The Steam Deck is Awesome, But Not as a Main Device
A while back, I decided to de-desktop my office in favor of more portable technology. Although desktops offer better performance, especially per dollar, than laptops, they suck up a lot of electricity, and I’m forced to be tethered to my desk. So, I decided to try living with a few devices: an M1 iPad Air and a Steam Deck as my PCs for light and heavy work, respectively, so that I can work anywhere. Here’s why, with my use case, I decided to return my Steam Deck.
- Form Factor
This should’ve been a no-brainer for me to figure out, but it wasn’t. The Steam Deck is awesome for gaming handheld, but also at a desk or with a TV using the dock. However, when I want to use a desktop environment for getting stuff done, I have to either remote into the Deck or be at my desk. I had hoped the screen wouldn’t be too small so I could connect a keyboard and mouse and use it as a makeshift laptop. That was out of the question as the screen is great for games, but too small for desktop work. And I was even looking into something like a Nexdock to connect to the Deck before I realized how insane that was.
- Desktop Environment
Even if I could live with working at my desk, the desktop experience wasn’t my favorite. While SteamOS is a very stable operating system, I just don’t care for KDE. On paper, it’s perfect as it mixes a Windows experience with some nice customizations, but in practice it just felt like it wasn’t 100% polished. I much prefer using Gnome. Beyond that, for getting work done, it has an office suite, web browser, and a bunch of great software, but one big issue for me was the lack of printer support. Now I know you’re reading that and angrily asking why anyone would want to print using a gaming device. A fair point, as the Deck isn’t marketed as a computer. However, with a desktop environment consumers are encouraged to mess around with, I just don’t see why they would omit this. This would all be fine enough to ignore if my other device could pick up the slack, which it couldn’t.
This has nothing to do with the Steam Deck, but I hoped that the shortcomings of the Deck could be picked up by the iPad. And iPadOS is intentionally not there at all. Just look at Samsung DeX, Samsung’s desktop environment for its Android tablets. It’s been around for years and gives power users the choice to either stick with a full-screen tablet interface or the more traditional computing experience of windowed apps with a tray at the bottom for opening and switching apps, as well as controlling the device. Just this year, Apple unveiled Stage Manager; their answer to the rising demand for a more productive iPad interface and why they believe it’s better than just porting over MacOS. And it’s just not there. iPadOS doesn’t have a traditional file system to work with multiple files, and it takes more energy to learn the iPad way of doing things compared to the way normal computers work. Especially when the mobile apps for Google Docs and Office are just so painfully behind the web versions, and especially the desktop Office.
While that last part isn’t the Steam Deck’s fault, it just reinforces that the Steam Deck cannot be a main computer; something that at no point Valve even claims in their marketing. If you’re someone like me who wants to use more efficient computing in terms of space and electricity, the Deck is a good secondary device if gaming is a top priority, which for me it isn’t. However, if you want something to replace a desktop to do more than just gaming, then get a laptop. I replaced the Steam Deck with a Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3, a budget gaming laptop with a 3050 Ti. It isn’t the most powerful like the Deck, but for my use case it works great and cost the same as my 256GB Steam Deck with Black Friday pricing. Again, these aren’t the same devices in any way, but for my use case, it just made more sense to go back to a more traditional computer. Especially with Steam Link and Parsec offering low latency remote sessions without the need to pay for a GeForce Now subscription for when I want a handheld experience.
The Steam Deck is awesome, and I love that it exists. It just needs to be in the home of someone who will exclusively use it to play games.