If you’ve got your hands on a Steam Deck, you’re no doubt impressed by its handheld capabilities. But have you pondered the possibility of a premium docked gaming experience? Can the petite 15w APU deliver high-quality gameplay on a 4k TV? This article delves into these questions, exploring how to get the most out of your Steam Deck when hooked up to a larger screen.
First off, the 15w RDNA2 APU can’t output games at native 4k – but it doesn’t need to. Modern upscaling technologies like FSR 2.0, FSR 1.0, and temporal upscalers like Unreal’s TAAU/TSR have revolutionized our gaming experiences, delivering remarkable visuals even when running games at a fraction of their native resolution.
The Steam Deck, with its native resolution of 800p, operates at 40hz/40fps for recent demanding games. Older games, however, can comfortably run at higher resolutions such as 1080p, 1440p, and even 4k in specific scenarios. The challenge here is to upscale games from 720p to 4k while ensuring optimal image quality and minimal blur. As for framerate, aiming for 30fps like most consoles is a practical approach given our hardware constraints.
Navigating the game mode of SteamOS, you’ll find two different areas to set your Steam Deck’s output resolution. One is within the display settings of the game mode and the other within the properties of individual games, accessible by clicking on the gear icon.
In addition to these, in-game resolution and internal rendering resolution can also be set, and this is where temporal upscaling algorithms come into play. Having a solid understanding of these will allow you to render games at smaller resolutions and upscale them efficiently with techniques like Integer scaling and FSR 1.0 without the typical blur caused by other algorithms.
In my experience, the best place to upscale is within the rendering resolution of the game using techniques like FSR 2.0, TAAU/TSR, and mods like CyberFSR for games lacking built-in temporal upscaling. In-game FSR 1.0 upscaling is not recommended since Steam Deck’s built-in FSR typically outperforms it.
Remember, each upscaler has its own performance cost. For instance, FSR2.0 costs around 10fps in performance while TAAU/TSR costs about 5fps. Simple upscaling or bilinear causes no performance loss, but it offers the worst results.
After extensive testing, I’ve developed a few recommendations that will give you the best-looking visuals when playing on a 4k TV. These suggestions often simulate the performance of a PS4, offering a smooth 4k 30fps experience:
- For verified Deck games like Horizon Zero Dawn (using CyberFSR), God of War (TAAU), and Spiderman Remastered (FSR 2.1), smart upscaling allows you to maintain an impressive 30fps at 4k.
- If a game struggles to maintain 30fps after temporal upscaling to 1440p (FSR 2.0 performance mode), try rendering at 1080p and use FSR 2.0 Quality mode instead.
- For older games lacking built-in FSR 2.0, Deck’s FSR 1.0 or Integer scaling(1:4) can do the trick if the game runs fine at 1080p.
- For demanding games without temporal upscaling, running at 720p and scaling with Deck’s FSR or Integer scaling(1:9) still produces decent results for a 4k TV viewed from a distance.
To maximize your Steam Deck’s performance, you might also want to:
- Use CryoByte33’s VRAM tweaks and Swap file tweaks to increase VRAM to 4GB and the Swap file to 16GB, setting swappiness to 1. This can improve minimum framerates in many games.
- Experiment with different Proton versions, including ProtonGE, and set DXVK_ASYNC =1 in the game’s launch commands.
- Adjust in-game settings to get the best visuals. Typically, setting Texture to “High” and Ambient Occlusion to “Medium” delivers quality visuals without substantial performance loss.
- Lock the framerate to 30 using Steam’s overlay and disable any in-game vsync. If you’re on SteamOS 3.4 or above, enable the “Allow Tearing” option to reduce input lag by 16ms.
- If you have a modern TV that supports motion interpolation (dejudder) and Black Frame Insertion (BFI), use these features to double the output visual fps. This may introduce minor artifacting and slight input lag but can make 30fps output much smoother.
The Steam Deck’s prowess extends beyond handheld gaming. With the right tweaks and adjustments, you can unlock a quality docked gaming experience on your 4k TV. While my recommendations may not cover all scenarios and TV/monitor resolutions, they should serve as a solid starting point for your docked gaming adventure.
What are the best docking stations for the Deck?
- JSAUX Docking Station HB0603: This docking station is frequently mentioned as a top pick. It offers a balance between price and performance, making it a popular choice among users.
- iVoler Docking Station: This is another highly recommended docking station. It’s mentioned in multiple sources and comes in different versions like the iVoler 5-in-1 and iVoler 6-in-1.
- NewQ Steam Deck Dock: This dock is also frequently mentioned as a good option for the Steam Deck.
- MOKiN Dual Monitor Docking Station: This docking station is recommended for those who want to connect their Steam Deck to multiple monitors.
- Park Sung Docking Station: This docking station is mentioned as a good option, but details about its features are not specified.
- Valve Steam Deck Docking Station: This is the official docking station for the Steam Deck. It’s a safe choice for compatibility and performance.