The Steam Deck is a cool piece of kit. But given that it’s basically a powerful handheld PC, it needs a fair bit of tweaking both by owners and the Deck devs at Valve before we find those sweet spots between battery life and performance.
YouTuber The Phawx has found that sweet spot. By limiting the Steam Deck’s display to 40Hz, he found that it was exhausting about 20W when playing Sekiro—that’s around two hours of playtime. Playing the same game with the display running at its full 60Hz without limiting the framerate was emptying the battery around 25% faster (25W), even though the game was still only giving around 55-58fps.
It’s a nice modification, but the catch is that you can only set a 40Hz refresh rate on your Steam Deck if you have Windows installed on it, as well as a tool called CRU. For now, you can only set 30Hz and 60Hz refresh rates through SteamOS, though Steam Deck developer Pierre-Loup Griffais commented on The Phawx’s video on Twitter, saying that the feature will be “coming soon” to the Steam Deck. Griffais said that the main issue stopping FPS limiting on SteamOS has been the screen-blanking time when changing refresh rates, which certainly doesn’t sound like an impossible problem.
But before you leave SteamOS and turn your Steam Deck into a handheld Microsoft Machine, bear in mind that Windows isn’t well optimized for Steam Deck yet, and gaming performance will be less uniform than on SteamOS. It’s probably worth waiting until either Valve updates SteamOS to support that 40Hz frame time limit, or the Steam Deck and Windows get along to play a little nicer with eachother.