Valve’s latest SteamOS update is a big one for Steam Deck fans — and I’m literally talking about the fan in the portable gaming PC. A common complaint about the Steam Deck is the fan’s sometimes loud and high pitched whine, even when playing lightweight games. Some, including my colleague Sean Hollister, have tried a DIY fix to fix the whine, and iFixit’s replacement Steam Deck fans have already sold out, despite being on sale for less than a week.
However, with SteamOS 3.2, Valve introduced a new OS-controlled fan curve that aims to make things better. “This means it’s generally smarter, more responsive to what’s happening on and in Steam Deck, and quieter — especially in low-use situations,” the company said in a blog post (Valve’s emphasis).
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, I have the impression that Valve has made some great improvements.
I started first Rogue Legacy 2, a side-scrolling roguelike that isn’t too graphically intensive. I noticed right away that the fan was on dramatic quieter – I could only hear it sporadically – and with the speakers open, I couldn’t hear the fan at all. I had a similar experience of Vampire Survivorsalthough I haven’t had time to get into a typical endgame where the whole screen is filled with enemies and weapons – I’m curious if that will push the fan more.
Valve’s new Steam Deck update seems to be making a BIG difference to the fan noise. I tried to capture it on video with Vampire Survivors. The first part of the video uses the old fan settings. Second part uses the updated one. (sorry for the terrible cinematography) pic.twitter.com/SxIsHMgrg0— Jay Peters (@jaypeters) May 27, 2022
In Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice with the settings cranked to the max, the fan is still audible, although it’s generally much quieter compared to the old fan behaviour, which you can switch back to in the settings menu if you wish. With the new update installed, I also didn’t hear the fan while I was idle on the Steam Deck menu screen, which was one of my biggest annoyances with the device.
With SteamOS 3.2, you can also directly change the in-game refresh rates via the three-dot menu button. “The default is 60 Hz (which can be frame-limited to 60, 30, and 15 fps), but you can now slide it down to 40 Hz (with frame limits at 40, 20, and 10 fps),” says Valve. Reducing the refresh rate is a lever you can use if you want to extend battery life.
You can read the full patch notes here. And thanks to a Steam client update, Steam’s Remote Play Together feature, which lets you play local multiplayer games over the web, is now “fully functional” on Steam Deck.