Steam Deck, Valve’s handheld gaming PC that launched late last month, doesn’t really have the horsepower capable of playing SteamVR games, although Valve chief Gabe Newell calls it a “stepping stone” to what could one day be Valve standalone VR headset.

In an interview published in Edge Magazine’s latest issue (via UploadVR), Newell had this to say when asked about how important Steam Deck was to VR:

“One of the things [Steam Deck] represents is battery-capable, high-performance horsepower that eventually you could use in VR applications as well. You can take the PC and build something that is much more transportable. We’re not really there yet, but this is a stepping stone.”

Despite being mostly a black box, Valve has been fairly transparent with its interest in standalone VR. Back at Steam Deck’s hands-on event in August, Valve said Deck’s custom AMD processor could be used in such a project.

“We’re not ready to say anything about [a standalone VR headset], but [Steam Deck’s hardware] would run well in that environment, with the TDP necessary… it’s very relevant to us and our future plans,” Valve’s Greg Coomer said.

It’s also filed patents for essentially wireless and standalone versions of its Index PC VR headset, making it pretty clear that Valve is more than curious about making its own standalone.

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In the meantime, you might be surprised to learn that SteamVR games aren’t marked ‘Deck Verified’, and it’s for good reason. Deck’s hardware can run ‘AAA’ PC games at its native display resolution of 1,280 × 800 at no higher than 60Hz.

Meta’s Quest 2 on the other hand was purpose-built to run a library of VR games at 3,664 × 1,920 (in 3D), and at a minimum of 72Hz. Unlike SteamVR games, Quest’s games are specially optimized from the ground-up to hit specific performance benchmarks, and then gut-checked by Meta before they’re launched on the main store.

Steam Deck is undoubtedly helping to better position Valve as a serious hardware manufacturer, so the “stepping stone” analogy makes a good deal of sense since Deck clearly isn’t a plug-and-play solution for PC VR users looking for a mobile gaming rig.

Tech analyst and YouTuber Brad Lynch revealed evidence of the internal naming scheme ‘Deckard’ which may point to a standalone headset prototype currently in the works. Lynch has uncovered mounting evidence in subsequent releases of SteamVR too, so we’ll have our eyes peeled in the coming months now that Steam Deck is in the hands of more people and the company pushes further updates.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • Hell. Yeah.

    I know it was already pretty apparent, but still glad to hear more confirmation that that’s what they’re aiming for.

  • Ookami

    All I can say is, Brad was right!

    • jimmy

      that weirdo could not predict 12:05 at 12:02

      • Ookami

        lol except he actually made predictions that came true. Of course he’s wrong about things–it’s only natural when discussing leaks.

    • Blaexe

      I’d disagree. People mainly said that Steam Deck hardware was not good enough for an x86 standalone headset that ran existing PCVR software. And turns out – that’s right.

      People didn’t claim there’d never be x86 standalone headset. Just not anytime soon.

      • kontis

        Deckard may not necessarily be x86 as there is also a huge progress being done in x86 on ARM emulation on Linux, including VR games (they already booted Alyx successfully). Valve even has a Deckard prototype running the same ARM chip Quest 2 has (they also had a Steam Deck prototype using Intel APU).

        One thing Brad is 100% wrong about is the idea of two high end SoCs in one device (X86 + ARM), because it’s pure insanity in terms of pointless cost and giant wattage (for a mobile device) that would be unacceptable and destroy the battery in less than an hour and a huge compatibility and data interchange mess.

        • Blaexe

          My point is that – no matter if x86 or ARM is used – currently no standalone headset would be able to run native PCVR games with sufficient resolution and framerate. We’ll get there at some point but we’re also not close.

          The best bet is probably not brute forcing it with hardware but with sophisticated Foveated Rendering and AI upscaling.

          • Bob

            “The best bet is probably not brute forcing it with hardware but with sophisticated Foveated Rendering and AI upscaling.”

            Within the next three years, this is the only bet given the current costs of silicon. Mesh shaders are still a new thing that have yet to be exploited by developers and that could be added to the list of methods to get much more performance out of standalone hardware.

            In the imaginary perfect world, you’d have no thermal requirements/TDP where heat is not an issue. Then you run the clocks as high as you’d like.

  • Cless

    I mean… yeah… You just need to make it an order of magnitude more powerful… and make it so games in VR can run on linux… no big deal! /s

    • kontis

      Order of magnitude is 10x, so you are saying they need 16 TFLOPS of GPU power.

      That’s strange because Half Life Alyx recommended GPU is only 4.3 TFLOPS.

      For comparison:

      Quest 2: 1.2
      Steam Deck: 1.6
      Current high end Snapdragon: 1.8
      PS4 (PSVR1): 1.8
      Apple M1: 2.6
      AMD Rembrandt (latest PC laptops): 3.2

      We are almost there. But resolution scaling for next gen high def displays will need eye tracking and foveated rendering (like VRS).

      • Bram

        rtx3080 : 29.8 tflops.
        =>still a long way to go before running fs2020 native on a standalone if we even ever get there. I would rather bet on a dedicated seperate wireless vr station that can be bought as an optional add-on for users without pc or not willing to invest in a new game-pc.

        • XRC

          37 tflops (fp32) on my HOF 3080Ti, still not enough to run Index at highest frame rates combined with super resolution, without reprojection and dropped frame.

          • kontis

            Your Index has lower resolution panels than Quest 2 with its mobile chip.

            Many people report having much worse performance after replacing 1080ti with 3080.

            SteamVR is a mess, unfortunately.

          • XRC

            No issues moving from 2080Ti to 3080Ti, performance is excellent.

            Of course, Index is not rendering at panel resolution? (this would be easier). Applying super resolution gives very impressive clarity with microcrystalline diffuser and dual compound lens design.

            Agreed it’s a mess… and single hardware specification is developers dream

        • Cless

          Couldn’t have said it better myself.

        • kontis

          There are no popular PC VR games targeting anywhere close to this kind of hardware.

          A flat game with VR support that has an engine extremely unoptimal for VR (like FS2020) is a really bad example. If it were an actual VR game the renderer would be completely different, but it’s not.

          • Bram

            VR is not going to stay where it is now. Most likely we will see two things happening in the future:
            – mass adapation
            – vr headsets with even higher resolution panels than the next upcomming headsets, big fov and small form factor.

            We are slowly moving now towards 4k per eye res. At some point that will be 8k per eye. Even with foveating rendering, ai upscaling and the best thinkable mobile xr processor, at that resolution it’s unlikely a mobile chip can supply sufficient power to run immersive graphics on a a level of detail that customers will demand. So there remains quit a gab. Now at the very start of mass adaption, one can see already a whole new user base, people who do not have high end gaming pc’s (that are inefficient anyway, like you mention). From that user base, there will be a (substantial) percentage willing to go higher in graphical immersion and willing to spend 500-700 dollars for an extra vr-box (like a console) that is optional and allows you to run the same games and vr worlds that run on mobile at a much higher graphical level. I also image such a box as the size of a mac mini, so small and very portable. If that has a single hardware configuration, that is ofcourse an extra contribution to shrink the size and power of it as the software can be optimized for it like a console.

          • Cragheart

            Mobile is bad, mobile is worse, mobile is a shame. PC Master Race! No streaming, no standalone! I reject and object!

      • Cragheart

        If we use standalone mobile, game sophistication and complexity is going to stagnate. Because we will move from high TDP to low TDP devices.

      • Cragheart

        1.6 TFlops Steam Deck is not to scale to RDNA 2 PC TFlops or console TFlops. It’s slower than its TFlops would suggest.

  • Blaexe

    He thinks that Deckard is built on that hardware and that Deckard is not too far away.

    Valve saying that it’s a stepping stone means we’ll have to wait for quite some time and if Deckard is about to release anytime soon, it won’t be a full PCVR standalone headset.

  • Bob

    Valve Index should officially be retired by 2024 or price slashed in half. It’s perfectly understandable that Valve are playing the very long game here but there will come a point, and to be perfectly honest that point is pretty much here, where they have to move on with the hardware.

    The very least they do could do is upgrade the display of the Index as part of a newer version akin to the “pro” models of the games consoles because everything else is already very high quality (ergonomics etc.).

  • Clownworld14

    Hell yah, yes please.

  • oomph2

    Now next move should be nreal like headset & vr compatibility