Looking back on the year, there's no question in my mind what product connected with me the most; the Valve Steam Deck is triumph.
There were a ton of very good tech products that came into my life this year, so what makes the Steam Deck special? For me it's more than just executing on an idea well, it's also a product that has fundamentally changed my behavior. It's also a product that proves that "the best" product doesn't have to be a "perfect" product.
Without getting into a full review of the Deck, let me just say that the single thing I can point to as to why this is such a great product is that the Steam Deck sands down most of the complexities of PC gaming while keeping the spirit of PC gaming alive and well.
The Steam Deck offers a very clean out-of-the-box experience, and if you want to do some more fancy stuff, you can boot into desktop mode and install other software that lets you run more games, including emulators. What's lovely is that you can add these games from desktop mode and they integrate into the console mode that you spend most of your time in. It's just as seamless to play a game I bought on Steam and another that I'm emulating, which is pretty rad.
Another incredible thing about the Steam Deck is that basically everything runs on it. It's not a super high powered PC by any means, but there literally has not been a game I've thrown at it that does not play at least reasonably well. Hell, I played a few hours of Cyberpunk on this thing and while it was on low settings and only 30fps, it was completely playable.
I also love that my game save files sync seamlessly to the cloud and I can bounce between my Steam Deck and gaming PC without losing my progress. This is great for long games where I want to play on my PC and get the big screen, 4k, 120fps experience, but then I can grind away on it while I relax on the couch as well. Persona 5 Royal has been great to play this way, for example.
Finally, I'll add that I'm a big fan of the Nintendo Switch, but I play that a lot less after getting the Steam Deck, and I'm also buying way fewer indie games for it now. I used to default to getting indies on the Switch because it offered that portable option, but the Steam Deck beats the Switch at its own game. I can now get the big screen and handheld experience with one purchase on Steam, just like I can on the Switch, but also the Steam Deck plays these game so much better than the Switch. I know it's unoriginal to wish for a Switch Pro, but the Steam Deck really puts a pin in how far behind the times the Switch is in terms of power (remember , it runs on an Android tablet SoC from 2015).
My one real complaint about the Steam Deck is the display, which is 800p (fine for the size), but is a really poor LCD display that simply doesn't look as good as we're used to in portable devices today. The one big advantage the Switch OLED has is it's screen, which looks so much better than the Steam Deck's washed out screen.