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What Is the Steam Deck GPU Equivalent for PC?

steam deck

What Is the Steam Deck GPU Equivalent for PC?

Key Points

  • The Steam Deck is a powerful handheld gaming device that punches above its weight class with its performance and optimizations.
  • The Steam Deck uses a custom-designed APU chip that combines CPU and GPU tasks, delivering 1.6 TFlops of performance.
  • Comparing GPUs to the Steam Deck, the NVIDIA RTX 2060 and GTX 1050 Ti offer similar performance, while the Radeon RX 6700 XT and RX 6800 provide higher performance at a higher cost.
  • The Steam Deck is designed for mobile gaming and is not a replacement for a high-end gaming PC, but it offers convenience and portability for gaming on the go.

The Steam Deck has been out for a little over a year and a half, and it’s clear to see that it’s still a powerhouse. Despite its slightly lower-than-average display resolution (1280×800), the Steam Deck feels like it’s punching above its weight class.

For most games, this resolution looks fine. High-fidelity games still look great, especially with the many optimizations included in the Steam Deck’s hardware. Like most handhelds, there are definitely games that lend themselves better, but even current releases like Baldur’s Gate 3 or Mortal Kombat 1 run at more than playable framerates.

Since the Steam Deck’s performance is tightly linked to its architecture, the price-to-performance ratio is hard to beat, and it doesn’t really have a PC equivalent that matches it dollar for dollar. Still, you can get close. And in today’s article, we’re going to explore what GPUs most closely match the Steam Deck in terms of both performance and price.

What Makes the Steam Deck’s Graphics Different?

The Steam Deck actually doesn’t have a CPU or GPU. Well, at least not in the same way desktop gaming PCs do. The Steam Deck uses a newly maturing chip, an APU. The hybrid system performs both CPU and GPU tasks. This is a custom-designed chip in collaboration with AMD and Valve, meaning it’s designed for mobile gaming and Valve’s SteamOS and compatibility layers.

It is still comprised of a Zen 2 CPU with four cores and eight threads. Combined with the eight compute units in the APU’s graphics component, clocking in between 1-1.6 GHz, the system delivers 1.6 TFlops of performance. While these are theoretical metrics that are hard to relate to how well a system actually games, they are abysmal compared to the PlayStation 5 at 10.28 TFlops or the Xbox Series X at 12.

But remember, the resolution of the Steam Deck’s screen also isn’t comparable to a new flatscreen. The Steam Deck also uses amazing upscaling technologies to take low resolutions and make them appear HD. 

The custom design of the Steam Deck’s chip also factors into its true power. If you’re looking at raw numbers, you’ll be greatly underselling the potential available in the Steam Deck. Numbers alone, games like Elden Ring would barely run on the Steam Deck, but Valve and game developers are constantly optimizing, so these experiences are smooth and look amazing.

Steam Deck APU vs. Traditional GPU: Quick View

Steam Deck APUGPU
PurposeCombined graphics and logical operationsGraphical processing and calculations
UpgradabilityThe only way to upgrade is with a new deviceIn most PCs, this part is replaceable
Power RequirementsThese chips are designed to be power-efficientModern GPUs lean towards very high power requirements
Software CompatibilityAPUs typically require software built specifically to take advantage of their architectureGPUs are designed to work with most modern OSs
Price PointAPUs are very hard to buy individually, and so are specific to the type of device being boughtNewer GPUs are extremely expensive; it is not uncommon for a GPU to be a large percentage of any PC purchase

GPUs vs. Steam Deck: By the Numbers

Looking at this list, the Steam Deck feels like it’s on the lower end, but, again, teraflops and raw numbers don’t tell the whole story here! Also, remember that most games are not designed to meet the highest-end requirements. Look at the power of the consoles that games are being made for to get an idea of the average requirement. 

Card/DeviceBase/Boost Clock SpeedTeraflopsTechnologyVRAM
Steam Deck1-1.6 GHz1.6RDNA 2Up to 16 GB LPDDR5
NVIDIA RTX 20601.4-1.8 GHz10Turing6 GB GDDR6
NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti1.3-1.4 GHz2.1Pascal4 GB GDDR5
NVIDIA GTX 9501.1-1.2 GHz1.8Maxwell 2.02 GB GDDR5
Radeon RX 6700 XT2.3-2.6 GHz12.4RDNA 212 GB GDDR6
Radeon RX 68001.7-2.1 GHz16RDNA 216 GB GDDR6
Radeon RX Vega 561.1-1.5 GHz10.7GCN 58 GB HBM2

Exploring GPU Alternatives

For all of the options provided here, it’s extremely hard to get a direct comparison to the Steam Deck. You need to keep in mind that the Steam Deck is rendering to a much smaller screen than a 1440p or 4K monitor

This means the rendering requirements are quite different. I’ll be making reference to FPS as a pretty good indicator, but again, this number is also affected by the rendering and display requirements of the device being benchmarked. If you want to avoid the Steam Deck and prefer to keep or upgrade your PC instead, these are some of the best GPUs to fit the bill.

NVIDIA RTX 2060

Highly Competitive
GeForce RTX 2060
$250.94
  • Supports ray tracing and DLSS
  • Clock speed: 1710 MHz
  • Memory: 6 GB GDDR6
  • Runs Diablo IV at high on 1080p
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01/16/2024 07:28 pm GMT

The Steam Deck may not have as many teraflops as the 2060, but it still punches close to it in terms of display. It’s hard to get a direct comparison because architecture does a lot for the Steam Deck, for example, both the 2060 and the Steam Deck get around 40-45 FPS in games like Elden Ring

The 2060 has an average higher clock and definitely handles higher resolution better, but in terms of performance for the intended device, it’s not unfair to put the Steam Deck toe to toe. The Steam Deck will also have much more available VRAM, so this also makes up for some of the difference.

NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti

Budget-Friendly Pick
ASUS GeForce GTX 1050 Ti
$235.00
  • Memory: 4GB GDDR5
  • Cock speed: 1290MHz
  • Features HDMI, DVI, and DisplayPort video outputs
  • Graphics Coprocessor: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050
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01/16/2024 07:27 pm GMT

The 1050 Ti feels great compared to the Steam Deck. This card looks a lot closer numbers-wise to the Steam Deck, and actually performs similarly, too. This isn’t a 4K card, but for 1080p gaming, it still holds up great.

NVIDIA GTX 950

Our Pick
GTX 950
$144.47
  • Memory: 2 GB GDDR5
  • 4K HDR Technology
  • Core frequency: 1114 MHz
  • Memory frequency: 6612 MHz
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01/16/2024 07:38 pm GMT

This entry is on the lower end of the spectrum in terms of all the cards here. While the clock speeds are more consistent between base and boosted, this card struggles more with modern games. It’s an amazing example of how numbers alone aren’t a great representation of a card’s power. 

The GTX 950 struggles to keep up even at lower settings for most games. It’s extremely hard to recommend this card — even as a budget purchase. Its low clock speed and extremely limited VRAM make it struggle with the high memory requirements of games today. You could opt for it as a cheaper alternative to a Steam Deck, but you might not be as impressed with your gaming experience.

Radeon RX 6700 XT

Best Overall
XFX Speedster AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT
$489.00
  • Memory speed: 16 Gbps
  • Memory: 12 GB GDDR6
  • Boost Clock: up to 2581 MHz
  • Features the XFX Speedster SWFT309 Triple Fan
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01/16/2024 07:33 pm GMT

This card outperforms the Steam Deck with ease, and its pricing is the most competitive with it. If you’re looking for high-end futureproof gaming, the 6700 XT is a great choice — but it comes at most of the cost of a base Steam Deck. 

You’ll still need to account for the cost of the rest of the PC. So, even though the card itself is cheaper, you’re still going to spend less on a Steam Deck. It is a bit unfair to compare the Steam Deck to this card, as its higher clock, comparable VRAM, and shared architecture mean that the 6700 XT punches high, and punches hard. 

Radeon RX 6800

Our Pick
Radeon RX 6800
$421.66
  • GPU Clock Speed: 2105 MHz
  • Memory: 16GB GDDR6
  • Boost Clock: up to 2105MHz
  • XFX SWFT 319 Triple Fan
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01/17/2024 07:30 pm GMT

Another heavy hitter and sister chip to the Steam Deck’s APU, the 6800, exceeds in most aspects. The 6800 also benchmarks higher than the 6700 XT, so the Steam Deck has a good match here, too.

This card also has a hefty price tag, but a dedicated GPU fills a different niche than the Steam Deck. As usual, the higher price tag is no surprise. This card is more for high-resolution gaming than gaming on a smaller, mobile device. 

Plus, you’ll need to have a pretty hefty power supply, as this GPU can use up to 250 watts under load. Compare that to the Steam Deck, which will let you game and charge the device under just 45 watts of power.

Radeon RX Vega 56

Our Pick
Radeon RX Vega 56
$479.00
  • 8GB 2048-bit High Bandwidth Memory (HBM2)
  • GPU Clock Speed: 1156 MHz
  • Boost Clock: 1471 MHz
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01/16/2024 07:53 pm GMT

Last up is another powerful card from AMD. This one is actually closer in performance to the Steam Deck, but it still performs extremely well. The clock speeds and available VRAM are almost spot on here, but the Deck wins on price again. 

Comparable PCs and Alternatives

Okay, so you know what cards are good contenders to go against the Steam Deck. But does the rest of your PC match up? If you’re working with only a little bit of RAM, a slower mechanical hard drive, and a weak processor, it doesn’t matter as much which graphics card you have.

If your PC is up to snuff in regards to all of your other hardware, you can add a decent GPU and enjoy much better gaming performance than a Steam Deck. However, if you want to upgrade your entire desktop set-up to replicate or surpass a Steam Deck, you’ll have to look at a few alternatives.

Considering the graphical requirements to go head to head with the Steam Deck, we’ve researched a few of the best prebuilt desktops that give you a solid match for your money.

SkyTech Shadow 3.0 (NVIDIA RTX 2060)

Our Pick
SkyTech Shadow 3.0 (RTX 2060)
$999.99
  • Windows 10 Home 64-bit
  • CPU Speed: 3.60 GHz
  • Max Boost: 4.2GHz
  • 16 GB Gaming Memory DDR4 3000 
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01/16/2024 07:53 pm GMT

This PC may be a bit pricier than a Steam Deck, but for the system specifications, it’s a pretty good deal. For most games, it will perform well, but for this price, you can get a lot more storage in a Steam Deck. You also will be missing some key components to start gaming, like peripherals or a screen. Yes, the RTX 2060 is a big step up from a Steam Deck, but you’ll pay that extra upfront cost to get it.

AQVIN Gaming PC Tower (NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti)

Our Pick
AQVIN Gaming PC Tower (GTX 1050 Ti)
  • 32 GB RAM DDR4
  • CPU Speed: 3.40 GHz
  • Windows 10 Professional OS
  • 1 TB hard disk size
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Another great choice, this computer is about the closest you can get in performance and price to the Steam Deck. But higher pricing means you’ll still need to weigh the pros and cons of spending more for the desktop gaming experience

Think about it — yes, it does cost slightly more than a Steam Deck. But you have the ability to upgrade all of your components throughout the life of the PC. If a more demanding game comes along, you’ll be able to upgrade your GPU, CPU, or whatever you need.

CyberPower PC (Radeon RX 6700 XT)

Our Pick
CyberPower PC (Radeon RX 6700 XT)
$1,149.99
  • Windows 10 Home 64-bit
  • 1TB PCIe NVMe M.2 solid state drive
  • 32 GB DDR4-3000MHz 288-pin XMP RAM memory 
  • Base frequency: 3.60 GHz
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01/16/2024 08:07 pm GMT

On the higher end of price also comes the higher end of performance. This PC has it all and would be great for gaming with the intent to use ray tracing or a 4K monitor. You’ll definitely be hurting when it comes to your wallet, but that comes with the territory. With this PC, you’re really entering a league way beyond the lowly Steam Deck.

GPU or Steam Deck: Which One Is Better? Which one Should I Pick?

steam deck rpgs
PlayStation games are coming to the PC and getting Steam Deck verified.

The Steam Deck is difficult to compare to GPUs for a variety of reasons, but it is important to remember that graphics aren’t what you should make your entire decision on. The Steam Deck is not the device you should use for hardcore gaming at home, and a GPU won’t do you any good in the airport.

You’ll be making some tradeoffs no matter what you choose, but the Steam Deck is not a replacement for your gaming PC. The Steam Deck was designed with modern mobile gaming in mind, not running 4K 120 FPS ray-traced eye melters. 

Steam Decks are great for when you want to game in 2-3 hour bursts, and when a PC isn’t convenient. If you’re someone who wants something that you can use all day and for the latest and greatest games to run at the absolute max settings, then maybe a Steam Deck isn’t your best option. 

The hype around the Steam Deck is palpable, even well after release. Unless you see yourself using it in places other than your desk, you could consider a more traditional system. But let’s face it, you’re going to pay more for a desktop PC. Plus, if you want to game on your commute or in places other than your home, then you really can’t replicate the Steam Deck experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What GPU is the Steam Deck Comparable to?

The Steam Deck is hard to compare directly to any GPU because its architecture allows it to deliver comparable gameplay experience even at lower performance metrics. All in all, this makes it difficult to match in terms of price-to-performance. Consider GPUs that are similar to 8th and 9th-generation consoles, as the Steam Deck should operate on par with these.

How does the Steam Deck compare to a computer?

Think of the Steam Deck as an upscale gaming laptop. It won’t be as powerful as a desktop computer, but it’s made to game. You can expect it’ll be capable of most games, and lists are available of the Steam Deck’s compatibility with many games.

Is the Steam Deck like a Gaming PC?

Yes, the Steam Deck is actually closer to a gaming laptop or PC than it is to a console. You’re able to use the Steam Deck for anything you could use a PC for.

Is the Steam Deck a Good PC Replacement?

Not entirely. If you’re willing to carry a spare keyboard, mouse, and monitor, then you could use the Steam Deck as a work computer as much as a gaming computer. You can even install Windows to the Steam Deck to get a more traditional experience, although it might be a little trickier to set up and be productive compared to a dedicated desktop PC.

Is the Steam Deck as Powerful as the PS5?

No, but most PS5 games should run fine on the Steam Deck. PS5s are similar in that they rely on special hardware and software architecture to achieve higher performance, but the PS5 also has dedicated power and significantly beefier cooling that the Steam Deck lacks.

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