a close up of a nintendo wii game controller

When it comes to portable gaming, the Steam Deck has quickly become a notable contender in the market. This handheld gaming device, which packs a punch in its compact form, has intrigued gamers and tech enthusiasts alike. A key question often posed is about the equivalent power of the Steam Deck’s GPU compared to traditional PC graphics cards. Understanding this equivalence can offer a better grasp of the device’s capabilities, especially for those considering its purchase or comparing it to existing gaming setups.

The Steam Deck does offer a surprising degree of performance for its size, but it’s still very low-end when compared to a PC. Understanding how its graphics power compares to traditional desktop or laptop GPUs is important for figuring out what types of games you can expect to play smoothly.

Matching Power: Comparing the Steam Deck’s GPU to PC Graphics Cards

Comparing the Steam Deck’s GPU to its desktop counterparts is tricky. It’s a custom AMD APU with RDNA 2 architecture, similar to PS5 and Xbox Series X, but designed for lower power consumption. It’s closer to integrated graphics in laptops than dedicated GPUs, but it packs a surprising punch.

Benchmarking the Beast: What the Numbers Say

While not a perfect comparison, benchmarks give us a good idea:

GameSteam Deck (800p Low)Desktop GPU Equivalent
Elden Ring~30fpsNvidia GTX 1050 Ti or AMD RX 570
Cyberpunk 2077~30fps (FSR)Nvidia GTX 1650 or AMD RX 580
Witcher 3~45fpsNvidia GTX 1060 or AMD RX 590
Dota 2~60fpsNvidia GTX 1660 or AMD RX 5600 XT

A Different Animal: Optimization Matters

The Steam Deck’s strength lies in its optimization for specific games and settings. Valve and AMD work together to fine-tune games to run smoothly on the handheld’s hardware. This means it can often outperform its raw specs would suggest.

Looking Ahead: More Power on the Go?

Valve has hinted at future Steam Deck revisions with better performance. This could mean a more powerful GPU, allowing even more demanding games to run smoothly on the handheld.

What This Means for You

If you’re looking for a rough equivalent, consider these factors:

  • Resolution: The Steam Deck targets 800p, so comparisons are most accurate at that resolution.
  • Settings: The Steam Deck often runs games on low settings, but its custom optimizations can sometimes surpass low-end GPUs on higher settings.
  • Future Proofing: If you want the latest and greatest graphics, a desktop PC is still the way to go. But if you value portability and a curated gaming experience, the Steam Deck is a great option.
steam deck

Graphics and Performance Comparisons

No Exact Equivalent, But Close Approximations

It’s important to understand that there is no exact desktop GPU counterpart to the Steam Deck’s integrated graphics processor. This is because the Steam Deck uses a custom AMD APU (Accelerated Processing Unit) that combines both the CPU and GPU in a power-efficient package. This chip was designed specifically for the Steam Deck so there’s no identical desktop or mobile versions. However, based on benchmarking we can make approximations.

Benchmarking Provides Clues

Analyzing benchmark results offers some insight. The Steam Deck GPU delivers performance close to the following desktop graphics cards:

  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950
  • AMD Radeon RX 560

Here’s a look at approximate performance expectations:

Game TitleApproximate Steam Deck Performance
Grand Theft Auto VMedium Settings, 30-60 FPS
Elden RingLow-Medium Settings, 30 FPS
Cyberpunk 2077Low Settings, 30 FPS
The Witcher 3: Wild HuntMedium Settings, 30-60 FPS

Important Considerations

It’s important to remember several factors can influence your actual Steam Deck gameplay experience:

  • Game Optimization: Games with specific optimizations for the Steam Deck may run much smoother than expected.
  • FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR): AMD’s FSR upscaling technology can significantly boost frame rates with minimal visual impact.
  • Resolution: The Steam Deck’s native resolution is only 1280×800. This lower resolution helps it gain a performance boost over higher-resolution desktop comparisons.

The Benefits of Portability

Ultimately, the Steam Deck provides the unique advantage of playing a wide variety of PC titles in a portable format. While its graphics capabilities may not rival high-end desktop gaming rigs, the trade-off for on-the-go convenience is well worth considering.

The Steam Deck’s impressive performance is powered by its custom-designed GPU from AMD. This GPU was launched on February 25th, 2022, and is built on the 7 nm process, using the Van Gogh graphics processor. With a die area of 163 mm² and 2,400 million transistors, this processor plays a significant role in delivering a high-quality gaming experience, supporting DirectX 12.

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