The Steam Deck is deprived of an OLED screen

The Steam Deck is a terrific console. Valve’s product, however, relies on an LCD screen rather than OLED. Why this choice ? This goes well beyond mere economic reasons.

Almost all console owners will tell you: the Steam Deck is an incredible portable console – a powerful “pocket” PC, capable of running a maximum of games in good conditions. The avenues for improvement for this first generation nevertheless remain present and, among them, there is the screen, which is not OLED technology.

In all honesty, I did not understand why Valve had opted for an LCD screen, when we see manufacturers like Nintendo, less focused on tech, going to OLED with the Switch. Is the reason economic? It’s much more technical than that, confirmed Pierre-Loup Griffais, who works on the Steam Deck, in an interview with PC Gamer on March 14, 2023.

Steam Deck. // Source: Louise Audry for Numerama

Putting an OLED screen in the Steam Deck is complex

You could say that you just have to replace the current LCD screen with an OLED equivalent, and you’re done. It would even be a super-juicy lever for Valve to pull, which could deliver an upgraded version of the Steam Deck in a flash. Pierre-Loup Griffais wants to cut this eventuality short, since the technology of a screen cannot be changed so easily.

I think people see it as incremental evolution and it’s simple. But, in reality, the screen is at the heart of the product. Everything revolves around him. In fact, everything is answered when you talk about such a small device. [Changer l’écran] would therefore be a much bigger job than people think “says Pierre-Loup Griffais.

Concretely, Valve quickly opted for an LCD screen, for reasons of versatility. Faced with an OLED panel, whose pixels emit their own light, this display technology based on backlighting makes it possible to offer greater differences in brightness. This is essential for the comfort of play in nomadic use. For example, it is necessary to ensure high brightness in a very bright environment – ​​which is difficult to produce an OLED screen. Pierre-Loup Griffais also mentions other arguments in favor of the LCD, such as the opportunity to play more easily on the refresh rate to preserve autonomy. OLED allows it, but with more specific configurations.

After choosing LCD technology, Valve could hardly go back without rethinking the entire architecture of the Steam Deck. This is what we understand from the words of Pierre-Loup Griffais, who concludes: ” On arrival, it’s not a war between LCD and OLED, two different technologies that are not prohibitive. It’s a question of the philosophy behind the whole system, and what’s between the screen and the motherboard. Nevertheless, we bet that the Steam Deck 2 will have an OLED screen.

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