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Steam Deck system update greatly improves older LCD displays, too

Enlarge / Candy-coated color correction.

With the release of the Steam Deck OLED this week, Valve has greatly improved on the “ho-hum” screen that was our biggest complaint about the original Steam Deck. But Valve hasn’t forgotten about users who are still stuck using that old LCD display. Thursday’s stable release of SteamOS version 3.5.5 offers a suite of free, system-level updates to improve and tweak the display performance on the original Steam Deck.

The release notes for the new SteamOS boast of much-needed improvements to the “default color rendering” on the Steam Deck LCD, which should help the older hardware “emulate the sRGB color gamut, resulting in a slightly warmer and more vibrant color appearance,” Valve writes. Even better, a new “adjust display colors” option in the settings menu now lets users easily adjust both the color vibrancy and color temperature to best fit their preferences and the games they’re playing. Before the new update, these kinds of options were only available to users who went to the trouble of installing third-party plug-ins. Now, Valve has finally brought these basic adjustments to the Steam Deck-owning masses.

The results, as you can see in the gallery of off-screen photos above, can have a dramatic impact on the look of in-game scenes. You can see a noticeable difference going from “Native” color vibrance (which Valve describes as “the color rendering for Steam Deck prior to this update”) to the new “default” sRGB rendering. There’s an even bigger change when you crank the vibrance slider all the way to “Boosted,” which Valve says should “emulate a wider-gamut display appearance, resulting in increased apparent vibrance.”

That “Boosted” setting might not be worth it in every situation since Valve warns it “may result in gradient clipping” (which you can see some signs of in the photos above). Still, that might be a small price to pay for oranges and reds that pop way more than they used to on the Steam Deck’s LCD (though still well below what you’d see on a native HDR display). A separate slider to alter the screen’s color temperature can also help with the “washed out” look you get on some Steam Deck games, letting users set a warmer or cooler visual style to match the game they’re playing.

Software alone can’t raise the Steam Deck LCD’s visuals to the level of the newer OLED display, of course, or improve the relative contrast and brightness limitations inherent in the older screen. Still, it’s nice to see that Valve isn’t instantly abandoning original Steam Deck owners and is doing what it can to improve their visual experience through software.

Elsewhere in the update notes, Valve points out that the Steam Deck LCD can now output full HDR and variable refresh rate content to an external monitor, even though those features aren’t supported on the portable screen itself. Newly updated graphics drivers also promise “improved performance for Starfield,” one of the few Steam games that the Steam Deck has struggled to run acceptably thus far.

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