It’s excellent, and has an endless variety of use cases; desktop computing is just one.
Most of the time it looks and performs like Windows: There’s a recognizable file management system, it comes with Firefox for web browsing, and you can run Steam and play games in Desktop Mode just as you would on a PC.In general, using SteamOS in Desktop Mode won’t be too different from switching to a smartphone OS you’re not as familiar with.
Like, don’t use the Deck as a desktop computer until you do these things.Having Steam running while in Desktop Mode is absolutely essential, but by default, Steam does not launch alongside Desktop Mode.If we’re going to get the most out of the Steam Deck as a computer, then we need to make sure that Desktop Mode works as efficiently as it can without requiring an external monitor or a physical mouse and keyboard.
If you don’t have any peripherals attached and Steam is closed, the Steam Deck is just a tablet with a touchscreen—one that’s not as accurate as your smartphone’s.
Enter Desktop Mode, launch Steam, then navigate to Steam’s settings.You can also make Desktop Mode apps accessible through the Deck’s main Game Mode interface (the one that looks similar to Steam’s “Big Picture”).
Any apps you add to Steam Deck’s Gaming Mode this way will show up under “Non-Steam Games” in your library.If you connect an external display to the Steam Deck in Gaming Mode, it will switch over automatically.In Desktop Mode, the Steam Deck will default to its own little screen as primary and will use your external monitor as a secondary display.
In System Settings, you’ll find it refers to its own display as a “Laptop Screen” (aww, it thinks it’s a computer!).Steam Deck’s Desktop Mode doesn’t have a password by default.Steam Deck’s Desktop Mode has a Windows-like “taskbar” running along the bottom that shows you the various apps you have open.This lets you make the most out of the Steam Deck’s small screen by allowing apps to expand over the “taskbar.” You might be tempted to select “auto-hide,” but if you don’t have a mouse and keyboard connected and Steam ends up crashing or doesn’t start up when entering Desktop Mode, well, you’ll have no “taskbar” on the desktop as it auto-hides, and you won’t be able to launch the main menu with the touchscreen.Perhaps taking design inspiration from Apple, the Steam Deck has just a single USB-C port, forcing you to work around this constraint for all your connectivity needs.
The Steam Deck is still quite young and doesn’t have a whole bunch of peripheral options available yet.I’m currently using the Jsaux Steam Deck dock and, well, it’s fine.
I’ve found that the Steam Deck just needs to be picked up sometimes, especially when used without an external monitor.
Bluetooth connections are pretty reliable on the Deck (especially in Game Mode) though there can be a touch of audio latency if you’re using more performance-intensive applications.
When using the Steam Deck’s small screen, though, you might want to switch to light mode, as it really improves visibility and readability.
First, the Steam Deck’s Desktop Mode does basic computing without worry.One of the most immediate benefits of the Deck’s Desktop Mode, however, is that it’s a great opportunity to start using Linux.
Given how many games are playable on the Deck through the Proton compatibility layer, it’s not so farfetched to see a future when a gaming PC running Linux alone will satisfy most needs.
Fire up a few Linux tutorials and gain some familiarity with using the Terminal (called Konsole on the Deck), package managers, sudo commands, all of it.Desktop Mode is so versatile and usable that I could very plausibly see a future in which the Deck is my go-to portable computing device, which just so happens to also be great at playing games.
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