You'll often hear PC enthusiasts--including yours truly--say that the Nintendo Switch is the perfect companion console for your gaming rig, thanks to its handheld mode for on-the-go gaming, deep indie library, and access to Nintendo-exclusive games. The stickiness of that last benefit will soon be put to the test, as Valve's newly announced Steam Deck handheld PC mimes the Switch form factor but revolves around your existing Steam account...and all the games already in it. In the battle of the Steam Deck vs. the Nintendo Switch, who comes out on top? We'll take it to the tape below, but first let's talk about what matters most: the games, and why the Steam Deck and Nintendo Switch might not even be true competitors at all. The $399 Steam Deck and $299 Nintendo Switch have two totally different gaming philosophies.
Several years after launching a line of Linux gaming PCs called Steam Machines, Valve is reportedly working on hardware again. According to a new report, the PC gaming juggernaut is currently working on a handheld gaming computer similar to Nintendo Switch. Talks about the new handheld gaming machine from Valve started after SteamDB operator Pavel Djundik noticed some changes on the Steam client's code and shared it on Twitter. Apparently, the recent Steam beta client update added various references to different terms, possibly pointing to a portable console. This includes airplane mode, controller bindings, quick-access menu, wifi, Bluetooth audio, power menu and many others.
Valve has announced its own Switch-like handheld PC, the Steam Deck, a handheld, portable computer that will be available at the end of the year. The portable PC has a joystick and trackpad on each side of its seven-inch 1280-by-800 pixel display, four triggers, a directional pad on the left side and an ABXY button array on the right – as well as gyroscopic capabilities for motion control. At the top is the power button, a USB-C charging port, and a headphone jack. Inside, the Steam Deck will have four cores of AMD's Zen 2 processor with eight threads, and eight compute units of RDNA2 graphics. It has 16GB of RAM, and three storage options: 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB.
Was it merely coincidence that Valve announced its Steam Deck on the same day pre-orders opened for Nintendo's new, OLED-enhanced Switch? Only Valve can answer that question, but the company's reveal surfacing at roughly the same moment fans raced to place pre-orders for a Switch (OLED Model) certainly made a point. Where the new Nintendo device is mostly just a fancier screen running on the same basic underlying hardware that's been out since 2017, Steam Deck is something new. Valve's handheld is superficially similar to the Switch, but it's considerably more machine on the inside and outside both. The Steam Deck sports all the controls you'd expect to see on a modern gamepad: Two thumbsticks, a set of four buttons (using the Xbox controller labeling and layout of A/B/X/Y), two triggers, two shoulder buttons, and a directional pad.
The rumors about Valve making a version of the Nintendo Switch for handheld Steam gaming are true. The company has revealed the Steam Deck, which will arrive in December in the US, Canada, the European Union and the UK, with availability expanding to more regions later. The system starts at $399. Although the hardware isn't final, according to IGN, the console currently looks like a mashup of a Switch, a Sega Game Gear and the Steam Controller. It has a seven-inch touchscreen, with a resolution of 1,280 x 800 at a 16:10 aspect ratio, 400 nits of brightness and a 60Hz refresh rate.