Valve knows people will jam the shiny new OLED panel into old Steam Decks 'but it's probably not going to go well'

Valve Steam Deck OLED handheld PC
(Image credit: Future)

If you have anything like my tinkering soul, the first thing to occur to you the instant you heard Valve was making a Steam Deck OLED was about whether you'd be able to buy the screen from iFixit—in the same way you can buy the top LCD Steam Deck panel right now—and drop it into an original Deck. 

Sadly, it looks like that's not going to be a thing… but that's obviously not going to stop people trying.

A lot has changed inside the Steam Deck OLED; it's far more than just a new panel parachuted into the standard machine, and you can see that for yourself in our Steam Deck OLED vs Steam Deck LCD comparison. Valve has taken the opportunity to create "the definitive first generation Steam Deck," taking advantage of the thinner display to tweak the guts of its handheld gaming PC.

The OLED is thinner because its self-emissive pixels do not require an LED backlight, and that has allowed Valve to add a thicker 50Wh battery into the mix, a bigger (and quieter) cooling fan, and improved heat pipe and heat exchanger, too.

"Because of all these changes and improvements," Deck developer, Lawrence Yang, explains to me, "the parts are not swappable with the Steam Deck LCD unit."

"We'll still sell, and make available all Steam Deck LCD internal parts for repairs and replacements. But for the most part, because we changed so much inside, there's not as much back and forth swapping that's going to be possible."

So, I ask the obvious question… can someone buy a Steam Deck OLED module and drop it into their existing Steam Deck?

"I'm sure people will try it, but it's probably not going to go well," laughs Yang.

More on the Steam Deck

Steam Deck set up as a PC

(Image credit: Future)

Steam Deck review: Our verdict on Valve's handheld.
Best Steam Deck accessories: Get decked out.
Steam Deck battery life: What's the real battery life?
Best handheld gaming PC: What the best travel buddy?

And he's right. I'm sure the moment you can pick up the OLED panel as a separate module someone is going to try and jam it into their Deck. And it will probably work. To a point. But not to the point where it would be in any way worthwhile over and above flogging your old device and simply buying a new OLED Deck.

Valve isn't announcing that it will be sticking with iFixit for its new parts until they become available, but says that it's quite probable. "I think that worked pretty well for us in the past," Valve's Yazan Aldehayyat tells me. And, as a fan of the right to repair, I'd have to agree.

Dave James
Managing Editor, Hardware

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.