video games

Steam Deck OLED Impressions

In June of ’22 I gave my impressions of the original Deck. It’s time to check out the new Steam Deck OLED!

I’ve had the new Steam Deck OLED Limited Edition for about a week and it’s exactly what we believed it to be. If you were just looking for confirmation that it isn’t a dud, here it is: I love playing on the Steam Deck OLED. It’s great. You can skip to my conclusions and get an OLED model as long as you’re aware of the same caveats from the original Steam Deck, which Valve is now calling the Steam Deck LCD.

The big Steam Deck OLED improvements

Valve has put in a lot of work to make the Steam Deck OLED the best Steam Deck.

There’s the slightly larger (0.4 inches!), brighter, screen with improved contrast and color reproduction due to the OLED. Even my red/green color blind eyes appreciated how much better almost every game looks on the OLED display. The quick snapshots I took of the Steam Deck OLED’s screen for this article don’t do it justice.

I saw a few reviews that mentioned differences between contrast levels on the anti-glare etched glass on the 1TB models of the Steam Deck versus the glossier 512GB Steam Deck OLED, but I still prefer the anti-glare coating for playing outdoors.

The Steam Deck OLED also has improved battery life and very slightly faster gaming performance due to the smaller APU process and faster RAM are two key features I don’t have the ability to adequately test, but fortunately plenty of other reviewers have confirmed Valve’s claims and found that the hardware often surpasses the claimed improvements. Richard Leadbetter (writing for Digital Foundry) found that the new Deck also has significantly less input lag which is great for modern games and especially great for running emulated games that were made for low latency CRT televisions.

The new screen supports HDR but I didn’t find many games in my library that support it or offer an easy way to turn HDR on or off. Some seem to expect the OS to handle HDR. Valve’s Steam library interface on the deck also doesn’t provide a way to filter your game library to only show games that support HDR. One of my favorite games to play on the Steam Deck, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, doesn’t offer HDR support even though the option is present in the menu. Instead, the toggle to enable HDR is greyed out and underneath it says that THPS 1+2’s HDR functionality only supports certain graphics cards. Hopefully this will get patched in as other THPS patches have focused on the Deck. The game still looks and plays incredibly well.

There are a few subtle changes that I’ve noticed such as a snapper d-pad but that may just be down to the fact that it hasn’t been used for months like I have with the original Steam Deck. Unfortunately the analog sticks are still traditional sticks that may eventually fail instead of the supposedly invulnerable hall-effect sticks but I haven’t heard of many people complaining about the analog sticks on the Steam Deck failing. If they do, Valve has partnered with ifixit to offer replacement parts and guides for working on the Deck, as well as supporting it themselves.

If you’re like me you hear “ifixit” and start thinking about just buying an OLED screen to install into the LCD Deck, but that doesn’t seem to be a viable option from ifixit yet. I’ve seen third-party options for supposedly improved LCD screens with higher resolutions, but I haven’t been able to test them and wonder why you’d want a higher resolution LCD screen on the Deck when that will just put additional load on the internal APU for modern games that the Steam Deck can barely handle as it is.

The best news for anyone who wants to repair a Steam Deck OLED is that the screws are now held in with metal instead of just screwing directly into plastic. You’ll still need to remove the SD-card before separating the halves of the Deck, though, unless you want the SD-card to snap in half.

Another improvement is that the touch screen is much better. Many of the issues I reported with the original deck’s keyboard seem to be resolved though I have no doubt the improved input latency is helping here as well as with games.

WiFi and Bluetooth support have both been upgraded, WiFi to the latest 6E standard and Bluetooth to a new 5.3 module with its own separate antenna from the WiFI system.

The thumbsticks are much better now, they’re more comfortable and your hands are less likely to slip out of them.

While you could DIY an upgrade to the storage on the original Deck with either a micro-SD card or an internal storage upgrade, the option to have 1TB from the start is fantastic for those of us who were bumping into the 512GB limit constantly as I was. It was easy enough to move my emulators and ROM files over on the SD card with the tools the Emudeck project has made available.

I love gaming on the new Steam Deck OLED thanks to all of these improvements, but there are some little issues and the same big ones from the original Steam Deck.

Cons to the new Steam Deck OLED

A few parts of the Steam Deck just don’t function well.

You still can’t download games or updates while the Steam Deck’s screen is asleep and the Deck is plugged in.

Voice chat with the build in microphone and speakers works poorly. You’ll hear echos and bad garbled audio or at least that’s what I heard in a test call to another user who was also on a Steam Deck OLED. Both Steam Decks were in the same house, so there’s really no latency excuse. When I tried to plug in headphones that don’t have a built-in microphone to resolve the echoing at least, the other person on the call couldn’t hear me talking because the Deck didn’t offer an option or automatically switch to the built-in microphone.

I didn’t mention the weight of the new Steam Deck OLED because the 30 gram reduction (669g vs 639g) doesn’t feel a lot lighter to me. My hands and arms still tire while holding the Steam Deck OLED if it isn’t balanced on a pillow or my legs. Although it feels much more comfortable to play on either version of the Steam Deck than on any model of the Nintendo Switch, after any particularly long gaming session my hands still hurt. I’m in my 40’s now though, so younger folks will probably be fine.

Desktop mode still feels like a caged animal. You can’t really customize the operating system in the ways you could with a regular desktop Linux install and things you might expect aren’t there, like printer support is just missing. Support for printers is something you don’t really need until you absolutely have to have it and then you’re left wondering why it’s missing on a portable computer with 1TB of internal storage. The big caveat to this note is that the Deck really is just a portable computer and you’re free to install whatever you want onto it. You want Windows or maybe a traditional installation of Ubuntu? Both are theoretically doable.

I go over this a lot more with my original Steam Deck impressions. My last smaller note is that as far as I know, Valve is still not really pushing developers towards porting their games to Linux. You’d hope that native ports would be the result of these Steam Decks selling like hotcakes, but it isn’t and that stinks. Every time a Windows game works in WINE and Valve’s Proton it still feels like an accidental success instead of something that will be reliable in the long run. A few times when I’ve gone to play games on the Steam Deck OLED they launched, and I could see them running briefly, but the games didn’t show anything on-screen until I rebooted the Deck and launched them again. These kinds of problems are typical when  when running games through non-native compatibility layers like Valve’s Proton and they only get worse if you try to do stuff that computers are normally good at, like modding games with third-party utilities outside of Valve’s Steam Workshop functionality.

The biggest reasons to not choose the Steam Deck OLED

The new performance improvements aren’t enough to make some of the latest games like Starfield run comfortably. Valve even has a warning right on the store page for Starfield that says “This game’s graphics settings cannot be configured to run well on Steam Deck.” I should say that this isn’t the case with every new game, Diablo 4 ran on the original Steam Deck and runs just as well on the Steam Deck OLED.

The Deck’s Linux-based SteamOS also means that multiplayer games with certain kinds of anti-cheat software still won’t run on the Steam Deck. Destiny 2, Call of Duty, and so on are all limited to running via Steam’s remote play feature which requires another computer running Steam on Windows. Steam store pages for the latest Call of Duty games conveniently display no Steam Deck compatibility badge and it makes you wonder if there were some mild business shenanigans involved.

Of course it is still a pain in the butt to get games from third-party stores launching on the Steam Deck OLED. This is partially solved by open-source clients like the Heroic Games Launcher, and that project is terrific, but it still feels pretty awful that the situation is like this. Third-party digital game stores like in particular shouldn’t feel worse on the Steam Deck. This is a big reason why I end up regretting purchases made on the Epic Games Store which barely functions on Windows, let alone on the Steam Deck. The copy of Hitman 3 I bought while the game was still exclusive to the Epic Store will forever haunt me with its non-transferrable save data.


I love gaming on the Steam Deck OLED, and would recommend either model to anyone based on their budget and especially to someone who already has a library of Steam games as long as those games run well on the Steam Deck and they’re aware of the Deck’s biggest flaws: multiplayer games may not run at all due to incompatible anti-cheat software, some games like Starfield may never run unless the developer puts in the time to optimize it for the Steam Deck, and games from third-party stores can be a pain to run.

If you were hoping for a bigger performance improvement you should wait for a Steam Deck 2, or you can get a competing device like the Lenovo Legion Go or ASUS ROG Ally though both supposedly have rotten software issues of their own due to running Microsoft’s Windows operating system combined with utilities from Lenovo and ASUS to make games run better on their respective handhelds. While that situation is improving over time, it would be great if Microsoft made their own gaming overlay to improve Windows for these handheld computers, and if Valve made SteamOS more accessible to these third-party hardware makers.

Maybe the best news for the majority of people who are interested in portable gaming is that the Steam Deck OLED has made the original Steam Deck LCD incredibly cheap. Valve has lowered the price of the original Steam Deck LCD models on their store and I’ve seen them for sale used for as low as $150 here in Hawaii. There have also been more than a year of software updates from Valve that improve both the LCD and OLED models, and third-party game developers have been working to improve game compatibility. This is terrific news for anyone who wants a gaming platform that is a lot more open than traditional consoles and handhelds.

video games

Open-Source Scan Converter Pro Released

The Open-Source Scan Converter (OSSC) is a long-running hardware project to scale and convert your classic analog video signals coming from older game consoles to digital signals over HDMI that modern displays (like TVs and monitors) will understand better.

Instead of relying on the weak scalers built into the new displays, the OSSC gives you higher resolution video while also adding more options and connection types. The upscaling the original OSSC does was as close to adding no-lag as possible by simply multiplying the original video input lines without a buffer. This strategy has its benefits and weaknesses. The main benefit is that it is very fast. The weakness is that it can’t have more advanced effects and output compatibility on the video signal that you might get from a more full featured scaling device.

Just released today is the Open-Source Scan Converter Pro, an updated version of the OSSC that has a few improvements over the original but doesn’t replace the OSSC. The Pro’s main addition over the original OSSC is a built-in scaler as an option in addition to the line multiplication features.

The OSSC Pro also has an HDMI input to accept modded consoles and more, and take them from their original lower resolutions up to 1440p at a maximum.

That 1440p maximum output resolution is the biggest limitation of the new OSSC Pro.

Both OSSC projects also have the benefits of their open-source firmware and a community of interested developers and users making the product better over time.

The original OSSC costs about $150 USD with all the needed accessories from the main hardware seller, VGP in the UK. The new OSSC Pro is about $340 from VGP and currently out of stock at the time of writing.

Coming next month is the RetroTINK4K, a competing scaler from Mike Chi that supports a 4K resolution output signal. That 4K resolution comes at a high price, $750 USD. The $325 USD RetroTINK 5X from Mike Chi was the highest end modern scaler until the RT4K was announced.

video games

Puzzmo is the New Daily Puzzler’s Delight

For the past few days I’ve been enjoying Puzzmo, a new daily words-and-more puzzle service from Zach Gage (Really Bad Chess, Sage Solitaire, Typeshift, and so on), Orta Therox, and their fellow puzzle makers and artists.

It’s got just what freaks like me who are tired of just doing the daily Wordle crave.

Puzzmo’s got your classics like challenging crosswords but with helpful twists like get out of jail cards in the form of different hints when you get stuck, but only if you want them.

Then there’s the new stuff, like Flipart, a game where you just gotta spin a bunch of tiles to make em fit into a rectangle.

There’s also a bunch of stuff that Gage worked on before, but stuffed into the daily puzzle genre, like Typeshift, Spelltower, and Really Bad Chess.

Like almost everything these days there are some caveats to Puzzmo. The first is that it’s in a limited access beta. Trying the service out is hidden behind a puzzle and a daily limit unless you have a friend with a special link to get in. Once you go to get in, you get a fun postcard in the mail with a special puzzle to decode a key.

In the future, it looks like Puzzmo will be ad-supported, which would be kinda bad but people who get in early have access to a one time purchase for a lifetime version (I forked over the $60 USD), or a slightly cheaper yearly fee ($40). It’s possible or even likely these options and plans will change as Puzzmo’s player base grows.

Once you’re in, you get all kinds of online stuff if you want it, like friends lists, groups, leaderboards, and so on. The leaderboards and other stuff can be toned down and hidden if you’re not a fan of competition. Not everything has to be about stepping on someone else to get ahead, even puzzles.

My biggest gripe with Puzzmo is that it seems super friendly and indie until you realize that Hearst, one of the richest newspaper nepo-conglomerates in the world, is the money behind it. Who else could be printing out hundreds of puzzle cards and mailing them?

I really like Puzzmo. Hopefully Hearst doesn’t ruin it.

video games

HDR Steam Deck OLED Announced for November 16th with 6nm APU

Valve just announced a Steam Deck OLED coming on November 16th at 10AM Pacific time for $550 with the 512GB model and 650 for a new 1TB model. The upgraded Linux or “SteamOS” handheld has a new 90hz OLED screen that gives you a better picture that supports HDR, a slightly larger 7.4 inch (versus 7.0 on the older LCD models) screen size with smaller bezels, 50 watt-hour battery (versus 40 on the LCD) which Valve claims nets you anywhere from 1 to 4 more hours of battery life, 45 watt power supply with a 2.5 meter cable (1 more meter than the LCD deck), WiFi 6E (WiFi 5 on the LCD), and the last key feature is a slightly shrunk down 6 nanometer APU (combination CPU and GPU) versus the 7 nanometer APU on the LCD decks. The 1TB OLED model also has a second limited edition version for $30 extra with a slightly different colorway.

Reviewers have had it for a little while and report that newer APU nets slight performance boosts and keeps the deck cooler. They’ve also said the system’s fan is larger so the fan can turn slower to move the same amount of air. There’s also a small 5% weight decrease that I’m looking forward to.

Here’s Digital Foundry’s Rich Leadbetter reviewing the OLED model:

James Archer reviewed the whole OLED Steam Deck can of beans for RPS:

Personally, if I were a prospective shopper of fine SteamOS handhelds, I’d go for the new one in a blink. The Steam Deck OLED not only directs its focus to the two biggest shortcomings of the original, but takes the time to polish up design details and build quality to the point where you can literally feel its superiority. If Valve are right in that a Steam Deck with truly next-gen performance is still several years away – and in hindsight, they’ve been very particular with mentioning the performance bit – then I’m more than happy to pass the time on this OLED version.

The Steam Deck’s new store page has discounted LCD models, the 64GB model has been dropped to $350, the 512GB to $450. After those Steam Decks are sold out, they’ll be gone, leaving the last LCD model as the 256GB LCD for $400.

Crucially, this isn’t a Steam Deck 2. It’s kind of wild that in the face of new challengers with faster APUs, Valve has released this new handheld without a huge APU upgrade, but the OLED upgrade still seems like a substantial improvement for new or heavily addicted Steam Deck users like me. The other handheld gaming computers from ASUS, Lenovo, and so on, are also stuck on Windows and reviewers and users have enormous software complaints because there’s only so much the hardware developers can do to customize the handheld Windows gaming experience. Similarly, getting a highly customized SteamOS version of Linux to run Windows games may produce a better experience where any individual game might not run well or lack needed features like anti-cheat software compatibility, but the OS isn’t as awful until you want to run a game from anywhere but Steam’s store and find the tools to run games from Epic, gog, or other stores are often frustrating to use.

All of that makes me wonder if Valve’s lack of effort and their lip service to making a version of SteamOS widely available for users and device makers might be a strategic choice instead of a failure.

Eurogamer’s EIC Tom Phillips spoke with Valve’s Yazan Aldehayyat about what’s missing to make the OLED a true 2.0 model

“Obviously we’d love to get even more performance in the same power envelope, but that technology doesn’t exist yet,” Aldehayyat said. “That’s what I think we’d call a Steam Deck 2.0.

“The first Steam Deck was the first moment in time where we felt like there was enough GPU performance in a portable form factor that lets you play all your Steam games. We would love for the trend of perf-per-watt to progress rapidly to do that, but it’s not quite there yet.”

politics video games war

PMG: “The Games Industry Must Not Stay Silent on Palestine”

People Make Games has posted this video about the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people by the Israeli government. YouTube won’t let this video be embedded, but you can click on the link above or here to see it.