Steam Deck: Success or disappointment? Better than the Nintendo Switch?

Steam Deck Featured Ecran Partage Emoji

The Steam Deck is a device mixing computer and portable console, created by Valve Corporation.

Valve Corporation is an American software and hardware company. They are best known for developing the following video game series: Half-Life, Portal, Left 4 Dead.

Steam is a website created by the company Valve corporation that allows you to buy and download hundreds of thousands of games and applications on PC, Mac and Linux. It is also the name of the software that you download to your computer that allows you to access this website and launch the purchased games. Without it, it is impossible to launch them.

Steam acts as DRM (Digital Rights Management), a protection to prevent piracy, to launch games on its platform. It is a platform and protection that has been around since 2004 and is very well accepted by players. Hundreds of millions of users connect to it every day.

Despite the presence of many competitors, Steam remains the undisputed leader in the digital distribution of computer video games.

The Conspolist

So comes the Steam Deck in 2022, a laptop presented in the form of a portable console. It is sold in 3 different formats, presented here. And the price varies from single to double. Note that if you order the computer from Canada, there will be a customs fee to include in the invoice.

An official dock to connect the Deck to a screen, connect USB and ethernet devices is also available for purchase on the official website. It’s excessively expensive and any other USB-C dock or hub can connect to your Steam Deck. However you will need a dock to hold the Deck in an upright position on a table, unlike the Switch, there is no foot included.

I don’t know what I should call this gadget? a computer? a console? A concomputer? I guess I’m going to constantly vary between terms.

The Deck is very comfortable to handle for an adult. The ergonomics have been very well worked. The controls are also of very good quality and very solid, it gives the impression that the controls of the Nintendo Switch are toys.

The Deck is very powerful and runs many PC games, including the latest Steam releases from Playstation Studios such as Horizon: Zero Dawn, God of War, or Spiderman Miles Morales . The games do not run in full performance but in medium or low level of detail, for the most greedy games.

What’s in it?

The base computer runs on Proton, a Linux distribution, very personalized by Valve, in order to run Steam games at best.

Indeed, the work done by Valve to ensure that thousands of Steam games can be played on Linux instead of Windows as originally planned, is staggering. But that’s the problem, many games don’t work, despite Valve’s efforts.

For each game in its own Steam library, or that you want to buy, it is a bet, you must check that the game has the status “Verified for Steam Deck” on Steam. It is also necessary to open the ProtonDB site which is managed by the community, to verify the information not always accurate of Steam. Some games are even compatible without problems, while Steam has not been able to test them or declares them as not compatible.

Since these are thousands of PC games, this comes with the number of problems PC gamers are used to: additional DRM, incompatibilities, no optimization, unrecognized controls…

The Steam Deck has a resolution of 1200 x 800, some games are compatible with this resolution, others will display in image in 1200 x 720, others a resolution not adapted higher or lower than it.


Since the release of the machine, Valve has released many updates to overcome the many defects and incompatibilities. Overnight, Steam Deck users suddenly have more functions, settings, and games suddenly recognized.

By default, the Steam Deck starts in a Steam Big Picture mode but adapted to the Steam Deck. It is possible to consult the Steam store, consult the library and install the desired games even when considered incompatible on your machine.

From this mode, it is also possible to switch to desktop/desktop mode. We then end up with a classic Linux environment, where we can do all the tasks usually planned for a computer. We then move the cursor with the right touchpad, where the right stick (but a little too sensitive) and click with the left and right analog triggers. Everything is configurable, all the controls, all the ways to display anything.

However, the machine does not have a keyboard. There is a virtual keyboard in desktop mode, which can be opened with a key combination, but this then hides half of the screen. You can then click on the virtual keyboard using the touch screen, or by dragging a cursor using the machine’s touchpads and validating each key with a trigger. In either case, it is not practical at all, and you will not be able to work decently with it.

To work from the Steam Deck, you need:

  • something to hold the Steam Deck vertically, ideally a dock
  • a USB-C dock or hub to connect an external keyboard
  • a monitor or TV and an HDMI cable to connect the machine, or a good view.
  • an external keyboard
  • an external mouse

And that’s one of the biggest problems I think has with this machine. It’s neither a good computer because you have to buy everything I just mentioned to make the work experience decent, nor a good portable console because it’s too heavy, too big, and The user experience is really bad. There is also a constant bug, when you put the machine to sleep, chances are that when you wake it up, it crashes and restarts the entire Steam Deck, you lose all your work or its launched part. The interfaces are poorly calculated and not obvious at all. You have to learn menus by heart constantly.

Better than the Switch?

With the Nintendo Switch, you have your console, your game, you are sure to play it, all the menus are very simple, patches and versions of the operating system will not prevent you from playing. The controllers simply connect, we are sure that all Switch devices will be compatible.

With the Steam Deck, we forget all that! It’s resourcefulness and tinkering constantly. You can even install Windows on the machine to increase compatibility with applications and games! Except that Windows is not intended for Steam Deck, so there is no virtual keyboard, and new incompatibilities appear. You have to get by with keyboards, mice and external controllers. There’s nothing like seeing all the flaws in user experience and interfaces to realize how great a job Nintendo has done in these areas with its Switch.

At the console level, the only point on which the Steam Deck is better than the Nintendo Switch are the controls and ergonomics of the machine. If your favorite games are PC games, they are not too performance-hungry and you want to play them everywhere, this is a good machine. However, there are so many games on Switch, that it’s hard not to find happiness. The advantage is that PC gamers already have games in their library and they can suddenly play them anywhere. Wherever each additional purchase will allow you to play it on your desktop and Steam Deck.

At the computer level , the Steam Deck is lighter, more powerful and cheaper than some laptops, but if you have to bring a screen, keyboard and external mouse on each of your trips… Might as well take a laptop, it will be much more convenient to work.

Who is this for?

If you already have a Nintendo Switch console, you don’t need a Steam Deck unless you absolutely want to play a few PC games like the recent Resident Evil remakes, or Elden Rings.

Don’t have a handheld console, and want to start with that? No. Don’t do that, don’t buy the Steam Deck, especially if you’re not familiar with the game on Steam or PC.

Already have a library of Steam games and no handheld console? The Steam Deck may be appropriate at a low price, but I recommend waiting for new iterations of the machine to appear, and for new updates to improve the current software experience.

Do you like tinkering, tinkering with a computer, seeing how far you can go with it? In this case, there is a way to have fun with it. Its power and versatility can have many uses, as can be seen in the video below.

About Marc Shakour

Former video game programmer, columnist, teacher, competitor ... Marc has always been very familiar with the world and industry of video games.He decided to help neophytes about it, to discover new universes, worlds and fantastic creatures.

View all posts by Marc Shakour