As you are by now probably aware, the Steam Deck OLED has been available for purchase shortly after the initial announcement by Valve. Gamer Nexus received a unit early, and did a really exhaustive comparison between the internals of the LCD and OLED Steam Deck and the revision goes a lot farther than we might expect from the first announcement. I recommend you watch the below video.
It turns out that the changes go way deeper than just the screen change and the larger battery. This is a real, in depth hardware revision, and here’s a few pictures from the above video that capture the major changes the Steam Deck underwent.
Not a Modest Revision
The motherboard experienced a complete redesign. The new Steam Deck OLED motherboard features a lot less components overall, driving the power consumption down as well as reducing the heat footprint of the whole board.
The revised APU is a 6nm version of the previous 7nm APU used in the Steam Deck LCD, and fits on a somewhat smaller surface now.
It also connects to two RAM units instead of 4, as they have now moved to two RAM units of 8GB each instead of 4 x 4 GB ones. The APU’s position is also rotated compared to that of the Steam Deck LCD, leading in turn to a rotation of the RAM units as well on the board. The new RAM units are smaller in size as well, but sit fairly far away from the APU - from what I could gather, the timing of the signal between the APU and the RAM can be very delicate and the distance plays an important role in getting the expected timings.
Note that the networking part has been completely revised with Wifi6 and a dedicated bluetooth chip on the Steam Deck OLED, and those appear as new components at the bottom of the board as well. This also led to a change in the positionning of the SSD, as you can see in the below diagram:
This looks like a much less crowded, much cleaner board overall (and potentially leading to lower failure rates, too).
The fans of the original Steam Deck LCD were infamous for causing issues on some models, with some units being equipped with a fan causing a whiny noise at fairly narrow frequency. We covered it before. Valve has adjusted what it could after launch by proposing replacement fans for those affected, accepting RMAs in certain conditions, and doing some tweaks with the firmware and the software side controlling the fans to reduce the amount of noise they produce. This time, in this revision, they apparently fixed the problem completely:
The new fan used in the OLED version has more blades and has apparently been positioned upside down compared to the original version, along with a revised heatsink. This is supposed to lead to a better airflow and reduced noise as well. The change of blades also means the profile of the fan is going to change and whatever noise it makes will shift to a different frequency.
The shape of the analog sticks has changed a little bit on the outside, to be a little more curved in.
But this is not just a surface change. The daughter board that supports these sticks has also changed completely in design.
The new Steam Deck OLED analog controller stick board is smaller, and does not include the shoulder button anymore on its upper extremity. The compoments have also been reshuffled around completely. This is supposed to be a more robust design.
The trackpads are also getting a major revision, with the lateral wires going in zig-zag in the previous model replaced by straight wires. The whole trackpad seems to be of a new design as well, as they look completely different from each other’s in pictures.
All these changes have an impact on the chassis as well. The OLED screen is thinner, which in turn allows more space for the larger battery.
You can also see that they finally got rid of that ridiculous audio cable that was positioned above the battery for the LCD version. This is a relief.
However it does not look like that the battery is held by anything else but glue this time again, which means that it’s going to be massive pain in the ass to remove it the day your battery will be dead and requiring a replacement. This revision could have been the right time to make such a change, especially in a context when there is a push for not making phones and other devices as disposable as they used to be.
These changes are actually fairly substantial. It’s almost a v2 of the Steam Deck instead of a v1.1. Hardware companies usually make such kind of changes over time - here it’s impressive what Valve was able to accomplish in just a little more than a year after the launch of the first LCD model.
It also feels like they took to heart most of the feedback they received: a better screen, more battery life, and a less noisy fan. I’m still waiting for a proper battery design to ensure easy replacement, but I may be in the minority to care about that.