Valve recently unveiled the Steam Deck, a portable gaming PC based on the company’s own SteamOS. But, how does it compare to the current king of on-the-go gaming in the Steam Deck vs Nintendo Switch face-off?
With prices ranging from £349/$399 to £569/$649 depending on which configuration you opt for, the Steam Deck is definitely a little pricier than the £279.99/$299.99 Switch (not to mention the even cheaper Switch Lite). However, Valve promises plenty of perks for that price, including powerful specs, more storage and access to pretty much any PC game.
Meanwhile, the Switch has continued to enjoy success over four years after it first launched, with Nintendo recently announcing a new Switch OLED model.
Here are the key differences between the Steam Deck and the Switch that you should consider before picking up your next portable gaming device.
The Steam Deck is a lot more powerful
The Steam Deck is a more powerful device than the Switch. The device is powered by a custom APU, consisting of the AMD Zen 2 CPU and the AMD RDNA 2 GPU, while also packing 16GB of RAM along with up to 512GB of SSD storage.
The Switch, meanwhile, packs a Nvidia Custom Tegra processor and comes with just 32GB of storage. While the Steam Deck reportedly flaunts similar performance power to the PS4 and Xbox One and can run just about any PC game, the Switch often struggles to play current-gen AAA games such as Control and Hitman 3.
The Steam Deck will also include support for ray tracing, a feature found on the PS5 and the Xbox Series X that makes light, reflections and shadows look more realistic. The Nintendo Switch is incapable of supporting such advanced technology natively.
However, more power will also likely mean more drain on the battery. Valve says the Steam Deck will have a battery life of 2 to 8 hours depending on the title, which is less than the 4.5 to 9 hours currently offered by the Nintendo Switch.
The Steam Deck runs on SteamOS
The Steam Deck runs on an optimised version of Valve’s Linux-based SteamOS operating system.
When you log into your Steam account on the Steam Deck, you’ll be able access your entire library as you would on a PC. You’ll also be able to use the store, view notifications, open cloud saves from your PC, stream games from your PC and chat with your friends on the handheld device.
Because it’s a PC, you can also install third-party software and operating systems like Windows and use the Steam Deck as you would any other computer.
The Switch uses its own locked-down operating system, giving gamers access to their game library, the Nintendo eShop, Nintendo Switch Online, news and announcements and screenshots all from the home page.
However, the console is limited to the games available for the Switch, while Steam Deck players should essentially be able to access any games that’s available on PC.
The Steam Deck is twice as heavy as the standard Switch
The Steam Deck might be more portable than a gaming PC, but that doesn’t mean it’s the most lightweight device around.
The Steam Deck weighs approximately 669g – that’s just under twice that of the Nintendo Switch, which weighs 399g with the Joy-Con controllers attached and just 299g without.
This has cast some doubt on how portable the Steam Deck actually is, but we won’t be able to know for sure until we get a unit in our hands. That said, if you want as light a gaming system as possible, then Nintendo seemingly offers the best option in the Steam Deck vs Nintendo Switch contest.
The Steam Deck offers more storage options
With the Steam Deck, Valve offers multiple storage configurations: 64GB, 256GB and 512GB. This is also expandable with a MicroSD slot.
The Switch comes with a less impressive 32GB of storage, a portion of which is used by the system. However, users also have the option to expand the console’s storage up to 2TB with a microSD card.
Storage space is also less of an issue on an Nintendo system compared to PC. For example, Breath of the Wild only takes up 13.4GB and Super Mario Odyssey only requires 5.7GB. In comparison, the likes of Death Stranding and F1 2021 on PC both take up 80GB of storage each, and so won’t even fit on the base model of the Steam Deck.
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The controllers on the Steam Deck are non-detachable
One of the great things about the Nintendo Switch is its versatility. You can use the console as a handheld device with the Joy-Con controllers attached, detach them and play on the small screen or slide the console into a dock and play on your TV.
The controllers on the Steam Deck are non-detachable, meaning you can’t slip them off to play multiplayer games like you can with the Switch. However, Valve does plan on selling a dock separately so you can still connect the device to an external display. The Steam Deck also features Bluetooth, so you can connect a PS4 or Xbox controller instead.
Like the Switch, the Steam Deck includes A, B, X and Y buttons, left and right thumbsticks and arrow keys. The Steam Deck also features two additional 32.5mm square trackpads with haptic feedback support, which are said to simulate the performance of a mouse.
The Steam Deck can output up to 8K @ 60Hz or 4K @ 120Hz via USB-C
The Steam Deck features a 7-inch LCD touchscreen display with a 1280×800 resolution and 16:10 aspect ratio. The display has a 60Hz refresh rate, but the device can also support up to 8K @ 60Hz or up to 4K @ 120Hz when connected to an external display with USB-C.
Such a high resolution will be hard to achieve with the Steam Deck’s modest performance power, but it does possibly open up the door for use with an external GPU.
The Switch has a slightly smaller 6.2-inch LCD touchscreen display with a 1280 x 720 resolution and 60Hz refresh rate. However, we know the Switch is capable of displaying up to 1080p via HDMI in TV mode or up to 720p in its handheld mode.
The new OLED model features a larger 7-inch display if you prefer the sound of a larger screen. This is one of the few areas where Nintendo boasts an advantage in the Steam Deck vs Nintendo Switch face-off, as an OLED screen provides superior contract than a standard LCD display.