Valve’s much-anticipated release of the Steam Deck OLED generated significant excitement, prompting extensive testing to form a comprehensive perspective on Valve’s latest portable gaming device and its standing against competitors.
The initial unveiling of the Steam Deck took place over two years ago, and the subsequent proliferation of potent handhelds, including offerings from Ayaneo, evidently influenced Valve’s decision to collaborate with AMD in crafting its handheld gaming device. Today, the market boasts an array of formidable handhelds in various sizes and configurations, with the original Steam Deck emerging as the frontrunner among its peers.
The introduction of the updated Steam Deck OLED brought about notable modifications to the original hardware, surprising enthusiasts with the extent of changes implemented by Valve. Dexerto had previously reviewed the original Steam Deck, and with several months of personal use alongside various Ayaneo devices over the past year, the updated console showcased compelling enhancements.
Initially holding reserved expectations, the reviewer was taken aback by the significant improvements witnessed after spending extensive hours with the Steam Deck OLED. The device swiftly earned the title of the preferred handheld console, solidifying its position as a top choice in the portable gaming landscape.
Steam Deck OLED Key Specs
|16GB quad-channel LPDDR5 @ 6400MT/s
|AMD Zen 2
|CPU clock speed
|2.4 – 3.5GHz
|Cores | Threads
|4 | 8
|AMD RDNA 2
|GPU clock speed
|1 – 1.6GHz
|16GB quad channel LPDDR5 @ 6400MT/s
|512GB NVMe | 1TB NVMe (Reviewed)
|7.4-inch OLED touchscreen
|1280 x 800
|Stereo speakers, 3.5mm jack, dual mics
|Wi-Fi 6e, Bluetooth, 1x USB Type-C with DisplayPort 1.4 support
|50Whr | 5,313mAh
|11.7 x 4.6 x 1.8-inch (298 x 117 x 49mm)
Steam Deck OLED Design
At a cursory glance, the Steam Deck OLED may not appear drastically altered in terms of its physical design. The device draws clear inspiration from Nintendo’s Wii U gamepad, a decade-old classic, incorporating additional elements reminiscent of the Steam Controller. Notably, the inclusion of two sets of rear buttons allows users to assign functions according to their preferences.
However, a crucial improvement lies in the weight of the new Deck OLED, which is slightly lighter than its predecessor. This adjustment addresses a key factor that has often led users to favor the Ayaneo Air 1S, emphasizing the significance of a lightweight design for prolonged use during gaming sessions. The reduction in weight by 30g has notably enhanced the device’s comfort, making it more user-friendly for extended gameplay.
Significant enhancements are also evident in the analog sticks and trackpads, offering a distinct feel compared to the original Steam Deck. Despite these improvements, it’s worth noting that Valve opted against incorporating hall-effect sensing analog sticks for the Deck OLED, a modification popular among users and featured in many other gaming handhelds.
Steam Deck OLED Display
Featuring a 7.4-inch OLED display, the system presents a sleeker aesthetic by minimizing the bulky bezels observed in the original Deck. This enhancement contributes to an overall more visually appealing device, capable of achieving a refresh rate of up to 90Hz (or an adventurous 120Hz). However, the display resolution remains unchanged at 1280×800, lacking the pixel density found in other handhelds like the ROG Ally or Ayaneo 2S. Although not prone to blurriness during usage, it falls short in sheer pixel density comparison.
The display’s notable advantage lies in its ability to reach up to 1000 nits of Peak brightness, offering a visually pleasing experience. This feature proves handy for on-the-go use in various settings such as airports, trains, or parks. While not the most exceptional display, it signifies a significant improvement in quality from the original model, particularly with the incorporation of HDR support.
The touchscreen functionality has also undergone refinement, showcasing increased responsiveness. Although personally infrequently utilized, the subtle improvement in polling rate makes a noteworthy difference.
It’s worth mentioning that the Deck OLED is equipped with various screens, adding a layer of complexity. The review unit, in this case, utilizes a Samsung OLED display, delivering an impressive visual experience despite a subtle blue bias in its sub-pixel arrangement.
Steam Deck OLED Boosted Battery Power
The Steam Deck OLED boasts an upgraded battery capacity of 50WHr, establishing it as one of the largest batteries featured in a gaming handheld. The efficiency gains resulting from the switch to an OLED display, coupled with node shrink technology, position it as one of the most enduring gaming handhelds, rivaling the Ayaneo Kun in longevity.
During testing, the Steam Deck OLED demonstrated impressive endurance, surpassing four hours when running Star Ocean 2 at 60Hz. Transitioning to 90Hz led to a slight dip in battery life, settling in the three-hour range. In contrast, the LCD model managed less than two hours of continuous gameplay. Games incorporating HDR may experience a modest reduction in battery performance.
These enhancements are truly remarkable, alleviating the typical battery anxiety associated with powerful handheld devices. Additionally, the faster charging capability allows users to replenish the device to nearly 100% in just over an hour, a feature that is undeniably fantastic.
Performance & Software
While the performance of the Steam Deck OLED may not rival the cutting-edge Windows handhelds, it still delivers a commendable level of power, particularly in handling modern AAA titles like Baldur’s Gate 3, which runs seamlessly on the Steam Deck.
Fueled by a custom AMD APU, the Steam Deck incorporates RDNA 2 graphics, ensuring compatibility with a broad spectrum of games. However, some contemporary titles, such as Starfield, may encounter challenges in terms of smooth running. Valve’s thoughtful categorization of games into playable, compatible, and verified categories proves invaluable in navigating this landscape. Users can effortlessly identify suitable games by looking for the corresponding symbols on the Steam Store.
This system’s simplicity is noteworthy, providing an exceptionally intuitive software experience. The ability to access in-game settings, including refresh rate and brightness adjustments, through a compact pop-up window adds to the user-friendly interface. This streamlined functionality surpasses that of any Windows handheld currently available, delivering a seamless and effective experience.
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