With Valve recently announcing an answer to portable PC gaming via the Valve Steam Deck, the handheld gaming scene is heating up with competition!
With two impressive handheld devices on the horizon, lets break down what each currently has to offer to find the best choice for you!
Valve Steam Deck
Earlier this week, what was once rumoured to be dubbed the Steam Machine was announced to all as the Valve Steam Deck, a handheld gaming device that makes a strong argument against gaming laptops.
Three storage models have currently been announced for December 2021 launch with various embellishments to make the higher cost models more appealing.
- The 64GB eMMC Steam Deck that comes with a carrying case for $US400.
- The 256GB NVMe SSD Steam Deck that boasts faster storage, an exclusive Steam Community profile bundle and the carrying case for $US530.
- The 512 GB NVMe SSD that again advertises faster storag, a premium anti-glare etched glass screen, carrying case, exclusive Steam Community profile bundle and an exclusive virtual keyboard theme for $US650.
All models will feature:
- 7 inch touchscreen with 720p gameplay (same as the Switch).
- 7-8 hours of battery.
- Gyroscopic features.
- Numerous control setups and options including trackpads in addition to thumbsticks.
The landing page for the Steam Deck boasts an impressive setup to easily support AAA titles on the handheld device:
“We partnered with AMD to create Steam Deck’s custom APU, optimized for handheld gaming. It is a Zen 2 + RDNA 2 powerhouse, delivering more than enough performance to run the latest AAA games in a very efficient power envelope”
It is also casually mentioned that a dock comes with the Steam Deck to allow for easy monitor pairing for accessible gaming sessions. However, this dock will be sold separately with more information to come.
As an ambitious entry to the handheld gaming scene, the Steam Deck not only offers the beefy hardware to bring PC gaming to casual commutes but also shows a stunning player-first mentality that goes against competitive business tactics.
Steam Deck Designer Greg Coomer identified in an interview with IGN that the Steam Deck will perform as any Linux based PC would, allowing for players to access competitor Epic Games on the handheld device.
Not only does this indicate the potential for a monolithic number of games to be available on the Steam Deck but also opens up (shady) opportunities to install Nintendo Switch emulators to have the best of all worlds!
The only major deterrent to the Steam Deck at this point is the limited regional availability and strict reservation polices – which considering the disgusting display of scalping the world saw come the PS5 and the Xbox Series X│S is more than valid.
Current reservations are only available for individuals residing in the United States, Canada, European Union, and the United Kingdom. With more information for additional regional availability stated to be coming soon,
Currently only one Steam Deck can be reserved per customer with A $US5 reservation fee in place that will go towards the final price of the Steam Deck.
In response to why a reservation fee is necessary Valve has stated:
“The main reason for reservations is to ensure an orderly and fair ordering process for customers when Steam Deck inventory becomes available. The additional fee gives us a clearer signal of intent to purchase, which gives us better data to balance supply chain, inventory, and regional distribution leading up to launch.”
Nintendo Switch OLED Model
The stalwart Nintendo Switch has remained the favoured handheld choice for many gamers but even Nintendo is trying to improve upon perfection with the upcoming Nintendo Switch OLED Model.
Long rumoured to be called the Nintendo Switch Pro, the Switch OLED was officially announced earlier this month to mixed community feedback.
The Switch OLED will feature:
- Price of $US349.99 / £UK309.99 / $AU539
- Vibrant 7 inch OLED screen for better contrast and colour depiction.
- 64GB internal storage.
- Enhanced audio via the Switch OLED’s onboard speakers.
- Wide adjustable stand to better optimise gaming situations while in tabletop mode.
- Wired LAN port.
As the newest member to the Nintendo Switch family the Switch OLED will support hardware sharing. Original Joy-Cons will be usable on the OLED and the OLED dock will support older Switch models, maintaining the casual ease of taking your Switch and game saves to a friend’s house.
However, the list of similarities between the Nintendo Switch OLED and previous models reveals how little has been added or considered for the upcoming release. Via interviews with The Verge we know of these similarities to older models:
- No 4K instead matching the native 720p in handheld mode and 1080p while docked of the original Switch.
- 9 hour battery life, on par with the original Switch.
- No Bluetooth headphone support (the release trailer has the audacity to show online game chat being maintained by a phone in speaker mode).
- No update to Joy-Con design and configuration, indicating the plague of Joy-Con drift will inevitably continue with the Switch OLED.
The Nintendo Switch OLED Model will launch (bar any delays) on October 8th this year with either an all-white or standard red/blue decal. The launch comes at the same time as Metroid Dread indicating a package deal might be likely closer to release.
A custom carry case and protector will be sold separately.
Switch OLED or Valve Steam Deck?
As with all things the final verdict comes down to personal choice and situation. For my money I’d be holding out for an appropriate package for the Valve Steam Deck rather than the Nintendo Switch OLED.
Bridging the gap between PC gaming, with non-competitive practices allowing for greater game libraries and player enjoyability is such a powerful move by Valve that I am still shocked it happened.
As for the Nintendo Switch if you haven’t got a handheld gaming device and the Steam Deck seems intimidating, treat yourself to an original Nintendo Switch or even a Lite model. Both handheld devices are still power houses of gaming and to be completely honest I fully expect Nintendo to release a proper beefed-up Switch model at a later date. Plus the older models can likely be found on sale or second hand as people upgrade to the OLED!