Nvidia’s rumored Steam Deck rival needs these 5 features to succeed

Sayem Ahmed
Handheld with black handheld and GeForce logo

Nvidia is rumored to be working on a Steam Deck-like handheld, and here’s everything we want to see from Team Green’s effort to make a high-powered handheld juggernaut.

Gaming handhelds are just about everywhere these days, and every brand from Asus, Lenovo, MSI, and more are getting on the action to release their Steam Deck competitors. There’s only one big problem: They are all running AMD-based APUs like the Ryzen Z1 chip, or 7840U, which we’ve tested countless times over the past year.

With AMD’s latest chips not offering a huge upgrade for gamers in the handheld market, eyes are turning towards alternatives. The MSI Claw is sporting Intel’s Core Ultra graphics, but no one has reached out to Team Green for a handheld yet. But, Nvidia might be taking matters into its own hands.

According to Moore’s Law is Dead, Nvidia is working on a gaming handheld of its own, with a “premium” handheld geared toward competing with the Steam Deck. Nvidia is allegedly unhappy with AMD’s dominance of the market. According to his sources, Nvidia is looking at partners to introduce their new handheld, with Intel potentially working on the project. But, if won’t arrive any time soon.

Nvidia is no stranger to creating handheld chips. Most notably, it created the Nvidia Shield, and Nintendo Switch, and also developed the die for the Switch 2. But, if the company wants to be successful, it needs to have these key features to succeed.

DLSS is a must

Palworld Steam Deck

Since it’s Nvidia we’re talking about here, we’d expect that any gaming handheld from the company should come equipped with the company’s latest AI marvels. We’re talking DLSS supersampling, frame generation, and ray reconstruction, all in one. The benefit of using AI to upscale titles is to lower the amount of load required to render at higher resolutions.

This could allow for higher fidelity games, with less of a performance impact, to boot. If games can also exceed 60FPS using this, then frame-generation suddenly comes on the table, and it could help to achieve FPS counts in the triple-digits, in the palm of your hand.

The power of the system will directly correlate to the display’s native resolution, so Nvidia could pack the handheld with a higher-end screen for a truly unparalleled portable experience.

Ship it with SteamOS

Palworld art on Steam Deck background

We’ve seen so many handhelds launch with Windows as of late, and while this offers a more open experience when compared to SteamOS, it’s also a much worse user experience. If Nvidia wants to offer an experience on the same level as the Steam Deck, then the company should seek to partner up with Valve directly to leverage SteamOS, and create a Linux-based handheld. You still get Proton support, as well as options to use external applications.

An option to dual-boot with Windows might also be a viable option, just so you can play titles like Fortnite, which currently has issues running natively due to kernel-level anti-cheat systems.

SteamOS would make for a much smoother overall experience when playing games. But, if Nvidia chooses Windows as the main OS, they should hope that Microsoft implements more portable-friendly UIs.

A huge battery

Ayaneo KUN Handheld

One of our biggest criticisms with many gaming handhelds is battery life. Packing in powerful hardware that can run the latest AAA games can be taxing, meaning that your gaming sessions can come to an abrupt end. The Steam Deck OLED made strides to improve battery life through its screen technology, battery capacity upgrade, and more, meaning that it’s one of the longest-lasting handhelds out there right now, and the reason why we reach for our Steam Deck OLED, over more convenient handhelds like the Ayaneo Air 1S.

Nvidia is capable of creating highly efficient custom chips, as they have done for the Switch 2. Based on Blackwell and Ada architecture, it’s only going to get better from here. But, it will require a careful combination of a perfectly specified display to go alongside it, to ensure perfect portable play.

A high-powered dock

Sabrent steam deck dock on a gradient background

One thing that many gaming handhelds have not made use of are high-powered docks to bring performance to another level. Certain companies like OneXPlayer have introduced direct GPU attachments, at extreme cost. But, if Nvidia can offer up an OcuLink port, or Thunderbolt 4 on its handheld, then the scope for a “docked” experience that can offer cutting-edge graphics with ease skyrockets.

Should they choose to implement such a system, ideally it could function similarly to the Nintendo Switch, with the device automatically detecting that it’s plugged in, and has access to more power. This would effectively allow the device to transform into a bona fide gaming PC at the drop of a hat, and could be a great alternative for those who want to own a small, high-powered PC to take on the move.

The perfect size

Ayaneo Air with Ayaspace open

Balancing the amount of power the portable could offer alongside size will be crucial for Nviida’s rumored Steam Deck rival, and having a perfect size could be the way to go. Devices like the Ayaneo Kun and Lenovo Legion Go might be powerful, but quickly become too heavy to use as a viable option for longer gaming sessions.

Turning to a Steam Deck OLED-like weight here might be the best option, as it offers an ergonomic design, alongside an optimized weight that you can use for hours on end. We already know that battery life can be excellent in this form factor, and if Nvidia offers an efficient chip alongside it, then we could be in for something very special indeed.

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