Steam Deck - Valve's Switch Killer?

The new mobile console from Valve, which goes by the name of Steam Deck, has been available for pre-order since mid-July. But what is Valve&...

The new mobile console from Valve, which goes by the name of Steam Deck, has been available for pre-order since mid-July. But what is Valve's handheld really up to and can it really keep up with the established and popular Switch console?

Of course, the great success of the Nintendo Switch also brought other manufacturers onto the scene. Valve, the developer of the popular PC platform Steam, now also wants to enter the handheld business. The possibility of playing current AAA games on the go sounds like a promising and successful business model, as the great popularity of the switch has clearly shown. It's completely understandable that the publisher wants a piece of the cake and is launching its own handheld console.

The most important information about the Steam Deck

Before we tell you whether you should definitely buy a Steam Deck and let your Switch gather dust in the closet, we first want to give you some important and useful information about the new handheld console from publisher Valve.

The official release

First things first, when will the console finally appear? As already mentioned, you can pre-order the Steam Deck on July 16th. On the official website, Valve states that the console should be delivered in December 2021. However, if you take a look at the different equipment variants, you will quickly notice that these can only be ordered after the second quarter of 2022. In general, the official date has been pushed back several times - not only in Germany but also internationally.

The price and the facilities

Next, of course, the price plays a not inconsiderable role in the purchase decision. For this purpose, we also take a look at the different equipment variants of the Steam Deck. Because as with current smartphones, handheld consoles with different memory sizes, hard drives and other additional features are coming onto the market these days, all of which are of course not free.

Overall, the Steam Deck is offered in three different configurations. The cheapest variant starts at 419 euros. Here you get a carrying case in addition to the Steam Deck itself. You get 64 GB of eMMC storage.

When you're ready to dig a little deeper, you'll get 256GB of ultra-fast NVMe SSD storage and an exclusive Steam Community profile bundle alongside the carrying case. The whole thing then costs 549 euros.

The most expensive and at the same time logically the most powerful variant comes with 679 euros. Almost 700 euros for a portable console, that sounds pretty heavy at first. In return, you get a full 512 GB of NVMe SSD storage, an exclusive carrying case, the already mentioned profile bundle, an anti-reflective and significantly better display surface, which is made of better glass, and a virtual keyboard in an exclusive design. However, you have to decide for yourself whether this is really worth 700 euros.

Finally, it is important to mention that the three versions do not differ in any way in terms of performance. Only the loading times can differ due to the different hard drives (eMMC and NVMe). However, this does not affect the frame rate and graphics.

A look under the hood - can the Steam Deck take on the Nintendo Switch?

Now let's move on to the part that most likely interests you the most. What can Valve's Steam Deck do? Let's take a closer look at the hardware and under the hood of the handheld. Because that's what most people care about the most: Enjoying high-quality, high-performance games on the go.

The look and the controls

Appearance isn't everything, it's what's on the inside that counts, they say. However, the look and, above all, the quality of the workmanship and the usability of the console are also extremely important factors in a handheld console. That's why we work our way from the outside in.

Let's start with the 7 inches (approx. 18 cm) large touchscreen. Yes, you heard that right, the Steam Deck features a touchscreen that allows you to navigate through the menus with your fingers, just like on a smartphone. Pretty cool, but no longer a unique selling point. Because the current Nintendo Switch Lite also comes with a touchscreen of the same size.

To control you use the two analog sticks in a classic way. However, Valve has come up with a little special feature here, since the Steam Deck is primarily intended to appeal to PC gamers. There are two trackpads on the console, which should prove to be extremely useful, especially in first-person shooters. Otherwise, you have the usual trigger buttons on the back as well as four other buttons, which you can freely assign, for example for role-playing games or the like. You can achieve additional precision in shooters with the integrated measuring unit, the so-called gyroscope. As a result, your Steam Deck reacts to your movements and you can control your games much more intuitively.

That all sounds quite good, unfortunately, the control unit is permanently installed. A look at the competition Nintendo shows that there is a better way. The Switch's innovative control system, with detachable controllers and detachable joypads, shows that they really put some thought into it. Unfortunately, such possibilities are missing with the Steam Deck.

However, the publisher has come up with something different, because Valve gives you the opportunity to connect various input and output devices to the Steam Deck. So you can connect your favorite keyboard or mouse without further complications and continue to gamble with it.

Just like the switch, the Steam Deck can of course also be connected to the television or an external monitor. However, with the console being advertised as a "portable gaming PC," it makes one wonder how useful it all is. So you can just sit down at your real gaming PC and enjoy the games from your Steam library from there. This possibility seems to make much more sense with a console like the Nintendo Switch. So this is a classic games console, which primarily focuses on fun coop multiplayer games, which is why a connection to the television seems to make much more sense.

What's inside the Steam Deck

But now we finally get to take a look under the hood. Let's start with battery performance. Here, Valve installed a 40-watt-hour battery in the Steam Deck, which allows you to gamble or surf the web for 7-8 hours. The integrated WLAN and Bluetooth connection ensure a good connection here. In terms of battery life, however, the latest Switch generation is slightly ahead. According to the manufacturer, the maximum battery life is a full 9 hours, which is an hour ahead of the Steam Deck.

As already mentioned, the Steam Deck comes with different memory configurations. However, if you don't feel like spending a ton of money for a little more storage, Valve gives you the option to easily expand storage with microSD cards.

The concentrated graphics power of the small powerhouse comes from an AMD APU, which was specially developed for the Steam Deck. The modern Zen 2 architecture ensures hassle-free high-end gaming on the go. With regard to the built-in RAM, Valve provides a decent amount of steam with 16 GB. The new Nintendo Switch console only has half the RAM installed.

Is the Steam Deck Really the New Switch Killer? Our final conclusion

Now that we've given you all the essential information about Valve's new Steam Deck, it's time to answer the opening question. Can Valve's new portable console really compete with Nintendo's popular handheld console? The very clear answer is: no.

That's by no means to say the Steam Deck doesn't have potential, however, or we suspect the console will flop. On the contrary, Valve's handheld console appears to be a rock-solid device, but not an absolute innovation that will change everything. Unfortunately, the Steam Deck still lacks too much for that.

In terms of performance, however, the Steam Deck can easily keep up with the latest Switch generation. Although one almost has to say that Valve's console is even slightly ahead here.

In the end, however, it can be said that Valve is logically consciously targeting PC gamers with its Steam Deck. These will most likely also mostly use the console. The Steam Deck is unlikely to be a real alternative or even a replacement for the switch. In any case, we are happy that there will soon be a new handheld console on the market. It is a well-known fact that competition stimulates business.



Guest Post Mag: Steam Deck - Valve's Switch Killer?
Steam Deck - Valve's Switch Killer?
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