The best of the steam deck has nothing to do with it specifications. Rather, its carrying case is my favorite non-functional feature, greatly enhancing the deck’s appreciation in a way its technical prowess has yet to match.
My first delightful surprise was the arrival of the case itself. I wasn’t expecting to get a tote bag when my Steam Deck arrived last week. For everything that was said about the technical performance of the deck – we wrote two reviews – Not much was discussed about the case. So I figured, like a Nintendo Switch or 3DS, cases are available but sold separately.
The sleeve has a hard shell with a soft, velvety interior and a molded shape to allow the deck to sit inside so it doesn’t bounce around while locked in its zippered pouch. The zippers of the suitcase are also something special. While I was initially annoyed trying to remove the zip tie holding the zippers closed, I realized that it’s actually a nice security feature. The double zippers have interlocking holes that could easily accommodate a luggage lock. It won’t deter a determined person from getting inside, but if you have young children or obtrusive roommates who you want to keep off your steam deck, the zipper’s interlocking design gives you that option.
However, my favorite feature of the case is the rubber strap that stretches across the back. The Steam Deck case has handles, but I’ll never use them – that elastic band is the MVP. I especially love it because it allows for hands-free carrying. I decided to test the Steam Deck’s performance in outdoor light (which is an excuse for being outside playing video games all day after being inside playing video games all day). It was also time to walk my dog. This rubber band made my dog walk/spontaneously Persona 4 Gold child’s play in the park session. I didn’t have to juggle my dog’s leash or his poop bags with a game case in the other hand. I just slid the suitcase onto my arm and was ready to go. It was – if you will pardon the pun – a turning point.
I realize it’s a bit odd to specifically rave about the carrying case of one of the most anticipated gaming electronics, but this minor side feature means so much to the ethos of the deck itself. The Steam Deck is meant to be portable. Portability doesn’t just mean small and portable – it also means convenience. My Switch is small and portable, and it’s a pain to carry around. It’s way too big to fit in my jacket pockets and most cases just come with cute straps.
It feels like many game-specific totes are designed to nest inside other, more convenient totes. It’s okay for longer trips where I already take a suitcase or duffel bag with me, but it’s a bit of a hassle for short trips. I live in a very walkable part of town with a coffee shop a block from my house. I have to carry a bulky drawstring backpack if I want to have a short Switch gaming session with a cup of coffee.
The Steam Deck’s case, especially its elastic band, is perfect for a stroll to my local coffee shop or dog park. I don’t have to carry it in another bag or in my hand; I can just hang my Steam Deck on my arm and be hands free to play around with my phone or dog leash. Overall, the Steam Deck itself is still a work in progress. After my short time with it, I’d suggest waiting for the technology and developer acceptance to improve. But I love the convenience of the tote bag. It was a feature I didn’t know I needed, but I’m thrilled to have it.