As far as handheld gaming systems go, the Steam Deck has taken the last year by storm with an estimated one million units being sold. As PC gaming is as popular as ever, it was inevitable that someone would make a handheld enabling you to play your favorite AAA PC gaming titles on the go. Valve answered the call and, since its release, the Steam Deck has helped redefine what a handheld gaming device can and should be.
However, as popular as the Steam Deck has become, it’s not for everyone and there are definitely reasons to ignore it. Not only is the Steam Deck not perfect, but it also will not play every PC game perfectly and only has enough battery life for a few hours of hardcore gaming. Even if battery life isn’t everything, there are some other reasons you should avoid the Steam Deck, at least for now.
Let’s take a look at the 8 best reasons to avoid a Steam Deck.
Steam Deck Quick Facts
|Release Date||February 2022|
|Price||$399, $529, $649|
|Memory Size||64GB, 256GB, 512GB|
|Size||11.7 x 4.6 x 1.9 inches|
|Battery Life||2-8 hours|
|Display||7-inch, 1,280 x 800p IPS LCD|
It’s Only Kind-of Portable
While Valve has positioned the Steam Deck as a portable handheld game system, it’s only kind of portable. At 11.7 inches wide and 4.6 inches tall, it’s definitely not pocket friendly and, when introduced with a case, it’s downright bulky. Yes, you can take it anywhere by throwing it in a backpack, but it’s not as portable as the Nintendo Switch, which is two inches shorter in width and a full inch smaller in height.
On top of its overall size, the Steam Deck, at 2.5 pounds, is the same weight as many laptops, most of which you wouldn’t want to carry around separately. Weighing 10 ounces more than the Nintendo Switch, the Steam Deck can start feeling pretty hefty after a while and therefore gets uncomfortable for lengthy gaming sessions.
Valve claims that they have developed an all-in-one portable device for video games, and it is definitely true in a literal sense. The idea that a device is both portable and handheld is not mutually exclusive. The Steam Deck is portable — there is no argument there — but it’s decidedly not a comfortable handheld console. The video game world as you understand it defines portable devices like the Nintendo Switch, Game Boy, and the PlayStation Vita devices, which are much smaller than the Steam Deck.
So, while the Steam Deck may be portable in that you can stick it in a backpack and take it on the go, doing so requires planning, a big case, and maybe a hurt shoulder or two.
There is No Upgrading
For most PC gamers, part of the thrill of buying a desktop gaming computer or even a gaming laptop is that you can upgrade your components down the road. Whether it’s upgrading RAM, adding RGB lighting, or swapping to a new GPU, you cannot do any of these upgrades with the new Steam Deck. Outside of upgrading the hard drive, which isn’t terribly easy, what you see with the Steam Deck is what you get.
This is important to know going in as PC games get bigger and bigger (looking at your Red Dead Redemption 2 and your 150GB of storage), and you can quickly run out of room on your Steam Deck. Even if you consider buying the largest version of the console with 512GB of storage, you can run out of space relatively fast if you are only trying to play the latest AAA games.
Not All Games are Created Equally
It won’t come as any surprise to anyone who has ever owned, played, or even thought about purchasing a gaming computer that not all games are created equally. The Steam platform is home to more than 50,000 games and, out of that number, only around 7,000 are either listed as Playable or Verified as being compatible with the Steam Deck.
This means out of the entire selection of the Steam store, only 14% of listed games are going to be titles you can play on the Steam Deck. This number doesn’t bode well for many of your favorite games being compatible with the Steam Deck hardware.
More importantly, games that are Playable are not completely compatible and could see issues with the hardware, including drops in frame rate. When you consider the number of games available for the Steam Deck versus the number of games that are compatible with even an entry-level gaming PC, it’s a pretty stark contrast, never mind a high-end gaming desktop.
Some of the most popular games on the Steam store as of early April 2023 like The Elder Scrolls Online, Destiny 2, and Dead by Daylight are not compatible with Steam Deck and developers have been silent on whether they ever will be.
Battery Life is an Issue
Valve has been incredibly honest about Steam Deck battery life, indicating that anywhere from 2-8 hours of gameplay is reasonable. While their sincerity around battery life is noted, it’s not asking too much for the 40Wh battery to last more than a few hours at a time. Even as games are not pushing 4K, ray tracing, or 120 frames per second, the Steam Deck is still going to suck battery life down as fast as it can. The bottom line, and this figures back to the idea of true portability, is that you can never be too far from a charger.
For many people, buying the Steam Deck feels like a dream system for commuting, but the reality is that unless your commute is less than an hour or two by train or bus, you are not playing the whole time. Never mind if you are looking to take a cross-country flight as you better be prepared with a battery backup if you hope to last the whole trip.
Not Quite Full HD
As much as fans defending the Steam Deck will tell you that one of the best benefits is being able to play it with a dock on a monitor or television, you still want to enjoy playing on the device itself. The 7-inch, 720p is pretty good for what it is, but it’s definitely not ideal for such an expensive device. The reality is that Valve likely went down this road in order to not only keep costs down, but also as it’s the best way to ensure lengthier battery life. The more pixels the hardware needs to support, the more battery life it’s asking for.
Even with the idea that it helps battery life, you do not get the true sense of beauty with so many games because of screen limitations. Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the most visually engaging games in recent memory and while it looks okay on the Steam Deck, you hardly get the right sense of scale or just how big this world is on such a small display. There is a much different experience between playing on a 7-inch screen versus a 15 or 17-inch laptop and even more of a disparity when playing on a 27-inch monitor.
The Software is Limited
It wasn’t terribly surprising when Valve indicated the Steam Deck would not be based on Windows, but Linux. Thankfully, you can install Windows on the Steam Deck and you can use it in desktop mode or enable it as a media streaming device, but these are not homerun features.
All of these things can be done better on a dedicated gaming desktop or laptop, sometimes for a very similar price tag. Moreover, you can do far more around productivity on a gaming desktop or laptop, which further highlights how limited the Steam Deck is. Said differently, if you can only own one gaming device, it’s a tough argument in favor of the Steam Deck.
Separately, when you want to play certain games like Destiny 2, Fortnite, or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, you need to install Windows if you want to play them on the Steam Deck at all. The problem is that when you do make the decision to add Windows to your Steam Deck, you are adding another layer of complexity around software, maintenance, and updates.
This isn’t as big of a consideration as some game availability, but many gaming computer buyers love the idea of customization. In many ways, this emanates from the use of things like RGB lighting or choosing from any of the wonderful mechanical keyboards around. With the Steam Deck, you essentially give up on any level of customization. Customization may not be important to you, and that’s okay — it’s not much of a concern to video game console owners. But with a gaming computer, especially on a desktop, you have the ability to perform many customization options, even if you never choose to do so.
Know Your Controls
Last but certainly not least of the reasons to avoid buying the Steam Deck is around controls. The hardware layout of the Steam Deck is what it is as there is no way to change the layout or move controls around. Whereas with PlayStation, Xbox, or PC, you can pick up any number of different controller options and find one that suits your taste.
This is a pretty serious limitation if you find the Steam Deck controls not to your liking. You can hook up a Bluetooth controller in the event you want to play when the hardware is docked, but if your purpose is only to play the Steam Deck when it’s in docked mode, you might as well just buy a gaming computer. Valve did try to place controls where they feel is most natural, but that’s a very subjective question when considering comfort is different for everyone.
Ultimately, the Steam Deck is still a wonderful gaming machine on its own if looked at as a standalone option. It’s when you look at it compared to a dedicated gaming computer that things become really murky about why you would choose a Steam Deck over something else. The good news is that for fans of the Steam Deck, there are just as many reasons to buy as there are not to buy.
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