WaterField Designs Steam Deck sleeve review: Subtle and sleek with room for essential extras

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Part of the appeal of Valve’s Steam Deck PC-meets-console console is the inclusion of a free hard-shell carrying case. It’s certainly a sturdy offering, but not that compact. While the official variant has a carrying handle and a few spare compartments, there’s no subtlety to walking around with a case emblazoned with a logo of its contents.

Based in San Francisco, WaterField Designs makes stylish and functional accessories for all kinds of hardware. Currently offering a small selection of cases for the Steam Deck, this nylon sleeve offers convenient protection in various colors. I spent a few days with their Steam Deck sleeve to determine if it was worth the asking price.

Steam Deck Cover: Pricing and Availability

WaterField Designs Pouch for Steam Deck in Forza Green (Image credit: Ben Wilson | Windows Central)

WaterField Designs sells the sleeve for the Steam Deck exclusively through its proprietary store for $79 and is available in various colors, including Oilskin, Ballistic Black, Forza Blue, Forza Green, and Forza Red. An additional carabiner is available with any choice for an additional $3.

WaterField provided us with a Forza green sample that measures 34.29 x 4.44 x 11.68cm and weighs 16g empty.

Cover for Steam Deck: Only good

WaterField Designs Sleeve for Steam Deck with Console (Image credit: Ben Wilson | Windows Central)

My first impressions of the Steam Deck cover matched my expectations; it’s a sturdy nylon casing with no signs of poor or lazy construction. Some mass-produced accessories often show signs of cuts in the corners, with frayed seams weakening the handles that prevent you from trusting them to protect your expensive gear. Fortunately, no red flags appeared during my initial inspection.

A carrying loop is attached to the left side and held against rough pulling. The Steam Deck is a heavy console, heavier than the Nintendo Switch, so a single handle should be reliable. The two zippers for the main compartment and the side pockets are relatively modest, but the handles feature a nice little WF pattern on one side. There are subtle company logos dotted around, but nothing to loudly announce that you’re carrying around an expensive console.

Part of the marketing for this pouch shows it inside larger bags in the range, which makes more sense than carrying it separately. Still, it’s sturdy enough to reassure me, and more flexible than a bulky hard case. Competing with the official option means the interior has to pack substantial padding to protect your Steam Deck’s 7-inch screen, and opening it up shows Waterfield Designs got the job done.

WaterField Designs Steam Deck Side Pocket Pouch (Image credit: Ben Wilson | Windows Central)

The inside of this pouch features a plush lining, which is probably what you expected. It’s softer than the material inside the official case, but you lose the stiff veneer. Luckily, WaterField Designs has gone a step further with an additional double-thick wall formed around the Steam Deck screen that also acts as a slim storage sleeve.

Naturally, you won’t want to cram too much into this skinny pocket as it does most of the work of protecting precious glass, but I was able to slip a few microSD cards into protective cases.

A double-thick wall formed around the Steam Deck screen also acts as a thin storage sleeve.

The design aesthetic stands out most inside the zippered front pocket, lined with a gold nylon lining in a hexagonal pattern and another pattern reminding you that this pouch was grown in San Francisco.

It made me think of the yellowish color themes of futuristic Deus Ex games and that I should immediately install them on Steam Deck.

This front section is much better suited for bulkier accessories and is where I’ve kept a USB-C docking station for connecting additional peripherals. There is a separate pocket inside to store external storage devices or whatever else you need. Depending on your region, this section may not have enough space to store your power adapter, which is one of the only downsides to this pouch.

Cover for Steam Deck: What’s Not So Good

WaterField Designs Sleeve for Steam Deck with Controller (Image credit: Ben Wilson | Windows Central)

Since I’m working from the UK I get the chunky three pin AC adapter supplied by Valve. It is not transformable and has no chance of fitting into this pouch, unlike the much thinner American bifold variant. This unfortunate problem is not a fault on WaterField Designs; they operate in the United States, so it makes sense to cater to your local audience.

Nevertheless, international delivery is available, so you should think about what accessories you plan to take on your travels. Finding a compatible USB-C adapter with a more compact and transformable design might help you get around this minor issue. Always remember: match rated power on unofficial adapters and check compatibility before plugging anything into your Steam Deck.

The only other concern I had with this sleeve was the safety of protruding thumb sticks when transporting the Steam Deck. Valve’s official carry case has sections cut out to prevent them from being knocked over or twisted during transit, but there’s nothing inside this soft variant to match. They’re not that common, though anyone with access to a 3D printer can try controller protectors (via Printables) to keep them rigid and safe from damage.

Cover for Steam Deck: The Competition

Official Steam Deck carry case (Image credit: Miles Dompier | Windows Central)

Any company designing carrying cases and sleeves for the Steam Deck is immediately in competition with the free hardshell variant provided by Valve. As I mentioned earlier, the official option is sturdy and offers plenty of protection, but far from subtle with a console logo print. Anyone looking to carry the handheld with a bit more style and versatility will likely choose a replacement at some point, with soft pouches offering more options.

Searching Amazon currently mostly offers hard cases, even specifying soft sleeves. There are some cheap options available, made from felt and other materials, but feature images of the usual suspect 3D rendering and no actual photographs of the Steam Deck stored inside. This is a fairly common practice used by companies targeting the lowest price, making it difficult to commit to a purchase.

At this time, it is difficult to recommend alternatives for a flexible Steam Deck sleeve. Cheap options regularly disappear from storefronts, then resurface weeks later under a different brand with the same product images. You can find more affordable variants, but $79 seems like a fair amount for the WaterFront Design models. An unfortunate downside to exclusive sales is that you won’t be able to use any store credit or vouchers you may have from other retailers.

Steam Deck Cover: Should You Buy?

You should buy it if…

  • You don’t need to carry too many bulky accessories.
  • You have access to a slim power adapter for the console.
  • You want a stylish and flexible Steam Deck sleeve.

You shouldn’t buy it if…

  • You must travel with larger accessories.
  • Your region uses a large power adapter with no alternative.
  • You want to protect the Steam Deck controllers during transport.

WaterField Designs hit the mark with this versatile pouch, keeping your Steam Deck safe for quick trips or even safer when stowed in heavy luggage. Available in different colors to match your other travel essentials, it features high-quality construction and ample space to store the essentials.

Restricting sales to a first-party storefront isn’t ideal for those who prefer to shop elsewhere, but the price is right. It’s a sturdy sleeve that should last for many years and is still one of the best Steam Deck cases. Be sure to check your region’s power adapter, as some are too large to fit in any side section and may need replacing.

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