Traveling with my Steam Deck made me miss the Nintendo Switch

Lloyd Coombes
Steam Deck and Nintendo Switch OLED

I took my Steam Deck on its first “big trip” this month, and Valve’s platform definitely has some teething issues. Here’s why I almost wish I’d taken my Switch instead.

The Steam Deck is a remarkable machine, isn’t it? Capable of playing games from Valve’s own storefront (including classics like Half-Life 2), emulating games from childhood, and running AAA blockbusters like FromSoftware’s Elden Ring, it’s become one of the Dexerto team’s favorite bits of tech in 2022.

Sure, you can dock it to a TV. But, the Steam Deck really does represent a portable gaming PC – for better and for worse. I spent some time in Singapore this month for the Naraka Bladepoint World Championships. That meant a combined 32 hours of flying, plus some airport time in between. As my first “proper” trip since owning the Steam Deck, I was hopeful I’d get to spend more quality time with it, but it started to feel a lot like hard work in places.

A Steam Deck, not a Steam Deck 2.

Out of Steam

To set the scene, the plan was to play a few of this year’s biggest AAA titles in between event coverage and excursions, and while at the hotel, it did exactly that. I was able to play chunks of Marvel’s Midnight Suns, Gotham Knights, and the aforementioned Elden Ring throughout the week.

The Steam Deck has some pretty beefy hardware, but that also means more power draw. Having the handheld console plugged into the mains was no big deal in a hotel room. While flying, though, things are trickier. The Steam Deck’s power draw can be demanding, and you’ll need to plug it into a dedicated outlet while flying, rather than a USB header.

The bigger issue, however, is offline mode. The Steam Deck uses an online check-in system to validate purchases, but it tries to do this whenever it’s powered on. When you turn it off, it’ll try and check in when it turns back on. Unfortunately, if there’s no connection, some games simply won’t boot up.

elden ring steam deck
Elden Ring on the go is a dream, but it’s not always plain sailing.

Needing to have the Steam Deck sat in my backpack, in sleep mode but still draining battery, meant that it was constantly ticking down. By the time I boarded my flight, a fair amount of battery was already gone, but to turn it off entirely would mean going into offline mode. The kicker? You have to be connected to a network to even enable offline mode.

It’s a bizarre process, and I’m sure Valve will be refining it in the coming months, but it’s something to be considered if you’re traveling a longer distance.

Knowing this in advance, though, I fired up the Steam Deck the night before I traveled and opened the games I knew I’d be itching to play. The trouble is, it wouldn’t connect to the cheap hotel Wi-Fi or my mobile hotspot – yikes. Worse still, it glitched out and kept freezing, prompting a reboot, and the need for another online check-in.

We noted in our Steam Deck review that this device certainly is not for everyone, and after using it on this trip, that sentiment rang true.

Time to Switch?

4K Switch - oled model
I found myself missing the Switch.

This all combined to have me looking longingly at the other side of the fence at the Nintendo Switch. Can it run Elden Ring? No, of course not, but Nintendo certainly knows how to make a handheld– and I regretted leaving my lovely Switch OLED docked under the TV.

I love the Steam Deck, but I just wish I could’ve hit the power button and played Pokémon Scarlet and Violet for each 8-hour flight while charging it from a standard USB-A to USB-C cable on the plane. In the race for portable powerhouses, it feels like Nintendo is often forgotten – and yet, since I’ve come home I’ve hardly let the Switch go.

Its screen is smaller, it lacks multiple input options, and it barely runs the latest Pokémon games – but maybe that simply doesn’t matter.

About The Author

Lloyd was formerly Dexerto's Games Editor. He can regularly be found playing Destiny 2 or any game that involves shiny loot.