Steam Deck OLED hands-on review: The best handheld just got even better

Valve does it again with the Steam Deck OLED

Steam Deck OLED
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

The Steam Deck OLED impresses thanks to its vibrant display, lighter design, faster Wi-Fi and improved cooling. Based on our initial hands-on time with the system, it seems Valve has once again set a new standard for handheld devices.


  • +

    Bright and color OLED display

  • +

    Lighter build

  • +

    Faster Wi-Fi


  • -

    Display is only major improvement

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Steam Deck OLED 512 GB - $549.00 from Valve
Although we aren't seeing a discount on the new Steam Deck OLED, it's still worth keeping an eye on deals following Black Friday. Similarly to the standard LCD Steam Deck (which is on sale currently) this purchase also comes with a carry case which is worth noting. View Deal

The Steam Deck OLED is the real deal. While it’s not a revolutionary upgrade over the original Steam Deck, new features like an OLED HDR-capable display, Wi-Fi 6, and improved cooling make a huge difference. Like its predecessor, this handheld is an engineering marvel.

I’m a big fan of the Steam Deck and prefer it to more powerful Windows 11 handhelds like the Asus ROG Ally and Lenovo Legion Go. The Steam Deck OLED is an even better version of the original device. If you already own a Steam Deck and only play it occasionally, you probably don’t need to upgrade. However, if you’re new to Steam Deck or if the original is your primary gaming platform, purchasing it is a no-brainer.

My full Steam Deck OLED review will go live soon. For now, here are my initial hands-on impressions of Valve’s handheld.

Steam Deck OLED hands-on review: Specs

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Steam Deck OLED (512GB)Steam Deck OLED (1TB)
ChipsetCustom AMD Zen 2 "Van Gogh" APUCustom AMD Zen 2 "Van Gogh" APU
Operating systemSteamOSSteamOS
Display1280 x 800 HDR OLED1280 x 800 HDR OLED (anti-glare etched glass)
Ports1 USB-C, 1 3.5 mm audio jack, 1 microSD card reader1 USB-C, 1 3.5 mm audio jack, 1 microSD card reader
Dimensions11.73 x 4.6 x 1.93 inches11.73 x 4.6 x 1.93 inches
Weight1.4 pounds1.4 pounds
Battery3 to 12 hours (rated)3 to 12 hours (rated)

Steam Deck OLED hands-on review: Price and availability

The Steam Deck OLED launches on November 16 at 1 pm ET on the Steam store. Note that, unlike with the previous model, you won’t be placed on a waiting list. Units will ship immediately.

There are two different OLED versions to choose from. The $549 model has 512GB of SSD storage while the premium $649 edition packs a big 1TB SSD and an anti-reflective display. Both units come with a carrying case.

Steam Deck OLED

(Image credit: Future)

Valve is phasing out the old 64GB and 512GB models and is now selling them at a reduced price of $349 and $449, respectively. These will be available until stock runs out. The original 256GB Steam Deck (which is the one I own) now serves as the entry-level Steam Deck model at $399.

Steam Deck OLED hands-on review: Design

At a glance, the Steam Deck OLED is indistinguishable from the original model. It retains the same controller layout, ergonomic handgrips and port placement. The all-black plastic chassis looks and feels as great as ever.

The new Steam Deck is as large as the original at 11.7 x 4.6 x 1.9 inches. However, it’s now lighter at 1.4 pounds. 1.5 to 1.4 pounds might not seem like a massive difference, but trust me, it makes the system easier to hold for longer periods. I originally said the Steam Deck was the biggest gaming handheld I’d ever tested. But after going hands-on with the giant Lenovo Legion Go, Valve’s machine seems tiny in comparison.

Steam Deck OLED

(Image credit: Future)

There are two analog sticks and two trackpads on either side of the display, along with a D-pad on the left and X/Y/A/B buttons on the right. The View and Menu buttons serve as Select and Pause in-game, respectively, while the Steam and Quick Access buttons let you access SteamOS.

Volume buttons, a 3.5 mm headphone jack, a USB-C port and a power button reside between the shoulder buttons. There are also four programmable back buttons and an SD card reader on the Steam Deck’s underside. Two speakers reside underneath the Steam and Quick Access buttons, respectively. You’ll also find air vents along the top.

Overall, I’m happy Valve didn’t radically alter the Steam Deck’s design since it already looked great. Also, since the new Steam Deck is the same size as the original, it will fit inside any cases or skins you may have purchased for it.

Steam Deck OLED hands-on review: Display

The new Steam Deck’s OLED display is a wonder to behold. It’s brighter than ever, and the contrast between dark and light elements makes the vibrant colors really pop. Thanks to the thinner bezels, the display size is now 7.4 inches wide compared to 7 inches — giving you more to see.

Steam Deck OLED

(Image credit: Future)

As I did on the original Steam Deck, I tested Cyberpunk 2077, Doom Eternal and Marvel's Spider-Man. These titles look impressive on the original Steam Deck’s LCD display, but are jaw-dropping on the OLED model thanks to the vibrant image quality. In particular, I was most impressed when I enabled HDR in each game. I was more than happy to have my retinas scorched by the bright neon lights in Cyberpunk 2077, for example.

Our lab tests confirmed my anecdotal experience. When we pointed our Klein K10-A colorimeter at the screen, we found that it achieved 597 nits of brightness. That’s not only brighter than the Lenovo Legion Go (476 nits) and Asus ROG Ally (465) but much brighter than the original Steam Deck, which averaged 169 nits of brightness.

When we tested the Steam Deck's HDR luminance, we found that it achieved 969 nits of brightness when viewing HDR content. That's not the advertised 1,000 nits, but I doubt anyone will complain.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Steam Deck OLEDSteam DeckAsus ROG AllyLenovo Legion Go
Nits (brightness)597169465476

Regarding color saturation, the Steam Deck OLED achieved 143.7% of the sRGB color gamut and 101.8% of the more demanding DCI-P3 color space (closer to 100% is best for both). Color accuracy-wise, the screen scored 0.22 on the Delta-E test (closer to 0 is best). 

In contrast, the Legion Go (151.8% / 107.5% / 0.21) delivers more oversaturated colors while the Asus ROG Ally (108.6% / 76.9% / 0.17) produced less saturated hues. All of these handhelds’ respective screens make the screen on the original Steam Deck (68.5% / 48.5% / 0.25) appear dull in comparison.

Overall, I'm very happy with the new OLED display. That, along with the anti-glare feature of our review unit makes a huge visual difference. It's one of those things you need to see for yourself to truly appreciate.

Steam Deck OLED hands-on review: Controls

As I mentioned above, the new Steam Deck has the same controller layout as before — which is itself the same layout you’ll find in most modern controllers. The buttons are bigger than those found on the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Con controllers but smaller than the buttons on an Xbox Series X or PS5 DualSense controller.

Steam Deck OLED

(Image credit: Future)

That said, the thumbsticks are more concave than the previous model, making them more comfortable to use. The sticks (and buttons) provide a satisfying level of resistance. Like before, the back buttons are located where your middle and ring fingers naturally rest, which makes them easy to reach.

Steam Deck OLED

(Image credit: Future)

The games I mentioned above felt as intuitive to play on Steam Deck as on console and PC. Whether it was mowing down and evading monsters in Doom Eternal, driving through Night City in Cyberpunk 2077, or web-zipping across Manhattan in Spider-Man, the controls are perfect for most games. That said, I still find using the trackpads underneath the analog sticks cumbersome for RTS games like Command & Conquer: Remastered.

Since I liked the controls of the original Steam Deck, I have nothing to complain about with the new handheld’s controls. Everything just feels awesome to play.

Steam Deck OLED hands-on review: Performance

We haven’t completed our Steam Deck OLED benchmark tests yet. However, based on my experience so far, this new handheld delivers comparable performance to its predecessor.

At their respective medium graphical settings, Doom Eternal and Spider-Man ran between 35 to 45 frames per second. Considering how the latter is a giant open-world game, these results are very impressive. Speaking of open-world games, Cyberpunk 2077, which has a dedicated “Steam Deck” graphical setting ran at a consistent 30 fps. These are the same values I experienced on the original Steam Deck, so I’m not complaining about performance.

Steam Deck OLED

(Image credit: Future)

I’ll have our in-house benchmark scores in my final review, but I expect the Steam Deck OLED’s numbers will be close to the original’s.

Steam Deck OLED hands-on review: Battery life & heat

We’re still testing the Steam Deck, so we don’t yet know how much longer it lasts compared to the LCD model. Valve claims the Steam Deck OLED has 30-50% more battery life thanks to its larger battery and how the OLED display draws less power. The updated and more efficient AMD APU (6nm compared to 7nm) is another factor that saves battery life, according to Valve. 

Based on my own experience, the Steam Deck OLED isn’t as noisy as before since it has quieter fans. I also noticed the vents don’t feel nearly as hot after extended play sessions. I haven’t played it enough to have drained the battery, so I suspect Valve’s claims about a longer battery life aren’t completely off. But as I said, our lab tests will let us know for sure.

Steam Deck OLED hands-on review: Outlook

The Steam Deck OLED improves upon an already great handheld and is now the definitive version to buy for newcomers or hardcore Steam Deck users. The gorgeous OLED panel alone is worth the price of admission, but other updates such as faster Wi-Fi, a lighter build and better cooling make the system more enticing.

My full review will go live soon, so stay tuned!

Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.