In short: AMD and Valve are working on an improved Linux CPU driver that improves the frequency scaling of Zen 2 processors. This should lend more credibility to Valve’s claim that the Steam Deck can hit at least 30fps in all modern games.
When Valve announced the Steam Deck last month, it sparked a lot of interest from gamers looking forward to playing their favorite games from their Steam library wherever they wanted without having to carry a real gaming laptop with them. Even Epic CEO Tim Sweeney thinks it’s a great idea, but as always, execution is what will ultimately determine if it’s successful.
There has been a lot of speculation about how well the console will perform, and the specs are pretty impressive given the size, at least on paper. Valve says AMD’s dedicated APU paired with 16GB of LPDDR5 memory is capable of at least 30fps in almost any recent AAA game, but the company hasn’t gone into details.
We can only assume that the RDNA 2 Steam Deck GPU is probably good enough to run games at low to medium settings on an 800p display (especially with AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution in games that support it), but the performance that targeted by Valve may also be the result of additional software optimization work.
According to Foronix reportValve has partnered with AMD to develop an improved Linux driver for the Zen 2 processor in the new console, which should, among other things, address processor performance scaling issues.
The main reason for this development effort is that the current ACPI CPUFreq driver is not very performance / power efficient. [efficient] for modern AMD platforms ”.
In other words, the new driver will allow the processor in the Steam Deck to quickly transition to a higher performance state when needed and achieve higher performance per watt. This is important because the power budget for both the CPU and GPU is relatively limited at 15W.
We will learn more about AMD’s new processor driver for Linux in September, as the company is expected to share more details at the X.org Developers Conference (XDC).