YouTuber boosts Steam Deck battery life by capping the display to 40Hz

Polycount

Posts: 3,011   +589
Staff member
In context: So far, reviewers and users alike are enjoying Valve's handheld Steam Deck console. It's both a gaming powerhouse -- relative to some competitors -- and a full desktop PC rolled into one, with a custom Linux distro optimized for PC gaming. However, it isn't a perfect machine by any means, and battery life is one of the big concerns Deck owners have right now.

Playing full-fat PC games at 60Hz can drain the Steam Deck's battery substantially -- PC Gamer's Wes Fenlon managed to go from a full charge to a measly 20 percent just over an hour into a Deathloop session. Since the Steam Deck is being marketed as a portable gaming console, it'd be ideal if it lasted a little longer.

As it turns out, you can squeeze some extra battery life out of the device, but it requires some doing. YouTuber The Phawx discovered that hard-capping his Deck to 40Hz improved gameplay smoothness and frame pacing while still netting him a nice bump to battery life -- comparable to 30Hz. In other words, 40Hz is right in the sweet spot.

There are a few downsides, though. First, the Steam Deck's SteamOS does not natively support refresh rate changes due to high "screen blanking time" when switching.

That functionality is "coming soon," but in the meantime, you'll have to install Windows on the device instead. That might not seem like a big deal, but Windows is not in great shape on the Steam Deck, as Linus Tech Tips explains in the video below.

Second, 60Hz panels don't typically support the 40Hz refresh rate by default. You usually have to use third-party utilities like CRU to achieve that functionality, and the Steam Deck's display is no different.

Finally, reducing your fresh rate globally will affect absolutely everything you do on your machine, including simply dragging windows around. In other words, expect Windows to feel a bit more sluggish on the Deck if you implement these methods.

Even so, the benefits will probably be worth the pain for many. As The Phawx points out, a 40Hz-capped Steam Deck is going to use around 20 watts of power, versus an uncapped Deck's 25 watts. The YouTuber claims this 25 percent difference will boost battery life to roughly the two-hour mark under load, which is a sizable jump from the hour-and-change you'd get with an unaltered device. Of course, this assumes you're using a full 100 percent charge every time you boot up your Deck, which won't be the case for most users.

The Steam Deck is receiving active support from Valve, so we can expect to see some of these janky workarounds implemented natively down the line. We hope Valve also manages to optimize power draw a bit more since the Deck's battery life is pretty mediocre compared to some of its competitors.

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shark975

Posts: 79   +95
Steam deck is a turd tbh just no-one wants to admit it. all websites and streamers are scared to call a spade a spade or suffer the wrath of the intold hordes of aggressive steam fanboys (they rival sony, nvidia, and apple fanboys for sheer massive massive massive numbers and virulent aggressiveness) grossly underpowered, crappy proton layer, poor compatibility with popular gaas, pathetic amount of storage in the low priced model (luckily here it is mostly saved by cheap sd, altho that is a small additional expenditure)

I love how the hypocrite pc gaming media snobs always sneers are anything less than 144hz (gotta sell that $1000 gsync tax) and 4k, but in steamdeck suddenly they carry water for 25 hz 720p and battery live measured in tens of minutes.

what saves it is the 400 price. for that in inflated biden dollars is like $18. at that price who cares, buy one for the dog too.

just wonder how long 400 is sustainable. needs a nice revision at 499. steamdeck 2.0.
 

Dimitriid

Posts: 2,206   +4,245
With adaptive sync 40 FPS would actually look quite smooth, not sure if that's on Linux yet probably caught up in the hole xorg to wayland transition thing.
 

Dimitriid

Posts: 2,206   +4,245
Steam deck is a turd tbh just no-one wants to admit it. all websites and streamers are scared to call a spade a spade or suffer the wrath of the intold hordes of aggressive steam fanboys (they rival sony, nvidia, and apple fanboys for sheer massive massive massive numbers and virulent aggressiveness) grossly underpowered, crappy proton layer, poor compatibility with popular gaas, pathetic amount of storage in the low priced model (luckily here it is mostly saved by cheap sd, altho that is a small additional expenditure)

I've seen only one major reviewer that managed to do a full device review without once mentioning Linux at all and that was MKBHD. And he wasn't too positive either: his entire thing was that he thought it was cool to play some PC games he likes on a coach and did mention the shortcomings.

I've found his review interesting *because* by not mentioning Linux, you pretty much dismantle the toxic positivity from the Linux community supporting the device because to me they're very detrimental right now: like you say the device has issues, Proton support is not anywhere near a fraction of what Valve was promising (Even though they made advancements it's just not enough) and well, nobody is willing to talk about how this device it's still not available for retail: you *have* to get on a waiting list that while better, it's still reported at 2 to 3 months even *with* the limited sales having a waiting list and preorder implies so the price tag I feel is veeeery artificial if they just don't sell the damn thing of course they can claim 400 USD entry level because their entire stock would disappear in 30 seconds if they actually put them for sale at Amazon and then it's back to waiting for months to get one.
 

Hexic

Posts: 1,216   +1,898
TechSpot Elite
Steam deck is a turd tbh just no-one wants to admit it. all websites and streamers are scared to call a spade a spade or suffer the wrath of the intold hordes of aggressive steam fanboys (they rival sony, nvidia, and apple fanboys for sheer massive massive massive numbers and virulent aggressiveness) grossly underpowered, crappy proton layer, poor compatibility with popular gaas, pathetic amount of storage in the low priced model (luckily here it is mostly saved by cheap sd, altho that is a small additional expenditure)

I love how the hypocrite pc gaming media snobs always sneers are anything less than 144hz (gotta sell that $1000 gsync tax) and 4k, but in steamdeck suddenly they carry water for 25 hz 720p and battery live measured in tens of minutes.

what saves it is the 400 price. for that in inflated biden dollars is like $18. at that price who cares, buy one for the dog too.

just wonder how long 400 is sustainable. needs a nice revision at 499. steamdeck 2.0.

I don't see the point in a steamdeck.

The rose-tinted vision of "gaming on the go" isn't met by this already outdated hardware with terrible battery life. The average consumer is better off buying a switch instead.

It's the business term-market equivalency of a buzzword right now, and it's best hope to even hold a fart to a candle of continuing on in any meaningful way is to try and get the market to spur some relevance in this handheld gaming segment.

Unfortunately for the steamdeck, mobile games are currently far easier, cheaper (since one already has a mobile phone), smaller, and have higher refresh rates than this product. Couldn't care less it can play steam games - most of them weren't optimized at the design layer for this kind of gaming anyways.
 
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McMurdeR

Posts: 510   +646
It's a fantastic device, but the expectations are very optimistic. Realistically its low, maybe meduim detail at 720p for most newish PC games, that's it.

40hz is a bit too miserable for me, couldn't do it.
 

Eldritch

Posts: 428   +684
One hour battery life.

40hz gameplay to extend playtime.

Poor storage.

Thanks to all who participated in the paid beta aka 'early adopters', we will have a functional Steam deck in a year or two.
 

pcnthuziast

Posts: 1,321   +1,103
Much like Intel with their initial forray in dedicated gfx, this is 1st gen. The idea itself and the platform, isn't going away. To be able to game on a device slightly bigger than a phone with a bigger display. Eventually there will be a high refresh 2k oled model with a cpu to rival the best 2022 has to offer anywhere, including desktop platform. Just a matter of time. By then you'll be able to cram large screen and full utility interface while maintaining the desired asthetic of something that's barely there, minimum mass. Something with beastly cpu and gpu processing power for high end gaming, on the go and able to be kept cool in a realtively tiny package.
 

Sausagemeat

Posts: 1,597   +1,422
Im glad people are waking up to the fact that this thing is a bit rubbish. If you enjoy wrestling with settings and beta testing software to get a brief handheld gaming experience on a 720p screen at 30fps on a device that weighs considerably more than an iPad then power to you. Personally il save my $400.
 

Usukosej

Posts: 183   +82
It's insane this device don't have VRR 30-60 minimum. Fps varies ALOT because of low-end parts, especially on battery.

They should do a Pro version with OLED and 30-90 Hz VRR.
 

passwordistaco

Posts: 207   +502
I'm still looking forward to mine. I have a lot of older games to play that should do just fine on the hardware.

Valve will probably do a version 2 with VRR, maybe OLED, on something like a Zen4 RDNA3 APU. Then that will be it, because Valve can't count to 3.
 

BigRedPDX

Posts: 271   +191
The steam deck is something I would probably spend more time modifying than actually using it for it's main purpose.
 

hahahanoobs

Posts: 4,447   +2,417
Ironically "when I was a lad" (back in the 8bit era) _anyone_ who played computer games was generally considered a nerd lol
The Deck is next level nerd though.
You never had to frame cap or have to see if a game worked on an NES before you bought it.