jay Shaw, the Valve designers who worked and continue to work on the Steam Deck, about the limits on the size of the battery they can put in a new PDA.
“Basically, we fit as much battery as possible into a device of this size, considering everything else that needs to fit in it,” says Kumar. “So, you know, obviously, we wanted to have the biggest possible battery.”
But since there were plans for different levels of Steam Deck – with a budget, mid-range, and high-end option – I was curious if there were ever plans to add higher capacity batteries along with higher capacity storage options.
“We didn’t really talk about the different versions of the Steam Deck needing a different battery when we thought about what things might be different between those models,” Coomer says. “We mostly talked about other things. We thought about memory, but we didn’t have a lot of APUs to choose from – we were able to build one of them – so it wasn’t really possible to have other performance. from that side.”
It’s an interesting addition to memory, and I’m guessing it could have been 8GB LPDDR5 in the budget deck, and then maybe 16GB and 32GB in higher-spec models. Personally, I’m glad Valve opted for a fixed 16GB across the board, even if it probably came down to simplifying manufacturing by managing just one motherboard SKU.
The shared base hardware makes this 64GB variant still a great device, and with a potential upgrade path with larger SD cards, or even digging inside and inserting an SSD yourself.
But there would be other concerns about trying to cram more gaming juice into this form factor along with more memory and storage.
“Yes, big battery,” Shaw continues, “I mean, then we are talking about the need to change the actual physical characteristics of the device. And then that led to a lot of ergonomic compromises that we really didn’t want. do because basically we really want people to be comfortable playing on this device for as long as they want.”
Be that as it may, the steam deck is already clumsy, and while I was personally impressed with its balance, had it been larger, that balance would have been easily upset.