Steam Deck’s anti-glare screen is actually playable in bright sunlight

As with any new portable technology, it’s important to ask if the Steam Deck passes the Green Eggs and Ham test. Do I like being at home? Yes, as I wrote in my review, this is a great portable gaming PC to play on the couch or in bed. Will I play it in a box? Of course, if we are talking about the refrigerator. Can I play it in the car? No problem: a steam deck would be fine for a long car ride, aside from my likely nausea. But would I like a Steam Deck in a tree? Can I play it on the train? Can I, can I, on a boat, with or without a goat nearby?

These questions required additional testing. I can’t call this Green Eggs and Ham’s final verdict because I haven’t had a chance to play Steam Deck on a train or boat yet, but I did spend some time outdoors with it. Very Sunny day in San Jose, California. The model I have is a high-quality 512GB Steam Deck that costs $649. Inside, this version of the deck is identical to the $529 Steam Deck, except that it’s NVMe SSD has twice the capacity. A more important hallmark of the 512GB model is “high-quality anti-reflective etched glass,” which gives it a more matte finish, which in theory should make the screen easier to see in direct sunlight. But I doubted that the Steam Deck would be playable outside.

Indoors, the Stream Deck’s 7-inch IPS LCD is reasonably bright, retaining color and detail even in a brightly lit room (it’s definitely not as bright as OLED, but it doesn’t look washed out either). When the sun hit my windows, I usually turned on the system at 80% to 100% of maximum brightness, dimming it down to about 50-60% after sunset. In bed with the lights off, setting the brightness to the lowest setting kept my eyes from straining – I appreciate that a deck can be bright enough. As well as dim enough to meet different conditions.

I took the Steam Deck outside, under a scorching cloudless sky, ready to squint at it like it was on my five-year-old laptop, but it’s better—much better. At maximum brightness, with the sun shining over my shoulder, I could comfortably play most of the games I tested on the Steam Deck. I tried Hades, Into the Breach, Monster Train, Astalon: Tears of the Earth, and Persona 3 and found that I could still make out everything on the screen.

As with any display other than e-ink, the Steam Deck screen dims in bright light. It’s not an ideal way to play, especially for a game where you can’t wait to really immerse yourself in the art. But it’s definitely playable. The etched screen seems to help dissipate glare that would otherwise make it nearly impossible to see indirect light.

When I moved to a shady place behind a wooden fence, using the screen became even more convenient, there was no distracting glare at all. I have green eyes and have to squint in bright sunlight even when I’m not trying to see the screen, so playing in the shade was a relief. I still left the Steam Deck at maximum brightness but restored some of the brightness that had faded in direct sunlight.

To really highlight the outdoor experience, I played the first few minutes of Dead Space 2, which is especially dark. This is where the Steam Deck display struggled: it was very hard to make out what I was looking at in the lit areas, and I couldn’t make out what was on the screen at all in the dark areas. Even increasing the in-game brightness to a blurry degree didn’t help much: I could tell the contrast sucked but still didn’t see where to go. This is the only caveat to being able to play Steam Deck outdoors: that’s fine, but I think only OLED or LCD with HDR level brightness can make those black levels visible from the outside.

Playing in the shadows seemed like strong evidence that a 512GB Steam Deck could easily play outdoors on the covered patio, sitting by the window on the train, or even on the boat if you have a good canopy. I see myself actively playing on the Steam Deck on a beautiful shady veranda. As long as you don’t get direct sunlight, you’re in great shape – and even direct sunlight is acceptable in many games, but not exactly ideal. (If you do try to play in the sun, keep one thing in mind: polarized sunglasses will conflict with the LCD’s own polarization, so you’ll have to do without them.)

But if outdoor gaming isn’t your primary use case, I wouldn’t recommend spending the extra money on just an anti-glare screen. Without one of the cheaper models, I can’t make a direct comparison, but YouTuber The Phawx briefly showed both models side by side. In this video. He mentioned that the anti-glare screen is a little more resistant to fingerprints, but every time I used the touch screen and went to take photos after that, my fingerprints looked at me, so don’t buy this model expecting it to be smudge-proof.

Indoors, the anti-reflective engraving seems like a bonus for playing in a brightly lit room, but it’s not necessary – the steam deck can get bright enough that it’s not difficult for you to see the screen.

In an interview prior to the Steam Deck launch, Valve told me that they were surprised when the 512GB Steam Deck model proved to be the most popular. If you can do without an anti-glare screen, ordering a 64GB or 256GB model can not only save you money but also power also get your hands on the steam deck a little earlier. 🤞


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