In our review of the Steam Deck OLED last week, we noted that the upscaled 90 Hz screen “has a pretty direct impact on how it feels to play reflex-heavy games.” Now, Digital Foundry used the input lag test tool to measure the precise degree of that amorphous feel, which was found to be especially important in games running at 60fps and below.
Digital Foundry Test go Nvidia’s Latency and Display Analysis Tools operates on two reflex-heavy games: Eternal Doom we had Crysis 3 Remastered. The tool measures the total time between clicking the mouse and the flash of the muzzle on the screen indicating the shot is fired—the lower, the better for the game’s response.
Unsurprisingly, the best improvements in input lag are measured when the Steam Deck OLED is running at full 90fps. Compared to the 60fps LCD Steam Deck, input lag is reduced by an average of 26.1 ms per Eternal Doom and 32.5 ms for Crysis 3. While some of that reduction can be attributed to the shorter time between frame refreshes on the OLED (11.11 ms on the OLED at 90 fps versus 16.66 ms on the LCD at 60 fps), the extent of the reduction here amounts to multiple 90 fps frames. .
More surprisingly, the Digital Foundry Test found input lag improvements even when both OLED and LCD units were set to run at the same frame rate. With both units running at 60fps, for example, testing found an 8.5 ms input lag reduction on the OLED for Eternal Doom and 11.3 ms reduction for Crysis 3. The lag only increases at low frame rates, higher than 20 ms when games run at 40 to 45 fps.
It’s not a small difference
Those improvements may seem small, especially when compared to people’s less sensitive times. generally from 150 to 200 ms in scientific testing. But even small changes in the lag between input and response of a program can have a strong impact on the feel and “joy” of a program, as discussed in depth when covering fighting game netcode, classic game play, and even. 8,000 Hz keyboards in the past.
There are some indications that at least part of this hardware difference depends on the firmware rather than the inherent limitation of the old Steam Deck LCD screen itself. When testing on an older version of the Steam Deck LCD firmware, Digital Foundry reports that input lag results are anywhere from 8 to 42.4 ms slower than the results reported above (which compares both versions running the same firmware) , depending on the game and frame rate test.
Valve is also rolling out improvements for older LCD Steam Deck units, and the company says it continues to work on improving input lag as well. That gives us some hope that future firmware revisions can reduce response times on Steam’s Steam Deck displays even further.