Valve released the Steam Deck earlier this year to mostly positive reviews, but there are consequences to cramming a whole gaming PC into a handheld form factor. It won’t run very long on a charge, and the performance is middling at best, but those currently living through historic heatwaves are finding that scorching temperatures may end up being the biggest problem. Valve has issued an official warning that the Steam Deck won’t perform reliably if the mercury climbs too high.
The Steam Deck is shaped a bit like the Nintendo Switch, but it’s much larger (1.4 pounds), and the controllers aren’t detachable. In the center is a 7-inch touchscreen display, and the full array of game controller buttons are arrayed around the rest of the chassis. Inside, the Steam Deck runs on a custom AMD APU known internally as Aerith. While it’s designed for challenging thermal conditions, even it has limits.
According to the official Steam Deck Twitter account, the hardware works best when ambient temperature is between 0 and 35 degrees Celsius (32 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit). Many areas in Europe are far above that, with the UK recording a record 40.2 degrees Celsius this week. Some in the US will no doubt scoff at these numbers — the American southwest regularly beats these numbers, and even the midwest increasingly hits triple-digit temperatures.
For our friends in the midst of a heatwave, a quick note about Steam Deck in high temperatures. 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.
— Steam Deck (@OnDeck) July 19, 2022
So, what happens if it’s too hot for the Steam Deck? High ambient temperatures make it hard for the device’s cooler to keep up. The handheld doesn’t have a lot of thermal headroom, as evidenced by a previous warning that owners should not swap in larger SSDs that could crowd components and cause overheating. Valve says the APU should operate at maximum performance until it reaches 100 degrees Celsius. At that point, it begins to throttle. Valve also notes that at 105 degrees Celsius it will shut down to prevent damage.
So, playing the Steam Deck outside during a heatwave is probably a bad idea. Many gamers would probably at least like to have the option of making that bad decision. Orders for the Steam Deck are backed up for months. Current orders are expected to ship in October 2022 at the earliest. You’ll have to pay at least $399 to get in the queue, but the $529 upgrade adds a better SSD. The $649 model has even faster storage, an anti-glare screen (great for ill-advised outdoor play), and various account goodies.