The Steam Deck OLED’s cutest gimmick is its case

Valve’s Steam Deck OLED has addressed nearly all of my criticisms with respect to the original hardware. Our review will give you all the details, but to summarize, this mid-life cycle upgrade has a gorgeous screen, a longer battery life and is lighter, which makes it easier on your wrists. However, the Steam Deck OLED’s most charming upgrade doesn’t really have to do with the handheld at all.

Valve created a special case for the Steam OLED 1 TB Edition. This silly idea is so inspiring that I’m obsessed.

Some backstory: The more expensive models of the original Steam Deck shipped with a carrying case I’d describe as Toughbook chic. The case looked like it could be dropped from a high-rise building, and the excessive size raised eyebrows every time TSA checked. Please don’t mistake me for ungrateful; that Valve bothered to include a carrying case set it above the competition, and perhaps the case’s blunt design befit the early Steam Deck, which felt (to some) like playing games on a giant brick.

But let’s be real: The bulky hard shell did an excellent job protecting the Steam Deck and a terrible job fitting into any reasonably sized bag.

Photographs of the Steam Deck OLED, and of its hard zip-up case. Each photo is taken with the handheld sitting on a hot pink sheet of thick paper.

Amelia Holowaty Krales/Polygon

Steam Deck OLED comes in a large, bulky box that is almost identical to the original. The inner lining of the Steam Deck OLED can now be taken out and reused as it was originally. Own case. It looks exactly like the Steam Deck. The front has little joystick nipples, while the back features two columns of protruding grips.

“We always wanted the included case to be slimmer,” said Lawrence Yang, one of the Steam Deck’s designers. “However, our extensive testing during Steam Deck LCD development showed that we really needed a two-layer construction for maximum impact protection; especially since the case also acts as part of the structural packaging during shipping. We also know that some users prefer max protection over a slimmer profile and we’ve seen users strap the case directly to their backpacks or luggage. This new design gives the users a choice; a slim option for basic protection in a bag or backpack or max protection when combined with the outer shell.”

When asked if the Steam Deck team noticed the similarity between the case and the Batman nipple suit, Yang replied: “The team didn’t notice the resemblance to the Batman suit… until now.”

I digress.

The extra cost of the Valve case upgrade (and the fact that Valve continued to include a case) could have been easily cut in the production process. It could also have been covered with trashy Steam Logos and used as a handheld advertising tool.

Valve is currently differentiating itself through this case. Steam Deck is a refreshing alternative to the gaming gadgets that are dominated by unwieldy designs, RGB lighting, and an overall feeling of cutting corners. It’s obvious that the new OLED and battery will be the reasons to upgrade your Steam Deck. Valve, however, understands the importance of getting even small details right to elevate a product from great to excellent. Even if it’s something as silly as a case within a case.

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