Valva Steam Deck, just like many of the company’s hardware efforts, has spurred mixed responses to portable handheld PC gaming. The device itself seems to have the yin yang property. Its alluring price was offset by the chaos of pre-orders, while its capable hardware, at least for a laptop, was balanced by some confusing decisions about its performance. The most controversial aspect seems to be the “30 FPS target” for the steam deck that Valve discovered. It turned out that the story was actually confusing from that simple statement.
The company best known for its store and Steam gaming platform has revealed that Steam Deck is targeting 30Hz gaming. This sounds like an arbitrary and weird limitation considering that the device screen can actually refresh 60Hz. At the same time, it sounds almost parallel to the capabilities of the Nintendo Switch, except that the older handheld gaming device has far weaker hardware.
Valve’s Pierre-Loup Griffais later clarified that this 30 fps target is simply under or minimum condition. Nowadays very few modern PC games run lower than 30 fps, so this is a pretty low bar to reach. The developer also explains that the games they’ve tested so far have surpassed that level, perhaps giving hope that the experience, in general, won’t be as bad as that number sounds.
However, more interesting is the discovery that the Steam Deck will have an additional built-in FPS limiter. This would allow users to choose between performance or battery life, and the latter are likely to lock games to 30Hz.
This, however, raises even more questions and concerns about the quality of the graphics that Steam Deck will deliver. There will certainly be considerations surrounding frame synchronization, image acceleration and tearing when locking games in this 30 fps mode, although it’s definitely too early to say how good or bad Steam Deck’s performance will be.