The handheld Valve Steam Deck may be getting a specialized dock for playing on a TV screen or monitor, but you shouldn’t expect it to be able to do any more than that.
That’s according to Valve designer Greg Coomer (via PC Gamer (opens in new tab)), who confirmed that the Steam Deck won’t get a performance boost in its docked mode. The company considered it, but ultimately decided not to go down that route.
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Coomer confirmed this fact when asked by PC Gamer, saying: "Yes, but we didn't choose to make it a really high priority design target... we felt that it was actually better all things considered to not modify based on docked status or mobile status.”
It makes sense when you think about it. After all, the idea behind the Steam Dock is that it will be able to play PC games in a handheld format. Anyone who would prefer to play games on the big screen may well have a dedicated gaming PC that can offer much better performance without any of the mobility.
In the end Valve “chose a threshold where the machine will run well, and with a good frame rate with AAA games in that scenario,” according to Coomer. “We didn't really feel like we should also target going after the dock scenario at higher resolutions. We wanted a simpler design target and to prioritize that."
It’s another way the Steam Deck is similar to the Nintendo Switch. While the Switch’s TV dock lets the console play in up to 1080p resolution, it doesn’t actually boost the console’s performance. Likewise the Steam Deck won’t get a performance boost in TV Mode, but it will still be able to output content at higher resolutions.
That said Valve has apparently designed the Stream Deck to be playable in handheld mode the majority of the time. So while the Steam Deck has been built to offer a minimum framerate of 30 frames per second, that’s only guaranteed when playing in the system’s native 800p resolution.
Any higher and you might start having performance issues, depending on what you’re playing and how high of a resolution your Steam Deck is outputting to your TV.
In other words, if you want to get the most out of your Steam Deck, then you'll want to stick with handheld mode. Since Valve has already confirmed it wants third parties to start making Steam Deck devices of their own, one day we may get a handheld PC that offers something extra in TV mode. But we're going to have to be patient, because it isn't happening just yet.
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