The Steam Deck is now half a year old, but is still poorly available. For those who have already managed to get their hands on one, the handheld may still hold some secrets; Valve has not explained all functions equally clearly. We’ve listed the most important hidden options so you can get more out of your Steam Deck.
1. Use Shortcuts
Just like a ‘real’ PC, the Steam Deck has a series of button combinations linked to all kinds of useful functions. These shortcuts help you get the most out of the system. Some of these secret tricks are of general use, others come in handy during the game itself.
The Steam Deck can sometimes freeze when starting a game or while playing. Via the Steam + B button combination you have the option to force a game to close. On the other hand, by pressing Steam and L1, you can zoom in on a specific part of the screen, so that you can view the map better, for example.
The full list of shortcuts:
• Steam + B (long press): Force quit a game
• Steam + X: Show keyboard
• Steam + L1: Toggle magnifying glass on/off
• Steam + R1: Take a screenshot
• Steam + L2: Press right mouse button
• Steam + R2: Press left mouse button
• Steam + Right Joystick: Joystick Mouse
• Steam + Trackpad right: Trackpad mouse
• Steam + Trackpad right (click): Press left mouse button
• Steam + Joystick up left: Increase screen brightness
• Steam + Joystick left down: Decrease screen brightness
• Steam + D-pad right: Enter key
• Steam + D-pad down: Tab key
• Steam + D-pad left: Escape key
2. Steam Deck dock
That the Steam Deck has been inspired by the Nintendo Switch can be read from the design. Not only that: Valve is also working on a Docking Station for its handheld. This makes the Steam Deck, like the Switch, a hybrid console. You don’t have to wait for the special dock from Valve for the Steam Deck, for which no release date has yet been announced.
A hub with a USB-C connection – which MacBooks often use, for example – works fine and there are already companies that release their own Steam Deck dock. These save money and work fine, although it is likely that the official dock from Valve will be better optimized in the future. You can also play games on a monitor or TV, where you can adjust the aspect ratio yourself.
3. External Hardware
One of the nicest aspects of the Steam Deck is the customizability of the handheld. Valve leaves you fairly free in what you do with the hardware, including connecting external hardware. For example, you can use an Xbox controller, DualSense or Nintendo Switch Pro Controller with the handheld.
How that works: you can connect to external hardware via the bluetooth function in the settings menu, but it is a bit hidden. You have to scroll a bit before you get to the bluetooth section. Controllers, but also mouse and keyboard, can then be linked here.
This feature is also extremely useful in combination with a Steam Deck dock. The handheld remains next to the television while you control the system with a controller. Connecting multiple controllers is also an option, so multiplayer games are also an option with the Steam Deck.
The Steam Deck is not the most powerful device in the world. Games often run fine, albeit not in the highest settings possible – but there are exceptions. Certain titles don’t run quite well, but that doesn’t mean you should leave the game.
Steam has a Remote Play feature that provides the solution. If you have a gaming PC or laptop with the game on it, you can use Remote Play through the Steam Deck. The game will then run from the other device and stream to the handheld. Of course you need a good internet connection for this.
5. Unknown games
Before the Steam Deck launched, it was revealed that Valve had four pillars to indicate whether games will work on the handheld. There are verified games for Steam Deck, titles that are playable, games that are not supported, and games that are unknown if they work. The latter category is important.
The fact that Valve does not know whether the Unknown games, which are indicated with a question mark, does not automatically mean that those titles do not work. In fact, it often happens that these games run fine or even excellent. Unknown games are titles that have simply not yet been tested by Valve. The publisher therefore does not want to pass judgment on those games, but that says nothing about the performance on the handheld.
Experimenting with this is therefore the best option. In our experience, indie games often work on the handheld, although sometimes an extra step is involved when installing or playing. This is also the case with the games with the playable stamp, which means that, in the case of Final Fantasy VI Pixel Remaster, for example, you sometimes have to use the touchscreen keyboard. The Steam Deck just gives this option, so that’s no problem.
Curious about the Steam Deck? Read in our review how the device has won our hearts.