I loved my Steam Deck LCD, so upgrading to a Steam Deck OLED was not appealing, at first. After much mental deliberation, a stolen package and fun with Steam support, my new Steam Deck OLED finally arrived. The short version is no, it’s not worth upgrading if you already have a Steam Deck, but also yes if you love it like I do.
Deciding on a Steam Deck OLED Upgrade
The reviews for the new Steam Deck OLED are fantastic, but it’s not a quite a leap to justify paying the full cost all over again. I’m still a bit annoyed they launched this instead of their next VR headset. My original Steam Deck LCD works great, so no real point in an upgrade right?
Well as a married man, finding time to game can be a challenge. The Steam Deck is great at filling that gap, but it’s not the same as my gaming PC. I’m spoiled with my Alienware OLED monitor, so I the OLED screen on the new deck appealed to me. I’d spend quite a bit playing on my Steam Deck, so I wanted that color pop of the OLED screen and the smoothness.
Add the lighter weight with better battery life and it would be a Christmas gift for myself. Still, I really did not need it and it’s sort of an indulgent purchase. I actually chose to let fate decide. When launch day arrived, I avoided trying to purchase at launch time. If they sold out, it wasn’t meant to be.
When I finally checked back into Steam, the 1TB model (double the storage of my LCD one) was still available. Even an hour later, still there. I didn’t need it, but I wanted it and fate held one for me. I pulled the trigger and successfully completed the purchase.
Not more than 5 minutes later, I noticed the Steam Deck twitter account announced there were still some Limited Edition models available. I’d completely forgot there was an limited edition. At that point, if I was going for the top end model with the most storage, so why not spend $30 more for the special edition with fancy case and shell?
I immediately purchased that one, then asked steam support to cancel my first purchase, since I wanted the fancy one instead. They fixed that for me the same day.
My First Steam Deck OLED was Stolen
The downside of choosing the Limited Edition model was the 2 week lead time on delivery, opposed to 5 days of the original model I chose. To my surprise, they shipped my new Steam Deck right away. I was excited to take delivery and tracked the package down to the point of them ringing my door bell.
I was in the middle of playing Rocket League, so I rushed to the door to grab the packages. All the packages were too light to be a Steam Deck, so I assumed they were for my wife. When she told me later that the long box was actually for me, my stomach sank. I already knew something bad happened.
I opened the box to find just a scrap piece of cardboard inside. It was obviously the Steam Deck packing box, but someone obviously pried open the side of it to steal my Steam Deck. Looks like they carefully put it back into place as to not alert any delivery person. Too many people know what a box that size from Valve contains and the lithium battery warning on it screams “electronics inside”.
Once the reality truly sunk in, I contacted Steam support and began the claim process. It took a few days for them to investigate, but it’s obvious either someone in the shipping warehouse or the courier stole it. They sent a me a new one, which was only a partial relief. Imagine if it were stolen again?
Steam Deck OLED Limited Edition Finally in Hand
Luckily, my 2nd delivery of the Steam Deck OLED Limited Edition succeeded. I felt such relief when I opened the box to find everything intact. It was a one hundred percent a kid on Christmas day type situation. The upgrade presented itself immediately.
The case was very similar to my old one, at first glance. The new Velcro strap was a great addition. When it was my turn at a doctor’s office visit, DMV or wherever, I’d fumble around a bit to get the Steam Deck case closed and zipped Now, with the new case, I can just simply flip the Velcro strap and worry about zipping up later.
When I opened up the case, the stitched artwork was a nice touch and the type of thing reminding me of the Limited Edition status. Is that going to make it play any better? No, but it’s nice to have nice things. It would not surprise me if they made other subtle case improvements I’ve not noticed yet.
The Steam Deck OLED Limited Edition shell was also a nice touch. It was a smoky translucent color with circuit trace patterns. The joystick bases, some buttons and the vent on back all had the Valve orange color accent. Again, nothing there to increase performance, but it looks fancy.
OLED Screens are Magic
Once I turned things on and installed, the main upgrade popped, in a good way. The OLED screen is a bit bigger than my original and that color is just wow. When an all white screen shows up, it’s almost blinding. Any direct sunshine is a bit blinding. It’s great. I did a quick comparison between the old and the new. Even on a non HDR screen (like my laptop I’m writing this on), you can see the difference in color.
I loaded up Baldur’s Gate 2 to look at the HDR presentation and I love it. The color and brightness is impressive, but the fantastic pixel response of the screen shows up as a much smoother presentation, even though the framerate is no different than when I played on my LCD version.
Those initial impressions were all positive, but things improved from there. Actually playing on the Steam Deck, the joysticks are improved (glad they learned to keep improving after the Valve Index controller joysticks issues years ago). They feel great and have a nice indent to fit my thumbs into. Fingers crossed they make it into future VR controllers.
Even More Improvements
The weight is noticeably lighter and just everything overall feels better. Even the fan improved. I play Starfield on my deck, even though it’s really not optimized for it yet, but it’s a great test for the fan. It really whines on my old LCD, but this new deck is much quieter.
The Starfield stress test also showed off the improved battery life on the new Steam Deck OLED. I’d grown accustomed to when I’d have to plug my Steam Deck in, so it pleased me when it far surpassed the usual point. Even when I did plug in the power cord, it’s a better experience.
The power cord is longer, making it easier to play while plugged in. They also improved the charging light to make it obvious when it’s slow charging (red and green), fast charging (white) or fully charged (green light).
From reviews, the chipset is technically the same, but with a smaller die process by a nanometer. That improves the performance a few percentage points (also helping with battery life). That combined with the smoother OLED screen, performance appears to be better, even if only slightly noticeable.
It’s probably obvious I’m happy with my purchase, but I can’t recommend it to everyone. For those that own a Steam Deck already and finances are too tight (not even enough room on the credit card), this is not for you. For everyone else, this absolutely is for you. Steam games on the go is still crazy to me.