Steam Deck 1200p screen replacement goes under scrutiny – better than the original but outshined by the latest OLED model

From a Deck vs Deck HD performance comparison: 800p Stock Deck on Left, 1200p DeckHD on Right.
From a Deck vs Deck HD performance comparison: 800p Stock Deck on Left, 1200p DeckHD on Right. (Image credit: Digital Foundry/Eurogamer)

Users of the original Steam Deck have a few major display upgrade / repair options: stick with the original screen, upgrade to a DeckHD, or buy a full Steam Deck OLED replacement. The folks at Digital Foundry were shipped a pre-assembled DeckHD unit, which they performed some hands-on comparisons with, alongside the other major upgrade options. We've included DF's original video in an embed below and will discuss its findings in due course.

Before we get too deep into this, though, it's important to establish that a higher resolution is not always a better thing, particularly in the handheld form factor. The Steam Deck is meant to target 30-60 FPS at 720p-800p in its Verified titles, and boosting the resolution target by 50% on a handheld may not always provide acceptable performance, especially in modern games. It nearly guarantees a 45-50% loss in GPU performance at the same settings, which is only acceptable if you have lots of headroom to start with.

Of course, the beauty of the PC platform means you can still use resolution scale and related settings to adjust ambitious titles to the limits of a higher-res display in a handheld form factor. 2D titles and less demanding games will still fundamentally benefit from a 1200p display, but generally speaking, 3D games look best at native resolution or with great scaling regardless of your native res.

In Digital Foundry's extended testing, the DeckHD proves to be a surprisingly adequate competitor to the Steam Deck OLED, at least when both are set to SDR and similar color temperatures. In this case, it's definitely a strong improvement over the original Steam Deck LCD screen, and the $99 cost of both an original Deck Antiglare Screen and the DeckHD Antiglare replacement screen points toward the DeckHD being the superior option in overall spec.

Technically, you can get a regular old replacement Steam Deck LCD screen for much cheaper than the DeckHD or original Antiglare LCD screen, but the existence of the full Steam Deck OLED upgrade makes that a slightly less-appetizing option. However, the DeckHD also comes with the major caveat of requiring manual installation and even firmware updates for the screen every time Valve updates the Steam Deck, which seems like it would get irritating very quickly.

Overall, people who don't already own a Steam Deck are still generally advised to go with the Deck OLED if at all possible, since it's still the best experience with the least headaches. However, if you want to repair or upgrade an LCD Steam Deck, Digital Foundry convincingly argues that the DeckHD is a very worthy option, albeit one that may only be suitable for the most determined hardware tweakers.

  • ezst036
    Its been a while since I read them but this strikes me similarly to the reviews I read many moons ago about the OLED differences for the Nintendo Switch.

    OLED is simply superior.
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    Is it really that bloody difficult to type out "1920x1200" or "1280x800" in a proper tech article on a tech site?
    Reply
  • Neilbob
    Alvar Miles Udell said:
    Is it really that bloody difficult to type out "1920x1200" or "1280x800" in a proper tech article on a tech site?
    I couldn't agree more. It's not all that long ago that my main workhorse monitor was 1600x1200. I wonder if that was more or less 1200p than 1920x1200. I miss that ancient NEC Multisync 1600x1200. It was fantastic.

    I frequently kick up a fuss over screen resolutions these days. More than almost anything, I wish the old 4:3 would make a comeback, or even 1920x1200 for that matter, when it comes to mainstream monitors that don't cost an arm and a leg. Used to be able to have every single toolbar on the old Microsoft Office XP in use all at once with no issue. Try that on a modern widescreen and you'd likely only be able to see 3 lines of text or spreadsheet rows.

    That was a bit more of a tangent than I intended.
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    Neilbob said:
    I couldn't agree more. It's not all that long ago that my main workhorse monitor was 1600x1200. I wonder if that was more or less 1200p than 1920x1200. I miss that ancient NEC Multisync 1600x1200. It was fantastic.

    I frequently kick up a fuss over screen resolutions these days. More than almost anything, I wish the old 4:3 would make a comeback, or even 1920x1200 for that matter, when it comes to mainstream monitors that don't cost an arm and a leg. Used to be able to have every single toolbar on the old Microsoft Office XP in use all at once with no issue. Try that on a modern widescreen and you'd likely only be able to see 3 lines of text or spreadsheet rows.

    That was a bit more of a tangent than I intended.

    I agree with you that 16:10 needs to make a comeback for computer displays. I had a 1920x1200 display myself and preferred it quite heavily to 1920x1080, the extra vertical space was just better on the eyes and for utility. I do wish 3840:2400 (16:10 variant of UHD 3840x2160) were more popular too.
    Reply
  • manyrabidrats
    There is a lot of misinformation in the article... it stresses so highly that the Steam deck is designed for 800p but acknowledges older or 2d games benefit from the 1200p screen..

    It fully ignores that the 1200p is just the maximum resolution. Every game has compatibility options in which you can select the full screen resolution and by default all games will play at 800p unless otherwise selected in this setting or in-game settings.

    OLED is not an upgrade of the device you already have but requires a purchase of a new steam deck.
    If you are considering higher color accuracy via screen replacement, you don't have to suffer a performance hit, just leave it at 800p. DeckHD is it. It runs just fine.

    On the firmware, you don't have to update the firmware of the screen each time Valve pushes an update. That's just a lie.
    Very few updates by valve alter this section of firmware that may override the custom bit by DeckHD. i think this has happened only once since DeckHD has been released. I pre-ordered the DeckHD screen before its release and have used it regularly since day 1.
    Reply
  • OMGPWNTIME
    Never understood why anyone would want a 7" 1200p screen, the Switch OLED proved what most everyone already knew which is a quality OLED screen at 720/800p is perfection for a handheld device.
    Reply