With Valve’s Steam Deck making its way to the market earlier this year, gamers finally have the option to play PC games on a handheld device.
The Steam Deck is one of the most unique hardware releases in gaming in recent years. It offers an affordable handheld option to let gamers get in on some sweet PC gaming action at a relatively affordable price.
Of course, there are tons of differences between the Steam Deck and your average desktop gaming PC. But at the end of the day, the two devices can operate relatively similarly. So which option is better?
Is the Steam Deck better than a gaming PC?
Short answer: Possibly, if you are looking for very specific things.
So there you go. There’s a quick, vague answer that technically answers your question. But it doesn’t really tell you much about either of these options, does it?
That’s because there truly is no real, simple answer to that question. Both the Steam Deck and a gaming PC have features and capabilities that are better than the other.
For example, a dedicated gaming PC will most likely be capable of playing more games without a ton of extra work. That’s simply the difference between a Windows operating system and the dedicated Linux-based operating system found in the Steam Deck.
So the real question is, in which areas is the Steam Deck better than a gaming PC? And for that, we’ll have to look at each option individually. We’ll start with the Steam Deck.
How is a Steam Deck better than a gaming PC?
So let’s take a look at the Steam Deck and what it does better than your average gaming PC. If you’re unaware, a Steam Deck is a handheld gaming PC that was made specifically for gamers to enjoy the Steam library of games.
It’s relatively similar to other handhelds that we’ve seen in the past. It’s similar to the Nintendo Switch, although it is a good deal larger. It starts at $399 for a 64GB version and goes up to $649 for a version with 512GB of storage.
So what can the Steam Deck do better than a gaming PC?
The Steam Deck is more portable
The primary winning feature of the Steam Deck is that it is a handheld device. And when compared to a desktop computer, you can see how the Steam Deck wins the award for portability between the two.
Sure, there are gaming laptops out there that are also portable. But none are quite as portable as the Steam Deck. The Steam Deck is about 12 inches long and only 4 1/2 inches wide. That’s much smaller than any gaming laptop that you’ll be able to find.
And when you’re talking about a desktop, there’s really no question. A desktop requires a constant power source. And even the smallest gaming PC you can find out there isn’t going to compete with the Steam Deck’s portability.
The Steam Deck is cheaper
Even though the Steam Deck is a new device, it’s still considerably cheaper than a gaming PC. The most expensive Steam Deck that you can buy goes for $649. And you can get one for as little as $399, though it’ll have far less storage.
The Steam Deck is also completely ready for gaming with one, simple purchase. Compare that to a gaming PC, and you’ll likely have to spend at least $1,000 for a basic gaming setup.
With a gaming PC, not only do you have to buy the computer itself. But you must also purchase peripherals, like monitors, mice, and keyboards.
$1,000 for a gaming PC is about the bare minimum today. And if you want a machine powerful enough to keep up with the latest games and graphics, you’ll likely be in a lot closer to $2,000 plus.
An operating system dedicated to the Steam platform
If you’re at all familiar with PC gaming, then you’re probably familiar with Steam. The platform has thousands of games and has been home to PC gaming for decades.
And the Steam Deck was built from the ground up, dedicated to the Steam platform. Valve is the parent company for both Steam and Steam Deck. The company wanted to build a handheld piece of hardware dedicated to the Steam Library.
So when you’re playing Steam games on the Steam Deck, you know that the device is running the best version of Steam that’s possible.
Your game library is always nice and organized, and the user experience is one that likely can’t be beaten on any device.
How is a gaming PC better than the Steam Deck?
So that pretty much sums up how a Steam Deck is better than a gaming PC. If you thought there were no perks to the Steam Deck over the gaming PC, then now you see how the handheld device can compete.
But now, we’re going to look at some ways that a gaming PC can be better than the Steam Deck. Keep in mind that “gaming PC” is a pretty broad term.
All Steam Deck versions will basically operate the same, but there is a wide range of gaming PCs out there.
Nevertheless, a gaming PC most definitely has the potential to be better than the Steam Deck in several areas.
Gaming PCs can be much more powerful
Probably the biggest difference between a gaming PC and the Steam Deck is that a gaming PC has the potential to be a lot more powerful than the Steam Deck.
Simply put, a gaming PC can be built with much more powerful hardware than what you find in the Steam Deck.
For what it is, the Steam Deck is a pretty powerful machine. It features an AMD APU that’s similar to what’s found in the Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5. And its AMD RDNA 2 graphics card is equivalent to an Nvidia GTX 1050.
But the GTX 1050 is a five-year-old graphics card. On top of that, it was an entry-level card. As you can imagine, PC hardware has come a long way in the last five years. And today’s hardware can be exponentially better.
We’re talking 4K resolution, much better frame rates, better graphical performance, you name it. If you were to get a top-of-the-line gaming PC today and put it next to a Steam Deck, it would destroy the handheld in terms of performance. But it will also cost a lot more money.
You can play more games on a PC
A dedicated gaming PC can play tons more games on it than the Steam Deck. While this is in part because a gaming PC is much more powerful, the main reason has to do with the Steam Deck’s operating system.
Because the Steam Deck is built with a unique Linux-based operating system, it can’t play games that are only optimized for Windows.
There are even hundreds of games on Steam that won’t work on the Steam Deck because they don’t work with a Linux operating system.
There is a workaround for this, however. You can install Windows on your Steam Deck since it is technically a full-fledged PC. But the user interface of the Steam Deck isn’t optimized for Windows, so you could potentially run into some issues.
And even if you did install Windows on the Steam Deck, you would still run into performance issues in some games. Many of today’s AAA games are simply too demanding to run on the hardware found in the Steam Deck.
You can buy a gaming PC right now
This one might not be as important, depending on when you want to get your gaming device. But you can get a gaming PC shipped to you within a week, while Valve is currently selling pre-orders of the Steam Deck.
Since the Steam Deck is a brand new product, availability is pretty limited. Right now, Steam is accepting deposits from users to reserve a pre-order of the Steam Deck. As of now, the website says that new pre-orders will be shipping sometime after October 2022.
But gaming PCs are available everywhere, and you can get your hands on one today, depending on where you live. And in fact, prices of PCs and PC components have started to level out after cryptocurrency hype and international shortages sent prices skyrocketing.
Gaming PC or Steam Deck: Which one’s right for you?
So as you can see, there are benefits to both the Steam Deck and a dedicated gaming PC. Depending on what you’re looking for, you’ll have to decide which one is right for you.
The Steam Deck’s claim to fame is its portability. It’s the first ever handheld gaming PC that you can take with you on the go to enjoy your Steam library. It’s also much more affordable than your average gaming PC, so you won’t have to fork over as much cash.
But gaming PCs can be much more powerful than the Steam Deck. Today’s PC hardware greatly outperforms what’s inside the Steam Deck. And you’ll be able to get a lot more out of more demanding titles.
Additionally, you can access many more games on a PC than on the Steam Deck. For serious gamers, this is probably one of the biggest differences.
Both options have their benefits, and they’re both made to fill different needs. If you’re looking for the absolute best of what gaming has to offer, then you’ll want to go for a PC.
But if you’re looking for a more affordable option that you can take with you and play with just your hands, then check out the Steam Deck.