Skip to content

8 Reasons to Think Twice Before Buying a Steam Deck

The Steam Deck portable gaming PC from Valve has made quite a splash since its release in February 2022. With an estimated 1 million units sold in its first year, there‘s clearly high demand for a handheld device that can play your Steam games on the go. However, as impressive as the Steam Deck is in many ways, it‘s far from perfect.

Before you jump on the hype train, here are 8 important reasons to reconsider purchasing a Steam Deck, especially if your main goal is playing popular games like Dead by Daylight.

1. It‘s not as portable as you may think

One of the biggest selling points of the Steam Deck is its portability – you can take your PC games anywhere! But in reality, the Steam Deck stretches the definition of a true handheld gaming device.

At nearly a foot wide and weighing in at 1.5 pounds, the Steam Deck is significantly larger and heavier than other handhelds like the Nintendo Switch. It won‘t fit in your pocket and feels quite bulky, especially when you add a protective carrying case (which you‘ll definitely want).

Compared to the Switch at 9.4 inches wide and 0.88 pounds, the Steam Deck is a bit of a beast. Holding it for long play sessions can get uncomfortable due to the size and weight. And you‘ll need to dedicate a good amount of room in your bag to bring it with you.

So yes, the Steam Deck is technically portable, but it pushes the boundaries of what most people consider a handheld gaming device. Commuting with it requires more planning and space than you may expect.

2. You can‘t upgrade it like a gaming PC

Another appealing aspect of gaming PCs is the ability to upgrade components over time as games become more demanding. The Steam Deck, however, offers extremely limited upgrade options.

Other than potentially changing out the SSD storage, the Steam Deck‘s components are not user upgradable. The CPU, GPU, RAM, battery, and screen are all fixed. What you buy is what you‘re stuck with.

This could become problematic in a few years when new games have higher requirements. Whereas a desktop gaming rig could be upgraded with more RAM, a new graphics card, etc. to keep up, the Steam Deck will be far more limited in its ability to play the latest titles. What works well now may struggle down the road.

3. Many Steam games aren‘t compatible, including Dead by Daylight

Perhaps the biggest current drawback of the Steam Deck is that only a fraction of the immense Steam library is playable on it. Out of the 50,000+ games on Steam, Valve rates a mere 7,000 or so as "Verified" or "Playable" on the Steam Deck. That‘s just 14%.

Some hugely popular Steam games like Destiny 2, PUBG, Apex Legends, and Black Desert simply will not run on the device at all. If your favorite games aren‘t on that list, you‘re out of luck.

As of now, that sadly also includes Dead by Daylight, an asymmetric multiplayer horror game with a very active community. Neither the developers nor Valve have indicated it will be made compatible any time soon. So if your primary reason for considering the Steam Deck is playing Dead by Daylight portably, you should probably look elsewhere.

4. The battery life leaves much to be desired

Technically Valve claims the Steam Deck can last for 2-8 hours on a single charge. But realistically, expect to be on the very low end of that range for graphically intense 3D games.

Compared to handhelds like the Switch or even many gaming laptops, 2 hours is quite short. For any kind of lengthy trips or play sessions, you‘ll absolutely need to have your charger handy. The 40 watt hour battery capacity simply demands a lot of recharging.

This greatly cuts into the portability and make spontaneous on-the-go gaming sessions a lot harder. You‘ll constantly be scoping out power outlets and managing your charge level. Not ideal for a device meant to be a portable gaming PC.

5. The 7" 720p screen is underwhelming

720p in 2023 is quite a low screen resolution for such an expensive device. The Steam Deck‘s display is just not on par with most mid-tier gaming laptop screens, never mind an external 1080p or higher monitor.

While the smaller screen size makes 720p more bearable than it would be on a larger display, you‘re still not getting the full visual fidelity the games were designed for. Many graphical details are lost and it takes away from the immersiveness, especially in visually striking games.

Text can also be hard to read in some games at 720p on a 7 inch screen. Prepare to do a fair bit of squinting.

Contrast this to the OLED screen on the new Switch or the 1080p and above resolutions available on the Ayaneo 2 and Ayn Loki handheld PCs. The Steam Deck unfortunately feels a bit outdated in this area already. Cutting edge graphics are a big part of PC gaming and it‘s disappointing that such an otherwise powerful device is let down by its display.

6. You‘re limited by the Linux-based software

Out of the box, the Steam Deck runs Valve‘s custom Linux-based SteamOS operating system. While it works decently for basic gaming functionality, you‘ll run into some software limitations compared to Windows.

Some games with anti-cheat systems won‘t run on SteamOS at all. For others, you may need to tinker with Proton compatibility layers and do some troubleshooting to get them working. And a number of games simply have issues or reduced performance versus Windows.

You also miss out on a lot of the auxiliary functionality that comes with Windows like full Office suite support, Adobe creative apps, many games from other launchers, etc. The overall software ecosystem is much more limited.

You can install Windows on the Steam Deck, but that comes with its own set of tradeoffs and complications. The bottom line is that SteamOS imposes some notable restrictions that undercut the promise of taking your full gaming PC library on the go. A regular Windows gaming laptop may serve you better for that.

7. Customization options are extremely limited

User customization is a big part of the fun for many PC gamers. From custom-built desktops with flashy RGB components to personalized gaming keyboards/mice to mixing and matching parts to get the exact performance you want – PC gaming is all about making the machine your own.

The Steam Deck in comparison is a totally closed system. What you see is what you get. There‘s no easy way to change out the built-in controls, add flair or personality to the device‘s look, or modify the core components. You‘re locked into Valve‘s design decisions.

This makes it feel much more like a standard game console than a true gaming PC. So if the ability to personalize and customize your rig is important to you, the Steam Deck will likely disappoint. You‘ll get a more authentic PC gaming experience with an actual desktop or laptop where the sky‘s the limit for making it uniquely yours.

8. The control layout may not work for you

While Valve put clear effort into making the Steam Deck controls as accommodating as possible, at the end of the day, it‘s still a one-size-fits-all solution. If you don‘t find the built-in controls comfortable or suitable for your play style, you‘re kind of stuck.

Some people find the grips too bulky or the button/stick layout awkward, for instance. You can‘t swap out for a different controller that fits your hands better like you can on other platforms.

This is especially concerning for people with limited mobility or hand issues – there simply aren‘t great accessibility options with the fixed design. The Steam Deck may be physically unusable for some players.

You can of course plug in external controllers for docked play or use the touchscreen controls. But at that point, you‘re giving up on the core handheld experience that the device is built around. If you‘ll mostly be playing with external controllers anyway, you might as well get a gaming laptop or desktop and spare yourself the Steam Deck‘s high price tag.

The Verdict

The Steam Deck is an impressive piece of tech, but it‘s not the slam dunk portable PC many hoped it would be, at least not yet. From the awkward size to the limited game compatibility to the mediocre battery life and screen, there are a number of significant drawbacks to consider.

For the price, you can get a much more capable gaming laptop that will play far more games at higher settings and allow you the full Windows ecosystem. And if you mainly just want to play Dead by Daylight portably, you‘re better off looking at other handhelds like the Switch or Ayaneo devices.

The Steam Deck just isn‘t quite ready for prime time for most people. Unless you have very specific needs that align with its strengths, you may want to hold off for now. Let Valve work out the kinks and expand the game library before jumping in.

Focus on what you actually want to play and whether the Steam Deck will provide a good experience for those titles. The novelty of the Switch-like form factor wears off quickly if your favorite games aren‘t supported or run poorly. Do your research on compatibility and performance first.

Ultimately, the Steam Deck is a niche device with a lot of room for improvement. It‘s very cool in concept and shows a lot of long-term potential. But as it stands today, it‘s hard to recommend unless you‘re a diehard tinkerer and have money to burn. For most people, a gaming laptop or a different handheld will be the smarter buy. The dream of taking your whole Steam library on the go is a ways off from being fully realized.