The Steam Deck can be seen as a Nintendo Switch Pro, which many expected the Kyoto-based company to make. It is packed with powerful specifications and is capable of running the latest AAA games like Death Stranding and Doom Eternal. The Steam Deck is also portable, so it’s capable of more than just a handheld device. Plug it into a docking station and you can output it to a monitor, attach Bluetooth and USB accessories, and even use it for productivity tasks.
It’s a different Nintendo Switch OLED proposition in many ways, then. But one thing they have in common is the ability to play games on the go. If Valve’s new portable controller catches your eye, we’re pitting it head-to-head against the Switch OLED to see which one comes out on top.
Steam Deck vs. Nintendo Switch OLED: Price and Release Date
Valve’s Steam Deck costs $399 / £349 for the entry-level 64GB model, which is about as close as it gets to a Nintendo Switch OLED. After a delayed launch in early 2022, you can now pre-order the Steam Deck without a long reservation, usually arriving one to two weeks later. You can do that by heading to the Steam Store (Opens in a new tab).
The Nintendo Switch OLED retails for $349 / £309 / AU$539 and launched on October 8, 2021. Hence, the Switch OLED is $50 cheaper, and both consoles can expand their storage via the built-in microSD card slot found in the Both systems. The Switch OLED is also available to order now.
Steam Deck vs. Nintendo Switch OLED: Design and Features
While both the Steam Deck and Nintendo Switch OLED are portable consoles, they differ greatly when it comes to technical specifications and design. Both consoles come with a 7-inch touchscreen (Steam Deck has a resolution of 1280×800, Switch OLED 1280×720), although the Nintendo Switch OLED features an OLED display. This means that it should offer more vibrant colors, inky blacks, and a better contrast ratio than Valve’s LCD screen on the Steam Deck. The maximum refresh rate for both screens is 60 Hz.
In terms of controls, the Steam Deck features two analog sticks and two touchpads that can duplicate a mouse movement. They have built-in capacitive touch sensors, which will detect when your thumbs are active. You’ll also find the usual face, bumper, and trigger buttons, as well as gyroscope control. It’s worth noting that the triggers on the Steam Deck are analog, not digital like on the Switch OLED, which means they can provide more precise control. The Steam Deck adds additional inputs via the four grip buttons on the back of the device, which provide additional inputs when playing games.
The Nintendo Switch OLED comes with the Joy-Con controllers we’ve become accustomed to since 2017. The Joy-Con controllers feature HD Rumble and motion controls and can be detached from the console, allowing for local multiplayer at a moment’s notice if you’re playing in mode Table. Thanks to the Switch OLED’s redesigned wider stand, this should be much more attractive and easier to hold. The Steam Deck controllers are not detachable, nor do they come with a kickstand.
However, both the Steam Deck and Nintendo Switch OLED dock can be docked for output to a TV — though Valve hasn’t revealed its official dock, which will be sold separately. Unlike the Switch OLED, though, the Steam Deck can be output to a TV or monitor via a USB Type-C port and a USB Type-C port. This gives the portable device more flexibility, and it can also output in higher than 1080p resolution.
Steam Deck vs. Nintendo Switch OLED: Specs
When it comes to technical specifications, the Steam Deck and Nintendo Switch OLED share some similarities when it comes to storage and screen size, but the Steam Deck is a much more capable device. Here is a full breakdown of the Steam Deck’s vital stats:
- Size: 298mm x 177mm x 49mm (W x H x D)
- Weight: about 669 grams
- CPU: AMD Zen 2 4c/8t, 2.4-3.5GHz (up to 448 GFlops FP32)
- GPU: 8 RDNA 2 CUs, 1.0-1.6GHz (up to 1.6 Tflops FP32)
- RAM: 16GB LPDDR5 RAM
- Storage: 64GB eMMC / 256GB NVMe SSD / 512GB NVMe SSD (all models include a high-speed microSD card slot)
- Screen resolution: 1280 x 800 pixels (16:10 aspect ratio)
- Display size: 7 inches diagonal
- Brightness: 400 nits typical
- Refresh rate: 60 Hz
- Touch enablement: Yes
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi radio
- Audio: Stereo speakers, dual microphone array, 3.5mm stereo headphone jack
- Power: 45W USB Type C
- Battery life: 2 to 8 hours of playtime
- Operating system: SteamOS 3.0
Valve’s machine is certainly impressive, and should allow the system to run most AAA games at medium to high settings at 720p/60fps. This is a far cry from the Nintendo Switch, which has historically struggled to get third-party titles over 30fps, and resolution usually has to be sacrificed as a result.
That’s not to say the Switch OLED is still a great piece of hardware, especially since you won’t find games like Breath of the Wild 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe anywhere else. Here’s what’s inside the Nintendo Switch OLED:
- Size: 9.5 x 0.55 x 4 inches (W x D x H)
- Weight: about 0.71 lbs / 0.93 lbs with Joy-Con controllers included
- Screen: 7 inch OLED capacitive multi-touch screen
- Resolution: 1280 x 720 (720p)
- CPU/GPU: Nvidia Custom Tegra processor
- Storage: 64 GB (expandable with microSDHC or microSDXC cards up to 2 TB)
- Wireless: WI-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac compliant)
- Video Output: Up to 1080p via HDMI in TV mode, 720p in handheld mode
- Audio Output: 5.1 Linear PCM
- Speakers: stereo
- USB connector: USB Type-C for charging
- 3.5 mm headphone jack
- Battery life: approximately 4.5-9 hours
- Charging time: about 3 hours
The Nintendo Switch OLED has the same technical specifications as the original Nintendo Switch, which was disappointing news for some. The console is starting to show its age in the graphics department after nearly five years on sale, but that doesn’t mean Nintendo isn’t able to produce some surprisingly great results.
If you’re someone who doesn’t care about high frame rates and resolutions, the Nintendo Switch OLED should at least make your library of Switch titles look better than before in handheld mode thanks to the crisp new screen.
Steam Deck vs Nintendo Switch OLED: The Games
One advantage Steam Deck has had on the Nintendo Switch OLED from the start is that the majority of your Steam library will be playable on Valve’s new hardware. We say the majority, because the truth is that not every PC address will be accessible. This is because Steam Deck runs SteamOS, which is a Linux-based operating system. Some games are also not compatible due to Steam’s Easy Anti-Cheat system.
While Valve has promised to continue to improve compatibility with more titles in the works, some fan favorites like PUBG and Destiny won’t work on the Steam Deck. At least not in SteamOS form – it’s important to remember that Steam Deck is an open platform, which means you can technically run any operating system you want. It can also play games from other stores and launchers, which is fun.
The Nintendo Switch is a more familiar proposition for console users. As a closed garden, Nintendo decides which titles are available on its hardware, and consistent specs mean developers can benefit from knowing that every game they develop will work the same for every user.
Gaming is arguably the Switch’s biggest strength as well, as Nintendo’s first-party lineup still has serious traction with gamers. Titles like Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Animal Crossing: New Horizons make the Switch top the sales charts every month, and there’s a lot to look forward to in the years to come.
Steam Deck vs Nintendo Switch OLED: The Verdict
So which mobile device is right for you? Well it depends. Steam Deck may have the Switch OLED beat on paper, but Nintendo has an evergreen appeal for its impressive library of titles you can’t play anywhere else.
The Switch is also a console with the advantage of allowing local multiplayer by detaching the Joy-Con, and has had a great track record since launch for delivering a great experience. However, the Steam Deck will immediately appeal to those who crave a Switch-like device capable of better performance.
The fact that it was created by Valve with all the bells and whistles of Steam should not be underestimated. Time will tell if it’s as convenient or reliable as the Switch (Joy-Con drift aside), but it’s the first real challenger to Nintendo’s dominance of the portable market since the ill-fated Sony PlayStation Vita.