Posted on 10/09/2022 19:47:33
This series of blogposts will be about documenting my experience with using Valve’s Steam Deck as a regular Linux desktop with its preinstalled SteamOS environment.
I admit I didn’t pick the most quality dock for this use case and cheaped out a bit and rushed to purchase without much more investigation than amount of ports. The dock I ended up purchasing was from China and bought from AliExpress. It features a single 4K@30Hz HDMI port, an USB-C power delivery port and 3x USB 3.0 ports. The first hurdle I faced from lack of research was the inability to support my PC monitor’s native refresh rate of 144Hz, but instead be capped to 1080p@120Hz.
Regardless of this setback, it still feels as smooth to my eyes, so it isn’t going to be a dealbreaker or a dispute, return, refund type of deal.
My original premise in the idea blogpost was that I would be using a KVM switch for my peripherals. That idea is scrapped, all of the peripherals are now connected to the dock instead and PC is currently in an idle state until the electricity prices become sane in Estonia - they recently put vast majority of people on hourly billing cycle based on the current exchange pricing, so it is in my best interests to save electricity where possible to avoid having to see an outrageous bill. I may revisit this once the prices are sane again.
What I ended up connecting was nothing spectacular, really, just an USB keyboard, mouse and a microphone. I also connected my speakers through my display to a spare 3.5mm slot, if necessary I can also get up to 4x USB ports there for use.
The first hurdle I had when entering desktop mode with the dock was that the display was without any taskbar or icons - that was a relatively easy fix of going to the settings on Deck’s built-in display and marking my PC’s display as the primary, not a huge deal, but something to keep in mind for anyone reading who happens to be unfamiliar with Linux.
The next hurdle I had was applications from Discover (so flatpaks) being unable to open any browser links at all. This one was a lot harder to get to the bottom of with combined help of based.quest matrix chat, it took about 50 minutes to reach a workaround which was documented in a SteamOS issue.
I make no secret that I use an offline password manager KeePassXC and one of its features is the browser integration. Unfortunately, the browser integration currently does not work between flatpak versions of Firefox and KeePassXC. There is some movement on Mozilla’s end, but KeePassXC has raised their hands on their end.
Despite this setback, it is still possible to use the password manager - just not without browser integration detecting login fields and prompting you to fill relevant credentials for you, that now needs to be done manually.
I often forget that I even use the Steam Deck instead of my PC. It only makes me realize when I am putting some load on the machine or try to play a game and find performance to be noticably worse than my PC. That should not discredit Deck’s performance, though. It is amazing what this device can do in just 15W and I am extremely happy this experiment hit off mostly clean without many issues. I feel confident in being able to just leave my PC on hibernation for the winter ahead where electricity prices are merciless as I know the Steam Deck will be able to deliver on my expectations for daily tasks.
I will be making follow-up posts on this experiment going forward, documenting new hurdles and workarounds to anyone else with a Steam Deck looking to use it as a premiere desktop experience.
Thanks for reading,
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