Opinion

Galaxy Gaming: Why would I want a Steam Deck over a Samsung flagship?

Given all the recent buzz about the Steam Deck, I thought I’d share some of my recent experiences with gaming on the go using Samsung hardware. Not because an Android smartphone or tablet can compare to a fully portable PC with dedicated hardware input, mind you. But due to the fact that most people aren’t going to shell out north of $400 for an emulation machine. And emulation seems to be a large part of the Steam Deck’s appeal, based on the discussions currently ongoing on social media.

Your mileage may obviously vary, but unless you’re interested in emulating the seventh generation of consoles — the PS3, X360, and the iconic Wii — chances are that your Galaxy device already has you covered. In fact, that’s probably putting it mildly.

Let’s just take a moment for an obligatory disclaimer before we go any further: emulating anything other than your own physical media is illegal in pretty much every part of the world. But, say, dumping an old PSP UMD with an accompanying BIOS is both trivial and very much within your rights as a consumer. Which is what I’ve been doing quite a lot as of late, faced with the long-awaited demise of my old PSP.

So, no, we aren’t condoning piracy here, and save for some obscure collector’s items, used copies of ancient games are a dime a dozen online. All you have to to is pick them up, dump their contents together with your target console’s BIOS to your smartphone or tablet’s memory (card), and watch a whole new world open up before you. All for the low, low price of whatever you paid for your current Galaxy device. Assuming you’re working with something released within the last couple of years that’s above the entry-level range.

What emulation? This is real greatness

To illustrate, I’m still using the European variant of the Galaxy Note 10. The Exynos 9825 powering it is hardly a chump, but emulation-wise, it’s a clear step below the Snapdragon 855 fueling its international variant. Qualcomm’s graphics prowess, at least in that particular year, was unmatched, especially in roundabout, virtualization-heavy applications like PPSSPP. I cannot recommend PPSSPP highly enough if you’re interested in PSP emulation. Open source software that works like pure magic. Plus, it’s free, though you should really consider supporting the dev team by going for the token Gold version if you end up liking it as much as I did.

Anyway, a combination of PPSSPP, a $15 controller clip, and my trusty Xbox Wireless Controller transformed the Galaxy Note 10 into the most amazing source of portable entertainment I’ve owned since picking up the Nintendo Switch with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild back in 2017. In that four year’s span, Nintendo hasn’t really put out that many more titles that interested me, the Switch Online subscription remains a joke, and the Steam Deck is arguably the most compelling portable gaming device to launch since the Switch itself.

But Samsung’s smartphones? I always have one of those on me, and lately, I’ve even started finding space to fit the said clip-controller combo. It’s not that I don’t want a Steam Deck eventually, assuming they don’t end up being hot trash. It’s just that my current backlog is so massive that I see no point in getting one anytime soon. E.g., I’ve barely found enough time for a long-awaited replay of the Persona 3: Portable on my Galaxy Note 10 this year. That one took 85 hours, and that’s with quite liberal use of fast-forwarding, a luxury that was unavailable on the original hardware.

So, I guess the moral of this week’s story is that if you’re tempted by the prospect of a Steam Deck and emulation is a large part of its appeal to you personally, try investing in that clip-and-gamepad combo mentioned above. Or any other, for that matter, though I’m afraid there aren’t that many quality options to choose from.

Have you ever tried some “hardcore” gaming on your Galaxy device? What about emulation? Would you like us to make a guide for how to get started with either? Let us know in the comments!

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