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Valve first-ever handheld gaming PC took the world by storm, but it sure wasn’t perfect. It had a subpar display and mediocre battery life. It got a bit too hot and loud and it wasn’t nearly as feature-rich or malleable upon release as it is right now. It was — and still is — a stellar first attempt (and a most affordable one, too).
Its shortcomings, however, became especially clear once ASUS came out with its ROG Ally, a device which, while noticeably more expensive than the base Steam Deck, nonetheless brought a lot more to the table, both in terms of sheer performance and certain nice-to-haves like a bright, high refresh rate display with FreeSync support.
Not one to be outdone, Valve went back to the drawing board and came out with a revised Steam Deck — one which builds upon its predecessor in every conceivable way and is now inarguably the most complete, user-friendly handheld gaming PC on the market.
Is it worth the asking price, though?
Steam Deck OLED vs Steam Deck LCD — What’s the Difference?
What exactly are you getting by splurging a bit more on the OLED Steam Deck as opposed to the original LCD one? Well, the list is as long as it is impressive, and it gets even more awe-inspiring once you put it all together.
A quick summary:
- You’re getting a larger (7.4″ as opposed to 7″), brighter (up to 1000 nits in HDR), more vibrant OLED display with inky blacks, a jaw-dropping contrast ratio and near instantaneous response times; the panel itself is now 90Hz as opposed to just 60Hz and it has a 180Hz polling rate for improved latency and accuracy. The screen itself is reason enough to go with the OLED Steam Deck as opposed to its predecessor
- you’re getting a bigger fan which ensures quieter and cooler operation
- you’re getting a device that’s 30 grams lighter which, while by no means earth-shattering, can still be felt
- you’re getting noticeably faster download speeds because of Wi-Fi 6E (up to three times faster, to be more exact)
- you’re getting much better battery life (+30-50%, depending on the game) due to a more power efficient display, chipset, and a +25% larger battery (50Wh as opposed to 40Wh)
- a much better carrying case, one which includes a removable liner
- a device that’s easier to repair and mod
- noticeably faster RAM (6400 MT/s)
- a more efficient APU (6nm)
- And a bunch of other “small” yet noticeable improvements like a WRGB charging LED, improved battery chemistry for faster charging (from 20% to 80% in 45 minutes), a longer power supply cable (2.5m as opposed to 1.5), improved controls and analogs and trackpads, a better bumper switch mechanism, 30% faster resume times, and so on and so forth.
The Steam Deck OLED is so much better than its predecessor it doesn’t even make sense. Normally companies leave a few “holes” and kinks untouched, but Valve really went all out. It’s staggering, really. It’s like it heard each and every single complaint users had and decided to make a statement.
We’ve all been conditioned by large companies and monopolies to expect the bare minimum. Valve, by the looks of it, is an outlier, and we couldn’t be happier for that being the case.
Steam Deck OLED vs The Rest
But how does the Steam Deck OLED compare to its biggest competitors, namely the ROG Ally from ASUS, the Legion Go from Lenovo, and a bunch of other — admittedly less mainstream — options?
Well, the answer is rather simple: the Steam Deck OLED is the better, more well-rounded choice, one that’s less janky and more console-like, both in its setup and its overall performance. There’s just not a whole lot to worry about, and the same holds true for its incredible battery life as well.
It’s not the most powerful option on the market (far from it, in fact), but if its spec sheet is powerful enough for your favorite titles, then you’ll no doubt be a lot more impressed with the OLED Steam Deck (and the many improvements which it brings to the table) than, say, an ROG Ally or a Lenovo Legion Go.
Those two, while certainly incredible in their own right, aren’t as well-rounded or user friendly. The Ally has now reached a satisfactory state performance- and UX-wise but it sure did take a while, and there are still bugs and issues that ASUS needs to iron out.
And so, if you’re after a device that performs and behaves like a true handheld console — as opposed to a miniature computer crammed inside a console-like chassis — then the Steam Deck is definitely the better option.
Conclusion — Is the Steam Deck OLED Worth It?
Despite improving on the original in every conceivable way, it’s still a Steam Deck. It now offers a more polished experience, but it’s no better at running AAA games than its predecessor. It’s still incredibly versatile, but its APU isn’t all that advanced at this point in time. It’s still sporting a Zen 2 CPU (a 4c/8t configuration) and an RDNA 2 iGPU, so it’s not going to set any records when it comes to benchmarks or frame rates.
And so, if the original Steam Deck — now referred to as the LCD model — has enough computational prowess to handle the games you want to play, then you’ll love the OLED even more. Its slightly faster, it has a jaw-dropping display, numerous quality-of-life improvements, it lasts much longer on a single charge (especially if you’re partial to indie titles) and is just a better, more well-rounded device.
And so, to answer the opening question: is the Steam Deck OLED worth it? Without a shadow of a doubt.