A key Valve engineer has made it clear that releasing an upgraded Steam Deck with an OLED panel is not as simple as fans would like to believe.
In an interview with PC Gamer, Steam Deck engineer Pierre-Lou Griffais said while Valve is aware that the IPS LCD screen on the handheld could be improved, doing so is not as simple as swapping to another panel.
“We also want it to be better. We’re looking at all avenues,” Griffais told PC Gamer.
“I think people are looking at things like an incremental version and assume that it’s an easy drop-in. But in reality, the screen’s at the core of the device. Everything is anchored to it. Basically everything is architected around everything when you’re talking about a device that small.”
“I think it would be a bigger amount of work than people are assuming it would be,” he stated.
“I don’t think we’re discounting anything. But the idea that you could just swap in a new screen and be done – it would need more than that to be doable.”
The flexibility of the LCD screen was actually one of Valve's top priorities when developing the Steam Deck. The company wanted to make the backlight as dim as possible for low-light gaming sessions, and allow users to change the refresh rate to conserve battery life. Griffais claimed that while these features were feasible on an OLED, this process required some special configuration.
"It's just something you have to plan ahead. When we were working on this screen, we made sure these could be supported, even if the refresh rate switching wasn't ready at release. It was really important to us that all that would be supported.”
“So it's something that you need to keep in mind when you're evaluating and selecting possible options. But there's nothing about LCD vs OLED, different screen technologies that makes that a dealbreaker. It's about how you're designing the whole system, and what's in between the screen and the SOC (system-on-a-chip)."
Griffais previously said to Famitsu in an interview last year that battery life was a huge priority that the development team was looking to upgrade in the next iteration of the Steam Deck.
“We have already made improvements [to battery life] between the time of launch and now,” Griffais told Famitsu in September last year.
“For example, we’ve made it possible to play refresh rates at 40 Hz, and we’re working hard to give users more control over how long their battery lasts.
“We’re also constantly optimising the operating system to reduce battery consumption when playing games that are not too demanding. This will improve the battery life. In any case, battery issues are at the top of our list of future improvements.”
While an OLED Steam Deck is almost impossible due to the limitations, you could emulate OLED levels of saturation with this plugin.