Nintendo Switch OLED vs Steam Deck Handhelds: The long-awaited Switch announcement from Nintendo in 2021 brought an updated model: The Switch OLED. This display technology improves color, contrast and brightness. The Steam Deck was soon followed by another important announcement from Valve. This allows you to play virtually any game in the Steam Library on your handheld device.
Which one is better? It may depend on your gaming preferences. Let’s compare the specs, displays and controls to find out how they stack up.
Performance and specifications
These two handhelds can be compared using specs, which immediately shows the differences between them. A few things are sure to jump out of our comparison chart. The Switch OLED offers several improvements over other Switch models, including a larger display and more storage. It is now closer to the Steam Deck in certain aspects, but it also weighs slightly more than before.
The Steam Deck is not trying to compete with the Switch OLED, but it is trying be a handheld gaming laptop that is similar to the Switch OLED. The Switch OLED’s base specs are limited, but the Deck has significantly better RAM and storage. Additionally, the Deck’s processor is more powerful to handle popular PC games like RDR2 and Destiny 2.
Nintendo Switch OLED
Dimensions: 10 by 4.2 inches by.55 inches 11.7x 4.6x 1.9 inches
Weight 0.71 lbs without controllers, 0.93 lbs with controllers 1.47 lbs
Processor Nvidia customized Tegra/Tegra X1+ AMD-customized APU Zen 2
RAM 4GB 16GB
Storage 64GB flash storage expandable via microSD 64GB-512GB flash storage. Expandable via microSD
A/V output HDMI no
I/O output One USB-3, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, USB 2.o x2 One USB-3, USB 3.0, USB 2.o x2 One USB-3 with DisplayPort 1.4 Alt mode
Communication Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 WiFi, Bluetooth 5.
Joy-Con Controller or Pro Controller Integrated into System
Screen size and resolution 7 inches, 1280×720 resolution, OLED 7 inches, 1280×720 resolution
Battery life: 4.5 to 9 Hours 2 to 8 Hours
Physical media Proprietary cartridge n/a
Availability available October 8, 2021. Available December 20, 211, or later
Prices from $350 to $399 to $649
Although both handhelds look very similar, there are significant differences. While both models have thumbstick controls, the Switch has its JoyCon controllers that can be used to create a separate controller. This is not possible with the Steam Deck. You’ll also notice that the thumbsticks are placed at the top of both the Steam Deck and the Switch OLED in a staggered arrangement.
It’s very close on the design front. Both devices share the ability to charge in the dock and connect with a TV. Unfortunately, neither device supports 4K resolution. Both displays are roughly equal in size and weight. Both have microSD expansion slots, which is particularly important for managing larger Steam games. However, the Steam Deck includes a USB-C mode with DisplayPort 1.4 alt mode for connecting to external displays. The Switch OLED has a built-in LAN connection.
The Switch OLED controls are the same as previous models, and there are no surprises. There are two thumbsticks and two sets of four cluster buttons. Two shoulder buttons can also be used. You can also use the combined controller. This setup is simple and easy for casual players.
The Steam Deck is the opposite. It is designed to be more than just a handheld. There are four buttons that you will know, four clusters of buttons and a D pad. Two trackpads are available for your thumbs, allowing you to experiment with touch-based controls. There are also four buttons on the shoulder that can be used for full FPS support. There are also four buttons on the back that can be assigned to specific functions. This device is clearly designed to support complex PC games.
The Deck OLED has the ability to create a separate controller, which is what the Switch OLED does not have. Although you will need to spend more time learning how to use it, the deck’s many control options allow for a wide range of games.
What if accessories are needed to make the game more enjoyable? Are handheld controls a concern when it comes to your favorite PC games or apps? This is where the Steam Deck and Switch OLED take different approaches.
Nintendo has continued to restrict its Bluetooth connectivity to the Switch OLED to devices that have been specifically approved by Nintendo. These devices are quite limited. There are a few controllers that will work with the Switch OLED. To connect directly a mouse or keyboard to the Switch, you will need to use the USB-C port or dock.
The Steam Deck meanwhile tries to be as open as possible to accessories. The Bluetooth 5.0 port of Valve is open to all Bluetooth keyboards and mice (check our wireless mouse guide for more information), as well as extra USB-A-3.1 and USB 2.0 ports that can be used directly. The Deck is very user-friendly, allowing you to play on a bigger screen when you wish or finding your preferred setup. There is no real competition between the two options.
First, the Switch OLED model has no intrinsic differences in terms of what games can be played on it. OLED panels offer a significant color boost and are great for more detailed details. However, they don’t impact game support in any meaningful ways.
The Steam Deck has many advantages. You can access your entire Steam library from it. Cloud saving also allows you to keep your progress regardless of where you are. Valve also promises compatibility with other platforms such as the Epic Games Store or uPlay as well as possible compatibility with Xbox Cloud Gaming. Some games might require additional storage, and there are some bugs with the Deck’s system. However, you can still play any game from the major PC gaming stores.
When it comes to games, the Switch OLED behaves like other Switch models. Players can only purchase games from the Nintendo Game Store or shop for them in physical form. This doesn’t mean that you can only play Nintendo titles. There are many other games available for the Switch. However, developers must put in the effort to bring their titles onto Nintendo’s platform. The library is therefore smaller. Many of Nintendo’s original games won’t be available on Steam Deck due to Nintendo’s closed system.
Here players must make a decision based on their personal preferences. What is more important, Zelda or Super Smash Bros. to you? Is the handheld required to play popular PC games such as Warframe or the Witcher series? Are you more interested in titles that can be played on both the PC and mobile, such as Fortnite or Hades.
Pricing and availability
Get the Nintendo Switch OLED here.
Get the Steam Deck now!
The Switch OLED will be $350 more expensive than older Switches. This is comparable to the $399 base model for the Steam Deck. The Deck has tiers with better specs that go up to $649, depending on what customization you choose, while the Switch OLED does not have any.
The Switch Deck lets users reserve their Decks and ship them at a staggered time throughout 2022. Nintendo currently does not have any pre-orders for the Nintendo Switch OLED. However, it will ship on October 8, 2021.
We would love to spend serious time with the Switch OLED as well as Steam Deck to find out how they display and play a wide range of games. The Steam Deck is the best device because it offers more options to increase its power, and better compatibility and control options. It all depends on what kind of games you enjoy. The Deck is not for you if you are primarily a Nintendo player. You can just choose if you prefer a better color and contrast experience. The Deck is the best device for you if you are interested in PC games and the possibility to play larger PC games on your handheld.