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Nintendo Switch OLED and Steam Deck are set to arrive later this year, and they pose a unique dilemma for handheld gamers – should you pick up the latest Switch model for its impressive new screen and access to Nintendo exclusives, or do you opt for the bulky Steam Deck and have the entire world of PC gaming in the palm of your hands?
On paper, Steam Deck looks like it has a clear advantage over Switch OLED. Featuring some of the latest hardware on the market, Valve’s portable PC can run most next-gen games without a hitch, while Switch OLED is using the same internals from the original Switch launched in 2017.
However, there’s a bit more to the story than what’s packed behind the screen. Let’s take a closer look at these two impressive handhelds and figure out which one offers you the most value.
Pricing, Availability and Release Date
Nintendo Switch OLED is set to launch October 8th and will cost $349.99. Pre-orders are a bit difficult to find for the hot product, although we might see more availability as we inch toward its release date.
Steam Deck is available in three different versions, with the 64GB base model starting at $399.00. If you’re looking for more storage, you can opt for the 256GB or 512GB models – which run $529.00 and $649.00, respectively. It’s also worth noting that those two high-end models feature not just more storage but also faster storage – upgrading from eMMC to NVMe SSD.
Orders invitations for Steam Deck will start being sent in December, however, Valve has such a backlog that any new pre-orders won’t start shipping until the second quarter of next year.
When it comes to getting your hands on either system, you’ll need to be patient.
Steam Deck is More Powerful Than Switch OLED
Let’s not mince words – Steam Deck’s hardware puts Switch OLED to shame.
Hardware isn’t everything, but powerful processors mean better-looking games and better performance. If you’re going to be spending hundreds of dollars on these consoles, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the best components around. And for just about $50 more, the Steam Deck is a huge upgrade over the Switch OLED in terms of hardware.
Nintendo Switch OLED Full Specs
CPU: Custom Nvidia Tegra processor
GPU: Custom Nvidia Tegra processor
RAM: 4GB LPDDR4
Display: 7-inch OLED
Resolution: 1280 x 720
Refresh Rate: 60Hz
Battery Life: 4.5 – 9 hours
Steam Deck Full Specs
As far as internal specs are concerned, Steam Deck is the clear winner. Clocking in at just $399 for the base model, there are not many other handheld systems that can compete with its surprisingly low price tag. You’ll have to spend a bit more to upgrade its storage, but even with the increased cost, Steam Deck is still a surprisingly great value.
Winner: Steam Deck
Steam Deck Looks Awkward, But Switch OLED Still Has Joy-Con Drift
When it comes to the overall design, it should come as no surprise that Switch OLED looks stunning. After all, Nintendo has proven it knows how to craft gorgeous, durable and powerful handheld devices. The only sticking point? The new hybrid console will use the same Joy-Con as the current Switch, which is highly susceptible to drifting issues.
Meanwhile, Steam Deck looks like a bulky behemoth, incorporating two analog sticks, two touch pads, several face buttons and a multitude of triggers. It’s much larger than the Switch, so it might fit better in larger hands, but long-term comfort is yet to be determined. All those input methods have led to a product that doesn’t look nearly as streamlined as Switch OLED – although it’s by no means ugly.
Because of Nintendo’s reliable track record in developing handheld consoles and seeing as this is Valve’s first real foray into the world of portables, this round goes to Switch OLED.
Winner: Switch OLED
Switch Exclusives Can’t Beat Steam Deck’s Sprawling Game Catalog
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate… the list of incredible Switch exclusives never seems to end. Nintendo also gives you access to a wide variety of classics on the eShop – although it’s missing a few prominent titles like Ocarina of Time.
As for Steam Deck, its library is identical to that of a standard PC. That means you’ll have instant access to popular games such as Dota 2, Grand Theft Auto V, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and any of the thousands of titles released on PC over the past few decades. You’ll also see plenty of next-gen releases for PS5 and Xbox Series X arrive on PC that won’t be supported by Switch.
Here’s a quick look at some of the best games available on both systems:
Nintendo Switch OLED
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Super Mario Odyssey
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Monster Hunter Rise
Mario Kart 8
Pokémon Sword & Shield
Luigi’s Mansion 3
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
New Pokémon Snap
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Red Dead Redemption 2
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Grand Theft Auto V
Final Fantasy XIV
Microsoft Flight Simulator
Despite Switch OLED being home to exclusives in the Zelda and Mario franchise, Steam Deck simply has a more well-developed catalog. After all, it’s hard for a console that’s only been on the market a few years to compete with literally every game launched on PC since 1962.
Winner: Steam Deck
Frequency of Sales
Both Nintendo and Valve offer massive discounts throughout the year. However, Nintendo often excludes some of its hottest titles from the savings, with first-party exclusives such as Mario and Zelda rarely getting a discount. There’s typically a big sale every season, and there’s also something to be said for the ability to purchase physical games and sell them if you’re no longer playing them.
Steam Deck will be able to run more than just games on Steam, meaning you’ll have access to nearly every sale that graces any PC storefront. Because of this, you should be able to find discounts on popular games nearly every day of the year. However, you’ll be limited to digital downloads only – putting the used-games market out of your reach.
Neither Product is Future-proof
While both Steam Deck and Switch OLED put some impressive hardware in your hands, both of them will likely be outdated in a few years. Switch OLED features similar internals to the current Switch – which developers are already pushing to the limits – and better PC components are being released on a yearly basis. And with handheld PCs just starting to gain mainstream interest, we wouldn’t be surprised to see some legitimate Steam Deck competitors arrive in the near future.
However, both come from reputable companies, meaning you won’t have to worry about them breaking down after months and months of use. Steam Deck is powerful enough to keep you gaming for years to come, although you might have to lower some settings on today’s most demanding games. As for Switch, you can rest assured Nintendo will continue to support the console for years – until it’s inevitably abandoned for a new console generation.
When it comes to longevity, both Switch and Steam Deck offer plenty of durability – consider this round a tie.
Which Console is the Best Value?
If you’re looking to get the best hardware for your money, then Steam Deck is hands-down the clear winner. Nintendo Switch OLED might have a leg up when it comes to its display, but everything else about Valve’s portable console is leagues ahead of the aging tech inside the Switch.
However, that doesn’t mean you should rush out and try to purchase a Steam Deck. Neither the Steam Deck nor Nintendo Switch OLED is offering anything you don’t already have access to – gaming laptops let you take your PC library on the road, and Switch and Switch Lite let you play the same games as the upcoming OLED model.
In fact, deciding which is the better value comes down to what’s already in your household.
In other words:
Steam Deck is the best value for someone who already owns a Switch and wants to explore the world of PC gaming.
Nintendo Switch OLED is the better value for a PC gamer who wants to check out all the incredible Nintendo exclusives and doesn’t yet own a Switch.
Anyone who currently owns a Switch probably won’t find much value in the Switch OLED model unless they’re constantly playing in handheld mode and are avid fans of most Nintendo exclusives. The same goes for Steam Deck – if you already have a robust gaming laptop, there isn’t much value in purchasing a second one unless you’ll really benefit from its handheld format.
Paying over $300 to play games you already have access to isn’t the best financial decision, but there’s a lot to be said for the appeal of both consoles. It’s hard to go wrong with either, although they pose much more value if you’re not already part of the Steam or Switch community.
Our editors strive to ensure that the information in this article is accurate as of the date published, but please keep in mind that offers can change. We encourage you to verify all terms and conditions of any product before you apply.