Steam Deck handles ray tracing and demanding games better than you might think

Daniel Sims

Posts: 453   +18
Staff
In a nutshell: Valve's Steam Deck handheld PC has already been lauded for its ability to handle recent games designed for consoles and desktops like Elden Ring. However, Digital Foundry decided to test the device on some of the most demanding PC games currently available. Results were somewhat impressive, confirming the Steam Deck technically supports ray tracing albeit at a resolution below its display's native 1280 x 800.

The Steam Deck's thermal and wattage limits hold it back compared to consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series, but its graphics processor is based on the same RDNA 2 architecture as those ray tracing-capable machines. This week, Digital Foundry decided to see how the Steam Deck handled some of the most intense ray tracing benchmarks in games like Metro Exodus: Enhanced Edition, Control: Ultimate Edition, and Quake 2 RTX.

Tests like this weren't possible before Valve released Windows drivers for the Steam Deck, as the machine's default SteamOS doesn't support RDNA 2's ray tracing.

Installing Windows on a Steam Deck comes with significant drawbacks, at least for now, like the current lack of audio drivers and a battery-saving 30 frames-per-second mode.

However, Windows does enable ray tracing on a Steam Deck. Metro is an advanced showcase of ray tracing and the Steam Deck manages to play it at 30fps and around 504p resolution (896 x 504), with graphics similar to what players see on the Xbox Series S.

Control fared much worse, possibly because the game predates RDNA2, so developer Remedy couldn't optimize its ray tracing around that architecture. Players willing to give up ray tracing will have a much better time playing Control on SteamOS. Quake 2 RTX, which uses far more demanding path tracing, could only get to 60fps at resolutions as low as 216p.

Digital Foundry also tested the Steam Deck on Microsoft Flight Simulator, which is a notorious PC killer despite not employing ray tracing. SteamOS can't play it due to anti-cheat incompatibility, but a Windows-powered Steam Deck mostly manages 30fps at Series S-like settings in 612p.

Unreal Engine 5's Valley of the Ancients demo did prove to be a bridge too far for the Deck's CPU. That's an early sample of the next-generation engine's capabilities however, and thus probably not a great indicator of how Valve's handheld may handle future UE5 games.

These tests show that the Steam Deck might run bleeding-edge graphics capably, depending on compromises in resolution. Dynamic resolution scaling would be a big help, and a future update from Valve could unlock ray tracing in SteamOS. It remains to be seen how long the device will be able to handle the latest blockbuster games.

Permalink to story.

 

MakeMSGreatAgain

Posts: 20   +18
Honestly half of the point of the Steam Deck was to get gaming on Linux going...

With that said it would be awesome to have a Steam Deck Beastly that has a 12" 1080p panel, and a lot more power and cooling, with dual hot swappable modular battery packs. Then I would want a VR headset to attach to it with inside-out tracking, a completely self contained VR system that can rival a dedicated gaming PC. This is my dream...
 

alchemist83

Posts: 96   +44
Nope I thought it'd perform poo and you've confirmed it! "30FPS, graphics similar to what players see on the Xbox Series S". Its gonna burn out trying to keep up with an old Xbox. These seem so pointless to me.
 
Nope I thought it'd perform poo and you've confirmed it! "30FPS, graphics similar to what players see on the Xbox Series S". Its gonna burn out trying to keep up with an old Xbox. These seem so pointless to me.

Remember that handheld Xbox Series S Microsoft made? No, me neither.

Perhaps you missed the point of the Steam Deck. You should probably read up on what it can do, rather than imagine it as a portable PlayStation 5, which was never the intention nor expectation. Maybe you've heard of the Switch, which sold a bundle and didn't play to the "4K graphics or GTFO" mentality a lot of modern gamers think makes a good game.

Now I know the Deck can't play Cyberpunk 2077 on high settings, but I hear that game is poo despite it being super shiny. If I had one, I'd be playing my Steam library games on the go without a bulky laptop and extra controller. And it seems the majority of my library is supported out-the-box, which I find pretty impressive for a bloody Linux OS gaming device.
 
Last edited:

alchemist83

Posts: 96   +44
Remember that handheld Xbox Series S Microsoft made? No, me neither.

Perhaps you missed the point of the Steam Deck. You should probably read up on what it can do, rather than imagine it as a portable PlayStation 5, which was never the intention nor expectation. Maybe you've heard of the Switch, which sold a bundle and didn't play to the "4K graphics or GTFO" mentality a lot of modern gamers think makes a good game.

Now I know the Deck can't play Cyberpunk 2077 on high settings, but I hear that game is poo despite it being super shiny. If I had one, I'd be playing my Steam library games on the go without a bulky laptop and extra controller. And it seems the majority of my library is supported out-the-box, which I find pretty impressive for a bloody Linux OS gaming device.
Perhaps you missed reality. I didnt invent 30FPS. I was just responding and airing my surprise. This thing seemingly would struggle to run a 4K video of Cyberpunk! I dont think it can run Cyberpunk on any settings. WOW, what an attack from a fanboi. I was expecting a reply saying how it is useful - something that highlighted exactly how I "missed the point". You're not the one to do that apparently, hence the lack of meaning or depth in your response. You say I missed the point of it, yet then tell me you'd plan to play games on it - the thing I say its no good for! Maybe you've heard of the Switch (my child has one). If you had experience of that aswell maybe you could comment on its lack of power and very limited game array. I'm of an age to know better and it seems to be a reflection of your wishes and thinking - "imagine it as a portable PlayStation 5". I made no such comment to the such. You find it pretty impressive ,thats great. But HOW SO??? "majority of my library is supported out-the-box" is wonderful, that means it can play them. Yet it DOES NOT mean it can play them well!