Steam Deck OLED review: Valve’s refreshed handheld made me a…

A Steam Deck OLED rests on a table.

Steam Deck OLED

MSRP $550.00

“If you weren’t impressed by Valve’s first draft, Steam Deck OLED will turn you into a convert.”


  • the same great portable pc

  • significantly improved performance

  • better battery

  • coolers, quiet fans

  • fast download speed


  • Linux still presents obstacles

Okay, consider me a proselytizer.

Ever since the Steam Deck was an incredible rumor, I’ve viewed Valve’s experimental handheld with great skepticism. The idea of ​​a device that could play my PC games on the go seemed incredible on paper, but I was left wondering if the idea could live up to those aspirations. When the device finally dropped in February 2022, a lot of my concerns were initially justified. A huge form factor, poor battery, and inconsistent game compatibility made the device feel like a rough draft of a great idea. And yet, with each passing day I slowly discovered that I couldn’t imagine traveling without it.

Perhaps sensing that the device is on the cusp of greatness, Valve made a big surprise last week when it revealed the new Steam Deck OLED. It’s not an entirely new console – the design is almost exactly the same – but it’s the small refresh needed to keep the Steam deck ahead of its growing list of competitors. With a significantly better screen, better battery, and small changes that go a long way, Steam Deck’s second draft makes it clear that Valve’s portable PC is still king of the hill.

Design and performance

In terms of form factor, virtually nothing has changed with the new Steam Deck models. It’s the same top-heavy design that looks and feels huge at first glance, but becomes more natural after a while. Thankfully, it’s actually a bit lighter, losing around 30 grams. It’s a small change, but I can definitely feel the difference – especially using a huge device like the Legion Go. Otherwise, the only change is that it now has a red power button and green power light. If you need a refresher on some of its basics, check out my original review of the 2022 model (see link above), which has been updated to reflect software and game compatibility improvements made over the past two years.

Shiny new OLED screen solves my biggest problem with the Steam Deck

The main difference – and it is a major difference – is the display. The new screen is about .4 inches larger than the base Steam Deck, extending into the bezel without changing the size of the system. It’s not as noticeable an increase as the Nintendo Switch OLED, but I’ll never complain about getting a little more space on a portable screen.

More importantly, the device now uses an OLED display instead of the original model’s washed-out LCD screen. This is a significant upgrade that was necessary to keep the system competitive. Competitors like the Ayaneo 2S and Legion Go used that core weakness to attack Valve with crystal clear displays, making the Steam Deck look cheap by comparison. When I got my Legion Go earlier this month I was ready to pack up my old Steam deck, but the shiny new OLED screen solved my biggest problem with the device.

The Steam Deck and Steam Deck OLED are sitting next to each other.
Steam Deck LCD (top) and Steam Deck OLED Giovanni Colantonio/

You might not notice the difference at a glance, but it becomes very apparent when you put the old and new screens side by side. My base Steam deck looks almost as if it has a white veil draped over it, softening its visuals. With the newer models this veil has been removed entirely, allowing games to be displayed with more intense contrast and brighter colors. colorful world of baldur’s gate 3 Here comes life, while diablo 4 Its deep darkness can be seen in pitch black caves.

That screen also comes with a welcome refresh rate increase. This is a 90Hz display, which allows games to easily push 60 frame-per-second (FPS) times when possible. I was able to reach those heights in the smaller indies the wreck, indicating that the machine is fully capable of making deliveries. For dedicated Steam Deck owners who use their deck religiously, that upgrade alone makes it worth it.

Power and battery changes

Casual Steam Deck owners may not notice some of the device’s minor changes, but they add up to make the refresh worthwhile. For one, the OLED model features a slightly modified AMD chip with a 6-nanometer process node compared to the base model’s 7. The layman’s version of that specification is that the chip is not more powerful, but rather more efficient in its use of its power. You may only get a few extra frames out of any given game, but this helps ensure that those who used to struggle to consistently reach the 60 FPS mark now have a better shot at stability.

A chart comparing Steam Deck LCD and OLED benchmarks.
Jacob Roach/

Take horizon zero dawn, For example. While it topped out at 56 fps on the LCD model, it now drops to a steady 60 fps on the OLED. Our tests yielded even harsher results Dying Light 2: Stay Human, which saw a full six frame performance increase. Even small games that cross the 60 FPS mark see noticeable improvements. strange brigade That goes from 79 fps to 84 fps, which is a change you’ll actually be able to take advantage of on a 90Hz OLED display.

A chart comparing the Steam Deck OLED and ROG Ele benchmarks.
Image used with permission of the copyright holder

These results aren’t a huge change, but they do bring the Steam Deck in line with rivals like the Asus ROG Ele. Still a few more frames taken out in games like Ellie ReturnBut the Steam Deck OLED lagged by only three to five frames in our tests. horizon zero dawnOn the other hand, it now performs the same on OLED as it does on Ally. With Steam Deck’s refreshed pricing model, extra power is no longer a checkmate for pricier options.

Another major change has come in the change in the battery of the system. Bad battery was one of the biggest issues with Steam Deck at launch with new games like alden ring Struggling to last an hour without any significant changes. Valve has done a great job since day one of squeezing more juice out of the battery with software updates, but the OLED model is a more drastic hardware update.

People who mostly use the system to play 2D games like dead cells Highest returns will be seen.

30 minute session with escape from vampires Running at 90 fps only consumes a little more than 5% of my battery. I can get six to seven hours of time in that game, which is enough for an entire cross-country flight. The more detailed the game, the less you’ll notice the change. the wreckA 3D narrative indie that drains the battery in about four hours diablo 4 Kills it in about two. Granted, this is all just using the out-of-the-box settings, so there’s plenty of room to squeeze more out of the game. People who mostly use the system to play 2D games like dead cells Highest returns will be seen.

All of these changes go hand in hand with the improved thermals of the OLED model, leading to some additional improvements that will be noticeable to those who use their Steam deck every day. It doesn’t get as hot, the fan is quite quiet, and it doesn’t smell so bad. Yes, I smelled the smoke coming out of the top vents of both systems to test it and can confirm that OLEDs do not smell like burning plastic. A weird test, but it sure beats licking the Switch cartridge.

other extras

There are some other additional features loaded in, although they are more tailored for specific players. Those who like to tinker with their systems will find that it’s easy to open, but a little harder to tool due to a surprising ribbon cable change. I think 99% of Steam deck owners will never notice this; This is a passion thing for techies like us. More useful is the fact that the system now supports Wi-Fi 6E. If you are able to take advantage of this, you will enjoy some noticeably improved download speeds. It took me less than an hour to download this huge baldur’s gate 3While senior computing staff writer Jacob Roach installed 45 games on himself in eight hours.

The Steam Deck OLED sits on top of the Steam Deck.
Giovanni Colantonio/

As an added bonus, the OLED model comes with a slightly redesigned carrying case that includes a Velcro strap at the top of the external zipper. This is great for people like me who often pop it in the case and quickly zip it up and throw it in my messenger bag. The Velcro strap gives me a pretty quick way to secure it in those moments, though I wouldn’t line up for a preorder just for that feature. The padding inside the case can also be completely removed to make it smaller, which gives it some welcome flexibility.

Here’s one change that’s probably more significant than any of the changes I’ve mentioned so far: It’s cheaper than the old version. While the LCD model still has the lowest barrier to entry with the $400 256GB version, the OLED version cuts the price of the handheld. The 512GB version is priced at $550, while the 1TB version is priced at $650. Previously, you were paying $650 for the 512GB LCD model, so the price has dropped by $100. And if you want more storage, you can double it for the same price as the older high-end version. Bearing in mind that more powerful rivals like the Asus ROG Ele weren’t that far off from the Steam Deck’s older high-end models, the new pricing structure is important in ensuring that the Steam Deck still offers the best balance of price, storage and power. Is. ,

The Steam Deck OLED is finally the PC gaming companion I always hoped it would one day.

The final question is more existential: does it make sense to buy a Steam Deck right now? We’ve already seen competition rapidly increasing in the portable PC arena, with devices like the Ayaneo 2S quickly outpacing Valve in power and performance. Given that the demand for new big budget games is increasing, it is becoming increasingly difficult to run new releases e.g. alan wake 2 on the machine with each passing year. Even if Valve isn’t immediately planning Steam Deck 2 for next year, I have to imagine that no one is too far behind. I wouldn’t blame you for waiting.

That said, it feels like the perfect time to move on. Along with significant changes to the display and battery, the OLED model fixes two of the launch edition’s most significant issues. Your comfort will vary and its complex Linux browser isn’t for everyone, but if you think the grass is greener on the other side try using a Windows device like the Legion Go. Even without the best power, the Steam Deck holds up as it’s still the most convenient handheld PC on the market. Loading Steam games on the go has never been easier and doing so now feels even better.

After years of doubt, Steam Deck OLED It’s finally the PC gaming companion I always hoped there would be one day. And it took less than two years to get there.

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