Last week Nintendo unveiled the OLED Switch, this week Valve unveiled the Steam Deck. Will you choose one or do you think Android phones are the way to play on the go? Before we tell you the virtual voting booth, let’s take a closer look at the competitors.
The Nintendo Switch OLED model will be available in October starting at $350, that is, with 64 GB of storage (the original had 32 GB). It features a 7-inch OLED display, an upgrade from the original’s smaller 6.2-inch LCD display (the Lite model has an even smaller screen at 5.5 inches). However, it still has a resolution of 1,280 x 720 px.
The chipset is the same Tegra X1 as before, rumors of an upgrade have not been successful. This means you get 720p graphics in portable mode and 1080p when docked (debatable, more about it in a minute). The battery life is in the range of 4.5 to 9 hours (for example, you can expect 5.5 hours when playing Breath of nature). This corresponds to the revised version of the original switch.
The docking station has a new feature, a wired LAN port, which will allow a stable high-speed, low-latency connection, even compared to the new Wi-Fi standards. Speaking, the Switch supports Wi-Fi 5 (ac).
Switching to the Valve Steam Deck, it will be available in December starting at $400. Note that this version comes with 64 GB of eMMC memory. If you want faster storage, that is, an NVMe SSD, it starts at $530 for a 256 GB model. The RAM is still 16 GB of DDR5.
The Deck is powered by an AMD Zen 2 APU with 4 cores (8 threads) and an RDNA 2 GPU with 8 CPUs. This is AMD’s latest graphics architecture (Radeon 6000 series), while Ryzen APUs use the aging Vega architecture for their GPUs. Thus, it will be significantly faster than the Ryzen APUs, but not as fast as, say, the Radeon 6700 XT, which has 40 CPUs (but costs as much as the Steam Deck itself and has a TDP of 230 W).
Still, the on-board display won’t impress you with its graphical fidelity – it’s a 7-inch LCD display, a 16:10 panel this time, so a resolution of 1,280 x 800 px. It operates at a standard refresh rate of 60 Hz and supports touch input.
If the display is too limited, you can use USB-C in Alt DisplayPort 1.4 mode to produce 4K resolution at 120 Hz or even up to 8K. Not that the GPU can reach playable frame rate at these resolutions. Although Switch owners will tell you that the aging Tegra chip is also not a speed demon and that the true 1080p rendering is mainly a chimera.
Both consoles have microSD slots for memory expansion and while the Switch can play games on microSD, we’re not sure we want to run a PC-class game from just one – using a USB 3.1 flash drive will likely be a better option. As with the Switch, there is an official dock for the Steam Deck that adds a full-size DisplayPort and HDMI port, a USB-A 3.1 port, and two USB-A 2.0 ports.
In terms of battery life, this varies greatly. The 40 WHr battery supports between 2 and 8 hours of playback. For network connectivity, there is again Wi-Fi 5 (ac), if you get the dock, you will also have an Ethernet cable. The device weighs 669 g, compared to 399 g for the Switch (with the Joy-Cons attached).
Then let’s talk about controllers. The Nintendo Switch OLED features detachable Joy-Cons, which can serve as wireless controllers for two players and also support motion controls. Once attached, they give the console a fairly standard set of two analog sticks, a D-pad, four action buttons and four shoulder buttons.
The Valve Steam Deck takes a page from the Steam Controller and has two touchpads. This is in addition to the two analog sticks, the D-pad, four action buttons, four shoulder buttons and four additional triggers at the bottom. Of course, both consoles allow you to connect additional controllers.
Controllers: Steam Deck vs Switch
Finally, let’s take a quick look at game libraries, which are perhaps the most important feature on a console. They are both rich, but in a way they are diametrically opposed.
The Steam Deck runs SteamOS 3.0 (based on Arch Linux) and can play any game in the Steam library. This includes modern games, many classics and countless indie games.
The Nintendo Switch runs Switch-exclusive games, including a library of high-quality proprietary titles (plus some NES/SNES evergreen titles).
There are other ways to play on the go. There are things like the Moqi i7 on Android that we reviewed some time ago, which have built-in controls like these two. Devices like the Asus ROG Phone 5 also offer a wide range of controllers. In fact, Android phones in general should have native support for Sony’s DualShock 4 controllers and Microsoft’s Xbox (although this can sometimes be broken). You can even play games on PC and console with cloud streaming services or stream the game from your own PC/console.
So what will it be – a Switch or a Steam Deck? Or neither?
PS. we have seen that some of you have voting problems. We use a third-party service for polls (StrawPoll) and we believe that this may be related to its verification of duplication of votes. Can you vote directly on paille.com? What errors do you see and which browser are you using?