Released earlier in 2022, Valve’s Steam Deck has quickly risen to become one of the most popular modern handheld gaming systems – and it’s no surprise why. The portable console took a few pointers from the Nintendo Switch, emulating the handheld’s hybrid gaming design, while also adding some unique features into the mix, such as trackpads.
In our review of the Steam Deck we talked about the cost of entry, where we concluded that Valve isn’t too far off from the Switch in terms of its price tag either – starting at $400, just $50 more than the Switch OLED. But, as with every other handheld gadget out there, you might want to invest in to additional accessories to make the best out of it, with one of them being a good quality Steam Deck screen protector, which brings us to our today’s list of best options. But before we move on to our recommendations, let’s answer the burning question that some of you might have.
Does the Steam Deck Need a Screen Protector?
Short answer: yes, a screen protector is recommended. Scratches are very common to encounter, particularly with devices that have larger screens, so it’s important to have some protection in place to avoid damage over time. Also, Valve’s Steam Deck is by no means an inexpensive device, so it makes sense to take measures in order to prevent damage, not only for your own enjoyment, but also for a higher resell value later on.
The most similar device on the market –the Nintendo Switch– reportedly had some cases of users getting their devices scratched by the dock itself, especially the launch edition, and since the Steam Deck also has a similar dock mechanic, it’s unknown whether Valve’s dock may also cause screen damage if players use it incorrectly; to be safe, it might still be smart to install a screen protector on the day you purchase it, if only to prevent scratches due to docking the system.
How Did We Pick the Best Screen Protector for the Steam Deck?
There were various factors that we had to consider when choosing the best screen protector for the Steam Deck, including the type of material, technology behind the manufacturing process, mineral hardness, coating, ease of use, price, and availability – let’s break all of these down in more detail:
- Material Type. The material behind is a contributing factor when making your purchase, with the current selection of materials being PET plastic, TPU plastic and tempered glass. In short, PET plastic screen protectors are made of polyester film with a matte coating, which has the benefits of anti-scratch protection and protrudes less than most tempered glass screen protectors, but they offer less impact protection. TPU plastic protectors are more flexible and rubbery than PET plastic models, offering better impact protection; however, it is more difficult to apply to screens and doesn’t have as natural of a feel as others. Tempered glass is the most well-known and widely used type of material, as it offers the highest level of scratch and impact protection, is usually anti-glare or glare reducing, and has the same look and feel as your device’s screen thanks to the presence of oleophobic coating on most protectors made of tempered glass.
- Mineral Hardness. Gadgets usually come with screens that are around 5 to 6 on Moh’s scale so that objects like knives, coins, and keys can’t scratch them. This is because they’re made of iron, copper, and steel, which cannot scratch glass screen protectors with 6.5H hardness or higher. But our goal in this guide is to get the highest possible hardness, with 9H being our priority, at least when it comes to protectors made of tempered glass. PET and TPU protectors usually come with 4H mineral hardness.
- Oleophobic (oil-repellent) Coating. The secret sauce found on smartphone and tablet screens that keeps them clean, smooth, and fingerprint-resistant. A tempered glass protector has to come with oleophobic coating for us to even consider recommending it. Without it, each and every touch leaves fingerprint marks, and you also don’t have that silky smoothness when swiping the screen with your fingers. Unfortunately, it looks like oleophobic coating isn’t a thing among plastic protectors, so we didn’t make it a mandatory feature for our plastic pick.
- Installation Process. Some models are easier to install than others, so that was another factor that weighed into our decision when picking our favorite models. For instance, TPU plastic protectors are a bit more difficult to apply onto screens and don’t feel as “natural,” making them harder to recommend over other types of screen protectors. Some high-end tempered glass protectors do come with an installation kit that greatly facilitates the installation process. The presence of an installation kit was a must for our best overall pick.
- The Price. The cost also played a role in our decision as well. While we don’t recommend cheaping out and simply buying the cheapest screen protector that’s available, you should avoid overpaying as well – just because one model offers great protection, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t alternatives with the same exact specs.
- Availability. Finally, availability is another important factor that we considered when creating this list – if an item isn’t in stock or widely available, we’ll likely won’t recommend it.
With those six points in mind, let’s jump over to the Spigen, which scored the highest on our list of best Steam Deck screen protectors.
The Best Tempered Glass Steam Deck Screen Protector: Spigen
Despite its German-sounding name, Spigen is a South Korean brand headquartered in the USA that makes high-end screen protectors and cases for smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and other devices, including the Steam Deck. The company always strives for the best quality, and their products sell at a premium. This is the case with the Spigen screen protector for Steam Deck. While it costs $15.99 for a one-pack, you’re not only getting a superb screen protector made of tempered glass with 9H hardness and oleophobic coating that fits perfectly onto the Deck’s screen, but you’re also getting an installation kit that’s super simple to use, making the installation procedure a breeze that won’t take more than a minute of your time.
The Best Plastic Screen Protector for the Steam Deck: Mr.Shield
Now, we want to point out that plastic screen protectors for the Steam Deck aren’t nearly as good as tempered glass ones. Plastic protectors are easier to scratch, harder to install, and don’t come with oleophobic coating making their surface easy to smudge and not as smooth as a surface treated with oleophobic coating. If you still want a plastic protector over a glass one, check out the Mr.Shield Screen Protector made of PET plastic. It’s made of high-quality Japanese PET film and features 4H hardness. The protector is transparent and without blemishes, but installing it without leaving tiny bubbles of air between it and the screen will be an exercise in patience. The price of $6.95 for a three-pack isn’t that bad, but for about 50 cents more you can get our next pick that’s superior to this one in all regards.
The Cheap Steam Deck Screen Protector: Benazcap
While the Benazcap Steam Deck screen protector costs only $7.49 for a pack of two, it isn’t a low-quality solution for protecting your Steam Deck’s screen. It’s made of the same material as the Spigen screen protector, features oleophobic coating, 9H hardness, and is a perfect fit for your Deck’s screen. Best of all, you can get it for about $5.50 on sale, which is an excellent price for a pack of two protectors. On the flip side, you aren’t getting an installation kit, meaning installing the Benazcap protector will be harder and more time-consuming than installing the Spigen one. But we’re ready to accept those shortcomings for a price that’s half of what Spigen asks for a single protector.
Are Matte and Anti-glare Options the Same Thing?
Yes, matte and anti-glare screen protectors for the Steam Deck are the same thing. The term “anti-glare” is typically used interchangeably or in combination with “matte” as they both essentially refer to the same thing. These types of screen protectors are very useful for gaming on the go with a handheld system, as it can sometimes be a bit difficult to see when playing in brightly lit areas, so matte screen protectors makes it easier to see, mainly because they diffuse light instead of reflecting it, which reduces the total glare from bright lights.
What to Expect from Future Steam Deck Screen Protectors?
With the Steam Deck still being a relatively niche product, some manufacturers of excellent screen protectors are still slacking off, so the first thing that will probably change is the amount of screen protector brands you will be able to choose from in the near future. One of the brands that we’re looking forward to introducing their Steam Deck screen protector is Gorilla® Glass, a high class screen protector created through the companies Corning technology. .
After that we have new technologies, with Nanoglass being the most interesting one. The company behind it claims that the screen protector made out of that technology will be more powerful, protective, and higher quality than current models on the market. Although they don’t promise a dedicated Steam Deck version, it’s just a question of time when it will become available.
What Else Would We Recommend for the Steam Deck?
Besides this Steam Deck screen protector guide, we also covered several more articles with various tips and tricks for new owners – for instance, if you purchased the base model Steam Deck and want to upgrade your console’s storage capacity, then take a look at our best SD Card for Steam Deck guide, where we offer the best options for upgrading your system’s storage.
If you prefer SSDs over SD cards and don’t mind having an external SSD strapped to the back of your Deck, check our guide for the best Steam Deck SSD.
And if you’re looking into docks, we have the review of Valve’s official one here: Steam Deck Dock Review.