Steam Deck to Include Built-In FPS Limiter to Prolong Battery Life
Valve’s much-anticipated Steam Deck has garnered quite a lot of attention lately. Now that the first wave of hype and excitement has subdued, however, many questions still linger in the air when it comes to its performance. There’s a large group of people who are still wondering whether they’ll be able to play their favorite titles and how many FPS they’ll be able to reach given Steam Deck’s inherent limitations — the relatively low power envelope of its APU, its overall form factor, etc.
Fortunately, Valve’s Pierre-Loup Griffais took to Twitter to further elaborate on a recent interview he did with IGN, and give fans additional information into how well Steam Deck will perform, how many FPS they can expect, and how its overall performance will affect the built-in 40Wh battery.
There’s a Baseline
During their internal testing, the folks over at Valve conscientiously focused on delivering a smooth 30 FPS (800p) experience across as many titles as they possibly could — including triple-A, narrative-driven ones like, say, Cyberpunk 2077, Red Dead Redemption 2, and the like.
As Pierre-Loup Griffais elaborated, it’s more of a baseline rather than any sort of target. Most games will, indeed, run at way above 30 FPS — but not all. Performance will vary wildly from one title to another, which is only natural. It seems that this bit of news caught many people off guard, and it’s hard to understand why. The Ryzen Zen 2-based APU inside will almost certainly run at 15W (with a fairly short-lived burst that’ll push it to the upper twenties), which means the Steam Deck won’t be able to deliver any sort of miracle.
We’re talking about a portable gaming computer, one that’ll run basically anything you might throw its way, given that you lower the settings. So yes: you will be able to run Cyberpunk 2077, but that doesn’t mean you should. Valve’s Steam Deck was designed and engineered to meet a certain performance threshold so don’t expect it to punch above its weight class as there are simply too many inherent limitations in place.
Let’s Talk Battery Life
Valve will implement a nifty FPS limiter in the Steam Deck that will allow users to fine-tune performance and therefore prolong battery life. Don’t need over 30 FPS and want to game for as long as possible? Not a problem, just flip the right “switch” and you’ll be good to go! A software-based limitation will be put into place and limit the APU’s power draw.
Not everyone’s happy about this fine interplay between performance and battery life, though. Some folks expected more, but Valve never promised next-gen console-like performance, so it’s hard to understand where this disappointment is coming from. Indie games and those that have been released a couple of years ago will no doubt run at 60 FPS (and above) so not all is grim — far from it, in fact. For the Steam Deck to truly shine, you’ll need to find the right balance between graphical fidelity and performance, and you might have to do so across all of your favorite titles in order to maximize their performance and get the kind of gaming experience you’re after.
There are also other, more technical challenges that Valve will need to tackle (as mentioned by Digital Foundry), but we’re sure they’ll figure it out — the Steam Deck will start shipping to customers in six months (at the earliest), so it’s not like they don’t have enough time!