Thursday, September 21, 2023

Dbrand’s Steam Deck case is so good you almost forget the big flaw

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Shreya Christina
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In high school, I’d prevent my CD player from getting crushed in my book bag by wrapping it in a wool sock. Considering that the CD player was probably the most expensive I owned at the time, I probably could have done better. This is how I felt with the first cover I bought for my Steam Deck. It was definitely a step up from mismatched footwear, but I knew a device like this requires a little more respect without having to constantly keep it locked in the case it came in.

Dbrand, maker of accessories for your phone, AirPodsand even your PS5, share this feeling and made “Project Kill Switch.” Killswitch was designed as a better protective skin for the Steam Deck and began development shortly after Valve’s announcement of the device.

The Killswitch cover is a semi-flexible cover that fits snugly over your Steam Deck; the part of the case that covers the handles has a nice grippy finish similar to Dbrand’s phone cases. The top and bottom of the case have raised edges to keep the buttons free from direct impact (but the analog sticks are still visible), while the back of the case has cutouts for the rear paddle buttons and fan vents in addition to a raised space for the magnetic stand.

However, we don’t recommend using the default in its current state if you already have a Killswitch. The magnets used in the stand are incredibly strong, but their position allows them to interfere with the fans used in certain earlier models of the Steam Deck. We tested this on our Steam Deck test model and dropped the fan speeds by 1500 to 2500 RPM with the stand installed. When we used the same method on a Steam Deck that shipped in July and another modified with an aftermarket fan, the impact was much less pronounced.

Here’s a video showing you the impact on our Steam Deck review unit:

Here’s a closer look at how the magnets can interfere with the fan:

Dbrand is aware of this issue and has issued a disclaimer alongside the public release of the Killswitch. Until Dbrand can make a version of the stand that doesn’t use magnets, you have a few options. If you’re someone who pre-ordered a Killswitch during development and ordered one on the 25th, you can return it for a full refund or stick to it, and Dbrand will send you both a replacement case and a stand (which don’t feature magnets) as soon as they are available. To reserve an order now, you can currently order a kit from the Dbrand website with an estimated ship date of Q1 2023. Dbrand has also stated that any future production of the Killswitch will only be made with a mechanical stand and issued a formal statement detailing the issue and the path forward on r/dbrand.

A photo of the back of the Killswitch case with the magnetic stand attached and extended

The magnetic stand interferes with the fans; please don’t use it.
Photo by Alice Newcome-Beill / The Verge

Moving on from magnets and fans, the other half of Project Killswitch is the travel case, a hardened piece of plastic that snaps securely onto the surface of the Steam Deck with the Killswitch case installed. The travel case has a chamfered surface with a pair of larger legs on either side. The travel case does not come into direct contact with the screen after installation and protects the joysticks.

The essential Project Killswitch kit costs $59.95 and includes the Killswitch case, the kickstand and a vinyl skin of your choice. The travel set is also available for $74.95, which includes all of the loot mentioned above, as well as a pair of stick grips and the travel case for the Killswitch.

A photo of the travel case attached to the front of the Killswitch case

The travel case snaps into the front of the Killswitch case.
Photo by Alice Newcome-Beill / The Verge

It’s worth noting that every Steam Deck already comes with a cover that’s honestly pretty damn good. But since your Steam Deck probably spends most of its time outdoors, with a little extra insurance you can feel a little less precious about your new handheld.

Protection aside, arguably the most important aspect of the Killswitch is that unlike some of the other Steam Deck cases I’ve tried, it doesn’t ruin the device aesthetically. Sure, all those silicone sleeves might keep your deck safe, but they feel awful, look worse, and are an absolute magnet for hair and dust.

A photo showing the front of the Steam Deck for the Project Killswitch packaging

Issues aside, the Killswitch case is one of the best options for avoiding damage to your Steam Deck.
Photo by Alice Newcome-Beill / The Verge

Covers, skins, and other protective accessories have been available for the Steam Deck since day one, but are mostly what I’d consider a “better than nothing” solution. The Killswitch is something I would actually like to dress my Steam Deck in. The issues around the stand are a bit disappointing, but I’d still pay $59.99 for the fit and finish of the Killswitch case alone. Until something better comes along, the Killswitch case is my first and second recommendation for anyone serious about protecting their Steam Deck. We would have liked to see a better product, but Dbrand is on the right track and we look forward to their next development.

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