Steam Deck vs Switch: Battle of the Handhelds

October 10, 2023 • Zachary Amos


Steam Deck vs Switch — which fits your needs as a gamer? The rise of portable gaming platforms makes it challenging for players to decide. Factors like gaming quality, battery life, cost and availability come into play.

Both the Steam Deck and Switch naturally have their pros and cons. Even with better specs, the Steam Deck lacks some functionality the Switch offers. This comparison will run you through different factors, giving you a better idea of what each handheld gaming device provides.

Game Library: Steam Deck

The Steam library’s number of available games — more than 5,000 verified titles — makes the Steam Deck an impressive portable gaming platform. In the Steam Deck vs. Switch comparison based on this field alone, Steam Deck takes the win.

Steam Deck’s high-tech capabilities allow players to run virtually any PC game on a portable computer. Steam Deck can run most of them, from emulator games to AAA titles with minimal hitches. Users can even run other PC storefronts on the system, like Epic Games.

Of course, this feature has some caveats since Steam is still optimizing games to make them available on its handheld device. Games like Tekken 7 and PUBG: Battlegrounds are still encountering errors, and hopefully, Steam can make them work in the future for players clamoring for the sought-after titles.

Battery Life: Switch

The Nintendo Switch offers better battery performance thanks to its 4.5-9 hours of playtime. However, players will be better off turning to Steam Deck if they’re after higher-quality graphics. 

Players can enjoy the 1280×720 resolution,16:9 aspect ratio on a 5.5-inch display on standard Switch models. On the other hand, Steam Deck owners will have a similar experience with its 1280×800 resolution, 16:10 aspect ratio and 7-inch display.

While the Switch still has reasonable image quality for a device of its age, Steam Deck’s fresher hardware makes it more suitable for demanding games. The Steam Deck’s higher visual quality takes a massive chunk out of playtime.

At 60 frames per second (FPS), the Steam Deck can run closer to two hours. Players can enjoy running less demanding titles for up to eight hours using the built-in frame limiter. If you’re looking at longer playtimes and care less about visual quality, you may be better off choosing the Switch.

Gaming Quality: Steam Deck

The Switch can offer countless hours of quality playtime with its exclusive titles like Pokemon, Zelda and Super Mario Odyssey. It’s an excellent portable gaming platform based on its offerings and decent visual quality.

But if AAA games are more your thing and you already have a Steam library filled with your favorite games, the Steam Deck is right up your alley. The Steam Deck is virtually a handheld gaming laptop with powerful hardware capable of giving you quality gameplay on the go.

Demanding PC games run smoothly and look better on Steam Deck. Some titles, like Monster Hunter Rise, designed initially for Switch, run better on Valve’s portable gaming device.

While both platforms can be hooked up to an external display, you must purchase a separate dock for the Steam Deck. The official dock costs around $89, while the Switch already has a built-in dock for connecting to TV or a gaming monitor.

Portability: Switch

Handheld gaming devices are a gamer’s go-to for portable play. The smaller form factor and lighter weight of the Switch bag make it a win in this area. The standard Switch weighs 398g, while its OLED option weighs just 420g.

This is a far cry from the Steam Deck’s 669g. Valve’s handheld gaming device is also two inches bigger than the Switch due to its internal components. The size difference can make gamers think twice about their options.

Another difference between the two handhelds is the removable Joy-Cons of the Switch. This feature helps gamers play with friends using the same device. The built-in stand of the Switch makes it ideal for multiplayer gameplay wherever and whenever.

Comfort: Steam Deck

While the Steam Deck is considerably heavier than the Switch, its comfortable control layout makes it more comfortable than its competitor. The Steam Deck has improved ergonomics like better grips, customizable rear buttons with various options, analog shoulder triggers and a touchpad for precise input.

The Steam Deck’s bigger size makes it more comfortable for players with big hands. Since there’s more surface area to hold onto, players can confidently handle the Steam Deck for longer gaming sessions. Switch users can improve gaming comfort by purchasing separate controllers for docked gameplay.

Price: Switch

Potential Switch buyers will be delighted to know it’s priced lower than Steam Deck. The Lite model costs $200, while the standard Switch and OLED versions sell for $300 and $350, respectively.

Steam Deck is priced from $399 to $650, with the higher-end models carrying bigger storage capacity and better drives. The highest-tier Switch is still more affordable than the basic Steam Deck model. Of course, this is only expected from a newer gaming device with better hardware and higher performance.

Availability should also be on gamer’s minds when comparing the two. The Nintendo Switch is available in major retailers and game stores, while Steam Deck can only be purchased straight from Valve. Wait times also make the Steam Deck more challenging to get a hold of. If you want a handheld gaming device you can take home the same day, you’ll have better luck betting on the Switch.

Steam Deck vs Switch: Which One is For You?

Choosing between the Switch and the Steam Deck depends on needs and preferences. If you’re a casual gamer and want a hassle-free portable gaming experience, go for the Switch. If you’re a PC fan who likes to bring their newest games on the road, go for the Steam Deck.

Here’s the final rundown of both platforms’ advantages for discerning players to consider:


  • Switch offers exclusive Nintendo titles.
  • Players can choose from different gaming price points: Lite, Switch, OLED.
  • Gamers can purchase various accessories to improve player experience.
  • It comes with a built-in stand, docking station and detachable controllers.
  • It’s easy to use right out of the box for a hassle-free gaming experience.

Steam Deck

  • The Steam Deck can run demanding AAA games with better visual quality.
  • The Steam Library has many titles to choose from and the device can run games from other game stores.
  • It uses bigger storage for saving multiple games with higher requirements.
  • Players can mod the Steam Deck to fit their needs.
  • It can be a budget alternative for players who want a basic PC gaming rig.

Some say it may be unfair to pit devices made in different years in comparison, but the reality is these are two of the most popular handheld gaming devices in the market. Of course, they have differences, so it’s important to compare both in different areas.