Steam Deck Refresh Rate: 40Hz-60Hz, VRS and Improved Acoustics Tested

Jeffrey T. Jensen

The Steam Deck is a portable handheld gaming computer developed by Valve and released on February 25, 2022. The device runs on SteamOS 3.0, allowing users to run Windows applications and games. In addition to handheld use, the Steam Deck can be connected to a TV or monitor through a docking station and be used like a desktop computer or home video game console. In desktop mode, users can install Linux-based third-party applications.

Table Of Contents

The Steam Deck Refresh Rate

One of the features of the Steam Deck is its refresh rate, which is the number of times per second that the screen image changes or refreshes. The refresh rate affects the smoothness and clarity of the gameplay, as well as the battery life of the device.

The Steam Deck has a 7-inch display with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels and a default refresh rate of 60Hz. This feature means the screen updates 60 times per second, which is considered a standard for most PC games. However, some games may need more than 60 frames per second (FPS) on the Steam Deck, especially those with high-end graphics or demanding Performance. In such cases, the refresh rate may not match the frame rate, resulting in stuttering, tearing, or input lag.

Therefore, to address this issue, the manufacturer Valve recently added a feature that allows Steam Deck owners to adjust the refresh rate on the go. Users can, therefore, choose from different refresh rate options, such as 40Hz, 20Hz, and 10Hz, depending on their preference and the game they are playing. Lowering the refresh rate can improve the frame rate stability and reduce the device's power consumption, extending its battery life. However, lowering the refresh rate can make the gameplay less smooth and responsive.

Hardware of the Steam Deck

To change the refresh rate on the Steam Deck, users need to access the Gaming Mode menu by pressing the three-dot button on the device. Then, they need to scroll down to Performance and select Refresh Rate. They can then cycle through the options and choose their desired refresh rate. The screen will briefly go black while it adjusts to the new setting. Users can also set a specific frame rate limit for each game in the same menu.

Steam Deck Improvements

The refresh rate feature is one of Valve's many improvements to the Steam Deck since its release. Valve has also updated the fan curve, added more verified games, and enabled Remote Play Together on the device. Valve continues to support and enhance the Steam Deck experience for its users.

The new fan curve is smarter than the old system controlled by the BIOS, so the fan makes less noise, especially when the device is not used much. If you want, you can switch back to the old system in the system settings. Valve will keep working on the fan control to make it better.

Another way to save power, noise, and heat is to lower the game's internal rendering resolution. Version 3.2 has more options for that. Other improvements include a louder speaker volume, an option to format microSD cards quickly, and more.

Here are the key details on refresh rates for the Steam Deck

- Up to 120Hz at 1200p resolution

- Up to 60Hz at 4K resolution

- Refresh rates up to 240Hz are possible at lower resolutions depending on the external display.


Q. What is the native refresh rate of the Steam Deck's display?

The built-in 7-inch LCD supports up to 60Hz refresh rate natively. However, Valve says it will run at 40Hz, 50Hz, or 60Hz, depending on the game and settings.

Q. What refresh rates can the Steam Deck support over USB-C/Dock?

The Steam Deck can support up to 120Hz at 1200p resolution or 60Hz at 4K when connected to an external display. With the dock, refresh rates up to 240Hz are possible at lower resolutions, depending on the display.

Q. What factors affect the display refresh rate?

The game/application, display device capabilities, docked vs. handheld mode, resolution, and user settings affect the possible refresh rate. More demanding games may run at lower refresh rates.

Q. Why would I want a higher refresh rate?

Higher refresh rates (90Hz, 120Hz, and 144Hz) make motion look smoother, decrease input lag, and reduce motion blur for a more responsive, fluid gaming experience.

Q. Does refresh rate affect game performance?

Mostly, no; the GPU has to work harder to output more frames per second. But this gives a smoother perceived performance without affecting in-game FPS.

Final Thoughts

Steam Deck's built-in display hardware is limited to 60Hz, which cannot be upgraded by software overclocking. However, through an external display, a higher refresh rate can be achieved. According to the specific specifications of the display, the maximum can reach 240Hz by modifying the resolution and refresh rate settings. It should be noted that increasing the refresh rate will require higher hardware, and 240Hz needs to be used at a lower resolution.

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