PC gaming handhelds are on the rise, and while Valve has had great success with the Steam Deck, there are already a lot of great Steam Deck alternatives out there. Some of these competitors have better performance, while others offer more in the way of features and control. Despite that, the Steam Deck is the best option out of them all.
It’s easy to look at specs or features on a piece of paper and decide there are better consoles than Valve’s offering. However, as we saw in our ROG Ally vs Steam Deck comparison, that’s not always the case. Here are a few reasons why the Steam Deck is worth it over the competition in 2023.
1 SteamOS is better than Windows 11
In our ROG Ally review, we mentioned that Windows makes it difficult to recommend. Now, Windows does have its advantages. For example, game compatibility is much better since all titles can use the DirectX APIs instead of a compatibility layer like Proton.
However, Windows is not optimized for these types of devices. The UI isn’t designed to work well with smaller touchscreens, and there aren’t many built-in controls that make it easier to use on a handheld.
SteamOS is simply much better. It’s a custom Linux-based OS that’s designed from the ground up specifically for the Steam Deck. As such, it works better with the touchscreen, features great built-in controls, and has a user interface that is far easier to navigate. It helps the Steam Deck feel more like a console, and you’ll appreciate that convenience when you don’t have to deal with tweaking settings in Windows all the time.
2 The Deck Verified program
One of the biggest reasons why the Steam Deck is better than the competition is because of Steam, the platform itself. Valve has put in a lot of effort to make Steam the go-to store for buying games on PC, and this is even more obvious for their handheld. The console has a Deck Verified program, a feature that helps you check how well a game plays on the Deck.
Steam games are categorized into four categories based on this program: Verified, Playable, Unsupported, and Unknown. Steam gives these badges to each title in the store, allowing you to easily figure out how well a game will perform before you even buy it.
There’s no such certification process on most Windows handhelds, so getting some games to run could be more of a gamble. On top of that, a lot of developers are hard at work to make games more enjoyable on the Steam Deck, as it is the most popular PC handheld.
3 Excellent value
We recently reviewed the Ayaneo 2S, an extremely powerful Windows handheld that does a surprisingly good job of handling Triple-A games. While it’s much more powerful than the Steam Deck, it’s also much more expensive. The Steam Deck starts at $400 for the 64-gig version, and you can easily expand that 64GB with a cheap SSD upgrade.
The closest competitor is the ROG Ally and that handheld starts at $600. It’s faster than the Steam Deck and offers 512GB of storage, but the 512GB Steam Deck is a bit cheaper. While both consoles are reasonably priced, the Steam Deck is the better buy because of the ease of use, slightly better battery life, and Steam OS. User experience is something you can’t put a price on, and if a handheld does it better at a lower price than the competition, it’s the better buy.
4 Great build quality
The Steam Deck is pretty bulky, but it makes good use of all that space. All of the buttons feel great, and despite the large size, it feels great in the hand. The weight distribution is perfect, and so is the button layout. However, the biggest win for the Steam Deck is the fact that it features excellent customer support from Valve.
Other handhelds such as the Ayaneo 2S had their fair share of hardware issues at launch. There have been some issues with the early models of the Steam Deck as well, but Valve has done a great job of either replacing faulty units or repairing them. We can’t promise that you’ll get this great customer service experience with newer companies like Ayaneo.
The Steam Deck subreddit has over 500,000 members, and if you own a Steam Deck or are thinking about getting one, you should join the community. No matter what time of the day it is, you’ll always find a good number of people online who are talking about game reviews, issues with the Steam Deck, or even hardware and software mods.
Apart from the subreddit, there are a good number of developers who are making nifty utilities and tools that you can use for free. These utilities allow you to install an emulation front-end, play non-Steam games with ease, remote play games from your PS5, and more. We recommend checking out EmuDeck, Chiaki, and Non-Steam Game Launcher to see what all these open-source tools have to offer.
Nearly two years later, the Steam Deck is still the best PC handheld
The Steam Deck proves that ease of use, good value, and great customer support are enough to stand out from the competition. While a lot of these new PC gaming handhelds are exciting, the Steam Deck is the better buy for most people because of the reasons above. Valve is on the right track with this one, and all they need for the next version is better hardware and performance.