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By 30 September 2021
The hardware might change a bit, but the latest leaked frame rate figures show a handheld PC that can genuinely game.
The dev kits for the Valve Steam Deck are out in the wild and that means leaks are surely going to start coming thick and fast. In fact I’m maybe a little surprised it’s taken this long for gaming performance figures to filter out, but we’re now getting our first taste of how the Deck runs a few modern games. And now I wish I’d paid my $5 to get an early reservation.
The report comes from a user in China (via Tom’s Hardware) with access to a development kit, and they do acknowledge that, because of this, we can’t be totally confident that the performance they’ve seen will be 100% representative of the final release Decks. The tech could well change between the dev and release hardware, particularly things like the battery, and therefore battery life.
But still, this is the same AMD Zen 2 APU at its heart, with the RDNA 2 silicon doing the graphical heavy lifting. And that means the actual fps performance numbers we’re seeing are likely to be pretty close, and the news is good too.
The tester ran Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Doom, Cyberpunk 2077, and DOTA 2 through the Steam Deck, at a variety of settings, and each one of these graphically intensive games is totally playable with some tweaking.
In Tomb Raider, they managed a consistent 30 fps+ on the Highest and High presents, and did actually manage to get a solid 60 fps by lowering some of the settings on offer a bit further. Though they did note that even on the highest settings, as the frame rate remained around 30 fps, it felt satisfying to play.
With Doom, the Deck dev kit was able to nail 60 fps on the Medium preset, while bumping the picture quality up a touch did knock that back to 46 fps, but still smooth and playable.
The same could not be said for Cyberpunk 2077, however, as at High settings the frame rate did fluctuate between 20 and 30 fps, making it feel like a far more staccato experience. Dropping down to Medium or Low, however, and again you’ll be playing smoothly, though probably still not up at 60 fps.
It did also crash once, though the other games were apparently very stable.
Finally, with DOTA 2, though the experience of trying to play it using the handheld controls was not a particularly pleasant one, the actual performance was pretty good. At its highest preset the Deck was running happily at around 47 fps, while on Low you’re looking at around 80 fps.
They also have some notes about the thermal levels and battery life of the Steam Deck dev kit, too. After around three hours of play time—presumably with Cyberpunk 2077, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and Doom—the battery had dropped from 100% to 46%. That chimes pretty well with the suggested single charge lifespan of two to eight hours.
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And, as our Wes noted from his Steam Deck hands-on time, it can get pretty toasty during gaming. The back of the Deck hit around 43°C, but where it matters, around the actual places where you’ll be holding the device, it was only measuring at around 29°C.
This all bodes well for the Steam Deck when it does finally launch in December, and those performance figures are genuinely exciting. While you’re not necessarily going to be smashing 60 fps at the highest settings, it’s worth remembering that you can still have a great gaming experience with a sub-60 fps frame rate—consistency is the main thing you want, and it looks like the Deck will deliver.
The first Decks will ship in December this year, but if you too have waited to place a reservation then sadly you’re not getting one until sometime after June next year. Sorry.
Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he’s back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.
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