Steam Deck Resolution and PPI

Simply put, the Steam Deck LED comes with a seven-inch screen that has native resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels. And Steam Deck OLED has 7.4 inch screen with the same resolution. This setup is what we call a 16:10 aspect ratio, which is similar to the clearness you get with 720p HD.

  • PPI of 7 inch (LCD Steam Deck) screen is around 215.57
  • PPI of 7.4 inch (OLED Steam Deck) screen is around 204.25
steamdeck ppi

Interestingly, the 16:10 aspect ratio isn’t as common as you might think. Most TVs and a majority of monitors use the 16:9 aspect ratio, which is widely accepted.

If games aren’t inherently designed to support the 16:10 aspect ratio on the Steam Deck, you’ll notice black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. This technique allows different aspect ratios to scale correctly, preventing unwanted distortions or cropped visuals.

To identify if a game supports the 16:10 ratio, check the game’s settings and look under the Resolution category. Specifically, you’re searching for a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels. If you can’t locate this exact ratio, it signifies the game does not inherently support it. The next most suitable option would be the 16:9 aspect ratio at a resolution of 1280 x 720. Thankfully, this resolution still offers 720p clarity, so you won’t lose any visual quality.

steamdeck docked res

One helpful tip: quite often, you can find online modifications to make a game that does not support the 16:10 ratio to adapt to it. I’ve used a mod for Elden Ring for just that and, despite the inability to play online due to anti-cheat rules, the ability of enjoying the game in true fullscreen was worth it.

Steam Deck external monitor resolution

While the Steam Deck sports a resolution of 16:10 at 1280 x 800, the dynamics significantly alter when you connect it to a TV. The Steam Deck cleverly adapts to the default resolution of the TV or monitor it’s connected to, delivering a different visual experience altogether.

If you’re connecting the Steam Deck to a 4K TV, it will usually display an output of 3840 x 2160, sticking to the prevalent 16:9 aspect ratio. Likewise, for HD TVs, the standard output for 1080p is 1920 x 1080 and for 720p it’s 1280 x 720, once again adhering to a 16:9 aspect ratio.

It’s important to bear in mind that with an increase in resolution, the graphical demands on the game also amplify. Given that the Steam Deck is natively designed for 720p, instructing a game to operate at 4K could potentially lead to graphical glitches or performance snags.

Based on personal trials, it’s suggested to get optimal and smoother performance by setting the Steam Deck’s output to 720p or 1080p when connected to a TV. It’s also advisable to tweak the game settings to suit the modified screen resolution for an enhanced gaming experience.

Guide to Forcing Resolution on Steam Deck

steamdeckresolution 1

Have you found that some games on your Steam Deck aren’t displaying the right resolution? Don’t worry – you now have the power to force your games into the resolution you prefer. This function is particularly handy for a host of retro games and others that just won’t adapt as they should.

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This feature has been recently announced and rolled out in an update. It enables you to navigate to the Properties menu of any app on your Steam Deck and select the option to force the resolution. Let’s break down how you can use this functionality step by step.

Step 1: Open the Properties Menu

Start by launching the game or app you want to change the resolution for. Find and open the ‘Properties’ menu. This is where you can view and modify the settings for your selected game.

Step 2: Force the Resolution

In the Properties menu, look for the newly added ‘Game Resolution’ setting. This is where you can override the maximum display resolution for games on a per-game basis.

Step 3: Choose Your Preferred Resolution

Once you’ve opened the ‘Game Resolution’ setting, select the resolution that suits your preferences or requirements. Whether you’re aiming for a nostalgic, retro gaming experience or simply want your games to run more smoothly, you have the freedom to choose.

Can you increase Steam Deck’s resolution when docked?

Yes, you can increase the output resolution of your Steam Deck when it is docked. When you connect your Steam Deck to an external monitor or TV, it can output the display according to the resolution of that device.

However, please note that while you can technically output higher resolutions like 1080p or even 4K when the Steam Deck is docked, this does not mean the device’s native rendering resolution is increased. The Steam Deck’s built-in display has a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels, and this is also the resolution at which games are rendered by default.

When connected to a high-resolution external display, the Steam Deck will scale its output to match that display. However, the actual quality of the visuals will not be improved because the games are still being rendered at the device’s native resolution. To improve visual quality, you would need to increase the rendering resolution within each game’s settings, but doing so can place a greater strain on the device’s hardware and potentially affect performance.

An alternative to increase performance without compromising the visual quality significantly could be using AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) technology if the game supports it. FSR can upscale lower-resolution gameplay to higher resolutions more effectively, improving performance without drastically reducing visual quality.

Steam Deck FSR – ON or OFF?

The Steam Deck comes equipped with an ace in the hole – FSR (FidelityFX Super Resolution) as well as other scaling filters. This fantastic feature allows you to enhance lower-resolution images to meet the Deck’s output resolution, offering sharper, more detailed visuals. When playing in handheld mode, you can boost an image to 720p, while in docked mode, it can be scaled up to match the Deck’s set resolution.

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So, when in docked mode, you can adjust the Steam Deck to operate at 1080p, the game to run at 720p, and then utilize FSR to boost the game’s visuals to a crisp 1080p.

If you’re new to FSR, it’s recommended to check out the comprehensive FSR on Steam Deck guide for a smooth setup. In a nutshell, you need to set your Deck’s resolution to 1080p, alter the in-game resolution to 720p, and then activate FSR through the quick-access menu (…).

To verify if FSR is working, you can turn on the overlay. If FSR is actively enhancing an image, the FSR section in the overlay will illuminate green and display ‘On’.

The greatest advantage of FSR lies in its minimal demand on processing power. While higher in-game resolutions can cause performance issues, FSR ensures visually pleasing graphics without compromising your framerate. This makes it a highly beneficial feature to boost your gaming experience.

Here are some considerations to help you decide:

  1. Performance– If you’re playing a game that is demanding on the Steam Deck’s hardware, turning on FSR can help boost performance by allowing the game to render at a lower resolution and then upscaling the output to match the screen’s resolution.
  2. Visual Quality– If you prioritize the sharpest possible image and are less concerned with performance, you may prefer to leave FSR off and let the game render at the Deck’s native resolution. However, remember that FSR’s main goal is to maintain high image quality even when upscaling, so the difference might not be as significant as you think.
  3. Battery Life– Rendering games at lower resolutions can consume less power, potentially extending the battery life of your Steam Deck during a gaming session.
  4. Game Compatibility– Some games may not support FSR, or they might not benefit much from it. It’s always a good idea to check the game’s settings or do a quick online search to find out.
Marcus Richardson
Editor-in-chief

I love testing and writing about new tech. I'm also a gamer and an engineer. Check out my Twitter for keyboard stuff.

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