The Steam Deck is a very powerful handheld gaming PC ever to launch and its cellular efficiency has been the topic of a lot of the pre-launch debate. Now it is lastly that can be purchased—although with major caveats around any purchase—we are able to discuss concerning the true battery lifetime of the Steam Deck.
When Valve revealed its handheld creation final yr it touted a two-to-eight hour gaming battery life, which is essentially round what the unique Nintendo Change system urged for its approximate vary. I am positive that is no accident given the significance of that quantity for a system meant to be taken on the street, and away from a supply of energy for an extended whereas.
The wild vary in that determine is all the way down to the vagaries of how video games and recreation engines tax a machine’s sources to higher or lesser extents. Valve itself has listed a couple of caveats, too, suggesting its battery estimates are primarily based on the native decision of 1280 x 800 and a restrict to 30Hz.
Theoretically, one thing like Minesweeper on the Steam Deck must get you the top-end eight hour battery life, whereas a extra system intensive recreation, resembling God of Struggle, would possibly effectively have you ever counting down the minutes all the way down to the 2 hour mark.
That is the speculation at the least, however what about actuality? Early testers claimed the Deck’s battery may very well be drained in simply 90 minutes and, whereas that’s the exception fairly than the rule, it is undoubtedly one thing I’ve discovered true in my testing, too. It seems that, if you happen to enable the Steam Deck’s AMD Aerith APU free rein to carry out at its peak, you may truly burn by way of your battery in even lower than that in God of Struggle.
That is the worst offender in our assessments, and never even then at its most graphically intensive settings, both. Working on the ‘Authentic’ preset, with FidelityFX Tremendous Decision set to ‘High quality’, I am getting someplace between 40 and 50 fps, however solely round 83 minutes of precise gaming.
It is a related scenario with Forza Horizon 5, the place the ‘Medium’ preset, operating at a median 45 fps, will solely ship 86 minutes of uptime.
It is value stating at this level that the Steam Deck has a number of superior settings in its arsenal designed to squeeze extra life out of its 40Wh battery. By default, Valve has enabled a tough 60 fps lock by forcing Vsync on it doesn’t matter what the in-game settings is perhaps. This stops any less-demanding recreation from going over and above the 60Hz the 7-inch touchscreen is able to displaying.
However by dipping into the ‘Efficiency’ menu and hitting the ‘Superior’ button you acquire entry to some additional settings to tweak. This has modified quite a bit—and might be the half that is modified probably the most in my time utilizing the Deck pre-launch—and I’d anticipate it can proceed to evolve going ahead.
Essentially the most highly effective of those instruments for any gamer utilizing the Deck goes to be the ‘Restrict Body Fee to 30’ toggle. This was a granular fps slider, however wasn’t working because it was purported to, and so Valve has made it a binary, off or on scenario.
There’s the potential for it to return to that granular stage, because the builders are nonetheless engaged on it behind the scenes, which might be nice. Personally, I discovered a 40 fps restrict was an excellent steadiness between battery life and clean gaming efficiency, so was disenchanted to see the choice disappear.
What’s the Steam Deck’s battery life?
In our personal testing, with Wi-Fi enabled and at 50% brightness, we have now discovered the Steam Deck battery life ranges from simply 83 minutes at worst all the best way as much as seven hours and 9 minutes. That is all fully depending on the sport we have been taking part in and the Deck’s efficiency limiting settings.
That is additionally beneath the Valve estimates of two-to-eight hours of gaming time on each the decrease and higher scales.
As you may see from our battery life benchmarks, dropping to 30 fps makes an unlimited distinction to the size of recreation time the Deck will subsequently enable you. I may also say that after some time taking part in at that stage I finished seeing the low body price and simply loved the gaming expertise.
It is completely different on a full gaming PC, with a big-screen monitor strapped to it, however on the small display of the Steam Deck, I’ve discovered I shortly overlook about that 30 fps restrict after I’m taking part in a recreation I am actually into.
The distinction between the usual and 30 fps battery life might sound stunning whenever you first see it. In spite of everything, we’re recurrently seeing it greater than double in video games resembling God of Struggle, The Witcher 3, and Resident Evil Village. However, contemplating that, all advised, you are wanting on the system drawing a full 10W much less energy from the battery when it is locked down in comparison with when it is flying unfettered at round 25W, that seemingly staggering rise is smart even whenever you’re not truly dropping from 60 fps to 30 fps.
The place it is much less spectacular, nonetheless, is when unlocked efficiency is already near the 30 fps mark. In Horizon Zero Daybreak and Forza Horizon 5 I solely noticed a rise of 24% and 33% respectively, which is not that thrilling; lower than an additional 30 minutes in each circumstances. Y’know what, I blame the horizon.
Inevitably, the video games which provides you with the longest play time on the Steam Deck are the graphically light-weight indies. FTL was the winner in my testing, delivering a possible seven hours of gaming, however the excellent OlliOlli World providing up over six hours of compulsive skating is mighty pleasing, too. However nothing I attempted acquired anyplace close to the vaunted eight hours of battery life Valve has been touting.
If you happen to fully shut off Wi-Fi, and run the display at its lowest setting, you can perhaps squeeze slightly extra day trip of it—perhaps even play FTL for that semi legendary eight hours—however you’d need to be on some severely dimly lit red-eye transatlantic flight for that to work out.
Even streaming I would solely anticipate to get round 5 and a half hours of gaming in. That is with the GPU element of the AMD Aerith silicon measured operating at 0% load, and the CPU cores solely simply ticking over at 22% load. With the Wi-Fi essentially working, and the display at 50% brightness, the Deck is drawing round 8W of energy, which is seemingly nonetheless not sufficient to hit eight hours.
There are extra tweaks you may make that might assist you to stretch that uptime out; the Superior part of the Efficiency menu additionally affords each Thermal Energy (TDP) Restrict and Guide GPU Clock Management sliders.
Combining the 2 can assist you to drive down energy draw throughout CPU and GPU elements of the chip at an unprecedentedly granular stage, although that can have an effect on efficiency significantly. However once more, these drops solely have an effect on the APU itself, not the overall energy draw of the system as an entire.
That each one in all probability sounds fairly detrimental, but it surely actually is not meant to. I simply need to mood any hopes that the eight hour battery life is quickly achievable; it can definitely take extra tweaking than most individuals will care to do, and solely in sure video games.
The out of the field expertise for anybody not serious about tweaking these superior settings will see battery life being an actual concern.
However only a single toggle away you’ve a 3 and a half hour session of GTA V, a close to 4 hour run at The Witcher 3, or greater than 5 hours of Soccer Supervisor 2022, and there I will really feel like I’ve had a great little bit of play time. Nowadays I am not often away from an influence supply for that lengthy, both.
The very fact the system will cost as much as some 80% of capability in 100 minutes signifies that it will not take you lengthy to be up and operating once more both. Throw in the truth that 10,000mAh USB Kind-C battery packs aren’t loopy dear lately, and there are numerous extra hours of play time proper there. The Elecjet Apollo battery pack is a graphene-based 10,000mAh possibility; a brilliant quick-charging one, too. It is able to not solely charging the Deck, but in addition permitting you to play on the similar time, which is fairly spectacular.
So, whereas the true battery lifetime of the Steam Deck might sound slightly decrease than you might need hoped, there are particular methods to squeeze much more recreation day trip of the system with out actually sacrificing your gaming expertise. If you happen to’re not ready to tweak the Deck’s settings its capability as a conveyable system is severely restricted, however the 30 fps toggle delivers genuinely cellular PC gaming.