Which is Better for Portable Gaming

  • Steam Deck

    $504 $589 Save $85

    Valve’s long-awaited portable console is here, and it’s taking the handheld gaming market by storm. Valve partnered with AMD to create Steam Deck’s custom APU, optimized for handheld gaming. It is a Zen 2 + RDNA 2 powerhouse, delivering more than enough performance to run the latest AAA games in a very efficient power envelope.


    • Superior hardware
    • Access to more and premium titles
    • Better connectivity features and controls

    • Expensive
    • Weighs more and is larger

  • Nintendo Switch with its sleek and flawless design.

    Nintendo Switch

    The Nintendo Switch is a hybrid portable and home console that aims to be the only gaming system anyone needs. The hybrid controller is an undisputed success because it provides a high degree of portable visual quality and converts easily into a home console.


    • Significantly lightweight and more compact
    • Drastically cheaper, particularly the base edition
    • Runs many games satisfactoritly despite boasting a slower hardware

    • Inferior hardware
    • Not the best games library
    • Lackluster controls

It has been seven years since Nintendo launched its iconic Switch handheld console to revive the 90s nostalgia of playing retro games but with better graphics through more potent hardware. The Steam Deck is significantly newer, launched in early 2022, providing a powerful configuration for PC games, or technically “Steam” games.


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Since both are crafted for fulfilling portable gaming needs, it’s expected to see gamers asking which one is better. Should users go with the Nintendo Switch, which offers the classic Mario and The Legend of Zelda games, or should they go with a significantly powerful handheld that can run modern PC titles? On paper, it may seem that the Deck is a winner, but it isn’t totally fair to judge these systems based solely on their internal hardware. In this article, we deep dive into every aspect of portable gaming, comparing the two in every area to make sure users are able to decide which one will be more suitable for their gaming journey.

Steam Deck vs Nintendo Switch: Specifications

Before delving into the actual performance, display, battery life, or any other area, it’s crucial to understand the differences in their hardware configuration. The Steam Deck is surely superior out of the box, but is it necessary? It all depends on what users are expecting from individual consoles at the end of the day.


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Steam Deck


The Steam Deck uses a custom AMD chip, specifically the AMD Van Gogh APU, which is a combination of a Zen 2-based CPU and an RDNA 2 GPU. Since it was launched in early 2022, Zen 4 was still unreleased and Zen 3 was relatively new when the Deck was in its initial design phase by its company, Valve.

The AMD Van Gogh chip features four cores and eight threads in total, which are theoretically sufficient for running almost every game available on the Steam store. It may not be a top-notch choice for maxing out the graphics, but almost every game that users can run on their Windows PC can be run without any issues. The actual performance numbers will be discussed later, but as of now, the Steam Deck does get the job done on a budget.

Boasting two different editions, the Steam Deck is available in either the LCD or OLED model, the latter featuring a significantly upgraded display panel for higher contrast and vibrant colors. It’s also 30Hz faster than the LCD 60Hz display. However, the resolution stays the same at 1280x800p. The total RAM users get is 16GB LPPDR5, and storage starts from 64GB eMMC all the way up to 1TB NVMe SSD. The price varies according to the specifications and which storage option users are going with initially.

Connectivity includes a 3.5mm audio jack, dual microphones, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a Type C port with DisplayPort 1.4 support. Users also get stereo speakers if they don’t want to use dedicated headphones, and that pretty much sums up what’s inside the Steam Deck.

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch with Dock

The Nintendo Switch boasts significantly inferior hardware than the Steam Deck. It’s pretty much expected as the Switch is also five years older and has its own proprietary OS. It’s powered by a custom Nvidia Tegra X1 chip, which uses Nvidia Maxwell architecture for its GPU, the same architecture found on the Nvidia Geforce 900 series. So, it’s much older than the RDNA 2 graphics architecture.

The total number of CPU cores users will get is four and there is no hyperthreading. The system RAM is 4GB LPDDR4 running at 1600MT/s and the storage options are either 32GB or 64GB eMMC. Unfortunately, no NVMe SSD storage is found, but the console does allow users to add up to two terabytes of external storage.


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Similar to the Deck, the Switch also comes in LCD and OLED models, with the latter being a little costlier, but featuring a much better picture quality. Unfortunately, unlike the Deck, the screen refresh rate stays the same, as does its resolution of 1280x720p. Lastly, its connectivity features include a 3.5mm jack for gaming headsets, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB Type C, and stereo speakers. As far as performance goes, the Switch is definitely inferior to the Steam Deck, but it certainly gets the job done.



Just by going through the specifications, it’s quite clear that the Steam Deck is far superior and should be way faster in gaming performance. However, it might be a little surprising to know that the theoretical performance difference is not as big as it may seem on paper. Of course, the Steam Decks’ raw performance allows it to provide higher frame rates, but the performance also depends on game optimizations done specially for individual consoles.

Nonetheless, when comparing both consoles, it’s important to consider mutual games as the game library is quite different on both. However, there are still plenty of games that are common between the OS on both handhelds, and due to this, it becomes easier to test and see which one performs better and by how much. In games like Borderlands, Bioshock Infinite, Doom 2016, Hot Wheels, and Crash Bandicoot, the Steam Deck is consistently able to deliver 60 fps and better graphics overall.

The Switch, however, has washed-out colors, many of the details missing, and doesn’t exceed 30 fps since it can’t handle all the details like the Steam Deck. On the other hand, less intensive games like Stardew Valley, Terraria, and Assassin’s Creed II, feel a little better on the Switch and run at fairly higher frame rates, competing head-to-head with the Steam Deck.

It all boils down to how graphically intensive the games users want to play. The Steam Deck will always be better for newer and more demanding titles, but casual and light indie games are perfect for the Switch.


Nintendo Switch

The Steam Deck has an unusual placement of the thumbsticks, but this is to make space for the trackpads, which are unavailable on the Nintendo Switch. It has superior ergonomics and, despite weighing more, it doesn’t put much strain on the hands. The placement of the thumbsticks might be a little weird for users who are used to the regular Xbox and PS controllers, but it’s not going to be too difficult to transition to the Deck’s controls.


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These Steam Deck controllers offer great functionality, good customizations, and responsive feedback.

While the joysticks and buttons on the Switch are satisfactory, the D-Pad isn’t very impressive. With big gaps between the direction buttons, it won’t be a pleasant experience in some games. The D-Pad on the Deck is definitely better, even if its location is not ideal.

The triggers on the Deck are better as they are analog, unlike the Switch, which boasts digital triggers, or in reality, they are just regular buttons. Digital triggers are just 0 or 1 in input, while analog triggers provide more control in functions like braking or acceleration in racing games. A clear and big advantage of the Steam Deck over the Switch.

Software and Games Library

A Steam Deck depicting the key visual for the Metal Gear Solid Master Collection Vol. 1 against a backdrop of the key visuals for Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3.

The Steam Deck uses its proprietary SteamOS 3.0, while the Nintendo Switch has its own Nintendo operating system. SteamOS is based on Linux and has matured quite well compared to Nintendo, and has a large game library. Users can find approximately 4500 games on the Switch, while on the Steam Deck, the number is over 73,000, which is highly impressive. This makes the Steam Deck significantly superior to the Nintendo Switch, especially as the Steam store often gets newer games every day.


The entire reason why the Steam Deck and the Nintendo Switch exist is because of their portability. These are meant to be easily carried anywhere in a small bag or even a pocket if it’s a little larger than regular. Here, the Switch is a clear winner due to its design.

By measuring just 9.5 inches in length, 4 inches in height, and 0.55 inches in thickness, it’s roughly 4.5 times smaller in volume compared to the Deck. However, these aren’t perfect cubes and even though carrying the Steam Deck will be a little harder than the Switch, it’s not going to be impossible. It, too, boasts a generous 11.7-inch length, 4.6-inch height, and 1.8-inch thickness.


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As for weight, the Nintendo Switch weighs just 0.93 lbs or 420 grams compared to Deck’s 1.47 lbs or 669 grams of weight. The OLED editions of both consoles are slightly lighter, but here too, the Switch manages to reduce a whopping 30% weight, going from 420 to just 322 grams. The Steam Deck manages to cut just 19 grams of weight, equivalent to a 5% weight reduction.

Battery Life

The battery life of both handhelds is fairly similar and even though the Deck boasts a bigger battery capacity, it discharges quicker depending on the games users play. Expect both of them to run for around 2-3 hours with continuous usage, which isn’t impressive at all. But that pretty much sums up how dull their battery life is, despite their makers claiming up to eight or nine hours of operation. So, no clear winner here.

However, there is one difference here between the two. The Steam Deck charges slightly faster than the Switch, as it supports 45W quick charging. Despite having a USB Type C port on the Switch, this isn’t the case, as the Type C port got better after the Switch’s release. Expect the Deck to be charged fully within between 2.5 and 3 hours, while the Switch takes a complete 3 hours of charging.


Everything boils down to how cost-effective the device is. A device that outperforms another device by a 200% margin or more but costs three times more isn’t going to provide a higher value. While the Steam Deck and the Nintendo Switch don’t even have the same OS or hardware, they directly compete with each other, since they’re both primarily used for handheld gaming.

Talking about the Steam Deck, the standard version with 64GB storage was launched at $399, which was replaced by the 256GB edition for the same price. The OLED version costs $529for the 512GB edition, and $649for the 1TB model.

The Nintendo Switch, on the other hand, has two editions: The regular LCD and the OLED version. The former costs $299 and the latter is priced at $349. This makes the Switch significantly more affordable and makes even the OLED version cheaper than the cheapest version of the Steam Deck. Of course, the hardware, software, and connectivity play a big part here, but generally speaking, the Switch more easily fits most users’ budgets than the Deck.


Gaming handhelds have drastically improved in the past few years, with many new players entering the market, including Ayaneo and Asus. Despite that, the Steam Deck and the Nintendo Switch are the top sellers since they target a more affordable price segment. While the Steam Deck has sold close to 5 million units, the Nintendo Switch is far ahead in numbers, exceeding the almost 140 million mark entering 2024.

These numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, as the Deck is five years newer than the Switch, and at the time when the Switch was released, there were no direct competitors for that console. With ROG Ally and several other similar or more powerful handhelds entering the market, the Steam Deck isn’t able to grab a big share of the pie.

All in all, when the Steam Deck is compared directly against the Switch, it claims its superiority due to more robust hardware, enough to play modern titles, which the Switch fails to do. With an enormous games library and excellent OS, it is easier to play around with and has more options than the Switch when it comes to game choices. Furthermore, the connectivity is superior, the storage options are better, and the Steam Deck’s inputs are significantly more responsive.

Steam Deck Console

Steam Deck

Valve’s long-awaited portable console is here, and it’s taking the handheld gaming market by storm. Valve partnered with AMD to create Steam Deck’s custom APU, optimized for handheld gaming. It is a Zen 2 + RDNA 2 powerhouse, delivering more than enough performance to run the latest AAA games in a very efficient power envelope.

4K Capabilities

7″ diagonal 1280 x 800px (16:10 aspect ratio) 60Hz

64 GB – 512 GB

AMD APU Zen 2 4c/8t, 2.4-3.5GHz

40Whr battery. 2 – 8 hours of gameplay

Bluetooth 5.0 and Dual-band Wi-Fi radio, 2.4GHz and 5GHz

1x USB-C with DisplayPort 1.4 Alt-mode support; up to 8K @60Hz or 4K @120Hz, 1x USB 3.2 ,1x Micro SD slot, 1x 3.5 audio jack

298mm x 117mm x 49mm

Approx. 669 grams

Stereo with embedded DSP for an immersive listening experience and Dual Microphone Array

As for the Switch, it’s lighter and more compact for easier portability. It’s also much cheaper and is wonderful for playing light games. With a good collection of upgraded classic games, it brings back the 90s memories and also comes in an OLED edition, which doesn’t add too much to the cost, unlike the OLED Steam Deck. The resolution is roughly as good as the Steam Deck and the connectivity is up to the mark.

Nintendo Switch with its sleek and flawless design.

Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch is a hybrid portable and home console that aims to be the only gaming system anyone needs. The hybrid controller is an undisputed success because it provides a high degree of portable visual quality and converts easily into a home console.


1 Lithium Polymer batteries required

13.7 x 7.8 x 3.66 inches

2.65 pounds


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Q: Is the Steam Deck better than the Switch?

When it comes to raw performance, the Steam Deck is drastically better. It also provides a large library of games, better controls, and more versatile connectivity features. However, it is also much more expensive than the Switch.

Q: Can a Steam Deck replace Nintendo Switch?

Both have their own advantages and limitations, and while the Steam Deck can play mutual games better in general, the Steam Deck can’t replace the portability the Switch offers. Also, the Switch has many exclusive games not available on the Steam Store.

Q: Is the Steam Deck worth having?

Absolutely. Despite faster handhelds entering the market, the Steam Deck’s power-efficient performance and simplified OS are far better than any handheld console available.