This Deluxe Steam Deck Kickstand Makes A Huge Difference
September 27, 2022
While the steam bridge, Valve’s bloated mini PC, offers a wealth of gaming experiences in a portable form factor, the lack of a kickstand has been a sore point. Enter the deckhand: A simple plastic bracket that allows you to attach not only a handy kickstand, but also several other specialized mounting solutions to the back of the Deck.
The Deckmate is the brainchild of product design engineer Siri Ramos. Ramos described how the Steam Deck Community the enthusiasm and support helped them turn what was once a fun personal project into a complete product. Of course, the community’s love for small maker-style projects is evident just by scrolling r/SteamDeck. The Deckmate evolved from a series of prototypes and first 3D printed parts to a professional quality end product. After using it for a few weeks, it seems like a very natural extension to my Deck, with a few surprises of its own.
At the center of the Deckmate “system”, as the creator calls it, is the “grip”, a simple plastic claw that, well, grips the back of the mini-PC like a headcrab on a poor zombie. And like this headcrab, it is a fairly transparent accessory, which does not interfere with the original protective case of the system. The grip can also hold two spare SD cards, and like a headcrab, is likely to want to stay where you put it. I’ve only transferred it to another Steam Deck once, and bending the plastic to remove it sounds like something I only want to do a handful of times at most.
The clips are visible on the top and bottom of the device when viewed from the front, but the color and texture of the plastic blends well with the Deck. I hardly notice it anymore and I don’t feel it with my hands anymore when I play.
The handle mount itself doesn’t do much. Instead, it allows a variety of “stands” to fit into the back of the device. These lock into place with a pair of springs. Available mounts include that remarkably handy kickstand, “pucks” with adhesives for attaching a battery or USB-C hub, wall mounts and even a 75mm VESA mount like you see on the back of PC monitors.
While I used one of my pucks for a handy USB-C hub that let me plug in a variety of USB devices with an Ethernet cable to speed up downloads, the kickstand felt like the most essential.
You may not think much of a crutch; it is a very basic device and concept. But given the size and weight of the Steam Deck, being able to attach one to the back has been a bit like growing a third arm, especially when playing on a sofa or bed.
This came to mind when I decided to start Spider-Man: Remastered a night. Lying in bed, with the kickstand in place, I could simply lay the device in front of me to watch the opening cutscene, then pick it up when I was ready to start swinging around Manhattan Island. This might not seem so telling if you haven’t spent too many hours on a Deck, so let me give you some context.
The Steam Deck is about as heavy as it looks. It’s a big device! And playing for long periods of time, at least for me, makes my hands feel a bit tingly, then numb. Being able to lay it down with the screen always facing me and give my hands a break during non-interactive cutscenes allowed me to spend more time playing. The kickstand also has a fair amount of adjustability. It can move 120 degrees, and it never looks like that notoriously flimsy piece of junk attached to the Nintendo Switch, which always seemed to threaten to break right away. The Deckmate kickstand is also ideal for resting the device on a desk and connecting a keyboard.
Read more: Yes, you can use the Steam Deck as a computer (here’s how)
An unexpected benefit is the Deck’s high heat output. Being able to prop it up with the exhaust fan pointing in a more vertical direction seems like a better way to prop the device up while it’s downloading something or playing a graphically intensive cutscene. If Reddit is to be believed, there may also be aromatherapeuticadvantages at enjoy.
Another surprising use for the kickstand was that while lying in bed or on a couch, I could kind of use it as a monopole, letting it support more of the weight of the device. As a result, my hands weren’t doing the job of playing on the device and holding it. Overall, the Deckmate with the kickstand attachment just made the Deck a more comfortable machine for me.
Although I found the kickstand to be the star of the show, others might find more utility in mounting additional accessories to the grip washers. As the Deckmate site states, the adhesive used on these pucks is virtually permanent. So if you want to stick a big battery or a USB hub or whatever, know that you’re creating a pretty permanent bond between the washer attachment and the accessory. They will be friends for life.
A few other caveats exist. If you have some sort of smartphone-style case wrapped around your Deck, increasing its thickness, the Grip base stand probably won’t fit around it. Fortunately, a Bridge Mate Adapter which sports the same 3M adhesive as the pucks provides another way to attach the Grip to the back of a third-party case. However, it may not be possible to resolve conflicts with some docks. Although the Deckmate FAQ seems very optimistic about it fitting into something like a JSAUX docking stationI found the handle mount to be just a little too big and made it unstable when sitting in my dock.
You can also only use one mount at a time, so if you want to both use the kickstand and charge the device with a power bank, you’ll need to choose which one will be attached to the device. Granted, if you’re using the kickstand, you probably have a flat surface to rest that battery anyway.
Importantly, if you’re using a USB-C hub, you need to be very careful about cable length, especially when making the final decision to stick a puck on the hub. In my case, I suspect I’ve stuck the puck a little too low on my hub, and as a result, the USB-C cable has a little too much tension when it reaches my Deck’s single USB-C port. I’ll probably try repositioning it, but since the adhesive is single use, I’ll probably have to get creative. Moral of the story: Measure your cable lengths and use right angle adapters where it makes sense.
Once detached, the kickstand and any devices with pucks will easily fit into the storage case that comes with the Deck. You can just put it in compartment on the bottom that many Steam Deck users have foundCreative used for. That said, if your accessory needs to expand to a gamepad, keyboard, and more peripherals, you’ll need a bigger bag. For those times when you want to travel light, you can simply detach the Deckmate brackets and leave the bracket ‘grip’ barely noticeable.
If you just want to get the kickstand, you’ll need the handle mount, which costs $20, and then the kickstand mount itself for an additional $15. Individual pucks are $7 each. You can also choose to purchase the “complete system,” which includes the handle, two washers, VESA mount, wall mount, and case-independent adapter for $49. While you can certainly find cheaper kickstand options on Amazon and elsewhere, the Deckmate system seems sturdy and reliable. Sitting the deck with the Deckmate kickstand, it never feels like it’s going to tip over (as long as the angle is set correctly). Its size and build quality matches the Deck itself well.
You can also go the DIY route by download Deckmate digital files and print them yourself. I imagine it will take some trial and error, but the files are free and distributed, as everything should be, under a Creative Commons license.
Overall, the Deckmate, especially with its kickstand, is a great Steam Deck accessory that expands where (and how) I can play games on it. It’s high quality, looks great, and fits right in with the DIY spirit of the device. Hopefully, we’ll see more unique and quality projects of this type as the Deck settles into the larger landscape of gaming hardware.