Valve’s Steam Deck-focused SteamOS 3 operating system might be one of the best Linux operating systems designed for gaming; however, Valve has yet to release an official desktop version of the OS that is suitable for PC gamers. To remedy the issue, the Linux community has created a custom clone of SteamOS 3 called Bazzite that supports gaming PC hardware right out of the box — making Valve’s SteamOS desktop experience accessible to Linux gamers.
Bazzite isn’t an exact clone of SteamOS 3, but its functionality is virtually identical to Valve’s operating system. On the surface, Bazzite features an identical desktop experience to SteamOS 3. Thanks to the integration of KDE Plasma — a customizable Linux desktop environment, and Valve’s KDE themes from SteamOS, Bazzite shares the same desktop wallpapers, icons, and taskbar as Valve’s operating system. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think you were running the real SteamOS.
But under the hood, Bazzite’s actual operating system is not the same, as it uses an entirely different Linux distro from Valve’s operating system. Instead of using a branch of Arch Linux, which is the distro SteamOS 3 is based on, Bazzite is built using a custom version of Fedora 38, which incorporates more hardware and device support than SteamOS 3. Some of the hardware support includes baked-in proprietary Nvidia driver support for GeForce GPUs, to enable GeForce-powered systems to run Bazzite. (Sadly AMD support is unclear — but the OS does support AMD ROCm.)
One of the perks of Linux-based operating systems is that you have the freedom to build an operating system whichever way you choose, with features you want to have.
Beyond this, Bazzite has a several other features that make it stand out from SteamOS 3, including a CPU scheduler from system builder System76 to optimize CPU performance, an Android emulator called Waydroid, support for DisplayLink, and more. Bazzite is also capable of running Steam/Proton and Lutris through a virtualized compatibility layer of Arch Linux, which should improve compatibility with Steam Deck-approved titles. Even though Steam and Valve’s Proton compatibility layer is already functional on Fedora 38, having a backup system that can run games through Arch Linux is good to have.
There is even a Bazzite version optimized for the Valve Steam Deck for that special niche of users who need more functionality than what Valve’s SteamOS 3 already provides on the Deck. Most of the additions are highly technical, but one of the most unique additions is support for 32GB of memory for people who want to mod their Steam Deck with 32GB of system RAM. The Steam Deck version is definitely not for everyone, since the Steam Deck already comes with SteamOS 3, but it could be a good alternative for hardcore Linux power users.
The only issue right now with Bazzite is that the installation procedure is a bit complicated for normal users, to the point where the developers consider the OS installation process as incomplete. However, the installation shouldn’t be too much of a problem if you’re already familiar with Linux operating systems.
Bazzite is arguably one of the best efforts to get SteamOS 3’s desktop experience running on anything other than the Steam Deck. There have been other attempts to get an actual copy of SteamOS 3 to work on non-Steam Deck hardware like HoloISO, but hardware support is unreliable and, in the case of HoloISO, it only really works with specific AMD GPUs.