The American company Valve, in addition to the production of video games, runs the largest online store of video games for personal computers. The steam online store accounts for as much as 75 percent of the total global market for the distribution of video games for PCs. From time to time, the company also likes to take on a side project related to video game hardware. Their most notable success in this field is the steam deck handheld PC. Valve put the steam deck on sale last February. The device became a sudden hit among fans of the concept of handheld consoles, although it had a lot of bugs and problems when it was released, which have mostly been fixed.
Although the device is a PC equipped with a linux operating system and could in theory be used as a very portable computer that you could connect to a keyboard, mouse and monitor (for a bigger picture) for work, the thing is fully optimized for playing video games . This is revealed by its design, which resembles an enlarged game board with a monitor in the middle. An AMD processor with an RDNA 2 graphics card and 16 GB of working memory (LPDDR5) ensures that such a compact device can run modern video games from personal computers. Above all, it helps that the resolution is limited to 1280×800. A lower resolution means a much smaller burden on the hardware when it draws the demanding graphics of modern games.
The creation of the steam deck is closely related to the success of Nintendo’s switch console, which is responsible for the revival of the concept of handheld consoles. It’s been six years since its release, and many have been hoping for many years that Nintendo would send an updated and more powerful version for sale, which would be able to run more graphically demanding games. Nintendo is defying the calls for now, but they sent an updated version with a better battery and an OLED screen to the market in the fall of 2021. Since time moves even faster in the world of personal computers and a brand new computer is proverbially obsolete the first time it is turned on, the desire for a more powerful steam deck began to appear less than a year after the release of the first one. Valve has always insisted that they do not plan to send a more powerful version on sale for a long time. Then last week it suddenly happened. The news that an updated version of the steam deck is going on sale hit like a bolt of lightning. Expectations were high in the first moments of the announcement, but then the update turned out to be more of a refresh in the style of Nintendo’s switch OLED console.
More economical and lighter by 30 grams
The news is otherwise not trivial. The main one concerns the screen. On the original steam deck, this received quite a bit of criticism from users who swear by OLED screens due to the thick bezel, not the best colors and the IPS LCD touchscreen. Their wishes were fulfilled with the OLED steam deck, as the updated version is called. Including a larger diagonal, which now measures 18.8 centimeters (7.4 inches) and covers a large part of the border on the original version, support for HDR and more correct and vivid colors. Valve has also raised the maximum refresh rate from 60 hertz (Hz) to 90 hertz. Since the new screen is thinner than the LCD screen, they managed to squeeze a battery with a capacity of 50 watt hours (Wh) into the body of the device, which remains the same dimensions, while it was in the original steam deck with a capacity of 40 Wh. A new processor was also inserted into the new model, which does not bring more power, but better efficiency, namely based on 6-nanometer technology, while the original model was based on 7-nanometer technology. To put it more comprehensibly, the new processor, which has the same performance as last year’s, is more energy efficient due to smaller transistors. As a result, the device also heats up less, and above all, it performs the same tasks for longer than it would with a battery upgrade alone. Valve says the new OLED steam deck can last from 3 to 12 hours of use between charges, depending on the difficulty of the game. Last year’s model had a battery life of 2 to 8 hours. The OLED screen, which is more economical than LCD, also adds something to the better autonomy of the battery.
In the case of the OLED steam deck, they improved the volume of the speakers and reduced the volume of the fan. Above all, the device is about 30 grams lighter. The last piece of information is not trivial. Steam deck is a concrete device. Even the lighter OLED version still weighs 640 grams. It’s like holding half of a lightweight laptop in your hands.
The main weakness remains
With the arrival of the OLED steam deck, feverish speculation spread among device buyers as to whether they should sell the old device and buy a new one. We tested the original version of the steam deck in February this year, we haven’t tried the new one yet, but on paper it doesn’t seem to really fix the main flaw that bugged us. Although the steam deck is ergonomically very comfortable to hold, it is not the most comfortable for actually playing video games. In addition to the weight, the positioning of the control sponges at the top of the device contributes to this. The odd position was very distracting in fast-paced action games. But we are not saying that you wouldn’t get used to it over time.
We ourselves were skeptical about the screen before the test, but it didn’t really bother us. We also found the colors to be fairly solid. We were also not bothered by battery autonomy. Due to its weight and size, we never thought of the steam deck as a travel device that should last a long time without an outlet. As it allows the device to sleep during the game and quickly turn on where we left off, it is much more suitable for individuals whose domestic responsibilities limit the opportunities for long gaming sessions, but who like to steal half an hour here and there. They treat themselves to longer sessions on the sofa, near the socket.
Valve did not change the price of the steam deck when it was updated. They therefore lowered the prices of the original versions with LCD screens. Priorities differ from individual to individual. We ourselves do not think that the update is necessary for those who already own a steam deck. Since Black Friday is just around the corner, the arrival of the OLED steam deck could mean an additional price reduction for the LCD version. The version with 64 GB of space, which can be upgraded very cheaply with an SD card, already costs only 369 euros. With an additional discount, it would be a very attractive offer for those who are less picky. Steam deck will soon no longer be the first choice for picky people. It already has problems with the most modern video games. On PCs, however, the complexity of running games rises rapidly.