Steam Deck update affects game performance

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Valve has updated the SteamOS system that Steam Deck is running on. What’s new in the system? There are more options to adjust the quality of the gameplay, as well as changes to the way the fan works.

SteamOS 3.2 update for Steam Deck

From now on, players can adjust the screen refresh during the game. The default is 60Hz (which can be capped at 60, 30, and 15fps), and now it can also be lowered to 40Hz (with frame limits of 40, 20, and 10fps). It can also be any number (integer) between the two settings. This feature is great for finding the perfect balance between frame rate, game quality, and battery life. Tip: Valve found 40Hz to hit the spot when it comes to the balance between response time, consistency, and smoothness. Of course, you can save this setting for each game separately.

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Would you like to know more about it? Valve has posted a detailed translation of their gaming fluency research.

More details for nerds on changing the refresh rate.

So: 30 Hz = 33.33 ms / frame and 60 Hz = 16.66 ms / frame. Meanwhile, 40 Hz is 25 ms / frame. While it may seem a bit counterintuitive, the 40fps value is exactly halfway between 30fps and 60fps in terms of update speed and you can therefore see and feel a better response time than at 30 fps Overall: it’s practically always best to have a very stable frame rate, so keeping a steady 40Hz is preferable to swinging between 42 and 48Hz, especially if your screen refresh is set to 60Hz. This is because a new frame appears every 1/60 of a second, so you get a double each time you skip a frame, which in turn leads to skips.

So 40fps in a game on a screen with a refresh rate of 40Hz means that each frame is a new frame and as a result the image may appear smoother than the one with inconsistent FPS at higher screen refresh rates. In addition, limiting to a lower frame rate puts less strain on the system and thus saves energy. While at 40 Hz the battery consumption will be higher than at 30 Hz, the consumption will be less than when compared to a game with a limitation set to a higher refresh rate while providing a much higher quality experience.

Steam Deck Fan Actions

The team has been working hard on the Steam Deck fan operation, giving this update a brand new fan speed curve controlled by the operating system. This means the fan overall is smarter, more responsive to what’s happening on and inside the Steam Deck, and is also quieter – especially in low-use situations.

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This aspect has been thoroughly tested, but Valve is still working on improvements. If you prefer the old fan mode, you can always switch back to the old (BIOS controlled) behavior in the System> Settings menu.

SteamOS 3.2 also includes more internal screen resolution options for games, quick formatting for microSD cards, and sound enhancements. The maximum loudspeaker volume is now even higher!