When Valve unveiled their new Steam Deck to an array of widespread surprise, the first thing on everyone’s mind was “hang on, that looks like a Nintendo Switch!” And so the comparisons began. Here, we’ll show you the differences between the two seemingly similar consoles, and see which one would interest you more. It might seem like they’re related, but in reality, they’re not cut from the same cloth. Switch vs Valve’s new Steam Deck, here we go! Round start, as they say in some fighting games…
Switch vs Steam Deck – Round 1: Games
This round really depends on how much you value Nintendo’s exclusives. Mario, Zelda, Smash Bros. They’re all very powerful reasons to own a Switch (aside from the crippling sense of FOMO – that’s fear of missing out – as was the case behind my Switch purchase), for the very reason that (legally) you’re not getting it anywhere else. That’s certainly the case with the Steam Deck, as while it may be customizable (in the sense that Valve will let you install the Microsoft Store and Epic Games Store onto your Steam Deck), you’re not going to be playing Breath of the Wild on it. Someone will figure out a way though – never underestimate the power of software geniuses.
The Steam Deck, however, will unlock your PC library (provided you have a Steam account of course) and allow you to play any games that you own portable. Steam has a fairly decent system when it comes to mapping PC inputs to controllers, and that system will carry over here so, provided that the community manages to make suitable controller profiles for your favorite games, you’ll be able to play your PC library on the go. Maybe not for too long though, as the next category is…
Round 2: Battery
Now, as this is an unreleased bit of hardware, we can’t say for sure how long the Steam Deck will last playing certain types of games. All we have to go on right now are figures quoted elsewhere by Valve. In a quote to IGN, Valve said:
“It’s about 2-8 hours depending on what you’re doing. You can play Portal 2 for 4 hours on this thing. If you limit it to 30fps then you’re going to be playing for 5-6 hours.”
The Nintendo Switch, now that we can find conclusive tested data for. On average, the battery can last between 4.5 to 9 hours, depending on the caliber of the game you’re playing. Breath of the Wild will naturally drain your battery faster than a game like Octopath Traveller for example.
Round 3: Display
The display will be a big drainer of that battery of course. Both devices will utilize a 720p screen, but the Steam Deck will use an LCD screen, which is what the standard Switch uses. However, the newly announced Switch OLED model will use… an OLED screen. Well guessed.
Both consoles have touchscreen support, but the most expensive version of the Steam Deck will have an anti-glare coating to make the screen more visible when you’re playing it outside in direct sunlight. Of course, that’s not the only differentiator between the Steam Deck versions. There’s also…
Round 4: Specs
The Nintendo Switch has been criticized as of late for not being up to the task of delivering modern games at higher framerates. The Switch runs off an Nvidia Tegra GPU, which is by no means lacking, but doesn’t match up to the more powerful custom RDNA2 AMD GPU that resides within the Steam Deck.
The hard drive space also swings in favor of the Steam Deck. While the Switch has to make do with 32GB of storage, doubling to 64GB on the OLED version, the Steam Deck starts at 64GB on NVMe storage. The next version up swaps it for a 256GB SSD and the top range model boasts a 512GB SSD. Not bad for something you can carry around.
Both consoles support expandable storage via microSD cards, however.
We don’t know the full specs of the Steam Deck, but when it comes to Nintendo Switch vs Steam Deck, the latter comfortably takes this round.
Round 5: Controllers + Connectivity
The Nintendo Switch vs Steam Deck comparison takes a bit of a swerve here as the Switch’s controllers (JoyCons) can detach and slide off the sides of the unit, creating that synonymous click noise that is present in every Switch trailer with the logo. The detachable controllers highlight one of the biggest positives about the Nintendo Switch – its versatility. Being able to take the controllers out and play with a JoyCon in either hand is a great experience, and being able to simply put them back in and play in pure handheld mode or traditional console on TV mode is as enjoyable as it is convenient.
The Steam Deck has a feature up its sleeve, however. On the back are two additional buttons on each side, similar to custom controllers made by various third-party controller manufacturers. Those are custom programmable like with the other buttons with Steam’s controller profiles. Also present are two touchpads underneath the sticks, similar to how they were laid out on HTC’s Vive VR headset controllers and Valve’s own Steam Controller. It’s clear that Valve is trying to cater to an audience that appreciates its options.
Because the Steam Deck supports Bluetooth, it massively expands the possibilities for peripheral connection. From PlayStation controllers to wireless headphones, it’s simply a feature the Nintendo Switch can’t match.
Both consoles have docks, although the Steam Deck’s will be sold separately.
Switch vs Steam Deck – Round 6: Price
The prices of the two systems are quite different, given their other details. The Switch, until very recently, only had one model, priced at $299. Then came the Switch Lite, at $199. And finally, is the newly-announced Switch OLED, at $349.
The 64GB nVME Steam Deck starts at $399, a price point even Gabe Newell himself said Valve found hard to get down to, and still above the OLED version of the Nintendo Switch. The next model up, the 256GB SSD model, will set customers back $529, and the top-of-the-line 512GB SSD model will cost $649. All three models contain a carrying case, but only the top range version gets an “exclusive version”. The 256GB and 512GB versions contain an exclusive Steam Community profile bundle, but only the 512GB version gets what’s called an “exclusive virtual keyboard theme”. Sure.
What do you think of the Nintendo Switch vs Valve’s Steam Deck debate? Is it even worth the effort to try and compare them? Thinking of getting a Steam Deck when it launches in 2022? Let us know down below.