YouTuber increases the battery life of the Steam Deck by limiting the display to 40Hz

In Context: So far, reviewers and users alike love Valve’s Steam Deck handheld console. It’s both a gaming powerhouse, compared to some rivals, and a full desktop PC in one, with a custom Linux distribution optimized for PC gaming. However, it’s by no means a perfect machine, and battery life is a major concern for Deck owners right now.

Playing full PC games at 60Hz can drain the Steam Deck’s battery considerably – PC Gamer’s Wes Fenlon managed to go from a full charge to a measly 20% in just over an hour in a Deathloop session. Since the Steam Deck is marketed as a handheld game console, it would be ideal if it lasted a little longer.

It turns out it’s you candies squeezing some extra battery life out of the device, but it takes some work. YouTuber The Phawx found that maxing out its Deck at 40Hz improved gameplay fluidity and frame rate, giving it a nice boost in battery life – comparable to 30Hz. Terms, 40Hz is just right.

There are, however, some drawbacks. First of all, Steam Deck’s SteamOS does not natively support refresh rate changes due to the high “blackout time” when editing.

This feature is “coming soon”, but in the meantime you’ll need to install Windows on your device. It might not seem like a big deal, but Windows isn’t in great shape on Steam Deck, as Linus Tech Tips explains in the video below.

Second, 60Hz panels generally don’t support the default 40Hz refresh rate. You usually have to use third-party utilities like CRUs to get this functionality, and the Steam Deck display is no different.

Finally, the overall decrease in refresh rate will affect absolutely everything you do on your machine, including the simple act of dragging windows. In other words, expect Windows to feel a little slower on the Deck if you implement these methods.

Even so, the benefits are probably worth it for many. As The Phawx points out, a Steam Deck limited to 40Hz will use around 20 watts of power, compared to 25 watts for an uncapped Deck. The YouTuber claims that a 25% difference will increase battery life to around two hours under load, which is a huge leap in time and the change you would get with an unmodified device. Of course, this assumes you’re using a 100% full charge every time you start your deck, which most users won’t.

The Steam Deck is receiving active support from Valve, so we can expect to see some of these quirky workarounds implemented natively across the board. We hope Valve will also be able to optimize power consumption a little more, as the Deck’s battery life is quite poor compared to some of its competitors.

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