The Steam Deck has changed considerably during the development and fine-tuning process, as some newly displayed prototype photos make clear enough.
As PC Mag (opens in new tab) According to reports, Valve developer Pierre Loup Griffais has posted photos of older Steam Deck prototype models – taken to a press event in Asia – on Twitter to show how the device has evolved.
As part of the Asia launch press event, we transformed the design lab into a showroom of development history. My favorites are the playable prototypes: Bootable Deck family tree from mid-2019 to now, of a few hand-built units for gradual mass production. pic.twitter.com/TpU5I8D50pSeptember 12, 2022
As Griffais notes, these are prototypes as of mid-2019, and it’s interesting to see how portable gaming PC design has advanced.
While the overall design remains largely the same, there are some key differences. Earlier models are notably more curved, with more pronounced contours on the sides and front.
Also, the trackpads are circular on these older prototypes, and instead of a D-pad, there are four separate directional buttons in the upper left corner of the Deck. Thumbsticks on earlier hardware are also much smaller.
Griffais still tweeted (opens in new tab) to clarify that the prototypes shown are “mostly” functional and boot well, with a video provided to illustrate this, later showing Half Life 2 loading.
Review: A glimpse of the future Steam Deck Mini?
It’s a rare treat to see the evolution of such a device, and the prototypes have certainly sparked some debate online, as you can imagine. These early models look a little clunky in some ways and indeed retro, but it’s the medium’s incarnation that has garnered the most interest. And we agree that it looks impressively clean and sleek, as well as clearly more compact than the final Steam Deck design.
As some people have suggested, if a Steam Deck Mini version is made, maybe that’s where it takes its design cues from. While a smaller laptop has certain advantages, it certainly wouldn’t be for everyone – and while it may look stylish, there are probably good reasons, ergonomically and functionally speaking, why Valve hasn’t stayed on this course.
Likewise, there’s some love for circular trackpads, but not all. What we’re certainly happy to see Valve move away from is the slightly smaller, shallower thumbs, which doesn’t seem like a good idea to us.
Regarding the future of the Steam Deck, we don’t know much at this stage, but what we do know is that Valve is planning multiple generations of the handheld – not really a surprise given its popularity – and that the idea is for them to be “more open and capable” than the current Deck. A sublime promise indeed.