Steam Deck GPU Equivalent: Which Video Card Does It Compare To?
If you are interested in purchasing a Steam bridge, you probably want to know its power. The problem is, it’s not easy to compare the Steam Deck to other hardware. Valve’s handheld console is based on an AMD APU, combining central processing and graphics in one unit. This makes comparisons to traditional desktop graphics cards difficult at best. Nonetheless, we can estimate a Steam Deck GPU equivalent to give you an idea of PC video cards offering comparable performance.
What is a Steam Deck GPU Equivalent Video Card?
The Steam Deck GPU is based on hardware that is difficult to compare to regular PC video cards. However, the maximum GPU throughput of around 1.6 teraflops makes it roughly equivalent in power to an Nvidia GTX 1050 or GTX 950.
Unfortunately, that kind of comparison doesn’t tell the whole story. That’s because Valve based the Steam Deck around a modern AMD APU, or accelerated processing unit. These are chips that contain both a processor and a GPU, meaning the Steam Deck GPU is part of a larger chip instead of being a discrete GPU. To better understand performance, we need to understand what makes the Steam Deck APU different from the usual type of desktop PC hardware.
Understanding Steam Deck Specifications and Performance
Here’s a look at the basic specs shared by all Steam Deck models:
- Processor: Zen 2 4c / 8t, 2.4-3.5 GHz (up to 448 GFlops FP32)
- GPU: 8 CU RDNA 2, 1.0-1.6 GHz (up to 1.6 TFlops FP32)
- RAM: 16 GB LPDDR5 (5500 MT / s four 32-bit channels)
While its GPU specs might look underwhelming on paper, the overall performance of the Steam Deck will be greatly improved by its fast memory. The hardware includes 16 GB of four-channel LPDDR5 RAM, the latest version of Low Power Double Data Rate memory. Not only is this memory optimized for mobile hardware, its four channels provide an enormous amount of bandwidth to the APU.
Of course, this makes comparisons even more difficult, as desktop video cards typically run on a separate pool of GDDR memory. The Steam Deck does not work that way. Instead, its GPU extracts memory from the shared pool as needed.
To make matters even more complicated, the Steam Deck GPU is based on a much more power efficient architecture than other comparable video cards in its performance class. Even though the specs may seem lower than expected, its performance relative to the power consumed will actually be quite high. This is why cards like the GeForce GTX 1660 may offer better performance than the GTX 1060 despite having roughly similar clock speeds and overall power consumption.
There are several reasons why it is difficult to name a specific Steam Deck GPU equivalent. Its APU does not work the same as a desktop video card. Suffice to say that it’s roughly equivalent to an Nvidia GTX 1050. More precisely, it’s this: if your PC has a graphics card from 2018 or later, you probably already have access to more graphics power than Steam. Deck cannot provide any.