While the regular, LCD-bound Steam Deck has been getting big improvements as of late as well, it’s hard to deny that Valve’s new Steam Deck OLED is the star of the show. The device’s HDR OLED display is definitely its strongest feature, but there’s more to it than just that.
More specifically, the graphics and tech analysis authority Digital Foundry has performed some in-depth testing of the Steam Deck OLED. “In receiving an impressive upgrade to its display, Steam Deck OLED attacks input lag seemingly on two fronts,” says Digital Foundry’s Richard Leadbetter.
Leadbetter explains that not only is the OLED “typically” about 10 milliseconds faster than the old LCD display during regular use, but that its 90Hz refresh rate also plays into this, as a game that’s been capped at just 30 FPS will be refreshed thrice on it. This, by default, leads to further input lag reductions, and much more responsive gameplay.
Why does Steam Deck OLED have so much lower input latency?
Leadbetter has provided not only his testing methodology to drive his point home, but also a comprehensive suite of tables comparing the Steam Deck to the Steam Deck OLED in various games at various frame rates. To illustrate the key takeaway in Doom Eternal running at the usual 40 FPS sweet spot, the OLED deck has a whopping 22.0ms advantage. This translates to much lower input latency, making the game feel snappier and more reactive in a like-for-like scenario.
“When you’re talking about 10ms and especially 20ms reductions in input lag,” says Leadbetter,”I am fine in saying that there’s tangible improvement to the gameplay experience, though the extent to which the user may notice may vary depending on their own experiences with input lag – and the improvements may change on a game-by-game basis.”
Naturally, this doesn’t even take into account the fact that the OLED model of the Deck can run games at 90 frames per second, which is a 50% uplift compared to the original 60Hz display. Note, of course, that this won’t always be feasible, but it’s a good feature to have even if you aren’t actively using it.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the owners of the regular, LCD model of the Deck, however: “Valve did share with me that they’re looking to improve input lag,” said Leadbetter. “Assuming these older firmware results aren’t a problem of my LCD Steam Deck, it seems that owners of the existing machines should be seeing a nice improvement to response, particularly when those all-important frame-rate caps are used.”
Something to keep in mind here is that the OLED model of the Deck was faster even when both it and the LCD model were running on equivalent system hardware when Digital Foundry ran its tests. OLED was still, by default, “noticeably faster to respond.” With a Steam Deck 2 still years away, it’s easy to see why some might consider OLED to be a must-have even for LCD Deck owners, after all.