The Steam Deck is not the first handheld that wants to make PC games playable on the go. However, the manufacturer Valve has done a few things differently with the Steam Deck than the competition before. The Steam Deck is not based on Microsoft Windows, but on the in-house development SteamOS (Linux). Games that were only developed for Windows are still playable thanks to the “Proton” software layer. In addition, Valve can get a lot out of the hardware with SteamOS, so that there are enough resources for games.
But it’s not just the software that differs from previous PC handhelds: the Steam Deck offers trackpads and freely configurable controls, which in principle can also be used to play games that don’t support a controller. However, it depends on the genre here – strategy games, for example, that rely on complex mouse and keyboard controls will probably not be as enjoyable on the Steam Deck.
According to Valve, more than 1,000 Steam games are currently compatible with the handheld. Similar to the Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox or the Nintendo Switch, the Steam Deck offers a user experience specially designed for gaming – just for PC games. And since Valve does not necessarily make sales with the hardware, but mainly with the games sold, the Steam Deck is already available at a relatively low entry-level price.
Of course, there are many more points that could be covered, but the above are essential to better appreciate the Steam deck alternatives, of which there are quite a few by now. The direct competition is currently running with Windows, which means that there are no problems with compatibility, but you may have to live with lower graphics settings or lower FPS with comparable hardware. In addition, the user interface is rarely adapted, so that operation could sometimes be cumbersome. Since SteamOS is freely available, it could well be that other handheld manufacturers switch to the system or make their own adjustments to an existing Linux system.
These differences could perhaps be dismissed as a matter of taste, but the price is a clear disadvantage: the Steam Deck competition is usually not in the comfortable position of being able to earn money exclusively or at least mainly through games. Many of the gaming handhelds are correspondingly expensive.
In the table below we show you the Steam Deck and its strongest competitors. We’re focusing here on handhelds that can play PC games, not devices like the Nintendo Switch or retro handhelds. Probably the strongest competitor at the moment is the Aya Neo Next, which will be available in three versions over the course of the year. Although the Neo Next runs with Windows, it offers a special gaming interface that at least arouses curiosity. However, the handheld costs many times the price that Valve charges for the Steam Deck.