With the big news that Valve is looking to bring out its own portable PC in the form of the Steam Deck, consumers once again have the hard task of figuring out just which gaming system is going to suit their needs. With the Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X|S, and the PlayStation 5 already vying for your wallet and time, it is time to see just how the Steam Deck measures up against its competition.
Steam Deck Details
First up, the new kid on the block has some interesting specs to offer. It will be powered by an AMD APU along with a quad-core/eight-thread Zen 2 CPU, together with an AMD RDNA 2 GPU with 8 compute units. There will also be 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM.
The Steam Deck will come in three models – US$399 will get you 64GB of eMMC storage, US$529 will nab you 256GB of NVMe SSD storage, and US$649 will be the best model with 512GB of NVMe SSD storage. If you are wondering, even the lowest tier of the new machine will give you awesome performance, Valve stated that “there is no in-game difference in frame rates or graphics quality” when it comes to the different models.
In addition to the touchscreen, you are getting some fancy inputs on the Steam Deck. A pair of trackpads lets you have mouse control, while there are four additional back buttons to give you more customisation. One of the more overlooked features would be the fact that the Steam Deck offers Bluetooth audio, and that is a huge plus.
As a portable PC, the new machine could theoretically let you install Windows on it. This way, you can tap on other services like Xbox Game Pass, Stadia, and Luna. You could possibly even get the Epic Games Store on it. The potential is quite exciting.
Now that we are clear on the details, it is time to do the comparisons. While it may not be apples to apples, the fact that these are all gaming machines makes sense for us to see how they match up.
|Specifications||Steam Deck||Nintendo Switch (OLED)||Xbox Series X||PS5|
|CPU||4-core AMD Zen 2 CPU @ 2.4-3.5GHz||Nvidia Tegra X1||8-core AMD Zen 2 CPU @ 3.8GHz (3.6GHz with SMT enabled)||8-core AMD Zen 2 CPU @ 3.5GHz with SMT (variable frequency)|
|GPU||AMD RDNA 2 GPU 8 CUs @ 1.0-1.6GHz
|Nvidia Tegra X1||AMD RDNA 2 GPU 52 CUs @ 1.825GHz
|AMD RDNA 2 GPU 36 CUs @ 2.23GHz (variable frequency)
|RAM||16GB LPDDR5 RAM||4 GB LPDDR4 SDRAM||16GB GDDR6 RAM||16GB GDDR6 RAM|
|Storage||64GB eMMC / 256GB NVMe SDD / 512GB high-speed NVMe SSD||64GB||1TB PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD (2.4GB/sec uncompressed, 4.8GB/sec compressed)||825GB PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD (5.5GB/sec uncompressed, typical 8-9GB/sec compressed)|
|Expandable Storage||microSD slot||microSD slot||1TB Expansion Card||NVMe SSD Slot|
|Disc Drive||N/A||N/A||4K UHD Blu-ray||4K UHD Blu-ray (N/A for Digital Edition)|
|Display Out||USB-C, DisplayPort 1.4||HDMI 1.4||HDMI 2.1||HDMI 2.1|
|Price (USD)||$399 / $529 / $649||$349||$499||$499|
The aptest comparison appears to be between the Nintendo Switch and the Steam Deck. On that front, both Valve’s machine and the new OLED model of the Switch are similar in being a handheld machine, with similar screen size, touchscreens, and design.
However, the Steam Deck is certainly more powerful, being able to run games that would be impossible on the Switch. The Bluetooth audio feature is also a big win for Valve, in addition to those extra inputs. The Switch does win out for battery life at 4.5 to 9 hours, while Valve’s latest machine will be between 2 to 8 hours.
Your choice will largely depend on what you are after – Nintendo’s exclusives or the breadth of the Steam library.
Console Wars 2.0
As for the big console players, on paper, the Steam Deck is not doing so hot. The processor is simply not in the same league as those of Sony and Microsoft. Even the GPU will not cut it against the Xbox Series S, much less the Xbox Series X and the PS5.
In every area, the new consoles are performing better. Since the pricing for the Steam Deck comes closer to the consoles, consumers will have to weigh up the parameters accordingly before pulling the trigger.
However, if you are more of a PC gamer, then it makes all the sense in the world to keep Valve’s latest innovation in mind. The PC does get plenty of games already and having a machine that can give you more portability may just be what you are looking for.
If you are interested in the Steam Deck, there is going to be some waiting involved due to its popularity. Based on the latest information shared by Valve, both the $399 and $529 versions are expected to be available for order in Q2 2022. The $649 version is even further back in Q3 2022.
Order invitations are expected to go out in December, those who have already secured your reservations will have first dibs then.
Another caveat is that it is not a worldwide launch, the Steam Deck will only be available to reserve for the US, UK, Canada and the European Union. This is similar to what Google did with Stadia, although we are sure things will turn out differently for Valve.
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