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Steam Deck vs. Nintendo Switch OLED model: Which should you buy?

Steam Deck And Nintendo Switch
Steam Deck And Nintendo Switch (Image credit: Windows Central)

It's a great time for handheld gaming, with a couple of different options for anyone interested in jumping in right now. Valve has made a bold entrance with the announcement of the Steam Deck, while Nintendo continues revising its current hardware with the Nintendo Switch OLED model. Outside of the obvious similarities, there's some key differences prospective buyers should be aware of. We've rounded up the most important information regarding both systems.

Steam Deck vs. Nintendo Switch OLED model: Hardware

When it comes to the Steam Deck tech specs and the what's new with the Nintendo Switch OLED model, there's a pretty stark contrast. The Steam Deck has some decently capable hardware while the Nintendo Switch OLED model is essentially just a revision of the original Nintendo Switch that launched back in March 2017. You can check out the specs of both below.

Steam DeckNintendo Switch OLED model
Display7-inch LCD (diagonal), 1200x800 px7-inch OLED, 1280x720 px
ProcessorAMD APU, Zen 2 4c/8t, 2.4-3.5GHzAMD APU, ARM quad-core, 1.02 GHz
Graphics8 RDNA 2 CUs, 1.0-1.6GHzNVIDIA Tegra X1, 307.2-768 MHz
Memory16GB LPDDR5 RAM4GB LPDDR4 SDRAM
Storage64GB eMMC/256GB SSD/512GB SSD64GB eMMC
Expandable storageYes, microSD card slotYes, microSD card slot
BluetoothBluetooth 5.0Controllers only
Wi-FiDual-band Wi-Fi radio, 2.4GHz and 5GHzDual-band Wi-Fi radio, 2.4GHz and 5GHz
Headphone jack3.5mm stereo headphone/headset jack3.5mm stereo headphone/headset jack
Charging input45W USB Type-C PD3.0 power supplyUSB-C
Battery40Whr battery, 2-8 hours of gameplayRoughly 4.5-9 hours
Dimensions11.7 x 4.6 x 1.9 inches4 x 9.5 x 0.55 inches
Weight1.47 pounds (669 grams)0.93 pounds (422 grams)

Overall, the Steam Deck should be capable of running newer games with more ease, with the option of more, faster storage through the optional SSD models. On the flip side, it doesn't have an OLED screen, meaning colors may not pop the same way as on the Nintendo Switch OLED model, which also has a slightly better battery, though this will be very case by case depending on the game.

It's also worth mentioning that the top tier and priciest version of the Steam Deck includes "premium anti-glare etched glass," however Valve has not opted to provide any details beyond that. This is also the only physical difference in the different versions of the Steam Deck outside of storage space, as the GPU/CPU and other important components are identical.

Steam Deck vs. Nintendo Switch OLED model: Games

Source: Larian Studios (Image credit: Source: Larian Studios)

Where these systems diverge dramatically is in the games. The Steam Deck uses SteamOS, meaning players can, in theory, access their full Steam library with some of the best PC games available. Want to take Baldur's Gate 3 on the go? Now you can. There's an important caveat however, in just how it works. The Steam Deck uses Proton, a compatibility layer that "translates" Windows games to run on Linux. Some games won't function with Proton however and others may run but will encounter issues.

The Nintendo Switch OLED model is fairly straightforward, offering the exact same library available on other Nintendo Switch units, with the best Nintendo Switch games mixed with a wide range of third-party and indie support.

Steam Deck vs. Nintendo Switch OLED model: Price and release date

The Nintendo Switch OLED model will be available for $350, a $50 increase over the regular Nintendo Switch. Meanwhile, the base model for the Steam Deck is $400. Higher-end versions are available at $529 and $649, which include a 256GB and 512GB SSD, respectively. Obviously, there's a huge disparity if you go for the top versions but at the base level, the Steam Deck and Nintendo Switch OLED model have just a $50 difference.

The Steam Deck is expected to begin shipping in December 2021, with some orders taking a little longer and more opening up at some point in 2022. The Nintendo Switch OLED model is set to release on Oct. 8, 2021, which is the same release date of the upcoming Metroid Dread.

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.