The Steam Deck is a very slim kit, as verified by our review. But given that it’s essentially a deceptively powerful handheld PC, it might require a bit of tweaking by both Deck owners and developers at Valve before we find those points between battery life and performance. After all, what’s the point of playing Deathloop at 60fps if the battery runs out in just over an hour? On the other hand, what’s the point of playing Deathloop (or any other FPS game) at 30fps no way?
Well it looks like a YouTuber The Phawx found this sweetspot. By limiting the Steam Deck display to 40Hz, he found it was draining around 20W when playing Sekiro – that’s about two hours of game time. Running the same game with the screen running at its full 60Hz without limiting the frame rate was draining the battery about 25% faster (25W), although the game was still only managing around 55-58fps.
It’s a nice improvement, but the catch is that you can only set a 40Hz refresh rate on your Steam Deck if you have Windows installed on it, plus a tool called CRU (Custom Resolution Utility). For now, you can only set 30Hz and 60Hz refresh rates through SteamOS, although Steam Deck developer Pierre-Loup Griffais commented on The Phawx video on Twitter, saying the feature will be “coming soon” to the Steam Deck. Griffais said that the main issue preventing FPS throttling on SteamOS has been blank screen time when switching refresh rates, which certainly doesn’t seem like an insurmountable problem.
But before you ditch SteamOS and turn your Steam Deck into a portable Microsoft machine, remember that Windows is still not very well optimized for the Steam Deck, and game performance will be less consistent than on SteamOS. It’s probably worth the wait until Valve updates SteamOS to support that 40Hz frametime cap, or Steam Deck and Windows learn to play a little better together.