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

In the context: So far, reviewers and users are enjoying Valve’s portable Steam Deck console. It’s both a gaming center – compared to some of the competition – and a full-fledged desktop PC all rolled into one with a custom Linux distribution optimized for PC gaming. However, this is by no means a perfect machine, and battery life is one of the biggest issues deck owners are facing right now.

Playing full PC games at 60Hz can drain a Steam Deck’s battery substantially – PC Gamer’s Wes Fenlon managed to go from full to nothing. 20 per cent just over an hour of Deathloop session. Since the Steam Deck is marketed as a portable gaming console, it would be ideal if it lasted a little longer.

As it turns out, you can to squeeze extra battery life out of the device, but this requires some work. Youtuber The Phawx found that hard limiting his deck to 40Hz improved the smoothness of the gameplay and frame rate, but also significantly increased battery life – comparable to 30Hz. In other words, 40 Hz is the most optimal value.

However, there are several disadvantages. First, SteamOS Steam Deck does not natively support changing the refresh rate due to the large “screen blanking time” when switching.

This feature is “coming soon”, but for now, you’ll have to install Windows on the device. It may not seem like such a big deal, but Windows isn’t at its best on Steam Deck, as Linus Tech Tips suggests. explains in the video below.

Second, 60Hz panels generally don’t support 40Hz refresh rates by default. Usually you have to use third party utilities like CRU to achieve this functionality and the Steam Deck display is no different.

Finally, a global slowdown in the refresh rate will affect absolutely everything you do on your computer, including simply dragging and dropping windows. In other words, expect Windows to feel a bit more sluggish on the deck if you implement these methods.

However, the benefits are likely to be worth the pain for many. As The Phawx points out, a 40Hz clipped steam deck will draw about 20W of power compared to a 25W uncapped deck. The YouTuber claims that this 25 percent difference will push battery life to around the two-hour mark under load, which is a significant jump from the hours and change you would get with an unmodified device. Of course, this assumes you’re using a full 100 percent charge every time you load your deck, which is not the case for most users.

Steam Deck is receiving active support from Valve, so we can expect some of these jerky workarounds to be implemented in the future. We hope Valve manages to optimize the power consumption a bit as well, as Deck battery life is pretty mediocre compared to some of its competitors.

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