Monday, June 27, 2022

The Steam Deck finally has Windows audio drivers

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Two and a half months after our Steam Deck review, Valve has finally provided the drivers you need for audio if you choose to install Windows on the portable gaming computer. Before today, you would have had to pair Bluetooth headphones or plug in USB-C earbuds or a dongle to get audio on Windows at all. Both the speakers and the 3.5mm jack didn’t work on Windows until today, and it blamed AMD for the delay.

But now, this pair of new drivers should enable both missing audio features. It took a while for AMD and Valve to release the first set of graphics, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and SD card drivers for Windows.

Is it time to install Windows on your deck? No, I certainly wouldn’t say that. While Valve continues to squash bugs and add fun features to the Linux side of things, Windows was even more of a mess to begin with, and Valve has been clear that you’re largely on your own if you’re going in that direction. I had all sorts of issues with Windows 10 a few weeks ago – and while the Deck now has the correct TPM support in the BIOS so you can install Windows 11, I can’t tell you if it would be any better.

Personally, I’d wait for Valve’s upcoming dual-boot wizard so you can add Windows without erasing Steam Deck’s existing SteamOS installation first. (You can simply swap the M.2 NVMe drive instead and keep the two operating systems separate that way, but be careful.)

For me, the bigger problem is that Windows just doesn’t have the same console-like attributes that make the Deck so good to begin with, especially how to get instant insights into your performance and battery life and fine-tune everything that’s on the run.

If you want Windows, I’d probably look at a dedicated Windows portable instead, especially if Deck rivals respond with more powerful chips and/or lower prices.

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