With the launch of the Valve Index, it would appear that Valve is trying to position itself as a leader in the VR market with its standalone headset to rival that of the Oculus Quest.
So, does this mean that their new hybrid computer/console, the Steam Deck, comes with compatibility with these VR headsets?
Is the Steam Deck VR compatible?
The answer is a bit complicated. The Steam Deck doesn´t have any more "built-in" compatibility with a VR headset than Steam itself does. There are no custom "VR modes" aside from what the regular Steam has to offer.
While this might make it seem like the Deck is not compatible with VR, it is not such a clear-cut answer. The Steam Deck is, after all, a portable computer which is why it´s compatible with pretty much everything you can connect to your laptop. With a bit of finagling, you can theoretically connect any PC-powered headset to the Deck and try to play on VR.
Your first hurdle in trying to play VR games on the Deck will come from its ports. The Deck itself only has a USB-C port, and you need a USB 3 port and a Displayport to connect a VR headset, either the Oculus Quest or the Valve Index.
However, there is a relatively easy solution to this problem, and it´s the Steam Deck´s dock. An accessory that you can buy for the Deck that will let you recharge it and connect it to a TV or other monitor.
When the Steam Deck is plugged into its dock, it has access to all the ports the latter has. This includes the USB 3.1 port that will let you connect your headset directly to it. The Dock also comes with a display port, necessary to use with most headsets, like the Index.
The second problem comes when trying to use VR headsets on the Steam Deck comes from its specs. Using a VR headset is quite demanding on a computer, as we covered before, and while the Deck is no slouch, it´s also not a powerhouse.
It´s hard to compare some of the required specs when the processor is custom made for the Deck, but it certainly seems like the portable gaming computer meets all the minimum requirements of a PC-VR headset... but not by much.
The Deck may struggle to handle the more demanding games, like Half-Life Alyx or No Man´s Sky. For now, we can only wait and see how it fares.
In Summary, the Deck is technically capable of running VR headsets, even if it´s not optimized for them. As long as it´s plugged into the Dock, you should have no problem connecting your Virtual Reality Platform to it.