One of my biggest complaints in my initial Steam Deck impressions (and I know I’m not alone) was the fan noise. While I don’t think I have a particularly whiny unit, the small fan has a sound profile that’s been described accurately as a distant hairdryer.
I noted that a better fan curve would help as the Deck was constantly starting and stopping the fan at a very audible level, even for simpler games and desktop usage. There’s also the issue with some Deck users having a much more audible whine, from what appears to be the design of one of the fans used in the Deck (looks like random chance which yours has). Some have taken to using electrical tape to alter the fan noise, though I wouldn’t necessarily suggest it.
While a fan curve won’t help a characteristic noise issue, it can certainly make the experience much more reasonable. And that’s exactly what the recent SteamOS beta update has done for the Steam Deck.
The patch notes have these two relevant points:
• Added an OS-controlled fan curve to improve the experience in low usage scenarios, and adjusting how the fan responds to different scenarios and temperatures.
• Fixed an issue where OS fan control would not automatically resume after waking up the device from sleep.
The second point addresses a bug in an earlier beta update that had first started adjusting the fan curve, though the fan change hadn’t been in the patch notes until now. Earlier reports had the temperatures higher as a result of the fan tweaks, as you might expect, but with this current update temperatures seem to be more in keeping with previous temperatures. For what it is worth, the air does seem rather warm coming out of the exhaust at the lowest fan speeds, but never have I noticed the Deck physically feeling warm before or after the update. The hands being far from the main heat source makes for comfortable gaming.
The result is the best user experience upgrade since I received my Deck. Now the fan has a lower RPM mode (in the 2000 RPM range rather than starting at 4000 RPM) that is so quiet I can only tell it is on by sticking my face in front of the vent to feel air coming out. For the most part, when browsing the Steam interface or playing less demanding games, I can’t hear the fan. Before it would kick on for a minute just to go off for a few more, which made it more noticeable and annoying than keeping a more constant (low) noise.
Personally, I would take higher temperatures for a quieter experience at low to moderate loads, though of course that may not be good for longevity, especially the battery. What I think would be a great update is to have a few profiles you can select, like one with the fan by default on at a low to medium speed at lower loads, to another that ramps up quickly but only at higher loads. This would be similar to what many of us set in the BIOS or fan control software, to bias quieter and warmer or louder and cooler.
While I’m at it, since my last complaints in the desktop had gotten some fixes, per-game settings more generally would be great. So one could set a power and fan profile for a game that Steam would remember, or maybe just have a set of profiles with all the settings saved to easily switch between. Or, you know, at the very least remember if a user likes to show the advanced options and make the night time mode activate automatically based on…the time.
Great to see real quality of life improvements from Valve! Much as we would have liked to see these things done before the Deck came out, I’m happy to have had it in my hands sooner (in really good shape, at that) and see the continued support.
Before I go, as a note after my recent words about the Deck desktop experience, I’ll be traveling for a few weeks without a laptop using my Steam Deck (in combination with an Android tablet and keyboard) as my travel computer. We’ll see how it goes, though I hope to mostly be out and about or playing games on the Deck than cobbling together a desktop on the go.