Steam Deck OLED: Fair review

Valve might have made the greatest console update ever with the addition of the new Steam Deck OLED.

Steam Deck

It eliminates all of my major concerns about Valve’s initial portable gaming PC and then some. It is only $20 more expensive than the model from last year with half the capacity, starting at $549 for 512GB of storage. Alternatively, you can purchase 1TB for the same $649 as the 512GB model from last year.

Don’t let the title deceive you, though; the new Steam Deck offers more than just an upgraded screen and additional storage, unlike Nintendo’s Switch OLED. A new battery, chip, cooling system, 90Hz refresh rate, and well over a dozen additional significant improvements are included. The majority of them make the Steam Deck OLED far superior to the original. I wouldn’t get an original Steam Deck anymore because it’s so much superior.

This line, which I took verbatim from my exam notes, may help you understand: “Cyberpunk is looking brighter, clearer, and better while drawing less power from a larger battery and operating faster, more stable, cooler, and quieter.”

I want that for you, and I want that for all of my games. Please note that I was referring to an additional four frames per second when I stated “faster.”

Similar to what Nvidia and Nintendo accomplished with the red box Nintendo Switch, AMD downsized its 7nm “Aerith” chip into a new 6nm “Sephiroth,” and Valve directed nearly all of that efficiency into power savings rather than performance.

Similar to Nintendo with the Switch OLED, Valve hired Samsung to create a special 90Hz HDR OLED display with the same 1280 x 800 resolution as the original, saving both battery life and performance.

Additionally, Valve was able to squeeze a larger fan, thicker heatsink, and a 50 watt-hour battery pack with a 22% higher capacity into the same space because to the new screen’s thinner design.

According to Valve, the OLED screen alone can save up to half a watt, depending on the content. In general, I’m seeing big games use two watts less on the Steam Deck OLED than the Steam Deck LCD; for instance, 24W, whereas the original used 26 or 27W. There are some exceptions: Max Payne 2 drew around the same 10W on each at default settings, whereas Nidhogg used 7.2W on OLED compared to 6W on LCD at the same 60 frames per second.

However, games run longer regardless of the larger battery. Additionally, they frequently play better thanks to the upgraded OLED screen, die-shrunk “Sephiroth” CPU, and a tiny boost to 6400MT/s RAM.

To be clear, Starfield still performs horribly. I also won’t claim that I didn’t notice the enigmatic stutter in other games because I most definitely did. However, I noticed very slightly higher frame rates and fewer frame time spikes for more steady gaming than the original Deck in Cyberpunk 2077, Elden Ring, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and yes, even Starfield. I also think I’m experiencing similar stability in less demanding games. (And in my opinion, running an outdated game at a silky-smooth 80 or 90 frames per second is unquestionably better than the old Deck’s 60 frames per second top speed.)

When I take them up, I can actually see that the new Deck is physically 29 grams lighter than the old one. The Steam / Quick Access and shoulder buttons have more clickability. The thumbstick tops include a tackier, more sunken smooth divot on top that makes a wonderful (and presumably easier to clean) perch for your thumb. They are taller, wider, and grippier than the previous thumbsticks, which makes it slightly simpler to make your character remain moving in one direction.

By the way, these are regular magnetic joysticks, not Hall effect ones. “There haven’t been many complaints about joystick drift at all,” says Yazan Aldehayyat, a hardware engineer at Valve.

Although Valve claims that the touchscreen and touchpads are now more responsive, I believe it’s time to finally confront the 7.4-inch elephant in the room.

I think I’ll purchase a Steam Deck OLED, unless I can persuade myself to hold off until the Deck’s eventual next-generation replacement. You know how much I adore my see-through nerdery, so maybe I’ll choose the limited-edition $680 model with a transparent shell and orange highlights that ships only to the US and Canada.

There shouldn’t be a lengthy wait this time around; the new Steam Deck OLED comes on November 16th. They’re in mass production, according to Valve. “We have them; they’re currently piled high in the warehouse.”

Regarding the Steam Deck 2, we expect to see something that can be referred to as a legitimate Steam Deck 2 within the next few years.

Tech Specs:

Category Details
Compute
Processor 6 nm AMD APU
CPU Zen 2 4c/8t, 2.4-3.5GHz (up to 448 GFlops FP32)
GPU 8 RDNA 2 CUs, 1.6GHz (1.6 TFlops FP32)
APU power 4-15W
RAM 16 GB LPDDR5 on-board RAM (6400 MT/s quad 32-bit channels)
Storage Steam Deck 512GB NVMe SSD
Steam Deck 1TB NVMe SSD
Both include high-speed microSD card slot
Controls and Input
Gamepad controls A B X Y buttons, D-pad, L & R analog triggers, L & R bumpers, View & Menu buttons, 4 x assignable grip buttons
Thumbsticks 2 x full-size analog sticks with capacitive touch
Haptics HD haptics
Trackpads 2 x 32.5mm square trackpads with haptic feedback
Pressure-sensitivity for configurable click strength
Gyro 6-Axis IMU
Display
Resolution 1280 x 800 x RGB
Type HDR OLED
Display size 7.4” diagonal
Maximum brightness 1,000 nits peak brightness (HDR)
600 nits (SDR)
Contrast ratio > 1,000,000 : 1
Color gamut 110% P3
Refresh rate up to 90Hz
Response time <0.1 ms
Touch enabled High performance touch
Sensors
Light Dual ambient light sensor ALS
Connectivity
Bluetooth Bluetooth 5.3 (support for controllers, accessories and audio)
Dedicated bluetooth antenna
Wi-Fi Tri-band Wi-Fi 6E radio, 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz 2 x 2 MIMO, IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax
Audio
Channels Stereo with embedded DSP for an immersive listening experience
Microphones Dual microphone array
Headphone / mic jack 3.5mm stereo headphone / headset jack
Digital Multichannel audio via DisplayPort over USB-C, standard USB-C, or Bluetooth 5.3
Power
Input PD3.0 Type C power supply, 45W
2.5m cable
Battery 50Whr battery. 3-12 hours of gameplay
Battery life estimates based on running titles at 30FPS, 50% brightness, and 50% volume. Running titles under different settings (such as uncapped framerate, higher brightness, and/or higher volume) may result in faster battery discharge.
Expansion
microSD UHS-I supports SD, SDXC and SDHC
External connectivity for controllers & displays
Display port over Type C; up to 8K @60Hz or 4K @120Hz, USB3 gen 2
Size and Weight
Size 298mm x 117mm x 49mm
Weight Approx. 640 grams
Software
Operating System SteamOS 3 (Arch-based)
Desktop KDE Plasma

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