While Valve is no doubt happy that the Steam Deck is a hot commodity these days, it wants to make sure your Deck doesn’t cross unsafe temperature thresholds. The company took to Twitter to issue a warning and clarify safe operating temperatures for its portable PC. Given all the wonderful, not concerning at all, record-setting heatwaves hitting various parts of the world, gamers willing to risk exposure to the phenomena of sunlight ought to pay attention.
Yesterday, the official Steam Deck Twitter account directly addressed Deck owners who might be struggling through deadly serious temperatures. “For our friends in the midst of a heatwave, a quick note about Steam Deck in high temperatures” the Tweet began. “Steam Deck performs at its best in ambient temperatures between 0° and 35°C. If the temperature gets higher than this, Steam Deck may start to throttle performance to protect itself.”
Throttling is, as Valve describes very simply, a way for a computer to “protect itself” when internal temperatures get too high. Basically, the hardware scales back its performance so that it doesn’t continue to generate more heat. If it does get hot enough that hardware damage becomes imminent, another protective measure kicks in: a forced shutdown.
When temps get too high for throttling to make a difference, most computers will have some kind of feature to shut themselves off. Valve, in a follow up tweet, noted that an internal temp of 105 C is when the Steam Deck will have had enough of your overclocking shenanigans and shut down to “protect itself (and you) from damage.”
“Steam Deck’s APU runs well at temperatures up to 100°C. At 100°C, it will start to throttle performance.” the company states, which is interesting. I have certainly found that portable machines, including laptops, tend to run a bit hotter than tower desktops that have more space and fancier cooling hardware. But 100 degrees is really quite hot for a PC component! GPUs pushing past 85 C or so is considered “hot” and typically frowned upon by enthusiasts. Forget about desktop temps of 100 C. That’d mean your cooling system needs a serious rethink.
Regardless, it sounds like standing outside with your Steam Deck, in direct sunlight, is not the best time to see how much nonsense you can destroy in Teardown or how high you can crank the graphics in Cyberpunk 2077.
We’re at a curious intersection of history where temperatures are rising due to human-caused climate change while we also enjoy portable technology that’s now more powerful than ever. This combination hasn’t been great for our environment or our recreational activities. Portable consumer electronics can create far more heat than we’d have seen out of a small machine from the 2000s or even the 2010s. Valve and the Steam Deck aren’t alone in this predicament.
Nintendo too has recently issued warnings about its hybrid console’s performance in hot weather, noting that the Switch is meant to be played in environments between 5 C to 35 C. Like the Deck, the Switch too will hit its own internal killswitch if it gets too hot.
So while these devices do have a few tricks up their sleeves to protect themselves from absolutely melting, it’s probably best to plan your portable sessions around a nice couch, next to an air conditioning, where you can forget all about the collapsing state of our environment.