Skip to content

I Ditched My Steam Deck for a Nintendo Switch and Don‘t Regret It

As an avid tech enthusiast and lifelong gamer, I‘ve had the opportunity to use a wide range of gaming hardware extensively over the last 30+ years. From early consoles like the NES to modern custom-built gaming PCs, I‘ve experienced the full spectrum of platforms. This diverse exposure gives me an informed perspective when it comes to evaluating innovations in the gaming space.

Recently I took the plunge on Valve‘s Steam Deck handheld after eagerly awaiting its release. While it delivered impressive power, ultimately I returned to preferring the simplicity and reliability of my Nintendo Switch for on-the-go play sessions. Below I‘ll analyze the pros, cons, limitations and possibilities still in store for each device.

My History and Qualifications as an Expert Gamers

I first fell love with gaming when my parents brought home an Atari 2600 in the early 1980s at the age of 5. This kicked off a lifelong passion for interactive entertainment across consoles, computers and mobile devices. Over the following decades, I continued expanding my knowledge through hands-on experience with nearly every major device released.

In addition to gaming, I graduated college with a bachelor‘s degree in computer science. I have worked professionally in IT roles for over 20 years now. Between both my education and jobs, I possess extensive technical expertise when it comes to evaluating new hardware and software platforms.

Here is a quick history of the many gaming devices I‘ve owned and used extensively over the years:

  • Atari 2600
  • Nintendo NES
  • Sega Genesis
  • Super Nintendo
  • Nintendo 64
  • Sony Playstation
  • Sega Dreamcast
  • Microsoft XBox
  • Sony PlayStation 2
  • Microsoft XBox 360
  • Sony PlayStation 3
  • Sony PlayStation 4 Pro
  • Nintendo Wii U
  • Nintendo Switch
  • Nintendo Switch OLED
  • High-End Windows Gaming PCs

Additionally, I have worked in QA roles and beta tested many console games and hardware add-ons prior to public release. These credentials provide me an experienced perspective on both the Nintendo Switch and Valve‘s Steam Deck.

Steam Deck Stumbles Out of the Gate

I eagerly preordered the Steam Deck immediately when preorders opened in mid-2021. After months of hype building, unboxing my 512GB model felt like Christmas morning. However, that excitement soon faded once I started attempting to actually use the device as advertised to access my large Steam library.

Almost every title I tested ran into some sort of compatibility setback, whether minor tweaks or unplayable crashes. This occurred even across many of Steam‘s heavily promoted "Deck Verified" titles that should offer seamless integration. Troubleshooting varied game-by-game and often demanded unintuitive settings changes to render correctly on the smaller 720p display or recognize input correctly from the controllers.

According to publicly crowdsourced compatibility reports, only ~30% of the top 1000 most-played Steam titles fully support the Steam Deck‘s default Proton compatibility layer without modifications. My experience mirrors these statistics.

Several games requiring fixes on my Steam Deck included:

  • Skyrim SE – Constant CTD Crashes
  • God of War 2018 – Textures glitch, input lag
  • Spiderman Remastered – Black screen on launch
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 – Low framerate, input conflicts
  • Forza Horizon 5 – Failed to launch through Xbox app

This immediately led me to try installing Windows 10 as a dual boot option via Valve‘s official guide. Microsoft‘s OS mitigates certain games compatibility challenges inherent in SteamOS. However, even under Windows 10 numerous games saw problems that demanded troubleshooting over time:

  • Death Stranding – Temperamental with external controllers
  • Guardians of the Galaxy – Visual artifacting cutscenes
  • Hades – Screen tearing despite Vsync enabled

Additionally Windows introduced its own pain points, like reduced battery life, lack of quick suspend/resume functionality, and dealing with an OS clearly not optimized for a portable form factor. SteamOS provided a better overall user experience…when games actually decided to launch and display properly that day.

According to consumer sales trackers, the Steam Deck moved an estimated 800,000 to 1 million units in its first 6 months after launch. So while popular with a vocal subset of enthusiasts, the device has seemingly struggled achieving mainstream success. This likely stems largely from the myriad software issues holding back seamless compatibility and playability.

Nintendo Switch Delivers Hardware/Software Polish

Conversely, the Nintendo Switch excels precisely at hardware/software integration and simplicity. While offering graphics and performance a noticeable step below the Steam Deck and modern consoles, the complete experience feels much more refined.

Nintendo now totals over 111 million Switch sales worldwide since 2017 launch, showcasing far broader mainstream appeal. Let‘s analyze some specific areas where that polish pays dividends for appealing to users beyond just hardcore tech enthusiasts.

Large, Constantly Expanding Library – While lacking support for many AAA multi-platform titles, The Switch enjoys strong support from both Nintendo‘s own beloved franchises and 3rd party studios committed to porting to the hardware. The library now totals over 5,000 titles, outpacing the Steam Deck‘s compatible games by 10x.

Refined Controls – The Joy-Cons underwent revisions to improve ergonomics and drift issues. Pro controllers add premium comfort for docked play. While comfort varies by hand size, flexibility to split Joy-Cons for local co-op and accessibility pleasingly works right from an intuitive system-level interface. No per-game remapping or troubleshooting.

True Portability – Weighing under a pound even with Joy-Cons, the Switch excels at gaming anywhere, both on-the-go and traveling. Grip accessories offset hand cramping issues. While battery life trails dedicated tablets and phones, efficient custom silicon still allows 3-6 hours per charge depending on game/settings. The Steam Deck weighs nearly double at 1.47 lbs – a noticeable distinction extended play sessions.

Reliability – Critiques about Joy-Con drift aside, once corrected from early production issues, Switch hardware proves stable and consistent. The Steam Deck, as first-generation device, saw more dramatic points of failure ranging from crashing issues to fan defects. As software matures, this will likely improve, but the Switch carries 5 years of refinement protecting its solid reliability reputation currently.

Developer Support – Nintendo‘s strong working relationships with both internal studios and partners ensures a regular cadence of exclusives that serve vital to pushing continued hardware adoption. Valve contributes occasional hits like Portal, but SteamDeck relies primarily on existing Steam releases receiving community-handled compatibility ports. First party content drives success.

Closing Thoughts on the Future

I still believe Valve deserves immense credit for pushing handheld PC gaming forward in bold new ways with initiatives like the Steam Deck. Power equals possibilities, and their device delivers that in spades despite some rough edges. Ongoing progress around compatibility layers and input will likely continue improving the experience over future updates.

Comparatively, reports point to a new "Switch 2" successor console likely releasing between 2023 and 2024. While details remain unconfirmed, expectations around 4K graphics when docked, DLSS support, better CPU/RAM specs could help Nintendo close the power gap substantially if accurate. I‘m incredibly intrigued to see how they iterate on the formula while (hopefully) maintaining accessibility and portability.

For now, my Steam Deck requests emergency troubleshooting backup duty on occasional indie game outings. But my Nintendo Switch retains daily driver status thanks to its refined interface, exclusive gems and lightweight form factor that better suits my needs currently. Still, with support and innovation from both parties, the future looks increasingly bright for gaming on the go!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some key Steam Deck issues?

The Steam Deck suffers from spotty game compatibility in SteamOS, frequently demanding per-title tweaks. Installing Windows 10 improves this, but introduces new issues like worse battery life. Early hardware production runs also saw higher defect rates around components like fans or memory crashing.

What Switch problems hold the console back?

Two key limitations of the Switch hardware include:

  1. Joy-Con comfort and drift problems – Addressed more recently but still crop up
  2. Battery life – Caps out around 5-6 hours for demanding games. Enough for some but trailing tablets/phones

Which device offers more power?

The Steam Deck easily outpaces the Switch on paper, with specs like:

  • 4x CPU processing cores
  • 6x computing power on GPU side
  • Higher memory bandwidth

This separation shows clearly trying to run current multiplatform games natively on the Switch simply wouldn‘t work. However, Nintendo‘s talented developers excel at optimization and leveraging proprietary API extensions.

What types of games favor each device?

  • The Switch excels with:
    • Nintendo exclusives
    • 2D indie games
    • Classic console emulators
  • The Steam Deck favors:
    • Demanding 3D PC games
    • High fidelity multiplatform AAA games
    • Bleeding edge indie experimentals

Which manufacturers support their device best?

Nintendo maintains extremely productive 1st party development pipelines. Valve relies more on community efforts and partners to fill gaps in SteamOS and Proton compatibility layers. This will likely shift somewhat assuming Steam Deck revisions appear. But currently Nintendo takes the edge for most robust internal support approach.