The Steam Deck OLED is truly a portable console that has brought a small but advanced improvement over its LCD version. The changes, which seemed quite subjective on the day of its presentation, as it wasn’t really a significant leap forward, are proving to be quite interesting as analyses begin to emerge. The latest analysis focuses on its screen, as the input lag of the Steam Deck OLED has been measured with the NVIDIA LDAT tool compared to the LCD version, and the data is quite revealing.
Users who purchase the Steam Deck OLED will have a better user experience than those who have the LCD version. This summary, although direct, involves complex data where interesting arguments, different configurations, and undeniable facts are compared: Valve has done a great job once again.
Steam Deck OLED vs Steam Deck LCD in input lag, when the screen really matters
Since the SoC is the same, only smaller and therefore more efficient in nanometers, the LPDDR5 memory is slightly faster, and most importantly, the change from LCD to OLED offers many advantages in response time. The question in the air was simple, does the screen really improve the gaming experience? Given that the performance improvements in FPS were minimal, it remains to be seen if the rest of the hardware makes a difference.
As mentioned, Eurogamer colleagues have used an NVIDIA LDAT (Latency Display Analysis Tool), which measures the time it takes for a frame to move through the system from the moment we give a command on the console or mouse, until the next one is updated on-screen. LDAT measures the delay from the movement of the input device until the pixel displays the frame.
This process involves a lengthy chain of factors detailed in the upper diagram, where the complexity can be seen. In this case, with hardware being remarkably similar except for memory speed, the most influential factor here is the OLED screen. This new version has the added feature of being able to choose the FPS limit with a slider and then allowing the console to adjust the refresh rate accordingly.
In other words, we can select 30 FPS, and the screen can refresh at 60 Hz by updating the image twice, allowing for a wide range of options. This is important for understanding the data and its variations, as it measures how much input lag exists in each configurable step between FPS limits and refresh rates between the two consoles.
Differences that are truly noticeable to the human eye
Although we are talking about milliseconds, this is indeed something that any moderately trained eye can differentiate between one console screen and another. The games used in this analysis were DOOM Eternal and Crysis 3 Remastered, which display different configurations.
Starting with DOOM Eternal, even at 60 FPS and 60 Hz, the OLED version boasts an 8.5 ms advantage, meaning it is almost 10 ms faster at displaying scenes on-screen. Of course, at 60 FPS, this difference might not be that noticeable, but what about at 25 FPS?
At 25 FPS, the difference reaches 10.7 ms. Considering 25 FPS is quite slow even for a handheld console, the Steam Deck OLED offers lower input lag, which can impact the gaming experience as even an untrained eye can notice the difference while playing.
With Crysis 3 Remastered, we see a similar trend. At 60 FPS and 60 Hz, the Steam Deck OLED has an input lag of 11.3 ms less than its LCD counterpart, reflecting a value similar to DOOM’s but even better. Interestingly, at 25 FPS and 50 Hz, the LCD version has slightly lower input lag, but only by 1.2 ms, which is not really noticeable.
The highest value in the comparison was obtained in Crysis 3 on the Steam Deck OLED at 90 FPS and 90 Hz, compared to 60 FPS and 60 Hz on the LCD version, with a difference of 32.5 ms – an amount easy to see and appreciate.
Firmware updates also bring improvements
Firmware updates released since the arrival of the Steam Deck OLED have also influenced the input lag of both consoles. With the two versions, an interesting improvement in response time can be observed, reaching up to 42.4 ms in some cases, which is remarkable.
In the worst case in terms of differences in firmware, which is at 60 FPS and 60 Hz for the Steam Deck LCD, the improvement is still 8 ms – substantial, although not noticeable. This also affects Steam Deck OLED users, who will experience better gaming performance with their console – a focus for Valve after achieving good hardware performance, and undoubtedly something to be appreciated.
The article highlights that the Steam Deck OLED is faster than the LCD version, not in FPS, but in input lag, with up to 11 ms at the same Hz.