Steam Deck vs. cloud gaming: How do they compare?


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Ahead of I essentially bought my palms on a Steam Deck, I was skeptical of the principle. It is not that I thought it wouldn’t function. In truth, the idea of acquiring my entire Steam library accessible on a handheld was exceptionally interesting. My only question was irrespective of whether or not the gadget was needed.

At any time considering the fact that the Nintendo Change redefined how we play online games, providers have tried out to replicate its adaptability in their personal strategies. One particular of the earliest, and most experimental, tries was cloud gaming. Organizations like Google and Amazon guess big on streaming, envisioning a long term exactly where you do not have to have a effective Laptop or console to operate games at all: You just need to have the units you by now individual.

Players have been understandably skeptical about cloud streaming. Although it looks like a desire arrive true, it is one that is fully dependent on a stable online connection, which is tall question if you’re not in a important city. Inspite of the hesitance, cloud gaming has ongoing to improve with products and services like GeForce Now and Amazon Luna upping the ante in conditions of what’s achievable. But how do all those ordeals examine to a portable Computer system like the Steam Deck? Are they a feasible different or does focused hardware however keep the edge?

To reply individuals queries, I determined to set up a welcoming opposition among the Steam Deck and a cell phone operating the similar game titles streamed via GeForce Now. The outcomes reinforced that there is no suitable solution to the adaptability issue at the moment, with almost everything experience experimental in its individual way.

Set up and caveats

In purchase to exam this, I required to make sure I was employing cloud gaming at its peak likely. To do that, I applied a Samsung S21 cellphone related to Razer’s exceptional Kishi controller attachment. I also utilized a GeForce Now precedence account to test different titles that were being accessible on Steam Deck and GeForce Now alike. I also had the benefit of staying in New York City with a large-speed relationship, both of those by means of Wi-Fi and 5G. That would theoretically give me the most effective screening situations attainable.

There’s an significant caveat right here, although: This is not the experience most men and women will have. Cloud gaming needs the variety of stable, fast relationship that is not readily available everywhere. This take a look at illustrates how perfectly it works functioning at 100%, but don’t think the data gathered listed here will be the exact same for your circumstance.

The other elephant in the room is the reality that cloud gaming calls for a connection, restricting its flexibility. I can enjoy the Steam Deck on an airplane, but I just can’t load up GeForce Now. The Steam Deck wins by default in a struggle of portability. So in its place of comparing the two in that regard, I’m merely examining how both perform in a household location for those people who could possibly be hunting to get one thing less high priced than a dear gaming Laptop.

With that in head, below are the outcomes.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

I started off with Shadow of the Tomb Raider mainly because it’s a higher-excellent activity that operates very well on Steam Deck. My benchmark test on the unit saw the sport hitting an average of 51 frames per next (fps), which is remarkable. The similar benchmark take a look at on GeForce Now blew that quantity away, hitting a 111 fps ordinary. That’s completely to be anticipated. GeForce Now runs off of devoted servers with a lot more potent guts than what’s within the Steam Deck.

Seeking at pure graphic top quality, there is no comparison. Shadow of the Tomb Raider appears to be like exceptional when streaming. Searching at screenshots from just about every product aspect by facet, the textures are sharper on GeForce Now, with the Steam Deck model displaying fuzzy edges. It’s visible in phrases of motion too, as I expert a truthful quantity of texture pop-in on Steam Deck. It very likely will help that the Samsung S21 has a smaller screen than the Steam Deck, so any flaws are more durable to place.

A comparison of Shadow of the Tomb Raider on Steam Deck and GeForce Now.

It is truly worth mentioning battery existence, too. Actively playing the exact same 30-moment snippet, the game drained 6% of my Samsung S21’s battery. It ate up 25% of the Steam Deck’s by comparison, leaving the product with just around an hour of demand left. Battery existence is one particular of the main difficulties with the Steam Deck correct now, so that doesn’t come at a surprise, but it’s an place in which cloud products and services do gain an edge, relying on your products.

There’s a catch. Whilst the activity was a powerhouse on GeForce Now, the eccentricities of the cloud did pop up through my play time. Even though latency was not a trouble listed here, I did get a couple of micro-stutters all over. They have been all modest and non-disruptive right until I entered a cave. Quickly, the frame level dropped to a slideshow and the app crashed. The knowledge was visually muddier, but uninterrupted on Steam Deck.

Rocket League

To additional exam balance, I required to leap into some on the web games. Rocket League was an evident preference, as it is a speedy-paced sport which is proposed on both equally platforms. The story was mainly the identical here, with GeForce Now obtaining an edge in visuals, but Steam Deck providing a smoother knowledge. On the other hand, the visual difference was not just about as pronounced, with the two extra or a lot less on par with 1 an additional. The Steam Deck could even have the edge in this article.

Rocket League running on GeForce Now and Steam Deck.

Far more cloud quirks did pop up in this article. In addition to the sudden frame drops, I experienced a couple scenarios wherever the display would immediately glitch out. Top quality dips like that tended to move by in a flash. I was never stuck in a malformed display for additional than a quick next, and stutters didn’t negatively affect any shots in certain. But it’s a reminder that the cloud brings an experiential part to gaming. Rocket League is likely to run continually in between just about every Steam Deck, but it’ll be fully different for every GeForce Now subscriber.

Although a video game like Shadow of the Tomb Raider may possibly have me gravitating towards a cloud stream for the better visual payoff, online online games gain from consistency. Granted, the Steam Deck is a wi-fi system, so it’s however dependent on a great community. A wired connection is always heading to be preferable in this article, but the fewer details that has to be transmitted by way of Wi-fi, the better.

Destiny 2

Okay, this one’s a joke. The Steam Deck simply cannot actually operate Destiny 2 obviously because of to its anti-cheat program that calls for gamers to jump by means of hoops to get it performing. By contrast, you can boot the video game up by way of GeForce Now and commence operating it in an immediate with no downloads. Future 2 tends to be my go-to examination video game for any gadget, and the reality that I just cannot even launch it on Steam Deck thanks to compatibility troubles is noteworthy.

It’s not a reasonable combat (if we get into what is playable on Steam Deck versus what is in the GeForce Now library, the latter would acquire a beating), but it does spotlight how experimental Valve’s gadget is. Though it could possibly look like a easy console that runs any Steam match, that is not the case. Some video games will function just good, many others will not at all. Cloud gaming has its have issues, but this isn’t a person of them. You can run the most impressive recreation offered on the services on a 5-year-previous iPad, no specs demanded. What a thing like GeForce now loses in consistency, it gains in compatibility.

Cyberpunk 2077

It was time to set the two to the top take a look at. I desired to see how both platforms would tackle a gigantic video game that, frankly, doesn’t even operate perfectly on most pcs. Of class, I’m chatting about Cyberpunk 2077. The open-planet match experienced a disastrous start in 2020, with general performance issues throughout the board. Humorous plenty of, a person of the ideal means to engage in the sport in its roughest condition was by means of Google Stadia, as it was running on able equipment. With the game’s 1.5 patch bringing extra steadiness to the video game in 2022, it was a ideal remaining obstacle for the two platforms.

In situation you are questioning, no, Cyberpunk 2077 is nonetheless not in terrific condition. Inside a single minute of enjoying on GeForce Now, my car had fallen beneath the map and the activity saved endlessly loading my descent. Significantly less than 10 minutes later on, I obtained delicate-locked all over again when I entered a ripperdoc chair and the sport did not give me any prompt to exit or development the tale. That is not the service’s problem, but it offers you an plan of how very important it is to eliminate any additional friction to get the activity operating.

Cyberpunk 2077 running on GeForce Now and Steam Deck.

Effectiveness-wise, I was impressed by the experience on GeForce Now. The match operates smoothly when streaming from the cloud. I did not detect any real latency issues when partaking in twitchy shootouts, and its RTX-completely ready standing intended that I could do the game’s outstanding lighting justice. In a natural way, the exact tech hiccups popped up every single when and a although — unexpected body drops, swift audio glitches, and so on. — but contemplating how risky the video game is, my experience enjoying on a cellular phone wasn’t so different from taking part in on a Computer (help you save for the difficult-to-browse text).

Taking part in on Steam Deck essential more tweaking, which is why the recreation isn’t “verified” for the console. On a “high” graphics environment, the frame amount hovered all around 30, sometimes dipping even decrease. Medium options permitted me to get nearer to 40 fps, nevertheless I’d have to go down to small to maintain that in shootouts. Battery drain was at its worst in this article, but it was completely playable at the time I produced the right tweaks. However, like Elden Ring, it is possible not the way several would want to working experience the match.

Cyberpunk 2077 running on GeForce Now.

Cyberpunk 2077 highlights a basic philosophical big difference involving the two platforms. The Steam Deck is quite much for all those who come from a Computer university of assumed. If you like tweaking settings and receiving a match to do the job just correct on your rig, Valve’s system features that adaptability. Cloud expert services are additional for persons who just want their game titles to perform proper out the box. I by no means even thought about touching the configurations menu on GeForce Now. All I experienced to do was click perform.

Everyone’s a winner

Based mostly on my everyday experiment, there are no winners and losers below. Equally techniques to portability have their individual one of a kind downsides, but are flawlessly plausible ways to perform. The potential is better with a cloud company (all over again, if you have the appropriate link), but a committed system like the Steam Deck features far more regularity when it will come to suitable games (which in alone is a major asterisk for the gadget). The latter is my personalized preference, but I really like the actuality that I have solutions.

The Steam Deck has eased my original skepticism, proving that it isn’t redundant in the age of cloud gaming — at the very least not nevertheless — but I’m still assured in cloud tech as a entire based on my checks. Game titles like Shadow of the Tomb Raider seemed and performed much better on my telephone than they do on my Personal computer. Thinking about that the present-day component scarcity has made it difficult for me to upgrade my rig, I could moderately see a globe where by I stream video games on underpowered devices that I individual as an alternative.

For me to make that change, the tech will will need to keep its momentum up, although I can say the same for the Steam Deck-style handheld laptop or computer, too. Gamers are at this time dwelling by an age of experimentation, the place organizations are inquiring gamers to turn into early adopters to quickly shifting tech. No one particular can be blamed for their skepticism as corporations construct the tracks in entrance of a shifting teach. There’s nevertheless much function to be done, but neither platform I tested feels in hazard of cartoonishly plummeting off a cliff like Wile E. Coyote.

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