Valve’s latest SteamOS update is a big one for Steam Deck fans – and I am literally talking about the fan in the handheld gaming PC. One frequent complaint about the Steam Deck is its at-times loud and high-pitched fan whine even while playing lightweight games. Some, including my colleague Sean Hollister, have tried a DIY solution to fix the whine, and iFixit’s replacement Steam Deck fans are already sold out despite being on sale for less than a week.
With SteamOS 3.2, though, Valve introduced a new OS-controlled fan curve that’s intended to make things better. “This means that overall it’s smarter, more responsive to what’s happening on and inside Steam Deck, and quieter – especially in low usage situations,” the company said in a blog post (emphasis Valve’s).
To see if I could notice a difference, I installed the update on my Steam Deck and tried a few games. In my short and extremely unscientific testing, my impression is that Valve has made some great improvements.
I first booted up Rogue Legacy 2, a sidescrolling roguelike that isn’t too graphically intensive. I immediately noticed that the fan was dramatically quieter – I could only hear it sporadically – and with the speakers turned up, I couldn’t hear the fan at all. I had a similar experience with Vampire Survivors, though I haven’t had time to get to a typical endgame, where the entire screen becomes filled with enemies and weapons – I’m curious to see if that will push the fan more.
In Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice with settings cranked to the max, the fan is still audible, though it’s generally much quieter when compared to the old fan behavior, which you can toggle back to in the settings menu if you want. With the new update installed, I also haven’t heard the fan while idling on the Steam Deck’s menu screen, which was one of my biggest pet peeves with the device.
SteamOS 3.2 also lets you change in-game refresh rates on the fly right from the three dots menu button. “The default is 60Hz (which can be frame-limited to 60, 30, and 15fps), but you can now slide it down to 40Hz (with frame limits at 40, 20, and 10fps),” Valve says. Lowering refresh rate is one lever you can pull if you want to improve battery life.