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Looks like the Steam Deck will get Refresh Rate Switching

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Valve continue to cook up plans for more exciting upgrades to the Steam Deck, with Refresh Rate Switching looking like it's on the way. Not ready quite yet with work to do but the idea is great.

In response to a video from YouTuber The Phawx who made it work on Windows, Valve developer said this on Twitter:

We've been really excited to bring refresh rate switching to Deck to deliver smooth frame pacing in arbitrary FPS limit scenarios, but the current screen blanking time when switching is a bit much. We've been doing work behind the scenes to improve it, coming soon!

Having the ability to force the Steam Deck screen to a specific refresh rate is going to come with plenty of benefits for so many games that can't hit 60FPS on the Steam Deck. Really, for battery life anyway, you will want to run lower than that a lot of the time for tons of games.

The point isn't just battery life of course, which is a big concern, but how smooth games look and feel overall and being able to lock the panel a bit lower could make all the difference. Looking forward to seeing what Valve come up with, and it will likely be as easy as flicking a switch like the current FPS limiter on Deck.

The Steam Deck just keeps on getting better!

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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9 comments

kokoko3k 19 Apr
I used this kind of tricks to play Rise of the tomb raider at 48hz, but the input latency was so bad that i opted for 75hz instead.
Can't even imagine the feeling with a FPS.

BTW, since the deck uses Wayland, things are not so easy like with xorg and a custom EDID has to be crafted and loaded at boot by modifying the kernel command line.
https://github.com/kevinlekiller/linux_intel_display_overclocking
(skip the xrandr part ofc)

-EDIT-
^^ This was with a normal monitor, not the Deck display ^^


Last edited by kokoko3k on 21 April 2022 at 2:18 pm UTC
mahagr 19 Apr
For me 30 FPS in a Steam Deck bothers me a lot less than I thought. That and 800p resolution. I would never play anything under ~55 FPS in a large screen, but in a small screen I hardly notice the low frame rate.

That said, I do not play any FPS nor multi-player, so...
Spl-it 19 Apr
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Quoting: mahagrFor me 30 FPS in a Steam Deck bothers me a lot less than I thought. That and 800p resolution. I would never play anything under ~55 FPS in a large screen, but in a small screen I hardly notice the low frame rate.

That said, I do not play any FPS nor multi-player, so...

This. I hate playing anything under 60 fps on my main system with a 34" ultra wide screen, but 30fps on the Deck is actually fine for games like Red Dead Redemption 2 for me. It doesn't feel laggy at all.
Appelsin 19 Apr
Quoting: Spl-it
Quoting: mahagrFor me 30 FPS in a Steam Deck bothers me a lot less than I thought. That and 800p resolution. I would never play anything under ~55 FPS in a large screen, but in a small screen I hardly notice the low frame rate.

That said, I do not play any FPS nor multi-player, so...

This. I hate playing anything under 60 fps on my main system with a 34" ultra wide screen, but 30fps on the Deck is actually fine for games like Red Dead Redemption 2 for me. It doesn't feel laggy at all.

I think this has a bit to do with expectations and what you “feel you ought to get” out the system on which you’re playing, performance wise. E.g. on my Switch I’m “ok” with even “simple” games (e.g. currently playing Link’s Awakening) having severe frame dips, while on my PC I’m annoyed at sub-50 dips (recently played all Arkham games) even though I play both systems on the same TV.
MagicMyth 19 Apr
I was surprised the Steam Deck did not come with a variable rate display (AKA Freesync) as that would have allowed for pretty arbitrary refresh rates. Though from what I understand refreshing at sub 50 intervals is quite challenging on screens which is why many 60Hz VRR screens only drop to 48Hz. If you are thinking all those 144Hz screens can go super low the truth is they don't. With such a high upper limit if your game hits 43 FPS the panel (or GPU driver) will double it to 86 FPS or if 22 FPS it'll be tripled (or more) to 66Hz. Since the Deck is a 60Hz panel you don't have the range for multiplication. Still if it could drop to the typical 48Hz that alone would be a good compromise for most games I reckon. I know many people can often increase (descrease?) their VRR minimum of their panel to 35Hz but guaranteeing that would drive up the cost of the panel through bining.

Quoting: kokoko3kI used this kind of tricks to play Rise of the tomb raider at 48hz, but the input latency was so bad that i opted for 75hz instead.
Can't even imagine the feeling with a FPS.

Couple of things could cause the latency there. If you managed to set the panel to 48Hz it may not truly have been running at that rate and internally stretching arbitrary frames or it may have perfectly ran the panel at that refresh but the compositor was doing a crap effort of syncing to that rate (wasn't mutter notorious for doing that for a while?). If you were using the decks frame limiter you always run the risk of artificially (as in worse than 30FPS input latency should be) inflating latency depending on how clever the game engine is. Some games will hold up processing everything else until that frame time has expired where as others will go "hey I don't need to make another frame for a while. Let's do the other bits". Some games seem capable of the latter if you use their in game limiter but not when an external application holds up the frame rate. Annoyingly most games with their own FPS limiter don't allow very fine grained choices. You'd think 45/48 FPS would be a more common option. 45 FPS would be a good compromise on the Steam Deck as many games can't quite reach 60 and jumping from 30 to 45 FPS is night and day.
kokoko3k 19 Apr
Quoting: MagicMyth
Quoting: kokoko3kI used this kind of tricks to play Rise of the tomb raider at 48hz, but the input latency was so bad that i opted for 75hz instead.
Can't even imagine the feeling with a FPS.

Couple of things could cause the latency there. If you managed to set the panel to 48Hz it may not truly have been running at that rate and internally stretching arbitrary frames or it may have perfectly ran the panel at that refresh but the compositor was doing a crap effort of syncing to that rate (wasn't mutter notorious for doing that for a while?). If you were using the decks frame limiter you always run the risk of artificially (as in worse than 30FPS input latency should be) inflating latency depending on how clever the game engine is. Some games will hold up processing everything else until that frame time has expired where as others will go "hey I don't need to make another frame for a while. Let's do the other bits". Some games seem capable of the latter if you use their in game limiter but not when an external application holds up the frame rate. Annoyingly most games with their own FPS limiter don't allow very fine grained choices. You'd think 45/48 FPS would be a more common option. 45 FPS would be a good compromise on the Steam Deck as many games can't quite reach 60 and jumping from 30 to 45 FPS is night and day.
My panel definitely handles 45Hz properly, and no compositor was running, so the problem has to be elsewere.
It may depend on the game; maybe it probes for input on a per frame basis, so that vsync'ing it and limiting it to 30fps (hoping it was not doing triple buffering that would make thing even worse) would give a latency of (2/30)*1000=66+msecs.
Way too much, but in line with my observations.
Today i prefer the maximum hz with adaptive vsync (79hz on my non vrr panel) which is a tradeoff versus smoothness, but the best for input latency.
But i can understand that jumping from 30 vsync'ed fps to anything higher is a win.


Last edited by kokoko3k on 19 April 2022 at 10:39 am UTC
MagicMyth 19 Apr
Quoting: kokoko3k(2/30)*1000=66+msecs
Ouch that would feel like jelly.

A lot of games do seem to probe during frame intervals sadly. And I think with panels being so fast now with such powerful GPUs (no matter how unobtainable) to back them up with, Devs are taking the easy route rather than optimising input at low frame rates.

I agree it's better to have more in sync input than butter smooth frames otherwise it just gets frustrating and disorientating.
Calinou 21 Apr
Quoting: kokoko3kI used this kind of tricks to play Rise of the tomb raider at 48hz, but the input latency was so bad that i opted for 75hz instead.
Can't even imagine the feeling with a FPS.

BTW, since the deck uses Wayland, things are not so easy like with xorg and a custom EDID has to be crafted and loaded at boot by modifying the kernel command line.
https://github.com/kevinlekiller/linux_intel_display_overclocking
(skip the xrandr part ofc)

I didn't know the Steam Deck's display could be overclocked. It's an interesting avenue for those retro games running at 35 or 70 FPS (and without source ports that support arbitrary framerates).
kokoko3k 21 Apr
Quoting: Calinou
Quoting: kokoko3kI used this kind of tricks to play Rise of the tomb raider at 48hz, but the input latency was so bad that i opted for 75hz instead.
Can't even imagine the feeling with a FPS.

BTW, since the deck uses Wayland, things are not so easy like with xorg and a custom EDID has to be crafted and loaded at boot by modifying the kernel command line.
https://github.com/kevinlekiller/linux_intel_display_overclocking
(skip the xrandr part ofc)

I didn't know the Steam Deck's display could be overclocked. It's an interesting avenue for those retro games running at 35 or 70 FPS (and without source ports that support arbitrary framerates).

I don't say it can be overclocked, I don't own a deck, but shared my experiences with wayland and Xorg with my benq monitor.
The statement that the display can be clocked differently (underclocked) is by the article.

(Just Edited the first post.)


Last edited by kokoko3k on 21 April 2022 at 2:18 pm UTC
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