- The author prefers the Nintendo Switch over the Steam Deck, citing personal preferences and experiences.
- The Nintendo Switch has a larger game collection and is easier to use, while the Steam Deck offers more power and capabilities.
- The author highlights issues with the Steam Deck, such as troubleshooting, weight, and docking experience.
- The Nintendo Switch has better controller management and is not affected by network or server issues like the Steam Deck.
Let me preface this by saying that I am not a Steam Deck hater by any means! I firmly believe that the Steam Deck and Nintendo Switch are both amazing products. However, they are for different people, and that is important to acknowledge.
Let’s talk about why you may come to agree that the Switch is better than the Steam Deck.
Video Game Experience
In order to paint the picture of my experience with these products, I want to provide a brief personal background in relation to gaming. I have been playing video games since I was around three years old.
At the time, I loved my aunt’s Sega Dreamcast console and I had my own Nintendo 64. Donald Duck: Goin’ Quackers and Diddy Kong Racing were my favorite games on the two respective consoles.
Throughout the next few console generations, I owned nearly every console that was released. My fondest memories are of playing game franchises such as Pokémon, Sly Cooper, The Elder Scrolls, Animal Crossing, and Harvest Moon.
After the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 era, I primarily switched to PC gaming due to the allure of modding Bethesda titles. That being said, I still owned a PlayStation 4 Pro, a Nintendo 3DS, a Wii U, a Nintendo Switch, an Xbox One S, and an Xbox Series S console.
For a complete list of video game consoles I have owned throughout my life, here are them all!
- Nintendo Entertainment System
- Super Nintendo Entertainment System
- Nintendo 64
- Nintendo Gameboy
- Nintendo Gameboy Color / Nintendo Gameboy Color SP
- Nintendo Gameboy Advance
- Nintendo GameCube
- Nintendo DS
- Nintendo 3DS
- New Nintendo 3DS
- Nintendo Wii
- Nintendo Wii U
- Nintendo Switch
- Sega Genesis
- Sega Dreamcast
- PlayStation 2
- PlayStation 3
- PlayStation 4 Pro
- PlayStation Portable
- PlayStation Vita
- Xbox 360
- Xbox One S
- Xbox Series S
- Multiple Windows Gaming PCs
- Steam Deck
- Android Phones and Tablets
- iOS Phones and Tablets
- NVIDIA Shield
Release of the Nintendo Switch
When the Nintendo Switch initially came out, I bought it immediately. I was sold on the idea of playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim portable, and it was advertised as a launch title for the console. As one of my favorite games of all time, the console seemed like a no-brainer. I am a big fan of mobile gaming as a whole, and Nintendo franchises have always appealed to me.
Once I finally got my hands on the Nintendo Switch, I was absolutely hooked. I would frequent social media pages dedicated to the console and to collecting games for the console. After the failure of the Wii U, I was ecstatic that Nintendo made such a successful console again. I began my own Nintendo Switch collection, frequently shopping from brands like Limited Run Games and Super Rare Games. The Nintendo Switch currently has the honor of being my second biggest video game collection, right after the PlayStation 2.
Steam Deck Announcement
As previously mentioned, after the Xbox 360 and PS3 era, I switched to PC gaming. For a very long time, I had wanted a Switch that was able to play my large Steam library. When Valve announced the Steam Deck, it was as though my biggest dream had come true.
As soon as Valve started accepting the $5 deposits for the Steam Deck, I immediately grabbed the 512GB model. Due to Steam having issues with server load, I was unfortunately placed into the Q2 group for my Deck.
Nevertheless, I was extremely hyped until the day it arrived, checking social media pages dedicated to the console on a daily basis. At this point, I had pretty much stopped considering the Nintendo Switch my favorite console. I was all-in on the Steam Deck and even rebought some Switch games for Steam like Octopath Traveler and Harvestella.
Expectations for the Steam Deck
I knew from the very beginning that the Steam Deck ran on a Linux kernel and wouldn’t be able to play most multiplayer titles. I was actually hyped that the Steam Deck was potentially going to make Linux gaming a lot more prosperous and less restrictive. This wasn’t a deal breaker back then and isn’t a deal breaker now.
Essentially, my expectations for the Steam Deck was that it was going to be the perfect machine for playing indie games and for emulation. I didn’t expect to be able to run most triple-A games, so I was actually pleasantly surprised at just how capable it was. I also never expected good battery life, expecting to mostly play while charging away from my actual PC. In this regard, my expectations were met and exceeded.
Experiences with the Steam Deck
Trouble on Deck
Fast-forward to actually receiving the Steam Deck, I didn’t get to play it for a good two or three days. Those first few days I was simultaneously sick with COVID and also was mostly doing prep work on the device, following instructions on how to set up certain things like Xbox Game Pass and emulators. I believed that after a brief setup period, the device would be good to do everything I threw at it.
Unfortunately, the day when the Steam Deck could handle everything I threw at it never came. The reality was that every single game I tried to play would require troubleshooting and fixing, even the ones marked as Steam Deck verified. I had to buy a dock and an extra keyboard and mouse simply because the desktop was practically unusable with the Steam Deck’s control scheme.
After eventually giving up on Linux, I made the plunge and installed Windows 10 on my Steam Deck. I used the resources provided by Valve to do this, but because their promised duel-boot support never actually came, I had to remove Linux entirely. For a good few months, Windows made me appreciate and play my Steam Deck way more than I used to.
Unfortunately, the enjoyment that Windows brought was short-lived. For those first few months, everything worked fine with little to no troubleshooting needed. Eventually, however, my controllers would stop getting recognized by the Steam Deck. Turning on the console would eventually become a battle over whether or not it recognized my controllers, and how hard it would be to make it recognize them on that specific day. After a while, games would also begin to require troubleshooting. The lack of certain SteamOS features also hurt the device when using Windows.
Back to SteamOS and RMA
Eventually, when Windows didn’t work consistently anymore, I reinstalled the native SteamOS. After a bit of time, the Steam Deck would begin to experience consistent slow-downs, not allowing games to have more than an inconsistent 30 FPS.
I did a lot of research and attempted to fix the Steam Deck. Eventually, I learned that Valve was aware of this issue and would replace the device for those who experienced it. After contacting Valve, my Steam Deck was replaced.
Steam Deck: Attempt #2
Upon receiving my Steam Deck replacement, I decided to forgo all the setup I had done the first time. At least for a little bit, I was going to just play verified games and try to enjoy the console without unnecessary work. This worked for a while, and I had a newfound appreciation for the Steam Deck and SteamOS. However, having once had a device running Windows that had a lot less restrictions, I couldn’t be fully content with SteamOS.
Not only was I used to the luxury of Windows, but SteamOS has another glaring issue. Whenever Steam is down, Steam Deck users are entirely locked out of their consoles. For those unaware, Steam goes down quite frequently for maintenance and due to server load from sales. For a device that is meant to be mobile, I personally see this as a massive and unacceptable oversight. Gamers frequently complain about always-online video games, and yet the Steam Deck is an always-online console.
Why I Prefer the Nintendo Switch
Now that we have covered my entire history and experiences with the Steam Deck console, it is time to more directly compare the two consoles. The Steam Deck is a much more powerful device — there is no arguing against that.
We even have entire articles dedicated to comparing the specs of the two handheld consoles. However, more than specs make a video game console enjoyable to use. Let’s talk about it.
Ergonomics and Weight
I personally find the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con controllers to be horribly uncomfortable. It was an issue I had ever since the Nintendo Switch was released, and my opinion hasn’t changed. The controllers are just small enough that they hurt my hands to hold for extended amounts of time. Fortunately, there is the Pro Controller to fix that when docked, and skins exist to fix it in handheld mode.
The Steam Deck, on the other hand, feels great in your hands. As a previous Steam controller fan, I also adore the four back buttons on the Steam Deck. However, the Steam Deck is very heavy.
The Steam Deck weighs a whopping 260 grams more than the Nintendo Switch, and it genuinely makes the device hard to use for extended periods of time. In order to actually play the Deck, I generally need a pillow in my lap to hold it up for me.
As previously mentioned, I knew what I was getting into when I bought the Steam Deck. I had always intended to use it while plugged in, knowing the battery life was subpar. However, the short battery life is far more noticeable than I was expecting.
Despite having a much larger battery than the Nintendo Switch, the Steam Deck lasts noticeably less time due to the higher settings of the games being played. Even playing small indie games will generally run the Steam Deck battery down quicker than a holiday road trip.
The experience of using a dock may not be a big deal to a lot of people. If you bought the Steam Deck with the intent to only ever use it handheld, you’re probably perfectly happy. However, I love how plug-and-play the Nintendo Switch is. I love being able to unplug it and continue what I was doing with zero issues, no troubleshooting, and no screen flickering.
When I attempt to use a Dock for the Steam Deck, it is generally a case of needing to edit settings, needing to fix resolution, watching the device screen flicker a few times, etc. Docking and undocking a Steam Deck is not smooth or effortless by any means, and as a result, I have never played the console docked. This flaw alone makes the device far less convenient and less easy to keep charged to just grab when needed.
Another thing to consider when it comes to docking the Steam Deck is the dock options available to you. Most of these options are essentially tiny little stands for the Steam Deck, easily knocked over by pets or kids. The Nintendo Switch, on the other hand, is largely protected by its dock when plugged in. While it isn’t great for a Nintendo Switch to be knocked over, it won’t be as fatal as if the Steam Deck was knocked over.
Both the Nintendo Switch and Steam Deck have built-in controllers, and both work flawlessly when you’re playing with these controllers. The question is, how do these two devices handle plugging in additional controllers? How do they handle switching controllers?
The Nintendo Switch was designed with this in mind from the very beginning. The two joy-cons can easily be disabled, be used independently of each other for co-op, or be moved to a different controller position (such as player two).
Plugging in or connecting a pro controller is a painless experience, and the Nintendo Switch will ask you if you want to switch immediately.
The Steam Deck, on the other hand, has a very difficult time managing controllers. If you are not using the built-in controller, you can’t disable them without digging through Linux settings. For most games, this doesn’t matter. However, some games will still detect the controllers and not allow you to switch which one you want to use. The controllers also do not disconnect and cannot be used independently, making co-op very inconvenient. The aforementioned issues with docking also remove co-op as a feasible option in most cases.
Looking to the Future
Valve has already promised future iterations of the Steam Deck, but it will not be for a while. The Steam Deck also created a serious handheld PC industry, which I respect Valve immensely for doing. Whether it be the Steam Deck, the ROG Ally, or the other portable PCs, there are now options. Perhaps a future Steam Deck or competitor will address my issues.
On the side of the Nintendo Switch, the rumor mill is turning fast. The Nintendo Switch 2 appears to be on the horizon with a potential 2024 release, and it looks promising. I’m already aboard the hype train, with my biggest hope being backward compatibility. I would also love to see Xbox Game Pass collaborate with the Nintendo Switch 2, but that is an unlikely pipe dream. Perhaps the new Nintendo Switch will be able to compete a bit better with the Steam Deck in the specs department.
For now, I will continue to use my Steam Deck for the occasional PC-exclusive indie game and for emulation. I have not given up on the device, but it simply is no longer my go-to for most things. There are some games that the Nintendo Switch will simply never run, either due to spec limitations or publishing limitations.
That being said, my backlog of games to play on the Nintendo Switch grows with every passing day, and I am enjoying myself immensely.
At the end of the day, the Nintendo Switch is a console that is easy to use. It may not always be the prettiest or perform the best, but it works. You can plug it in and play it the way you want to, docked or handheld, with the controller variant of your choice. It lacks a lot of games, but so does the Steam Deck due to Linux restrictions. You will also never be locked out of your Nintendo Switch due to network issues or server issues — at most, you can just choose a different game.
The Steam Deck is a vastly more powerful machine, capable of playing even the newest of games at low settings. The cost of this is constant troubleshooting, being tethered to an outlet, restrictions on how and what you can play, the occasional total lockout, and a device that may be too heavy for some.
Both devices perform well and mostly get the job done, and which you prefer will ultimately come down to personal preference. Personally, my choice is the Nintendo Switch, but I can understand why some would choose the Steam Deck. Regardless of which you choose, you likely won’t go wrong. That being said, the consoles are for two different people, and that shouldn’t be a bad thing.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©History-Computer.com/Skye Gallo.