Over a year after first announcing its first handheld gaming PC, Valve has revealed the Steam Deck OLED – a new iteration with an improved display, better audio, and greater battery life, to name a few of the big changes.
While it is not the Steam Deck 2 everyone has been hoping for, plenty of significant changes warrant this upgrade one year into the handheld’s lifespan. To see how the Steam Deck OLED stacks up with the competition, we are going to take a look at the specs and features and go over some standout differences between the Steam Deck OLED, the launch model, and the Nintendo Switch OLED:
Display and Resolution
Let’s get the big one out of the way: Steam Deck OLED ditches the LCD on the original model in favor of an OLED display. Much like the Switch LCD vs the Switch OLED, these displays have different methods to light up and display an image. While Steam Deck OLED offers no bump in performance over the LCD model, the display will provide an improved image quality, delivering deeper blacks, better contrast, and increased brightness.
The Steam Deck OLED and Nintendo Switch OLED on paper sound like two sides of a similar coin, but the key difference between these two devices (aside from the fact one is a hybrid game console and the other is a handheld PC) is that the updated The Steam Deck model features a High Dynamic Range (HDR) OLED display. Simply put, the HDR OLED display gives a more dynamic picture by offering a more comprehensive range of colors and contrasts found in a standard OLED display; think of HDR OLED as making the image quality just a bit shinier and brighter than what you usually expect from an OLED display.
As you can see from the infographic above, the Steam Deck OLED also offers a higher refresh rate than the Steam Deck LCD and Switch OLED – 90Hz as opposed to the 60Hz on the other two devices. This means Steam Deck OLED can display more frames on the display than its predecessor.
Like its predecessor, the Steam Deck OLED will offer multiple storage configurations. Steam Deck OLED is available in 512GB or 1TB configurations, both of which are Non-Volatile Memory Express [NVMe] SSDs. Valve is ditching the 64GB and 512GB LCD models, with the 256GB LCD model remaining and serving as the new entry-level SKU thanks to a price cut.
One common thing all three models share is the MicroSD card slots available across all three devices, allowing users to add additional storage to their devices. While both Steam Deck models allow for users who are bold enough to pry open the device and replace the internal SSD storage, Steam Deck OLED is a bit more repair-friendly, making it easier for those who want to put their money towards buying a 2TB or higher SSD to add in themselves.
Size and Weight
While the Steam Deck OLED has a slightly larger display than the LCD model, the overall dimensions remain the same. The slightly larger screen is thanks to the smaller bezel (the black frame around the screen). Looking at a comparison of the Steam Deck OLED and Switch OLED, the bezels do look similar on both.
Despite Steam Deck OLED keeping the same dimensions as its predecessor, it is lighter than the LCD model. Valve notes that Steam Deck OLED is 5% lighter than the original mode, putting the weight at 1.41lbs. Yet, the Steam Deck OLED is still heavier than the Nintendo Switch OLED model, which weighs 0.93 pounds when you attach Joy-Cons to the display. With some Steam Deck owners reporting hand fatigueit will be interesting to see how much this 5% difference in weight will make.
Steam Deck OLED Model Reveal Images
Battery performance is undoubtedly one of the biggest factors consumers should consider when buying a new handheld. At launch, the Steam Deck’s battery was often criticized, with the performance varying depending on a few factors, most notably what game you were running. A blockbuster game like God of War, for example, would drain the battery much faster than Stardew Valley.
Valve has improved the battery in the Steam Deck OLED, as OLED displays have a lower power consumption than an LCD. Valve also swapped the 40Whr battery with a slightly larger 50Whr battery, with Steam Deck OLED promising a 30-50% longer battery life, with around 3-12 hours of play depending on a few factors, mainly the game you are running on the device .
As mentioned previously, Steam Deck OLED remains mostly unchanged from its predecessor; the RAM on the newer model has slightly faster megatransfers per second (MT/s), But if you were expecting Valve to switch to AMD’s Zen 3 and/or RDNA 3 architectures, you are going to be disappointed.
But there is one noteworthy thing to point out with the internal component increase beyond what was previously mentioned, such as the display: Steam Deck OLED has a Wi-Fi 6E module with access to 6Ghz spectrum (plus 2.4 and 5Ghz). Valve says the upgraded Wi-Fi chip will allow for faster downloads, about 2-3 times faster, depending on your router and internet connectivity.
While the Nintendo Switch OLED remains a distant third in this handheld arms race, sporting the aging Nvidia Tegra X1 mobile chipset. While there have been rumors that Nintendo is working on a more powerful Switch for the last few years, the company has yet to make any firm announcements on such a device. But with the device beginning to show its age as it approaches the eighth year in its lifespan, some games are noticeably performing terribly, drastically scaling back the resolution to run properly or resorting to cloud versions to make a game playable on Switch at all (Pokemon Scarlet and Violet are particularly rough).
For those who want a premium handheld PC, Steam Deck OLED will be available starting November 16. For more information on the Steam Deck OLED model, check out our interview with the developers, where they explain why the OLED model is the definitive version of the handheld. Or check out our review if you want to read more about our thoughts on Steam Deck OLED.
Taylor is a Reporter at IGN. You can follow her on Twitter @TayNixter.