I’ve been waiting for Valve’s official Steam Deck dock for quite a while, so when the $89 accessory finally went on sale earlier this month, I ordered one right away. A few months ago, I wrote about how Steam Deck has changed the way I buy games in part because I believe I’ll be able to access my games on Steam for far longer than I can on other platforms. But I wasn’t ready to go all in because playing the handheld on my TV wasn’t as smooth an experience as it is on the Nintendo Switch.
To be fair, TV gaming has never been the intention of the Steam Deck, as it’s clearly designed to be a portable device. But I’ve been testing the dock to see if it makes playing on my TV easier anyway. To me, it makes the Steam Deck even more useful; the device is already great for handheld PC gaming, and with the dock (technically, the Steam Deck Docking Station), it’s relatively easy to play those games on bigger screens. How you feel about the dock will depend a lot on how much you care about graphics.
I’ve been checking out the PC version of Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection, a bundle remastering Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and The Lost Legacy, ahead of its release this week. Uncharted is one of PlayStation’s most recognizable franchises, and its games are well-suited to long TV sessions on the couch, so I figured it would make for an interesting test case.
Uncharted didn’t look great on my TV, but I loved playing it there anyway
On default settings, the game didn’t look great hooked up to my TV through the Steam Deck dock. I haven’t played the PS5 version, but I could tell that the visuals were certainly a step down. The default maximum resolution was 1280 x 720, and even then, frame rates would swing between 30 and 60fps. This makes some sense: the Steam Deck, as a portable system, understandably doesn’t have the horsepower of a modern home console like the PS5. You can mess with the game’s maximum resolution in Steam itself, and I was able to bump it up to 2560 x 1440. That improved how things looked, but frame rates took a big hit.
But even with the worse visuals (I’ve reverted to the defaults), I’ve loved being able to easily play the Lost Legacy while docked and in handheld on the Deck itself. I was able to start the game in an airplane seat instead of having to wait until I was in front of my PS5 or attempting to play wirelessly through Remote Play. Thanks to the Steam Deck dock, I was able to finish it on my TV. The Switch normalized similar experiences years ago, but it’s still awesome now, especially with resource-heavy titles like Uncharted.
The dock itself is a small piece of black plastic. It has three USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 ports, a gigabit ethernet port, a DisplayPort 1.4 port, an HDMI 2.0 port, and a USB-C port for power. The Steam Deck slots into the dock nicely and sits at a good angle to be used as a secondary display while at your desk. A small USB-C cable attached to the dock plugs into your Deck. The dock comes with its own 45W charger so you can plug it into an outlet.
Less performance-intensive games have been a smoother experience. I’m thrilled that I have a reliable way to play Vampire Survivors (which is leaving early access this week) on a big screen without waiting for a console port. Return to Monkey Island’s colorful art pops on my TV; it might be the place where I try a hard mode playthrough. I even discovered I could connect a DualSense controller to the dock and set up gyro controls with Trombone Champ, which instantly makes it a contender for future party games.
Valve will be releasing firmware updates for the dock, so there could be special features down the line. The dock itself keeps the Steam Deck at a nice angle to use as a secondary display. But one major knock against it is that you don’t even need it to play on your TV.
I tried both Lost Legacy and Vampire Survivors on my TV with everything plugged into the USB-C hub I use with my office desk, and the experience was exactly the same. If your TV or streaming device has it, you can also beam your games from your Steam Deck to your TV using the Steam Link app. It’s how I played much of Return to Monkey Island, though sometimes I experienced some annoying lag between devices.
I will be keeping the dock, but it won’t get a permanent spot in my TV stand yet
So, will the dock earn a permanent place in my TV stand and take over one of my TV’s HDMI ports? Right now, no. The whole experience is just a bit too finicky for me, and games on my PS5 and Xbox Series X look much better without as much hassle. But I will be keeping the dock, and I bet I’ll use it with my TV from time to time. Right now, it’s parked next to my work desk as a great place to charge my Deck, and I anticipate I’ll use set it up to take on a few more taxing PC games on my TV, like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, that I’ve been putting off (sorry, Cam).
Again, I want to stress that TV gaming is not what the Deck was designed for. Maybe that will change with a future model. But I still need to play through Uncharted 4, and I plan to get through as much of that as I can with my Steam Deck in the dock.