I’ve been waiting to take my endless game libraries out into the world for years. The arrival of the Steam Deck has not only made that dream a practical reality, it’s also eased what could have been a boring and potentially stressful reintegration to society after a drawn out period of isolation.
With my Steam game backlog at the ready, I packed up and shipped off to Copenhagen. Not specifically to test how good the Steam Deck is for traveling, but as it just happened to be in my possession for the trip, you can be damn sure I made the most of it.
At 13 x 6 x 3 inches (32.5 x 15 x 8cm), there was room enough for the Steam Deck’s chonky case in my 20L backpack against some minimal makeup and toiletries, a few light clothes, and even my hoodie. While I could just as easily have slipped the Steam Deck over the extending handle of my suitcase, as some legend on Reddit discovered was possible, I didn’t want to advertise the fact I was walking around with this much sought after handheld gaming device. It fit just fine in my backpack, though it took a little jimmying to get it back in when I was done gaming.
You could say a laptop would’ve been more practical as it would’ve slipped into a dedicated pocket, but then I’d have needed to take peripherals, too. And I’d feel much more paranoid about a laptop breaking even in a padded pocket. At least I wasn’t bold enough to throw my Steam Deck in a backpack next to my laptop, like this guy did—the Steam Deck asserted its dominance and the laptop paid the ultimate price.
Back to my journey, I figured whipping my Deck out in the middle seat of a 6-berth Airbus (with about as much leg room as a toddler would need) was going to be more of a fuss than it was. I actually found that, once the slightly awkward but very necessary case was out of the way, the Deck didn’t actually take up as much room as I expected. I didn’t need to steal both the armrests, and thankfully the plane was loud enough that the Steam Deck’s intense fan whine wasn’t an issue.
Of course, I had to use the Deck in airplane mode, but Valve’s made the option super accessible. It’s just a few clicks through the quick menu. As was the option for night mode—which was great for when the lady next to me decided to put us in the dark without asking.
The main issue I’ve found with taking the Steam Deck anywhere, at least for me at almost 30 years of age, is the back pain that comes with it.
It’s heavy enough that trying to pack light kinda went out the window, and when gaming I had to rest it in my lap; resting it on the tray table was just down right uncomfortable, so I was stuck hunching over it for hours.
When I say hours, though, I mean it. I got a good four and a half hours of game time, without the need to charge. Though I wasn’t bashing out ultra graphics on Elden Ring, just a light farming sim sesh on Roots of Pacha. Still, playing on the Steam Deck made the flight go super quick. By the time I’d been through a few days in-game, we were already preparing for landing.
What really seals the deal about this portable Linux beastie is that, because it’s rocking SteamOS, I didn’t have to go about purchasing a bunch of new games to get any real use out of it, unlike what buying a Switch would have meant for me. The Steam Deck even lets you use other top game launchers in desktop mode, and apps like Lutris have been developed to bring your game launchers together under a single unified UI.
So not only can I officially confirm the Steam Deck’s portability and battery life are top-tier, I was still able to afford to travel abroad since I already had an extensive game library just begging to be taken with me.
The whole experience of traveling with the Steam Deck has seen me change my mind about getting one for myself, though I’ll have to invest in some kind of back brace to make up for it. Otherwise you’ll likely spot me hunched over, groaning in the corner on your next flight abroad.
At least I’ll be in my own happy little world, and loving the portable Linux gaming life.