Valve shocked everyone with the announcement of the Steam Deck OLED. It carries similar guts as the original model, but more storage and an enhanced screen promise a more immersive handheld gaming experience. After spending some time with the device for our Steam Deck OLED review, it’s clear this is much more than a case of just adding a nicer display.
The Steam Deck OLED fixes many of the issues present with the original model, all while enhancing the experience of the original with an OLED display. This isn’t the Steam Deck 2, but it doesn’t need to be. The improvements, combined with the fact that Valve didn’t raise prices, means the Steam Deck OLED is the go-to model moving forward.
The original Steam Deck with an LCD display launched in February 2022, with a price between $400 and $650, depending on whether you wanted extra storage, a scratch-resistant screen, and some unique digital rewards. There were originally three options — 64GB, 256GB, or 512GB of storage — but Valve will only sell the 256GB model moving forward.
At the time of writing, the 64GB and 512GB models are still available, but Valve says it will only sell them while supplies last. All three of the original models have new, lower prices now that the Steam Deck OLED is available. You’ll spend $350, $400, or $450 for the 64GB, 256GB, or $512GB models, respectively.
The Steam Deck OLED launched on November 16, and unlike the previous version, it didn’t sell out immediately. Valve has two models available. There’s a 512GB model for $550 and a 1TB model for $650. The 1TB model also comes with an etched glass display that’s resistant to glare.
On top of the two models, Valve has a limited-edition version of the 1TB model with a translucent shell available for $680. This is still available at the time of writing, but it will eventually sell out.
There’s not really a bad choice here in terms of pricing. If you want a deal, the best model to buy right now is the $450 LCD version with 512GB of storage. That’s the best bang for your buck. Still, the OLED models aren’t too expensive. Valve actually kept pricing the same compared to the original prices on the LCD models, all while boosting storage space.
|Steam Deck LCD||Steam Deck OLED||Steam Deck OLED|
|CPU||AMD Zen 2 CPU 4c/8t 7nm process||AMD Zen 2 CPU 4c/8t 6nm process||AMD Zen 2 CPU 4c/8t 6nm process|
|Graphics||AMD APU RDNA 2 8c 7nm process||AMD APU RDNA 2 8c 6nm process||AMD APU RDNA 2 8c 6nm process|
|RAM||16GB LPDDR5 5500MHz||16GB LPDDR5 6400MHz||16GB LPDDR5 6400MHz|
|Storage||256GB SSD||512GB SSD||1TB SSD|
|Display||7-inch LCD, 1280×800||7.4-inch HDR OLED||7.4-inch HDR OLED|
|Connections||Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 5.0||Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3||Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3|
|Battery||40 Whr, 2-8 hours||50 Whr, 3-12 hours||50 Whr, 3-12 hours|
|Weight||1.47 pounds||1.41 pounds||1.41 pounds|
On the surface, the Steam Deck OLED sounds like a Switch OLED-style upgrade with new display technology, but that’s not the case at all. The Steam Deck OLED is much more of a revision than its naming scheme might let on. Our initial teardown of the Steam Deck OLED revealed that Valve touched nearly every aspect of the device. This is a refresh, but it’s a big one.
There’s faster memory, support for next-generation wireless technologies like Wi-Fi 6E, and Bluetooth 5.3. The weight is down a little too, which is always welcome in a portable gaming machine.
One of the biggest changes, though, is in battery life. With a bigger battery and more efficient components, Valve has managed to increase overall battery life by up to 50%. It’s now claiming that in ideal circumstances, the Steam Deck can run for up to 12 hours, which is way beyond what you’d expect.
A big part of that is the redesigned APU. The Steam Deck OLED uses the same APU as the original, but it’s built on a 6nm node. That allows it to be much more efficient than the original model, which, coupled with a larger battery, leads to big improvements in battery life. It also allows the Steam Deck OLED to run a bit faster, which we’ll dig into shortly.
The standout feature of the Steam Deck OLED is, of course, the OLED screen. Colors look stunning, and that’s due in no small part to the fact that the OLED has a slightly larger screen than the original model. It also gets much brighter, with support for HDR and a peak brightness that’s close to 1,000 nits. Those are huge specs for a handheld, making the original screen look like a toy by comparison.
The display is also 90Hz, rather than 60Hz like on the original model, which should make anything you play on it look much smoother if you can run games at a high enough frame rate to notice it. This is arguably the bigger change for gaming, as gamers are big fans of high refresh rates, and with good reason. In titles like Dead Cells where you can take advantage of the higher refresh rate, the Steam Deck OLED is a game-changer.
The original screen is passable, but just barely. It’s a 60Hz LCD display that’s happy cracking 300 nits of brightness, and it throws out all hopes of handling HDR content. It’s not offensive, but gamers looking for the most immersive experience should choose the OLED model.
One unexpected benefit of the Steam Deck OLED is performance. It’s not a lot faster than the original model, but it’s still faster. You’re looking at a few frames in some games, or put another way, a performance boost in the low single digits. That jump, combined with the 90Hz screen, can still make a ton of difference.
Across our suite of games, the Steam Deck OLED notched the largest increase in Dying Light 2, though it managed a lead of a few frames in nearly all the titles we tested. One important game to call out here is Horizon Zero Dawn. With the Steam Deck LCD, you were struggling to hit 60 frames per second (fps), but the Steam Deck OLED achieves that mark.
That’s largely been our experience with the Steam Deck OLED. It may only offer a few extra frames, but those frames really matter. A good example is Elden Ring. This game runs fine on the Steam Deck LCD, but it will often drop below 30 fps when you’re out in the open world. That’s not the case on the Steam Deck OLED, where it often runs above 30 fps. The biggest boost here is consistency, with the extra power of the Steam Deck OLED pushing games over the edge.
The performance jump also gets the Steam Deck OLED much closer to competitive handhelds like the ROG Ally with the Z1 Extreme. When matching the resolution, you can see the Steam Deck OLED now gets within spitting distance of the ROG Ally, while the LCD version struggled to keep up.
The other big benefit for the Steam Deck OLED is the 90Hz display. Take a game like Strange Brigade as an example. It can run at close to 80 fps on the Steam Deck LCD, but you won’t actually notice that extra smoothness. In these less-demanding games, the Steam Deck OLED provides a much better experience by allowing you to actually see all of the frames that are being rendered.
Even if the Steam Deck OLED provided identical performance, it would be the winner here. The fact that it’s faster is just the cherry on top.
The Steam Deck OLED comes with a bigger battery than the original model, which combined with a more efficient APU, allows it to achieve much higher battery life. We need to put those battery life improvements in context, though.
They aren’t consistent across games, so the battery improvements range from an extra 30 minutes to several extra hours depending on what game you’re playing. In a demanding game like Diablo 4, you’ll be lucky to get 90 minutes out of the Steam Deck LCD. On the Steam Deck OLED, you’ll comfortably cross the two-hour mark before reaching for your charger.
The big improvements come in less demanding games. With the Steam Deck LCD, there’s a weird upper limit on battery life. Even in games like Dead Cells or Vampire Survivors, you won’t get more than five-and-a-half or six hours. The Steam Deck OLED massively improves here, easily offering between eight and nine hours of battery life in these less demanding games.
It was one of the first things we noticed with the Steam Deck OLED. In a run of Dead Cells, the OLED model drained about 5% of its battery in 30 minutes. On the original, you would at least drop 10% in that same time.
It’s easy to write off the Steam Deck OLED as just a Steam Deck with a nicer screen, but it’s so much more. Improvements in performance and battery life go a huge way toward making the device feel better to use, and that’s backed up by one of the best displays you can find on a handheld.
Valve is still selling the Steam Deck LCD, but it’s best saving your pennies for the OLED model if you want the superior experience.
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