Best Steam Deck Alternatives in 2021

Deck Yourself Out Before Q3 2022

best steam deck alternatives

Steam Deck broke Steam and the internet late last week. With reservations going live (serving as a pre-order queuing system), actual availability for purchasing and getting a Steam Deck is pushing past mid next year and beyond. This will obviously leave many disappointed due to having to wait so long and maybe even making them cancel their preorder. Thankfully, there are some companies that have already tried their hand at creating portable devices allowing you to game comfortably on the go. So, there are other options out there.

With that in mind, we thought why not put together a best Steam Deck alternatives round-up for those who either couldn’t get their preorder in, or for those who simply didn’t like the look of Valve’s new console and wanted a different powerful handheld gaming machine capable of running today’s AAA titles. Read on for our top picks!

Is Steam Deck The Best Handheld Gaming Device?

From questionable comparisons to the Nintendo Switch OLED model to the proposition of true portable PC gaming, Steam Deck has turned a lot of heads worldwide. It’s making the world of PC gaming accessible. But, PC gaming is a very different beast to console/handheld gaming.

The 64GB model, for example, simply doesn’t cut it when it comes to storage space. Rockstar IP Red Dead Redemption 2 comes with a vanilla 150GB install size. Yes, Steam Deck comes with expandable SD card storage, but this will run considerably slower than eMMC/ NVMe SSD internal storage provided as stock. So for a worthwhile experience, which means the 512GB £569 model is the only way forward.

Again, granted, the machine itself is powerful and will run Steam’s library, giving it a huge advantage over other handhelds’ limited number of games available while also being put together by a company that has been in the industry for years. But, a handheld gaming device of this ilk isn’t a new invention and there certainly won’t be a shortage in terms of other companies jumping on the bandwagon, opening up avenues for consumers to get similar levels of performance.

Our Recommended

Best Steam Deck Alternatives in 2021

PROS

Best specification in it's field

Sleek form factor

CONS

No Keyboard

Available on IndieGoGo and the Aya Neo Website directly, Aya Neo packs a punch when it comes to powerful hardware. Featuring a full-blown Ryzen 5 over Steam Deck’s Zen 2, players can expect more bang for their buck. Internal NVMe SSD storage comes in 500GB and 1TB flavors, which is again more than ideal for AAA PC gameplay on the go. The Aya Neo is an expensive investment at just over $1000, but if you’re going to pour money into something like this, do it properly, right?

PROS

Keyboard

Handles most games @ 720p low to medium settings

CONS

Cheap casing

gpd win 3

Coming in at just over $1000, the GPD Win 3 is available now. Looking around online, it’s quite a versatile machine. For an idea on performance, it runs ‘Yakuza: Like A Dragon’ on low @ 30 FPS (frames per second) smoothly. This isn’t going to provide a mind-blowing graphical experience with its integrated Intel graphics, but the 720p screen doesn’t require a massive graphical power draw. It handles multiplayer titles such as Rainbow 6: Siege and Call OF Duty: Warzone well as a result, but much like Steam Deck, a bit of tweaking will be needed for more demanding games such as Cyberpunk 2077.

PROS

Massive library of First/Third Party and Indie titles

Best screen in the handheld market

Reasonable download sizes

CONS

Unable to install own operating system

Limited to Nintendo Switch titles only

Releasing 08/10/21, the Nintendo Switch OLED model is more or less the same hybrid handheld console with a couple of quality of life improvements such as a bigger 7 inch OLED screen, better speakers, and a robust kickstand. Whilst you can install your own operating system and access the steam store, its indie, third-party, and first-party libraries make the Nintendo Switch a viable option. Let’s not forget the price point of $349.99, making this piece of handheld gold a brilliant budget proposition for gamers looking for a portable gaming solution.

PROS

Aimed at retro gamers

Low price point

CONS

Can only play up to fifth generation games

Many gamers will be thinking of buying the 64GB Steam Deck model for a retro emulation machine. Whilst it will certainly look the part, it’s overkill. There’s plenty of retro machines knocking around on Wish, but chances are they’ll be ergonomically void and full of illegal ROMS and software. Retroid Pocket 2 provides just enough power and features to run anything up to the fifth console generation (PlayStation/Nintendo 64) Era whilst not breaking the bank.

PROS
CONS

Watch Out for Scammers

With the rise of Kickstarter campaigns comes a rise in scams. From SouljaBoy repeatedly fake releasing illegal emulation machines to products receiving continual delays after funding has been met, it’s always wise to do some research on the seller and product beforehand.

A good example is the Smach Z. It’s kickstarter/indiegogo completed around 2016 with a full release scheduled for 2018, but people are STILL waiting for a console. The product has been endorsed by many big YouTube personalities and top website outlets, with notebookcheck confirming the company’s shady practices in a recent article.

Things To Consider

What is the difference between LED and OLED?

The main difference between an LED and an OLED screen is that the pixels of an OLED TV are self illuminating, whereas the LEDs in an LED screen are used to light an LCD display. OLED screens also benefit from better viewing angles and deep colors/blacks.

What is expandable storage?

Expandable storage means that the device in question accepts SD cards and other forms of flash storage to expand the internal memory. For example, the Nintendo Switch accepts up to 2TB microSDHC or microSDXC card.

Our Verdict

If we had to pick one handheld console to rival the Steam Deck, we think the Aya Neo deserves that spot. It has the specs to really push the boundaries of gaming on the go, exceeding the currently unreleased Steam Deck. The Ryzen 5 chip coupled with the opinion of a 1TB NVMe drive really does elevate the Aya Neo and you’ll certainly be able to experience the difference when comparing it to any other option on the market.

Yes, it is far more expensive but for all this raw power, the price more than suffices.