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Steam Deck OLED vs. Steam Deck: Which should you buy?

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As great as the Steam Deck OLED is, don’t play it in the bath. It’s not waterproof. Valve

The Steam Deck is one of the most popular handheld gaming machines, offering stiff competition to the likes of the Nintendo Switch OLED, and Asus ROG Ally. But now it has new competition from … itself. A new version with a bigger OLED display, new more efficient internal components, and a boosted battery life is on the way.

There’s lots to be excited about with the new Steam Deck, including that it has double the storage as the previous model. But given the price reduction of the original model, you might still be unsure which is the right option for you.

Pricing and availability

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 are a few of the older models with 64GB of eMMC onboard storage still available at discounted prices, but they won’t last for long.

Moving forward, only one of the LCD models will remain available, with 256GB of storage space and a $400 price tag.

Steam Deck OLED models are set to launch on November 16, and will start at $550 for a 512GB model with the larger OLED display and enhanced battery. The next tier up is $650, and has 1TB of storage space, a premium etched-glass screen, and some digital rewards. There is also a limited-edition model for $680 that has a unique carry case.

Steam Deck held between two hands.
We love our Steam Decks and have modded them to improve them. But that OLED screen does look tasty. Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Specs

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
Refresh Rate 60Hz 90Hz 90Hz
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. Indeed, it looks set to become the default midrange and high-end Steam Deck moving forward, with Valve discontinuing the higher-end version of its LCD model.

The display is new and improved, with OLED offering much higher contrast and greater control of brightness on a per-pixel basis. means the screen will look far more vibrant and rich, offering a more immersive gaming experience in just about everything. It also gets much brighter, with support for HDR mode and a peak brightness that’s close to 1,000 nits. That really helps some content pop off the screen. That display is also slightly bigger, making the new Steam Deck a more impressive device to use.

The display is also 90Hz, rather than 60Hz, 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.

Elsewhere, 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. You’ll typically get less than that, but more power is always good in a device like this.

Woman playing Steam Deck OLED.
The OLED screen makes all your games look richer and more vibrant. Valve

Performance

The Steam Deck OLED isn’t designed as a performance upgrade, and Valve has made clear that when it was creating the new device, it was targeting the same performance as the original Steam Deck. That plays out in testing. We haven’t got our hands on one of these yet, but our colleagues around the world have shown that when it comes down to it, the Steam Deck OLED performs about as well as the Steam Deck LCD, with some instances of the original even performing slightly better.

However, games look and feel far better. The OLED screen looks gorgeous, and the additional refresh rate support means that games look and feel smoother and play far more responsively when you have the frames to take advantage of it. This is particularly important in competitive games.

Network performance is improved, too. If you have a high-end internet connection, you’ll be able to download games faster on the Steam Deck OLED — as long as you have a Wi-Fi 6E-compatible router.

The Steam Deck OLED is the new Steam Deck

The Steam Deck OLED is no major revolution for the Steam Deck. It doesn’t do much to performance, real-world battery life is unlikely to be dramatically better when you’re playing demanding games, and there’s no real alterations to the ergonomics or controls. However, that OLED screen is gorgeous enough that the Steam Deck OLED should be considered the new base model for anyone looking to buy.

Although the original Steam Deck is still great (especially when you mod it), the newer version is the better of the two. In the same way that the Switch OLED is the version you should buy if you’re buying new, the Steam Deck OLED is the one we’d recommend. It looks that much better, and the other changes are nice touches, making the Steam Deck feel more contemporary and relevant.

This isn’t a Steam Deck 2, though. The ROG Ally is still faster and better in many ways, but the Steam Deck OLED is great. You probably shouldn’t upgrade your existing Steam Deck to it, but if you’re buying new, consider the OLED version first.

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