Valve may boast that even new AAA games can be played on the Steam Deck, but worrying about the console doing this completely without regard to common sense is not costs. Valve programmer Pierre-Loop Griffe tweeted that the Steam Deck will have a “built-in” frame rate limiter that will cut down on game performance to extend the Steam Deck’s battery life. So if you’re playing a game that doesn’t have to be super responsive, this feature can trade extra frames for extra game time.
Not that the Steam Deck is weak on its own. After Valve told IGN that the target framerate for the console would be 30fps, Griffe added in a tweet that this figure is “the bottom line for what we think is playable in our performance tests.” In addition, any game Valve tested has “repeatedly reached and exceeded” this threshold, Griffe said. So as long as you don’t plan on running ultra-top games at 30fps and maximum detail on the Steam Deck (after all, it’s just a $ 399+ laptop), you don’t have to worry about your favorite game will turn into an annoying slideshow.
According to company tests, Portal 2 can be played for 6 hours in 30 fps mode, and 4 hours in unlimited frame rate mode. But we can assume that this effect will be worse for newer and more sophisticated games, and they are more likely to be less likely to achieve high frame rates.
However, Steam Deck performance might not be the smoothest even with the frame rate limiter. For example, as Digital Foundry warns, when using the V-Sync feature, the experience of playing on the Steam Deck may not be ideal. And, of course, the target 30fps only applies to existing games – you are unlikely to get a playable frame rate from any AAA blockbuster that will release in 2023 (at least without lowering the detail settings). At this point, Valve’s goal is to make sure that players can just play normally what is in their Steam library right now.