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  • M Gudgion

Could Steam Deck Best Nintendo Handhelds?

 M Gudgion investigates the Steam Deck by Valve, a hand-held gaming device that might be the world’s best ever

With 680,000 handheld devices sold each year, with Nintendo a market leader, a new kid on the block is set to revolutionise this gaming market. 

The Steam Deck is Valve's entry to the handheld market, released in February 2022. It was released to rival the Nintendo Switch and is marketed as a handheld PC instead of a console. Other handhelds similar to the steam deck have been released. Most notably, the ASUS ROG Ally and the Lenovo Legion Go. But the Steam Deck gets the edge in my opinion, here's why.

Both of these other handhelds have more powerful processors than the Steam Deck, being able to get about five frames per second more on most games than the Steam Deck. But this comes with the consequence of being on Windows 11, which is a great operating system just not for devices without a Keyboard or Mouse. The Steam Deck at least has track pads which function as a mouse, but both of the other handhelds are forced to use clunky joystick controls to navigate the UI. This means that the utility usually offered by Windows is quite useless, and getting to your game library is so much less easy and optimised than the Steam Deck. Now you might be thinking: “How does the Steam Deck not suffer from these problems?” 

That's because it uses a custom Linux Operating System called SteamOS. This interface is greatly optimised for the handheld console, and more importantly is fully built to suit the gaming experience. When you boot it, it boots you into your home screen where you can access your whole game library on Steam, and any Emulators or other non-steam apps you can access directly and easily. Linux gaming is notoriously riddled with compatibility issues, but on SteamOS, using Valve’s program called Proton you are able to run about 80% of PC Games, and nearly all new and well known ones such as Cyberpunk, Hogwarts Legacy and Elden Ring with no compatibility issues. If you want to do a bit of tinkering, you can just hold down the power button and select “Enter Desktop Mode” and access a full fledged computer to install custom programs and whatever you can do with a desktop! 

It’s also a brilliant Emulation device. If you’re wondering what Emulation is, it’s a tool that converts the code coming from one system (for example, a Game Boy) and converts it into a language your computer can understand. This means that even if the game is smaller and less demanding than a modern game, it’s often more demanding due to the steps required. But the Steam deck is a great balance of performance for the price, with this system you can expect to Emulate nearly everything, from Gameboy, to SNES, N64, Wii and Gamecube, to Switch, PS3 and the Xbox 360. The choices are limitless and if there’s an emulator for it, it probably works and runs great on the deck. A simple tool called Emu Deck instals all of the emulators for you and configures them properly for the deck, so all you need is the game files (or better known as ROMS) and you now have all your retro games on one device!

The device has three models, ranging from £350 to £570. The cheapest model is the 256GB LCD Model. I know that sounds complicated, so just to break it down, that means it has 256GB of Storage, which is a respectable amount and a lot more than the previous lowest tier model - featuring only 64GB, and uses LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) which is slightly less advanced screen technology than the other two models, don’t worry, the display is still high quality on the LCD model, but the more expensive screens use OLED technology (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) Which display deeper and darker Blacks and Blues. Then there are the other 2 models, a 512GB OLED Model priced at £480 and a 1TB Steam Deck OLED Model priced at £570. If you just want a functioning and great model, go with the cheapest, but if you want the best, go for one of the other 2. For information, Elden Ring, a popular game released in February of 2022 has about 50GB of storage.

So overall, the Steam Deck is a really great handheld device for all use cases. Whether you want to play modern games, retro games, or even use it as a desktop, it's got everything packed inside a comfortable, well optimised and reputable device created by a company with great customer service. I highly recommend it.


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