Steam Deck vs gaming laptop – which should you buy?

Steam Deck vs gaming laptop - which should you buy? Image shows the Steam Deck and a graphic of a gaming laptop on a light green background, with a red VS sign in the middle.

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Usually, the predicament between a handheld console and a laptop isn’t too common, but with the new genre of portable gaming PCs arising, the competition between the Steam Deck vs gaming laptops has taken a step up. Valve’s Linux-based handheld gaming PC offers you access to your Steam Library on the go, and its success turned the gaming world on its head. With the arrival of the Steam Deck OLED, even more gamers are finding themselves drawn to the allure of the console.

However, of course, when it’s compared to an actual gaming laptop, the Steam Deck has its shortcomings, but the distinct features and capabilities of each device can make it hard to know which one to invest in. In this article, we’ll compare the Steam Deck and gaming laptops in terms of performance, compatibility, portability and form factor, battery life, and value. By examining these factors, you can make an informed decision about which device suits your gaming needs. Let’s get started!

Performance: gaming laptops take the lead

When it comes to performance, gaming laptops have a clear edge over the Steam Deck. Gaming laptops are available in a wide range of configurations and sizes, offering various GPU options, such as the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30/40 series and AMD’s Radeon RX 6000M line, amongst others. They also feature powerful processors like Intel Core and AMD Ryzen, with some models boasting up to eight cores, offering versatile performance for both gaming, productivity, and creative tasks. The most powerful gaming laptops can exceed 250 watts of power consumption under load. Needless to say, even low-end gaming laptops will get you higher benchmark performances than the Steam Deck.

On the other hand, the Steam Deck is equipped with a slightly customized AMD APU. It features a four-core, eight-thread CPU based on AMD’s Zen 2 architecture and an integrated Radeon GPU with eight RDNA 2 Compute Units. However, the Steam Deck’s APU is limited to a mere 15 watts of power. On the whole, the hardware of the Steam Deck is fairly equal to a GTX 1050 graphics card – of course, most low-end gaming laptops will exceed this by far. The Deck’s AMD hardware also won’t get you too far in terms of ray tracing, but the console’s OLED screen still provides an enjoyable graphics experience with a refresh rate of 60 Hz. Naturally, this smaller device has less RAM and SSD storage, but these are open to upgrades if that’s something that you’re after.

Compatibility: gaming laptops offer greater flexibility

In terms of compatibility, gaming laptops have a significant advantage over the Steam Deck. Gaming laptops run on the Windows operating system, ensuring compatibility with a vast library of games available on various platforms, including Steam, the Epic Games Store, GOG, and Ubisoft Connect. With a gaming laptop, you can seamlessly access your existing game library, regardless of the storefront or DRM-free platform.

On the other hand, the Steam Deck runs on a Linux-based operating system and is primarily limited to games available on Steam. While Valve has a list of “Deck Verified” games and a compatibility feature in Steam, the number of games that are fully compatible with the Steam Deck is relatively limited. Only 10% of games listed on Steam are Deck Verified, and the top 100 games on Steam have a compatibility rate of just 20%. While the Deck can play a variety of older console games and other Linux-incompatible titles such as Fortnite and Minecraft through the use of emulators, this is nothing that a gaming laptop can’t do.

However, while gaming laptops offer more flexibility with game titles, the hybrid gaming capabilities of the Steam Deck’s Desktop Mode mean that the device can act, in a way, as a PC. This includes using it to stream media such as Netflix and Youtube, and even download Word. You can input the Deck into a monitor using a USB-C to HDMI cable without the need for investing in a dock, so you can play your Steam Deck with a keyboard, mouse, and all the trimmings as well as pick it back up and put it in your bag.

Portability and form factor: Steam Deck takes the lead

When it comes to portability and form factor, the Steam Deck shines. While gaming laptops have become more portable over recent years, with slim and lightweight designs, they still can’t match the compactness and convenience of the Steam Deck. The Steam Deck weighs around 1.5 pounds, making it extremely lightweight and easy to carry. Its handheld design, similar to the Nintendo Switch, allows for comfortable gaming on the go, whether you’re on public transportation or relaxing on a couch or in bed. All in all, PC gamers searching for the next level of versatility won’t find themselves disappointed by the Steam Deck

Steam Deck vs gaming laptop – battery life

Both the Steam Deck and gaming laptops have limitations when it comes to battery life. Gaming laptops with powerful components usually have shorter battery life, ranging from one to twelve hours, depending on usage and system demand. Some laptops with integrated graphics do offer slightly better battery life, but this comes at the cost of reduced gaming performance.

The Steam Deck offers battery life ranging from one to eight hours, depending on the game, power settings, and system demands. While the new Steam Deck OLED version does offer improved battery life with its larger battery and optimized APU, it still falls short compared to gaming laptops, which have much bigger batteries on the whole.

Are gaming laptops better value than the Steam Deck?

In terms of value, gaming laptops offer more options and versatility compared to the handheld Steam Deck. The Steam Deck’s base model starts at $399, but with only 64GB of storage, which may not be sufficient for many modern games. The higher storage models, priced at $529 and $649, offer more storage capacity but still fall short compared to gaming laptops in terms of performance and storage.

Gaming laptops come in a wide range of prices, from the most budget options to expensive high-end models. Even budget gaming laptops, priced around $300, can offer decent gaming performance and storage capacities that far exceed the Steam Deck. If you have a smaller budget and want greater versatility out of your investment, a gaming laptop could be the way to go.

Conclusion: gaming laptops win, but Steam Deck still allures

In the battle between the Steam Deck vs the gaming laptop, gaming laptops emerge as the clear victor in terms of performance, compatibility, versatility, and value. Gaming laptops offer more power, a wider library of games across various platforms, additional features, and better overall value. They can handle demanding games and serve as multipurpose devices for both work and play.

However, this still doesn’t diminish the appeal of the Steam Deck. The Steam Deck provides a unique handheld gaming experience, and at an attractive price point. Its lightweight design, portability, and integrated gamepad make it a convenient option for gaming on the go. If you already own a capable laptop and are looking for a dedicated gaming device, the Steam Deck can be the more fun and affordable choice.