According to an official Tweet from Valve, owners of the handheld Steam Deck should be wary of playing the system in high heat conditions. This issue was raised thanks to the recent European heat wave, which is having profound effects on both tech devices and infrastructure. While not necessarily a system killer, playing in these conditions could massively inhibit performance in some titles.
For our friends in the midst of a heatwave, a quick note about Steam Deck in high temperatures. Steam Deck performs at its best in ambient temperatures between 0° and 35° C. If the temperature gets higher than this, Steam Deck may start to throttle performance to protect itself.
— Steam Deck (@OnDeck) July 19, 2022
Power Comes at a Cost
With transistors growing so small over the generations, the different bottlenecks they experience continue to change. In the modern era, one of the most profound of these problems relates to heat. Systems like the Steam Deck pack a huge number of advanced components within their casing, and these components generate significant heat.
If these systems get too hot, they prevent burnout through what is called thermal throttling. This is where the power to the hottest components like the CPU and GPU is reduced, to let the fans act more effectively in keeping the device in a safe thermal range. This is why a huge amount of the Sony PlayStation 5 is dedicated to thermal management and it’s why Valve has issued a warning about the Steam Deck. Essentially, keeping a device small and powerful means reducing its ability to cool, the results of which are now coming home to roost.
Avoiding the Issue
If you live in a warm environment without air conditioning, then any device you use is going to be trying to cool the system with warm air. The hotter the air, the less effective it is at cooling, so the sooner a system will thermal throttle. Unfortunately, for closed systems like the Steam Deck, there aren’t any easy solutions to this problem.
One possible fix could be to only play the device in a cooler environment, like in an air-conditioned room or a place away from direct sunlight. While effective, these sorts of demands undercut the value of the Steam Deck’s mobility and can be impossible or expensive to meet in some situations.
Another solution is to turn to interactive entertainment that is less stressful on the device. For example, consider the different Ohio apps for sports betting. This form of entertainment has users comparing bonuses, browsing websites, and placing bets using simple apps. Since no part of this process is especially resource intensive, it has little chance of overheating the unit and causing a thermal throttle.
On the other hand, a demanding video game like Elden Ring pushes the Steam Deck to its max. In a heated environment, this could cause throttling within an hour. After this point, performance would become so poor that the game would be unplayable.
“Sanctuaire de la nuit” (Public Domain) by Simon Savarin
While we’re not suggesting that players only engage in less demanding forms of interactive entertainment, switching between these and more hardware expensive games could be one possible approach. Alongside cleaning the device’s vents and playing in a well-ventilated area, this could keep you going for longer, and act as a way to mix the experience up. If, however, the device powers down because of overheating, it might be best to take some time away. Don’t get us wrong, games are fun, but not at the cost of a melted machine.