Valve steam deck as ultimate portable daw

What do you think ?

It seems very powerful and very portable


I am no expert, but it looks tempting. I will wait for reviews.

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I thought the exact same thing when I saw it. Obviously the built-in audio i/o isn’t going to be the greatest. But the controls should be easily accessible and mappable.

I wonder if not using the GPU much will help with power consumption. They cite two to eight hours of game play. I suppose if you’re just running pd you’ll get the upper bound.

I’m wondering how repairable it is. If it’s a glue sandwich like most of these things are.


Would probably pair nicely with an ES-9. A good-sized portable touchscreen would probably be a must if one wanted to use a DAW more extensively, but the controller stuff could prove fun to experiment with as a controller for the DAW.

Some more information for folks:


damn I couldn’t resist to reserve one …


The handheld gaming form factor for music making has been very intriguing to me. Recently I acquired an RG-350, which runs Linux under the hood. In addition to running emulators, you can also develop games and applications for it using SDL, which I’m tempted to dip my toes into at some point. Granted, it’s not exactly a powerhouse in terms of processing power, but it is quite affordable and the build quality is nice (for a little more money, you can buy higher-quality revisions to the RG-350 like the RG-350M which features an aluminum body and higher quality screen).

Given the mechanical affordances and form factors of these family of devices, I think it’s fair to re-evaluate what exactly we mean when talk about “Digital Audio Workstations”.


I preordered one with excitement knowing that at the very least, I could natively install BitWig or renoise on the device. Can’t wait till Q1 2022


Curious what you all think this holds over a Windows / Linux / iPad tablet as “a DAW”, like, to me (but maybe I’m wrong here), an MPC One/Live, or an Octatrack, etc. are still much better “ultimate portable daws”, except obviously for the fact you can’t run something like Bitwig on them.

But then it begs the point, is the steam deck a good interface/form factor to run something like bitwig natively? And if it’s good, again, what does it have over a super lightweight 12"/11" laptop or a tablet beyond novelty and the gaming controls? In terms of OS I can only assume it’s going to be more restricted / convoluted and homebrew than those (which means all kinds of potential issues with third party plugins/softwares, which in my view is the point of computer DAWs), in terms of controls, it’ll be less practical than a computer and the screen less efficient for touch control than a bigger tablet, so what am I missing here?

I see it more as potentially a funny instrument much in the way the switch can be with the Korg apps, or as someone above mentionned, one of those sequencers using the idiosyncracies of game consoles as a design ethos for sequencing (stuff like the trend of hacking handhelf game consoles to make chiptunes sequencers or trackers etc.) but it’s not a DAW at all it’s more streamlined to take advantage of the very niche and specific UI design of a gaming console.

Super curious what you all plan to do with it in terms of DAW that justify having so much CPU power into such a weird form factor for music making !


y’all are planning on leaving your houses?

(i only half jest. i like the idea of a portable daw but in practice i’m skeptical. each time i’ve tried bringing my ipad to the forest or even my laptop to a park i’m frustrated by not having a mouse, not having my audio interface, sunlight glare on the screen, too small a screen to work, etc. a portable daw feels like a distraction to me.)


I think with synth vst like arturia with fx like soundtoys it could be very fun

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Would totally echo this sentiment. It’s hard for me to make music traveling, laptop is great but it’s tempting to do over-ear headphones (vs ear buds), mouse (vs track pad), external hard drive for samples, small midi controller like NK-2 for some semblance of control, and an interface depending on if you have other gear you’d want to record or if you have a bad audio engine.

Not to mention it’s hard to imagine that taking in new sites and experiences might not be better for creativity than trying to be productive on the move.

That said, I’m fond of classic handheld gaming, I had a GBA SP as a kid and it’s exciting to see this stuff come back into the forefront, I’m just skeptical at the musical practicality as compared to something like the OP-1 or OP-Z which seem more tactile and purpose built (though I haven’t tried either). Or a Norns+Grid seems more fun to be honest, though I have yet to try that too.

Of course, I’m sure there is someone who will make awesome music with this thing so who knows!


Same. At the very least I’ll be able to play games on it as my daughter comandeers the switch and the Mrs has dibs on the TV!

But curious to see renoise running on it or some other progs.

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That’s my view as well, if I’m on the go, what I need is an OPZ, actually even Norns + Grid is already a little bulky to setup, it’s more transportable than portable, but it’s good once you’re setup somewhere and can control your space. But yes definitely when I’m in a “portable” setup (ie. not in a place where I can just put a laptop on a table), what I’m looking for is typically not a DAW environnement because it doesn’t work well within that approach.

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I think iPad is more reasonable as a daw than this, mostly due to bigger screens and the software than was designed for touch. Even basic iPad has considerable power.


iPadOs can’t be compared to windows as a platform for vst

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I don’t really think that “practical” nor “optimal” are playing in to all of this very much on my end. But; there’s something to be said for having a device that makes my daw novel and easily accessible.

I approach music writing, the result and the expectations differently for every device, and having the opportunity at any point while in bed or something to just boot up BitWig and write nonsense, I welcome it. I have a bunch of projects on my laptop that are more my “real” forward facing projects while I’d be thrilled to write JRPG style nonsense for fun on a steam deck. Similar to how I write a lot of trance, DnB and house on my M8 when having no real desire to write those other places.

All of this is just to say, it’s a fun idea to think that I could swap from Noita or Trails of Cold Steel, to BitWig at the drop of a hat.

And @tyleretters, handheld devices are like catnip to new dads. :grin:


This is really the crux of it. I can’t say whether I’m at all likely to grab one (certainly not exclusively for music), but if I did, I would definitely have this in mind. Plus I doubt I’m at all likely to pick up a more powerful portable device anytime soon, and I could see plugging this into my rack on the go for mixing and recording duties as well as sometimes treating it as an instrument in the mix. (with its interesting array of controls)

I preordered one yesterday. Pretty excited for it. My primary use will be as a gaming device, but I’ll definitely be exploring the possibilities for music. Hell, it’s a PC with all the I/O that suggests, so it can even be my backup work computer in a pinch. At $400 for the base model, but with a serious GPU and CPU and 16GB of RAM, the price doesn’t “make sense” in the current PC marketplace - Valve is almost surely selling the base model at a loss to get plenty of people talking and adopting it and selling more Steam games (they get 30% on each Steam sale so if only as a vehicle to get people to buy more Steam games, they will come out ahead). It’s probably one of the best PC values out there to be honest, if not the actual best. To compare, Surface Pro 7 is currently deeply discounted at $600 and that’s 4GB of RAM, integrated graphics that won’t run any AAA games, and a far weaker CPU. The cheapest “gaming laptop” (i.e. having a solid GPU) I’ve seen recently was a Dell with a Ryzen G15 and 8GB RAM, priced at $800 for a July 4 sale. This $400 price point is insane and yes, it can run games like Control at 60fps with midrange settings.

If you’ve never used Bitwig on a touch screen (with finger or better yet, with stylus/smart pen), don’t knock it - the touch implementation is incredibly well done. They really paid special attention to it and everything works astoundingly well. There’s even MPE like compatibilities for expression/performance (per note X/Y expression using multitouch).

This could also be a killer machine for VCV Rack. VCV has functioned poorly on my Macbook Air as well as my Surface Pro 7 for anything beyond simple applications. That’s because it’s a program that eats up GPU like candy, and I’ve had poor integrated graphics on both machines. I thought about getting a gaming laptop partly to run VCV properly, but that’s a silly amount of money to spend for that purpose. $400 can be more easily justified though. VCV Rack has poor touch implementation, but you do have the two trackpads on the Steam Deck for navigation, and hopefully better touch support will be coming with VCV 2.0.

Also - I haven’t looked too deeply into it, but I think you might be able to run M8 Tracker’s software on it? No idea how well the interface would translate to Steam Deck’s controls, but worth looking into.

P.S. I’m not suggesting this applies to anyone else, but I have an eye disease that limits my ability to stare at a traditional monitor or laptop. I have about 4 or 5 contacts-less hours every day that I need to be looking at something a few inches from my face - my best devices for this have been the Switch and Kindle, both of which I can use comfortably and clearly during those hours. Steam Deck would be my third device that I can use close-up without trouble. Since those 4-5 hours also tend to overlap 100% with my music-making time, it’s probably a much better solution than squinting at a laptop screen hunched over.


Yes, you should be able to. I’ve run headless on my Linux machine using m8c, and it works quite well. I haven’t tried it with a controller as of yet, but this is what the readme says:

The program uses SDL’s game controller system, which should make it work automagically with most gamepads.

As I understand it, this is being actively developed with promising options for implementation. I’m not sure if this is a 2.0 thing though, or not.

I’m already very keen to get a portable touchscreen for just this reason. I can imagine controls and multi-touch together, though, would make a pretty killer combo.

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It runs Arch Linux and Valve have explicitly said that it will be completely open, like a PC. You can install Windows if you like, or a different version of Linux.