So, you finally got your hands on a Steam Deck and you want to push its boundaries further and explore new horizons? Well, Valve has made sure there’s as little resistance to improving the Steam Deck as possible.
- They have given a bunch of expansion and connectivity options.
- They don’t throw warnings when you try to install other operating systems or run emulators.
- The SteamOS is pretty versatile out of the box.
- Most importantly, there is a lot of hardware-level modding going on without any reproach from the Corporation.
All signs point to the direction that they want you to tinker around and maximise the effectiveness of your hardware. So, today we’re going to look at some common tips and tricks to make the most out of your Steam Deck, regardless if you’re a beginner or intermediate gamer. Let’s start of with the most important one, button customisation!
1. Customise the four back buttons to your liking
The four back buttons on the Steam Deck don’t do anything by default. You must programme them. Don’t worry – you can always reprogram them later when you have a better understanding of what you need. For now, just assign them whatever function feels important.
You can create your own layout from scratch, or you can choose one out of many community-created layouts, so that’s a plus for beginners. Check out this guide over at SteamCommunity.com for a better angle.
Launch a game and press the Steam button. Scroll to the right and choose Controller. Here, you can rebind any of the buttons – but we recommend only touching the four back buttons for now. There are also Valve controller templates to get started!
2. Dive into the graphic settings of each game
Though the Steam Deck is quite a powerful machine which allows it to punch above its weight mainly thanks to the smaller display, the AAA titles can still become power hungry and offer a lower FPS count than you would preffer to. This is a problem more common than you think. In our opinion, it’s always better to play at a comfortable framerate for smoother gameplay even if that means sacrificing some graphical fidelity.
That’s why we recommend turning the settings down from ultra to high or even medium to achieve a 60 FPS in more demanding games.
Just try it, even if 30-40 FPS feels playable to you. You will thank us later!
3. Speed up your workflow through shortcuts
There are a bunch of shortcuts. It might take a while to get a hang of it but once you do – you will be working your way through most basic tasks at lightning speed. Press and hold the Steam button and the list of shortcuts will appear. Start by remembering the 2-3 most important to you, then learn more.
Here are all the shortcuts for your reference:
- Steam + B (long press): Force game shutdown
- Steam + X: Show keyboard
- Steam + L1: Toggle magnifier
- Steam + R1: Take a screenshot
- Steam + L2: Right mouse click
- Steam + R2: Left mouse click
- Steam + Right joystick: Joystick mouse
- Steam + Right trackpad: Trackpad mouse
- Steam + Right trackpad (click): Left mouse click
- Steam + Left joystick up: Increase screen brightness
- Steam + Left joystick down: Decrease screen brightness
- Steam + D-pad right: Enter key
- Steam + D-pad down: Tab key
- Steam + D-pad left: Escape key
4. Extend your gaming system
You can achieve much more with the Steam Deck if you connect better equipment to it, and luckily it has not only a USB C port but also Bluetooth support, meaning that you can connect a variety of peripherals to it to further improve your game.
There are various controllers, mice and keyboards that support the Steam Deck, be it via USB C or via Bluetooth connection. Additionally, you can also connect wired and wireless headsets that feature a microphone for online play.
These external devices generally offer more fine-tuning and control – especially in a few games where more control is critical to winning, mostly multiplayer and online games.
5. Using larger SD cards for space sucking directories
A large SD card is highly recommended. Not only does it give you more storage space for your games and media, but it also allows you to move space-sucking directories such as compatdata and shadercache completely to an SD card, keeping your main internal storage freer! This is a godsend. All you need to do is create a simlink.
Rename the original directory to anything and copy the files to a shadercache (or compatdata) folder on the SD card. Go to steamapps > right-click > Create New > Link to File or Directory. Select the new folder on your external storage. Test whether everything works fine or not and delete the directory from your internal storage. Voila!
Glenn from EsportsHeadlines.com wrote a complete guide on the best micro SD Card for Steam Deck, where he concluded that the best option is coming from SanDisk, with the maximum size of the card being limited to 1TB, which is more than enough to store AAA games like Elden Ring, GTA 5 and others.
6. Conserve your battery life with these simple tricks
Are you one of those players who is always complaining about the low battery life, and are always running out of juice? Well, in that case, we would recommend that you experiment with the following two options:
- Lower down the TDP of your device. Frankly, you won’t need the maximum power of the hardware in all games. Especially when you think you might run into power issues, it helps to turn the performance down a notch. Go to Quick Settings > Performance > Thermal Power TDP. You can turn it down to improve your battery life.
- Lower down the brightness of your screen. It’s easy to turn the brightness up to 100%. This might make the game much more brilliant but at the same time, it’s a huge power hog. We recommend keeping the brightness somewhere around 70-80% depending on the game. This will not have any considerable impact on gaming, especially in night or unlit areas. To lower it, tap on the battery icon in the upper right corner, after that on the gear icon and you’ll see the brightness slider.
- Disable game rumble and haptics. Under the same settings as above, you’ll also see two options that are on by default, it’s the Game Rumble feature and the Steam Haptics. If you’re not actively using them, we would recommend turning them off to get more battery out of your charge.
But you’d be surprised that it can easily give you entire hours of gameplay!
The Steam Deck is a versatile little gaming machine that has just began its journey in the tech world, and we hope that it will not end up as just another gadget that never took off. Meanwhile enjoy our list of tips and tricks, and if you have one of your own, do share it with us in the comments below and we’ll include it on the list!