Why This Switch User Wants the Steam Deck, Too

It doesn't have to be one or the other

Key Takeaways

  • Two unique video game consoles can co-exist and succeed at the same time.
  • The Steam Deck is more technically powerful, but the Switch is more portable.
  • It all comes down to the games, and both consoles have solid libraries.
A group of friends playing games on Nintendo Switch portable gaming systems.

Nintendo

As someone who both owns and loves the Nintendo Switch, I have to ask: why do I have to choose between the Switch and Steam Deck instead of getting both?

Talk about Valve’s Steam Deck as a "Switch killer" began almost immediately after it was revealed, which I do understand. People contextualize new ideas by comparing them to what they already know, and handheld/big screen hybrids are few and far between. However, there’s no reason two video game consoles can’t exist (or even thrive) at the same time.

Yes, I adore my Switch and will continue to do so. I also can make room for a Steam Deck. Both systems may be similar on the surface, but they’re also distinct when you look a little deeper.

"I like playing games at higher resolutions and with more advanced graphics options turned on, but portability is a trade-off."

The Hardware

Game console comparisons usually begin with hardware specs, and it’s undeniable that the Steam Deck is more powerful. It has a faster processor than the Switch, more RAM, and starts with double the internal storage (64GB vs. 32GB). And because the Steam Deck is functionally a computer, we’ll be able to tweak performance and display options to our liking.

However, the Steam Deck doesn’t come with a dock, so getting it hooked up to a larger display—while still possible—won’t be as smooth as the Switch.

I like playing games at higher resolutions and with more advanced graphics options turned on, but portability is a trade-off. The Steam Deck looks to be both larger (11.7-inches wide) and heavier (almost 1.5 pounds) than the Switch (9.4-inches wide, about 0.9 pounds). The Switch also has slightly better battery life, so it physically works better as a handheld device.

While I’m a fan of playing just about any PC game I want, whenever I want, I see myself using the Switch more often for travel, since it’ll be easier to cart around. However, I also can picture using the Steam Deck for around-the-house play and possibly in bed before going to sleep.

Someone playing games on a Valve Steam Deck.

Valve

The Software

More important than a console’s hardware is its library of games, and both the Steam Deck and the Switch have a lot to offer. Granted, because Steam Deck can play games from your Steam account (possibly more), its library is definitely bigger. But again, while the Steam Deck appears to be the clear choice on a surface level, it’s the little things that make both systems special.

The Switch has numerous first-party Nintendo franchises to offer, such as The Legend of Zelda or Metroid. Conversely, Steam Deck has more generally popular releases and AAA titles like Red Dead Redemption 2 and the Battlefield series.

This extends to older stuff, as well, with the Switch offering several classic NES and SNES games through its Online service, and Steam Deck housing a ton of older PC titles. Though, with enough fiddling, you probably could access even more classic NES and SNES games on the Steam Deck, too.

That flexibility is a bit of a double-edged sword for the Steam Deck, though. It’s fantastic to install a new operating system or games that aren’t necessarily part of the official store. It’s less fantastic to have to troubleshoot if something goes wrong.

A screenshot of game selections for Nintendo Switch and Valve Steam Deck.

I don’t mean to imply that the Steam Deck will be a labyrinth of obtuse system adjustments, but making adjustments will be more complicated. On the other hand, because the Switch is less open-ended, it’s also more straightforward to use—less options, but also fewer potential headaches.

I’m definitely interested in loading up the Steam Deck with a ton of PC games (and possibly games from other platforms), but I also prefer a simpler setup. I’m sure once I inevitably do a little tweaking, the Steam Deck will make a fantastic, almost all-purpose console for me. That being said, it still won’t be able to play Metroid Dread, the often rumored Metroid Prime Switch trilogy, or Monster Hunter Rise.

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