Steam Deck Battery Saving Tips: Five Things You Can Do To Extend Playtime
Depending on what you’re playing, Valve’s new Steam Deck battery can last between eight and two hours. More graphics-intensive games require more power to drive the hardware that supports them, and SteamOS does a pretty decent job of dynamic load balancing in the background. If you’re looking for a few other settings you can play with to get the most out of your Steam Deck’s battery life, we’ve got some tips.
Limit Frame Rate
The 1200×800 Steam Deck display is nice and bright, with a 60Hz refresh rate that is suitable for less demanding games. But running at a higher refresh rate requires more power for both the display and the APU that delivers each frame. Luckily, SteamOS has a 30fps system frame rate limit in the quick settings menu, which allows you to bypass any similar settings in games that might not work.
This is a useful feature that can be turned on at any time, and as a result, you will likely notice a significant increase in your expected battery life. This setting alone can bring back an hour or two when playing small games like Spelunky 2 or Celeste, and a little less in more demanding games like God of War (where 30fps is the goal anyway).
Turn off game settings.
This can go hand in hand with the recommendation above, but just like any other PC, the Steam Deck will use less power if the game you’re playing doesn’t require it. This means that some changes to your graphics settings can result in better battery life without as much visual impact as you might think.
While the display has a fairly high resolution, the 7-inch size means you’re less likely to notice small changes in overall detail as you would on a 27-inch monitor. This means that lowering settings such as anti-aliasing and shadow quality, for example, will require less processing power and will not greatly affect visual quality. It’s worth fiddling with this in every game you play to find the balance that works for you.
Limit your overall TDP
If you’re looking for a rougher way to make your Steam Deck consume less power, you can set a new maximum TDP (thermal design power) for your portable device in the system settings menu. TDP refers to the thermal performance of a processor and is often used as a primary measure of power consumption. The more watts or higher TDP a processor uses, the more heat it generates and the more power it consumes. Reducing the maximum TDP will force the APU to adapt in turn, lowering its base operating clock in relation to the amount of power it now has access to.
Of course, you must be careful how you use this setting. Setting the TDP too low will greatly affect performance and, in some cases, even cause games to crash. But if you want really granular control over how the Steam Deck works, this is one of the two easiest ways to achieve it.
Set the maximum base clock
The other thing, as expected, is to set your GPU’s base clock to a static value, preventing the APU from dynamically stepping up and down. In some cases, this can hurt battery life if you’re not careful, forcing the APU to run at a higher speed than needed for lighter games.
In more demanding games, things can be the other way around. Performance may degrade depending on how low you set your clock speed, but this, in turn, can help you extend battery life without a slight performance hit. If you don’t want to fiddle around with the values for every new game you try, limiting your Steam deck to 30fps will almost always be enough to allow the Steam deck to respond dynamically in this regard, but it’s still nice to have the option.
Decrease screen brightness
As with any other electronic device with a screen, the brighter you set the Steam Deck screen, the more power it consumes. So this isn’t so much a hint as a reminder: make sure the Steam Deck screen brightness is set to automatic so it can dim properly depending on the ambient light in the room you’re playing in.
The good news is that, unlike some other handheld gaming devices, the Steam Deck screen retains most of its detail without much brightness. It also scales very low, allowing you to comfortably view the image in the bed, for example. Never underestimate how much more games you can get by simply turning off your screen brightness. To learn more about Valve’s impressive new toy, read our Steam Deck review.