Valve’s recently-announced Steam Deck will be able to run Windows, according to a hands-on demo run by IGN. The portable gaming handheld runs SteamOS by default, but IGN claims that users can completely wipe that operating system and install Windows if they want.
Users will also be able to use the handheld like a PC: it can connect to a mouse and keyboard, run web browsers and videos, and access other digital game storefronts like Origin and the Epic Games Store.
In its hands-on with the new system, IGN reports that it “has more in common with a desktop gaming PC” than a Nintendo Switch, its closest competitor. One of the system’s most prominent selling points is that it’s extremely open in terms of usage, giving players the ability to connect their favorite peripherals, visit their favorite stores, and use their favorite operating system.
While IGN reports that SteamOS moves smoothly and quickly when getting into games, it appears that Valve wants players to have the final say in the way they access their software. Steam Deck’s compatibility with Windows raises other questions, namely whether the handheld will be compatible with Windows 11 when the operating system launches.
Valve’s push toward open hardware stands in stark contrast to the Switch, which contains a strictly controlled operating system. Nintendo has traditionally kept a tight fist on its hardware and software, and its latest console is no exception. Anything outside of installing games and a small selection of apps through the Nintendo eShop requires users to jailbreak their device.
Whether the Steam Deck will prove to be real competition to the Switch remains to be seen, but its siren song of Windows compatibility and total customizability is difficult to ignore.