12 Things Every New Steam Deck Owner Should Try Or Consider
Screenshot: CD Projekt Red / Valve / Kotaku
Every PC and Steam Deck game is different, so graphics settings are often best determined on a case-by-case basis. However, if you’re new to tweaking graphics settings, here are three broad steps to take if a game isn’t running well (and is otherwise verified or playable).
1. Check if there is a performance profile for the game
Press the Quick Access button while running a game, navigate to the battery icon and under “Performance settings” you can see a “use profile for game”. One such game that offers this is The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. If you see this option, you likely won’t need to adjust much beyond accepting this setting. The game will likely run fine.
Note: To access this section, you’ll need to select Advanced View under the Performance Overlay Level slider in Quick Settings. The Advanced view shows various performance settings, such as Frame Limit, Refresh Rate, and options to toggle screen tearing or half-speed shading, among others
2. Adjust other quick settings
Using the framerate counter I mentioned above as a metric for good performance (you’re looking to hit a relatively stable number somewhere between 30 and 60, on average), you might consider dialing the framerate cap back to Performance menu of Quick Settings. This is a slider that stops at 15, 30, 60, and Off (sometimes called “uncovered” in computer gaming spaces).
If you’re fluctuating a lot between 30 and 60, move that slider to 30. You can also lower the screen refresh rate between 40 and 60. This changes the actual speed that the screen refreshes itself (because all moving images are an illusion of some images static files that work fine), but for this feature to work best, you need to make sure that V-Sync is working in the game settings.
Other settings like Allow Tearing, Half Rate Shading and Manual GPU Clock Control are best left untouched if you don’t understand what these do. We’ll cover those another time.
3. Change the main settings within the game itself
Every game is different, so a universal set of graphics settings tips is tricky, but here are the ones you should pay attention to if you’re new to PC gaming:
Resolution: The Steam Deck screen has a native resolution of 1280×800. You’ll want to make sure your game matches this resolution and doesn’t go above or below this number.
Shadow quality: Different games will have different settings for shadows, so this will vary a lot. However, one of the first places to consider resetting to improve performance is the shadow settings.
Many modern games have a variety of settings for shadows. Dialing them to a “Medium” setting will often save a number of frames.
Motion noise, chromatic aberration, film grain, etc.: These are often dirty words in computer games. I, personally, love a good application of chromatic aberration and film grain. The key words there are “good app”. It’s often an effect, such as motion blur and film grain, that can blur the image, especially when on a small screen like the Steam Deck. While it may not result in a performance boost (although it sometimes can), it can clean up the image.
For example, I love using film particles and chromatic aberrations in Cyberpunk 2077 on a desktop computer (sue me). I think it adds a nice layer of texture and depth to the image. But when playing on the Deck, I’ll switch this setting to 2077 as it just doesn’t translate to a small screen that well.
This doesn’t even scratch the surface of graphics settings, but they’re good places to start if you’re new to tweaking such options. Honestly, when in doubt, doing a quick Google of “best Steam Deck settings for game X” is often a good way to see what works for other users.