Comparison of Nintendo Switch to Valve’s Steam Deck

Inbox: Which Xbox console is the best?

At first glance, the design bears some resemblance to the Nintendo Switch, a handheld home gaming console that currently has a third model refresh on the way. Yet despite sharing a similar concept – a handheld device that also allows you to connect to a TV or monitor – the two devices have drastic differences on both the inside and outside.

Following rumors and speculation, Valve is once again dipping its toes into the hardware market. But instead of a virtual reality headset or a controller, Valve is releasing Steam Deck — a handheld gaming PC starting at $399.

To get a better understanding of what you can expect from both of these gadgets, and maybe figure out for some which device is the better investment for you, let’s take a look at the specs and go over some standout differences between the current flagship Switch model and the Steam Deck:

Controls
Included with every Nintendo Switch is a pair of Joy-Con controllers. These come with some benefits – for one thing, they can be detached and used as a bonded pair or as two singular controllers. When detached and played in handheld mode you can also prop the kickstand back and play without having the controller and the display tethered together. However, Joy-Con drift has been an issue since launch, a widespread problem that Nintendo has yet to directly address. The Nintendo Switch does support other controllers, such as its own Pro Controller, the GameCube controller, as well as several wired and wireless third-party controllers.

In terms of built-in controller hardware, the Steam Deck has a lot more going on. While it doesn’t have detachable controllers or a kickstand – making it a bit more limited in how to enjoy your handheld gaming – there is a lot more freedom given to owners in terms of how to make your game experience feel catered to you. Alongside traditional dual thumbsticks, the Steam Deck has two trackpads that promise a more mouse-like experience. There are even four rear buttons — akin to something like the SCUF or Xbox Elite controllers. These paddles can be remapped to add a more personal touch to handheld control schemes. The Steam Deck also supports external controllers, including the Xbox Series X/S controller, the DualSense, and even the Switch Pro controller. It also has Bluetooth so it can connect to any Bluetooth controller wirelessly or through a USB cable.

Multiplayer
Both consoles support online play: the Switch requires a subscription to Nintendo Switch Online, which can cost anywhere between $4 a month to $60 for a full year. This has additional incentives such as cloud saves and access to NES and SNES games and promotional offers. While pricing is affordable, the cloud save supported games leaves a lot to be desired, as only 130 games in the Nintendo Switch library support the feature.

Even if you do not buy a Switch Online subscription, there is still local multiplayer. The Switch can connect to other consoles to offer a LAN party-esque experience. You can also pair multiple controllers and Joy-Cons with a single Switch, which supports up to eight Joy-Con controllers.

As you’d expect, the Steam Deck offers similar support. It has built-in Wi-Fi, meaning you can play online or local multiplayer and it does not include an online subscription to play games online. Some games like Final Fantasy XIV or World of Warcraft do require online subscriptions to play, but generally most games the Steam Deck can support are free to play online.

Battery Life
The Switch has better battery life than the Steam Deck, ranging anywhere between 4.5-9 hours on a single charge compared to the Steam Deck’s 2-8 hours. Nintendo says that the base Switch and OLED models can last approximately 5.5 hours on a single charge, while the Lite can last 4 hours playing the same game. Valve says that you can expect 4 hours of Portal 2 running at a resolution of 720p at 60FPS. Of course, with Steam Deck supporting a huge variety of games across the entire Steam library, battery life will vary wildly. It’s important to note that both consoles use completely different batteries — the Steam Deck uses a 40Whr Lithium-Ion battery while the Switch uses a 4310mAh Lithium-Ion battery. The Steam Deck is slated to launch sometime in December. You can check out more information on the Steam Deck, such as Gabe Newell elaborating on the pricing for the Steam Deck, our hands-on preview with the handheld, as well as a FAQ with the developers. If you would like to know more about the Steam Deck, check back for the rest of the month.

The News Highlights

  • Comparison of Nintendo Switch to Valve’s Steam Deck
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