Everyone has played a video game on the PC at some point. But now, with increasingly evolving technologies, the wide selection of gaming systems available requires thorough research before making a purchase.

Does anyone even remember a Steam Machine? It went down in history as the ancestor of the wildly popular Valve’s Steam Deck. Wondering what the Steam Deck is? It’s a handheld computer for playing video games – half PC, half console, equipped with Linux SteamOS and Proton compatibility layer, allowing it to run even Windows titles. But does this make it any better than the average gaming notebook? Resolving this issue requires a more detailed comparison of their features!

Game Performance Analysis

  • Laptop’s Specs Profile

Laptops come in various capacities and proportions – from low-end budget models equipped with integrated graphics to high-end options with AMD Radeon RX 6000M line or Nvidia GeForce RTX 40 series graphics cards running literally anything.

The average laptop for games has a powerful processor equipped with up to 8 cores, a decent graphics card, and at least 8GB RAM for a smooth gameplay experience.

  • Deck’s Specs Metrics

Operating an AMD APU with a four-core CPU and an integrated Radeon GPU, Valve’s machine runs most video games at 800p. Although it uses less powerful components than a PC, it trades its capabilities for portability. Its overall power is equivalent to a GTX 1050 graphics card – which is not much compared to high-end notebooks but enough to enjoy many titles from the Steam library, especially since the console now comes with an OLED screen with a 60 HZ refresh rate. And if you ever want to upgrade it, SSD and RAM are replaceable.

  • Head-to-Head: Performance Showdown

Hypothetically, the Steam console has the potential to run all the games from the platform’s library, but that’s not entirely true. Steam introduced a rating system showing how compatible available titles are with the Deck console, including specific tiers like Verified, Playable, Unsupported, and Unknown. The last one means untested games, which may someday change their category.

PC Magazine ran tests to see how well the Deck performs when docked to an external screen at 1080p. The interface and menus adjusted to the display resolution, but the tested games ran in native 800p. Only switching to desktop mode solved this issue.

How about gameplay quality? PCmag selected two popular AAA titles to compare Deck vs laptops with integrated graphics. With a balanced preset, Red Dead Redemption 2 achieved 46 FPS on Deck with a native display and 37 on 1080p. Acer Nitro 5 reached 90 FPS, Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360 reached 21, and HP Envy x360 15 delivered only 20.

The situation was quite similar in the case of Borderlands 3, which means that the Steam console outperforms the most popular laptops with AMD Radeon or Intel Iris Xe graphics, second only to the Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti in the Acer Nitro 5.

Compatibility Insights

Most laptops come with a Windows OS, enabling the installation of various platforms like GOG, Steam, or Epic Games. That means you can play all the games available on your PC, which system requirements it meets.

Meanwhile, Deck only runs Linux-compatible titles available on the Steam platform. As you probably already know, many cannot run on a Linux OS – but the Deck’s Proton layer makes that possible. However, it is still significantly less than a laptop can do.

Currently, Steam offers 3,183 titles tagged as Deck Verified and 5,500 as Playable. Both categories represent only 50% of all games on Steam, and the Playable category may still cause technical issues. Moreover, only 20% of Steam’s top titles are now playable on Deck, which isn’t that impressive.

Portability and Design

Although many powerful laptops, like the Alienware m17 R4 with its 6.6 pounds, still weigh quite a bit, recent years have seen a trend towards making them thinner and lighter. For example, the Origin EON 16SL is lightweight, highly customizable, capable of running Cyberpunk 2077, and easy to carry around in a standard laptop bag.

The increasingly thinner laptop design looks fine in any space. And since it’s a classic computer with a large screen, you can use it to work, play, browse the Internet, and watch.

But the Deck console still weighs less. It’s also smaller, so you can use it to play in any vehicle (unless you’re a driver, then no). According to enthusiasts of this device, the handheld design and intuitive button layout allow for a comfortable experience in even precision-demanding titles like Apex Legends.

Even though it’s a tiny Linux computer, it looks very similar to the hugely popular Nintendo Switch. So, what is more portable? Without further ado, Deck console.

Battery Life Comparisons

Decent video game behavior requires a lot of power – which is understandable to laptop owners. A standard laptop offers one to twelve hours of battery life, depending on the game’s requirements. Laptops with integrated graphics need less power but exchange it for slightly worse gameplay quality.

Surprisingly, the Steam device performs quite similarly in this comparison. Depending on the game’s requirements, it offers one to eight hours of battery life. And while its users can customize power consumption to suit their needs, it still needs to be more.

Extra Features and Versatility

Equipped with a large keyboard, bigger screen, loudspeakers, camera, microphone, various ports, and touchpad, laptops are great for work and fun. You can reinstall the current system to another compatible with the available hardware and use it however you want. Such a move may require some technical knowledge, but that proves laptops are simply more customizable.

Deck console focuses solely on video games. You can connect it to a keyboard or mouse, but it won’t provide the same PC experience. Also, reinstalling the system to another one is not a good idea, as pre-installed Linux is perfectly compatible with its features, and such a change could result in many unwanted situations.

However, the console has everything any gamer desires – a microphone, intuitive buttons, a USB-C port, a MicroSD reader, and touchpads for a satisfying and customizable experience.

Value Proposition and Pricing

Valve’s Deck comes in different versions depending on its storage. The cheapest option, offering an LCD screen and 64GB storage, costs $349, but that’s not enough for most new games. More expensive versions include the 256GB with LCD for $399, 512GB with LCD for $449, 512GB with OLED for $549, 1TB with OLED for $649, and 1TB with OLED in limited edition for $679.

Laptops come in a spectrum of prices, ranging from budget models like the HP Chromebook 14A G5 or Lenovo IdeaPad at $300 to the most expensive ones like the MSI Titan GT77 at $11,000 or the Acer Predator 21 X at $8,999. The cheapest ones obviously can’t run new games – but they are great for users seeking essential office tools and occasional retro fun.

As you can see, the Steam console is more affordable, provided you are looking for a device just for playing games. Laptops represent a sure pick for those looking for versatility.

Which is the Right Choice?

What should I buy? The answer to this question depends on your preferences. Regarding overall quality, a laptop is a much more powerful machine for playing games, working, or watching. They are slightly heavier but guarantee greater versatility, a broader price range, and customization. And most importantly – you can play any PC game on a laptop that meets its system requirements.

Steam Deck focuses solely on video games, but you can take it wherever you want. It is compatible with thousands of titles on Steam and available at pretty affordable prices.

Deck console makes playing PC games enjoyable again, which cannot always be said about classic laptops. If you crave access to your favorite PC titles whenever and wherever you want or are thinking about revolutionizing your life as a gamer, Deck is definitely worth it.