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Surprising probably no one, most people use the Steam Deck as a handheld

By - | Views: 35,977

Recently, I ran two different polls to find out how people with a Steam Deck used their device (or if they didn't much) and the results are out now.

The key thing about the Steam Deck, is that while it is a handheld it's also a full Linux PC with a desktop mode. Many docks are available for it from different brands now and even the official Docking Station from Valve is out and has been for about a month now.

So I was keen to find out how what percentage of people actually used it mainly docked, partly also because I use now the vast majority of my time with it docked. Turns out, not a whole lot of other people do.

From over 4,000 votes on our YouTube Channel:

While on our Twitter from over 1,000 votes paints a very similar picture.

What a shock, over 70% of people using a handheld use it as a handheld. I know, it's not breaking news but I found it interesting, because of how much I use it docked myself and how I've seen a lot of comments of others doing the same. Turns out though, it's a really small amount of people overall.

I suppose it didn't help that the docked experience wasn't great at release, and it still has plenty of issues now, like I noted in my article on the official Docking Station not always displaying on my TV.

Another bit I wanted to highlight, was a really interesting comment on the GOL YouTube Channel about this from user "MechanicalMonk", which I can't link to as the original poll was removed to add an extra missed option. Anyway, they mentioned that people buying the Switch would have done so anyway because it's Nintendo and many people use it exclusively docked as it just happens to be a handheld (although, there is the newer handheld-only Lite). On the other hand, people would have been far less likely to buy the Steam Deck if it wasn't a handheld and so it favours that. Just an interesting thought.

What do you think? How do you use it?

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I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly.
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Viesta2015 7 Nov, 2022
I use the steam deck like a full on PC... in fact i plan on having a dual monitor setup for it so im going all out on the desktop mode. It is literally the strongest PC i have ever had in my hands and the fact that i can just go from desktop mode to handheld mode in an instant? makes it even more unique to me... all for 400$
brokkr 7 Nov, 2022
I expected to use it more docked than I do (90% handheld, 10% docked). I told myself it could do the work of an HTPC as well as handheld gaming computer.

In practice, it's too cumbersome. Plugging it in, switching to desktop mode to get 4k resolution (somehow, adding media playuers as non-steam apps and setting them to native resolution doesn't quite work), firing up freetube or kodi, remembering freetube doesn't take controller input... And I'm pretty sure HBO Max on linux maxes out at 720p or something like that.

As for games, none of my current obsessions (Prey, Descenders) would look good with default resolution blown up on large tv.

Last edited by brokkr on 7 November 2022 at 5:00 pm UTC
ridge 7 Nov, 2022
If Valve sold hardware here, or if we could actually get any other of those handheld PCs, I'd get one to use it for handheld mainly. I run Ubuntu on my Switch to stream games to it from my Arch Linux PC, such a fantastic solution; handheld gaming that is. Very nice to have.

Last edited by ridge on 7 November 2022 at 5:02 pm UTC
PixelDrop 7 Nov, 2022
Just a comment on the bottom comment in the article:

Having both a switch and a SteamDeck, I personally spend vastly more time on my switch still, because docked the joycons are way better for my shoulders, and it's too much of a pain to configure joycons for the steamdeck for each game.

But I love my steamdeck because I can literally hand my entire library of steam games to friends and family to play, especially as the vast majority do not have desktop computers that could run most PC games.

So my steamdeck gets tons of use, just not by me personally.
Kimyrielle 7 Nov, 2022
I am casually in the market for a Deck, but I would use it pretty much exclusively as a handheld, too. The type of games I normally play typically doesn't play well on consoles, so whenever I have a "proper" PC available, I'd use that.
Philadelphus 7 Nov, 2022
I think I tried docking mine to one of my monitors once for the novelty, then haven't been interested since. I already have a beefy desktop (with the most comfortable, ergonomic chair in my house) that can do anything I could do on my Deck easier and with less hassle, so to me it's basically a way to play games when I'm away from my PC. (Honestly one of the biggest draws of the Deck for me was simply having access to some of my Steam library on long airplane flights, of which I take more than my desired number of zero practically every year.)
const 7 Nov, 2022
Quoting: HohlraumOne metric I'd be curious about is how many people aren't using the SD controls themselves and instead opt for an external controller. I have hundreds of hours on my SD now and I'll bet I've spent less than 3 hrs total actually holding the thing. I would be perfectly happy if a tablet FF SD was released that relied entirely on external (or detachable) controls.

SteamController2 would certainly help me use it docked more often.
Controls are what makes me use it as a handheld most of the time.
Schattenspiegel 7 Nov, 2022
I am actually considering one (apart from couch-gaming) as an energy efficient browsing and media machine in docked mode. Should be way cheaper than having a full blown desktop running for hours for these minor tasks.
WMan22 7 Nov, 2022
I would use docked on my steam deck more frequently if Valve made a Steam Controller 2 that gives me parity with the steam deck's controls. (It would also be the best controller ever made in my opinion)
I do play it docked with a Steam Controller 1 though, the game mode interface is actually amazing for older games that run at low resolutions, especially point and click games because of the magnifying glass feature.
Arale-senpai 7 Nov, 2022
I use it in handheld all the time, but am planning on buying a dock to make desktop mode easier to use. Also desktop mode is absolute garbage for being a Linux distro, but at least it's not Manjaro.
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