Is Steam Deck better than Nintendo Switch? I'm an expert and this is my take

Both of these portable games consoles are brilliant, but the Steam Deck is very different from the Nintendo Switch

Steam Deck being used by a woman to play a game
(Image credit: Valve)

Is the Steam Deck better than the Nintendo Switch? If you want to play action games and indies, the answer is a firm yes. But Nintendo's best portable console, the Nintendo Switch OLED, is also a brilliant buy and has an absolutely dynamite games library.

Indeed, the most important difference here isn't the hardware – it's the games. Steam Deck is made to play games from the popular Steam service, and it's essentially a PC crammed into a small case. The Switch is made to play games from Nintendo or via cloud streaming. So if you want to play blockbusters with the best possible performance and frame rates, you want the Steam Deck. If you want to play Animal Crossing: New Horizons or Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, you want a Switch.

Of course, there are other differences too. The Switch is cheaper – £230/$299 for the standard model and £309/$349 for the Switch OLED compared to £349/$399 - £569/$649 for the Steam Deck.

Nintendo Switch Pro console in use by male

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The Steam Deck is considerably more powerful, though, so maybe that extra spend is justified. Although when it comes round to screen tech, Switch OLED trumps it. The Switch is available with an OLED display that's better than the Steam Deck's LCD. The Steam Deck has a slightly higher resolution, although both consoles have the same size of display: seven inches.

If you're travelling, you'll most likely need to find a charging point more quickly for the Steam Deck than the Switch: even flat out, the Switch is usually good for around four and a bit hours between charges while the Steam Deck's quoted 2 to 8-hour life is closer to the 2 if you're really hammering it.

But again, it's really about the games. While the Steam Deck doesn't run every Steam game – some multiplayer titles' anti-cheat systems don't work with the Steam Deck because it uses the Linux operating system – it runs the vast majority, and the Steam library is absolutely massive. Nintendo's selection is much smaller and largely, but not exclusively, tends to skew towards more colourful, family-friendly fare.

So which is better? There's no easy answer to that. The Nintendo Switch is the better console if you want to play Nintendo Switch games, and the Steam Deck is the better console if you want to play Steam games. They're very different devices designed for very different kinds of gamer, and they're both very good at what they do.

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com (opens in new tab)).