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Valve reveals the Steam Deck OLED: $549 buys better screen, battery, and more

On October 5th, we saw the first proof a refreshed Steam Deck was nigh. Now, Valve is officially revealing the $549 and up Steam Deck OLED, which starts shipping on November 16th.

It’s an overhauled version of Valve’s handheld gaming PC but not one that’s focused on performance — the company is sticking with its plan not to produce a faster handheld for the next couple of years.

Instead, the new Steam Deck OLED is designed to be the ultimate version of the original Steam Deck, the device that Valve would have liked to originally ship. Valve is promising the “first handheld with HDR OLED” with a larger 7.4-inch, 90Hz, 1,000-nit screen and up to 50 percent longer battery life.

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As you might read in my just-published Steam Deck OLED review, it goes way beyond a new screen. It feels like a nearly no-compromise upgrade in many ways, especially battery, cooling, and that new screen.

But say you don’t have the time to read a full review right now and just want the specs and some FAQs. That’s what this post is for. Here’s a monster list of what’s new, what’s the same, and a few other things I learned at Valve’s HQ.

What’s new with the Steam Deck OLED vs. the Steam Deck LCD?

  • 7.4-inch 90Hz RGB-stripe OLED custom Samsung screen (versus 7-inch 60Hz IPS LCD)
  • Displays 110 percent DCI-P3 color gamut (up from estimated 67 percent sRGB)
  • 1,000-nit HDR peak brightness, 600-nit SDR peak brightness (up from 400 nits)
  • 50 watt-hour battery (up from 40Wh)
  • More efficient die-shrink 6nm AMD “Sephiroth” APU (versus 7nm “Aerith”)
  • 6400MT/s memory (up from 5500MT/s)
  • 29 grams lighter, depending on configuration
  • Larger, quieter fan
  • Larger heatsink
  • Louder speakers “with improved bass”
  • 1mm taller thumbsticks with wider head and recessed, smoother thumb divot
  • Darker printing on buttons
  • “Higher fidelity haptics”
  • “Redesigned trackpad for improved fidelity and edge detection”
  • Higher touchscreen polling rate of 180Hz
  • Wi-Fi 6E for “2-3x faster downloads” with new 6GHz connectivity
  • Bluetooth 5.3 with dedicated antenna, AptX HD and AptX Low Latency, wake via Bluetooth controller
  • “Onboard mic can now be used simultaneously as headphone jack”
  • Longer 2.5m power cable (up from 1.5m)
  • Faster 0.8C charging rate, “20%–80% in as little as 45 minutes”
  • Three to 12 hours quoted battery life (up from two to eight hours)
  • Multi-color indicator LED (versus white only)
  • Torx screws instead of Phillips
  • Machine screws on rear cover with metal bosses for easier repair
  • “Bumper switch is now on joystick board for easier repair, improved bumper shock reliability”
  • “Fewer steps required for common repairs”
  • “Replacing the display does not require taking the back off”
  • 512GB for $549, 1TB for $649 (versus 256GB for $529, 512GB for $649)
  • New carrying case with 1TB model that has a second smaller shell inside
  • New limited-edition transparent $679 model in the US and Canada

What’s the same with the Steam Deck OLED?

  • Same processor specs
  • Same basic performance, with no turbo mode
  • 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM
  • Same NVMe M.2 2230 SSD storage modules
  • Same potentiometer joysticks (not Hall effect)
  • Same dimensions (save 1mm taller joysticks)
  • Same case compatibility
  • Same buttons (some are clickier, like shoulder buttons and Steam key)
  • Same screen resolution and aspect ratio (1280 x 800)
  • User-selectable fixed refresh rates (no VRR or AMD FreeSync)
  • Same driver-level AMD features (no frame generation, for example)
  • Same power supply wattage (45W USB-C PD, does not charge faster than 45W)
  • Same microSD placement and speed (UHS-I)
  • Same game compatibility
  • Same software updates
  • Same starting price for a Steam Deck, period — but $400 now buys you the old LCD model with 256GB of NVMe storage, rather than the new OLED or the old 64GB LCD model with eMMC

It’s OLED — what about burn-in?

“The hardware is good enough on its own to not have any sort of substantial intervention on our part,” says Valve hardware engineer Yazan Aldehayyat. “We picked OLED because we were able to prove to ourselves that the longevity in the device was there.” Valve says the company also does “accelerated testing at max brightness for weeks or months on end.”

“Our hardware warranty covers issues with all Steam Deck components, including the display,” Valve product designer Lawrence Yang tells me. We’re continuing to ask if that means it covers burn-in specifically because companies sometimes need chased on that.

Why no Hall effect joysticks in the Steam Deck OLED?

“We have not seen very many complaints at all with joystick drift.” There was more, but that was the size of it.

Why no turbo mode?

“If you want to have turbo mode you have to design the product to be able to handle turbo mode… you’re carrying around a whole bunch of stuff all the time that you can only use in Turbo Mode.” For instance, overdesigned power regulators, says Aldehayyat.

Valve told me it doesn’t want to “use up our weight and budget on things that might not be useful to you” but might change its mind in the future.

Are we doing regular upgrades now? Will I get buyer’s remorse if I buy this one?

Valve says no. We should think of this as the last Steam Deck 1, and then a Steam Deck 2 won’t happen until there’s a “generational improvement especially in performance.”

“We’re confident that in the next couple of years we’ll have something we can call a proper Steam Deck 2,” says Yang.

“We don’t want people to think we’re doing a yearly refresh, that’s not how we’re looking at this product cycle.”

Bonus: what do the Steam Deck OLED’s new LED colors mean?

  • White: plugged in and charging
  • Green: plugged in and fully charged
  • White (pulsing): booting
  • Blue (pulsing): firmware update in progress
  • Orange: plugged in with a slow charger
  • Red (three blinks): battery too low to boot
  • Red (pulsing): too hot to boot

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