The Steam Deck is a surprisingly powerful gaming PC considering its $399 starting price. So I’m perfectly content playing a game like Cyberpunk 2077 at 30fps, especially when the Deck delivers such a smooth and sublime 30fps courtesy of its built-in FPS limiter. But Valve has bigger plans for this feature; in fact, what you’re seeing during this launch week isn’t as feature-complete as reviewers experienced before the embargo lifted on February 25.
(It is smoother though!)
As I mentioned in my Steam Deck review, there’s a “Limit Frame Rate To 30” toggle in the Quick Access menu. Utilizing it not only doubles the Deck’s battery life in cases like DOOM Eternal and God of War, but in the vast majority of games tested, it delivers a smoother, stutter-free gameplay experience. A better one, in my opinion, than what typical in-game FPS caps provide.
The above Cyberpunk 2077 video is a demonstration of the 30fps limiter in action on the Steam Deck. You can judge for yourself whether you prefer the right side or the left side. But that’s a demanding game, and I’m hearing a lot of gamers wishing for a happy medium between 30fps and 60fps caps.
That happy medium would be 45fps.
I have an interesting story to tell you on that front. That feature already existed but was yanked out before the Deck launched.
As someone who had a review unit roughly two weeks before the embargo lifted, I witnessed Valve make major tweaks to the Performance tab (the one that collects switches for FSR, Frame Cap, Power Limits, and GPU clock settings). At one point, there was a more detailed frame limit slider that included 45fps.
Following one of the frequent pre-launch OS updates that removed the slider in favor of a simple 30fps toggle, Valve emailed press explaining that it was “working on bringing back the full granular FPS slider,” but the company wanted to ensure it was reliable, stable and smooth at all settings.
Personally, I can’t wait for that. I’ve been playing a huge catalog of games on the Deck, and so many of them hit that sweet spot between 45 and 60fps, albeit with some jerky frames. The Steam Deck isn’t equipped with a Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) display, but imagine for a moment that Valve not only let you slide that frame rate cap up to 45fps, but automatically downclocked the display to 45hz to more easily prevent tearing and stutter.
I don’t know if that 45hz scenario will ever see the light of day, but I’m content taking Valve at their word that a more granular slider will be reinstated in a future OS update.
Valve managed to achieve such excellent frame pacing with the system-wide 30fps cap. A 45fps one would be ideal for those games that aren’t quite as punishing as titles like Cyberpunk 2077. 15 frames per second makes a huge difference.