Multiplayer focus

Nintendo Switch OLED model

Switch Oled Product Shot

Power house

Steam Deck

Steam Deck Product Shot

Nintendo's most recent Switch iteration comes with a kickstand, TV dock, and removable Joy-Cons for easy multiplayer mode. It costs less than any of the Steam Deck versions and already has a long list of established exclusives under its belt. It might not be as powerful as Valve's handheld, but that's because its focus is more on the sharable user experience.

$350 at Best Buy

Pros

  • Long list of exclusives
  • Detachable Joy-Cons for easy multiplayer
  • TV dock included
  • Slightly more battery life
  • More affordable

Cons

  • Not as powerful
  • No Bluetooth
  • Lower resolution capabilities

The Steam Deck brings PC gaming to handheld, allowing people to access and play their entire Stream library from just about anywhere. It comes in three different versions, which cost more depending on their features. Even the base model is more powerful than the Switch OLED model. It's the perfect accessory for PC gamers and new gamers alike.

From $400 at Steam

Pros

  • Built-in SSD
  • Three versions to choose from
  • Plays entire Steam library
  • Bluetooth
  • Far more customization potential

Cons

  • Costs more
  • TV dock sold separately
  • Slightly less battery life

Valve's Steam Deck is a powerful new handheld entering the market at the end of the year while the Nintendo Switch OLED model is a slightly updated version of the base Nintendo Switch. Though they look somewhat similar, Valve's Steam Deck and Nintendo's Switch (OLED model) are incredibly different. That's partly due to their focus, the kind of games they play, and what lies beneath the plastic.

Steam Deck vs Nintendo Switch OLED model: Technical specs

Steam Deck And Nintendo SwitchSource: Rebecca Spear / iMore

While these might look similar, the Nintendo Switch OLED model and the Steam Deck are very different from each other.

Steam Deck Nintendo Switch
Price $400
$530
$650
$350
Storage 64GB
256GB
512GB
64GB
Processor AMD APU
CPU: Zen 2 4c/8t, 2.4-3.5GHz (up to 448 GFlops FP32)
GPU: 8 RDNA 2 CUs, 1.0-1.6GHz (up to 1.6 TFlops FP32) APU power: 4-15W
NVIDIA Custom Tegra processor
RAM 16 GB LPDDR5 RAM (5500 MT/s) 8GB
Games Entire Steam library Nintendo Switch games
Motion Controls Yes Yes
TV Dock Yes (sold separately) Yes
Display size 7-inch Touchscreen 7-inch OLED touchscreen
Resolution 1280 x 800px (16:10 aspect ratio) Up to 720p in handheld mode/up to 1080p docked
Bluetooth Yes (5.0) No
MicroSD slot expansion Yes Yes
Battery 2-8 hours 4.5-9 hours
Size 11.7 x 4.6 x 1.9 inches 9.5 x 4 x 0.55 inches
Weight 1.47 pounds 0.71 pounds

You've seen the data, so now you're probably wondering what it all means for you. Let's dive into the comparison.

Steam Deck vs Nintendo Switch OLED model: Price

Steam Deck PricingSource: Valve

One of the first things you probably noticed in the chart was the price difference. The Steam Deck comes in three different versions that get progressively more expensive as they get more powerful. This is the fourth Nintendo Switch variant. It goes the original Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Switch Lite, Nintendo Switch V2, and now Nintendo Switch OLED model. Regardless of the model, the Nintendo Switch versions all cost less than any of the Steam Deck versions and they come with a dock to play on TV (except for the Switch Lite which is handheld only and $100 cheaper). If you want your Steam Deck to play on TV, you'll need to purchase it separately. Right now, there's no price for the dock or a release date.

You can purchase digital or physical Switch games and can sometimes find the tangible versions on sale at different times of the year. Meanwhile, Steam is an all-digital platform, but there are Steam sales that make purchasing games a lot easier on your wallet. But overall, if you're on a budget, Nintendo is the way to go.

Steam Deck vs Nintendo Switch OLED model: Power & focus

Kids playing Nintendo SwitchSource: iMore

The Steam Deck is by far the more powerful console. The mid to high-end versions actually use SSD internal storage, which alone should make the device run a whole lot smoother and faster than a Switch. Just like the Nintendo Switch, the Steam Deck also features gyro, or motion controls and a touchscreen for easy interaction. Unlike the Switch, it has extra back buttons and trackpads on either side under the joysticks, giving players more control options.

Valve's gaming system is geared towards Steam users who specifically want to access their libraries on a powerful handheld. If you are not a computer gamer or don't already have a library of Steam games, it won't be as appealing.

The Nintendo Switch, on the other hand, is a much less complicated system with games for every age and taste. There are plenty of fun single-player games, but it's also designed as a sharable console with plenty of local or split-screen games for multiple people to enjoy at the same time. This sharable mentality is made obvious in the system's design where the Joy-Cons can be removed for easy multiplayer sessions.

Basically, if you are new to gaming or are looking for something your whole family can enjoy, the Nintendo Switch OLED model is a great choice for you. The battery even lasts a little longer than both the original Nintendo Switch and the Steam Deck, making it a great way to entertain children during long trips or car rides.

Steam Deck vs Nintendo Switch OLED model: Customization

Steam Deck ScreenSource: Valve

Nintendo keeps very tight control on its devices and makes it difficult to even customize your home screen. There are several jailbreak options out there and people have found a way to use a hidden web browser on the Switch, but it's done at your own risk. You can also purchase Joy-Cons in a variety of colors if you want your Switch to look more unique. Still, it takes more work to make changes to the Nintendo Switch.

Meanwhile, the Steam Deck runs a Linux operating system with a Proton compatibility layer and thus theoretically will be able to run just about anything that could run on Linux — that is, as long as users have the know-how to make it happen. This opens the Steam Deck up to a lot of possibilities for tech-savvy users who can customize the handheld to do almost anything a PC could do. For example, you could theoretically run a web browser on a Steam Deck or install Linux compatible software.

Steam Deck vs Nintendo Switch OLED model: Accessories

Bluetooth headphones and Nintendo SwitchSource: Rebecca Spear / iMore

Theoretically, the Steam Deck will work with any compatible Bluetooth device including mice, keyboards, wired/wireless headphones, fight sticks, and more. That basically means you can turn it into just about anything. IF you purchase the separate dock, this will give you additional ports and options to work with. It also works with any USB-powered device, which opens up the possibilities even more.

The Nintendo Switch, on the other hand, is more limited. It works with a range of accessories made specifically for it, but it doesn't have Bluetooth on its own. However, owners can purchase a Switch headphone adapter in order to use wireless headsets or can purchase other adapters to make other controllers or devices work with the system.

Steam Deck vs Nintendo Switch OLED model: Subscriptions & games

Nintendo Switch OnlineSource: iMore

Steam doesn't require a subscription to play its games. You just purchase a game once, and then you'll have access to it in your library whenever you want. If you have an online multiplayer Steam game, you'll just need to be connected to the internet to play it. Nintendo, on the other hand, follows a common console practice of requiring you to purchase a Nintendo Switch Online subscription in order to play anything online. However, once you purchase a game either physically or in the Nintendo eShop, you'll be able to play it locally whenever you want.

There are already dozens of the best Nintendo Switch games out there that have become popular on Switch consoles including Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Pokémon Sword and Shield, and many more. We know these games run well on Switch and have been very popular in this format.

Steam has been around since 2003, which means it has accumulated possibly millions of big titles during that time including Control, Portal 2, Hades, What Remains of Edith Finch, and more. However, we don't know for sure how well the Steam Deck will run these games. It could be one of the best things to ever happen to gaming or it could be a huge swing and a miss.

Steam Deck vs Nintendo Switch OLED model: Which should you buy?

Nintendo Switch Oled ModelSource: Nintendo

Since these gaming systems are so different from each other, comparing them is a difficult task. Basically, if you're new to gaming, want to share your console with others, or are looking for a system that is easy to get into, the Nintendo Switch (OLED model) is the better choice. Not to mention, it also costs less than Steam's handheld. It has improved battery life compared to the original Switch and Switch Lite and has those detachable Joy-Cons for easy multiplayer wherever and whenever you want. In addition to that, the Nintendo Switch is already an established console with several exclusives, so you know it won't be a passing fad.

If, however, you are already a PC gamer with a big library of Steam games or want something with fast framerates, larger storage, and processing power, the Steam Deck will be the ideal accessory. It allows you to play your favorite PC Steam games untethered to a desk wherever you have access to the internet. Since it runs Linux, it will likely be very customizable as well. It's hard to say just how well this device will work since it doesn't release until December, so it could either be the next best thing or a flash in the pan.

Multiplayer focus

Switch Oled Product Shot

Nintendo Switch OLED model

Improved Switch

The OLED model brings several welcome changes to the original Nintendo Switch including a LAN port, longer kickstand, 64GB of internal storage, and an improved display. It works with all Nintendo Switch games.

Power house

Steam Deck Product Shot

Steam Deck

Powerful handheld

Valve's new hardware allows you to play your entire Steam library from anywhere that you have a good internet connection. It comes in three versions with varying degrees of internal storage and processing power.

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