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PlayStation Portal vs Steam Deck | Which Gaming Handheld Should You Buy?

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Comparing the PlayStation Portal and Steam Deck specs, pricing, capabilities and limitations. See which new handheld gaming system is right for your budget and gaming needs.

The PlayStation Portal offers remote play for your PS5 games, while the Steam Deck is an untethered gaming PC. This comprehensive comparison explores everything to know before buying!

PlayStation Portal vs Steam Deck: Which Gaming Handheld Should You Buy?

An Overview of the PlayStation Portal and Steam Deck

The recently announced PlayStation Portal focuses squarely on streamlining access to your PS5 games on the go. This compact device gives you remote access to your PS5 console, allowing you to enjoy your favorite PlayStation games untethered. All you need is a WiFi connection to stream titles straight from your PS5 to the Portal.

In contrast, Valve’s Steam Deck is an entirely standalone, lightweight handheld gaming PC. It runs a custom Linux-based SteamOS, giving you full access to install and run games from your Steam library natively on the device itself, no external console required. The Steam Deck also supports thousands of popular non-Steam games and even lets you install Windows for maximum compatibility across your game library.

While the Steam Deck prioritizes power, the Portal offers unique advantages like streaming access to sought-after PlayStation exclusives. But there are many other factors to weigh when comparing these two newcomers battling over the handheld gaming crown.

PlayStation Portal Price vs Steam Deck Models

PlayStation Portal vs Steam Deck: Which Gaming Handheld Should You Buy?
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The Portal hits the market at an appealing $199 MSRP for the base 64GB model. This positions it as a budget-friendly streaming companion to your PS5. However, you will need to own a PS5 already to be able to utilize the Portal’s capabilities and access your PS5 game library remotely.

In contrast, the Steam Deck starts at a base price of $399 for the 64GB eMMC model. Valve also offers pricier 256GB and 512GB SSD models with additional storage for those wanting more native capacity on the go, at $529 and $649 respectively.

Keep in mind when considering pricing, the Steam Deck functions as a standalone handheld gaming PC that runs titles natively. The PlayStation Portal relies on streaming from a PS5 over WiFi and has no real native gameplay functionality without that connectivity tether. So your total investment cost is higher if choosing the Portal route.

DeviceStoragePrice
Steam Deck 64GB eMMC64GB$399
Steam Deck 256GB NVMe SSD256GB$529
Steam Deck 512GB NVMe SSD512GB$649
PlayStation Portal64GB$199

If budget is your primary concern, the PlayStation Portal offers access to the PlayStation ecosystem for less upfront cost. But the Steam Deck delivers more flexibility, performance and storage capacity for the increased price premium.

Steam Deck vs Portal: Hardware and Performance Specs

PlayStation Portal vs Steam Deck: Which Gaming Handheld Should You Buy?
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Valve has equipped the Steam Deck with some respectable compact computing hardware to create an on-the-go portable gaming PC capable of running the latest AAA games natively:

  • Processor: AMD Zen 2 CPU with 4 cores, 8 threads and speeds up to 3.5GHz
  • Graphics: AMD RDNA 2 graphics with 8 compute units for up to 1.6 TFLOPs power
  • Memory: 16GB of speedy LPDDR5 RAM
  • Display: 7-inch 1280×800 LCD touchscreen with 60hz refresh rate
  • Storage: 64GB eMMC or 256/512GB NVMe SSD options
  • Size and Weight: 11.7 x 4.6 x 1.9 inches, 1.47 pounds

These core hardware specs enable the Steam Deck to play most modern graphically-intensive games smoothly and compete with last-gen consoles like the Xbox One or PS4. The custom SteamOS software further provides optimizations tailored for gaming.

In comparison, Sony has remained mum so far on what exact hardware the PlayStation Portal will be utilizing. It does not need high performance internals since the Portal acts as purely an access point for streaming from your externally powerful PS5. This allows Sony to produce the device cheaply. But it limits native gameplay functionality without a WiFi connection.

The Portal does pack an 8-inch 1280×800 touchscreen display for crisper 1280p streaming playback versus the Steam Deck’s 720p internal screen. And its slim design at just 0.37 inches thick beats out the nearly 2-inch thick Steam Deck body. But without specs of its computing guts revealed yet, it is the Steam Deck that wins out on paper specs and computing prowess.

Game Library and Performance Comparison

PlayStation Portal vs Steam Deck: Which Gaming Handheld Should You Buy?
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When it comes to game compatibility and performance, the Steam Deck once again beats expectations while the Portal has some sharp limitations.

Valve boasts support for thousands of Steam games out of the box on the Deck, while also allowing users to freely install Windows 11 for broad compatibility with even more non-Steam game libraries like Epic Games Store titles. And its power allows for generally smooth gameplay, rivalling previous-gen consoles for newer AAA games especially. Older titles sing flawlessly at full settings, while some new graphically-demanding releases may require resolution or graphics quality tweaks for smooth frame rates. You do need to purchase your games separately, but Steam sales help.

Thanks to streaming instead of native hardware, the PlayStation Portal gives access to the entire catalog of PS5 games so long as you own them. This spans popular PlayStation exclusives like Spider-Man: Miles Morales, to hot new titles like God of War: Ragnarok. As long as your home PS5 has a strong internet connection, you can experience these games untethered…with some caveats. Without WiFi, the Portal loses functionality, and input latency or visual compression can occur. So the experience is not fully equal to playing natively on PS5 hardware itself.

While the Steam Deck requires buying games separately, its hardware allows them to run natively for smoother performance. And you get more hardware for the larger upfront investment. In contrast, the Portal streams PS5 games relying on that external console. So while supporting exciting exclusives, the experience depends greatly on your connectivity, comes at the cost of visual fidelity, and loses functionality when WiFi is not available.

Which Handheld Gaming Device Should You Choose?

PlayStation Portal vs Steam Deck: Which Gaming Handheld Should You Buy?
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So is the PlayStation Portal or Steam Deck the right choice for playing your favorite games on the go? As with any purchasing decision, it depends on your personal priorities and needs.

For those on a budget who already own a PS5, using the Portal as a complement makes sense. This provides a lightweight streaming terminal for your PlayStation games library for just $199. But beware the connectivity limitations – WiFi is required for essentially all functionality. And graphics, latency and reliability take a hit in exchange for that mobility and convenience within Sony’s walled garden.

On the other hand, the Steam Deck truly delivers portable PC gaming freedom from just about any game storefront. Yes the $399 starting cost is steeper. But for that investment you get full native hardware performance and flexibility. Install Steam, Epic, Battle.net or other games natively and play anywhere at full quality. You can even install Windows or emulate classic console games. If you’ve invested in a large PC game library or want maximum capability untethered from a stationary console, the Steam Deck is a dream machine.

At the end of the day, budget and intended experience are key factors that should guide your personal choice between these two impressive devices pushing handheld gaming into exciting new territory in very different ways. Both the PlayStation Portal and Steam Deck have killer features that appeal depending on your needs. So choose wisely based on if you prioritize mobile streaming within the PlayStation ecosystem or maximum performance power through a handheld PC gaming beast.

FAQs

What are the dimensions, weight, controls, and ports on the Steam Deck?

The Steam Deck has a compact design with dimensions of 11.73 x 4.61 x 1.93 inches and weighs just 1.47 pounds. The front features dual analog sticks, a directional pad, ABXY buttons, a touch-enabled 7-inch 1280×800 display, and two trackpads. The top houses L1/L2 and R1/R2 shoulder triggers along with power, volume, and Steam menu buttons. Ports include a USB-C charging port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a microSD card slot for expanded storage.

How long can you expect the battery to last under various usage cases?

Light gameplay such as 2D indie games or streaming media can achieve 6-8 hours on a full charge with default TDP setting. Moderate 3D gaming gets an average of 2-4 hours. The most intensive 3D games may only last 1-2 hours. Factors impacting battery life include screen brightness, WiFi/Bluetooth, attached peripherals, and performance settings. You can extend play sessions by reducing the max TDP, capping the FPS, and lowering screen brightness.

Can I access and play my entire Steam library or are there compatibility restrictions?

You can download and install games from your Steam library on the Steam Deck. Many popular games have full or partial compatibility, while others may have issues running on SteamOS. Check the game’s Steam Deck compatibility rating to see reported playability and control schemes. For unsupported titles, features like Proton may allow for tweaking compatibility. In many cases, you can get games running smoothly but some trial and error may be needed

To what extent can I modify and customize my Steam Deck?

As an open platform modeled after Linux PCs, the Steam Deck offers extensive flexibility for customization – on both software and hardware levels. Change settings via the SteamOS interface or access the desktop mode to tweak configurations, overclock components, install other software stores like itch.io or GOG, augment the 64GB/256GB/512GB built-in SSD storage with microSD cards, create dual boot setups, and utilize peripherals like keyboards and mice. Hardware customization allows adding skins and cases and even replacing parts like joysticks and SSDs.

How does gaming performance compare to high-end PCs and the PS5/Xbox Series X consoles?

Thanks to AMD Zen 2 CPU and RDNA 2 integrated graphics, the Steam Deck provides strong performance, commonly targeting 30-60fps for many AAA singleplayer games at 800p resolution and medium settings. This exceeds the base last-gen consoles but falls short of high-end PCs or upgraded new consoles hitting 4K/60fps. Some compromises in fidelity and resolution may be necessary for smooth framerates on the most demanding games. Upcoming titles focused on cutting-edge graphics will likely struggle on Steam Deck without lowering resolution scaling and detail levels substantially.

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