Today, Valve released a long-awaited update to his laptop. SteamOS 3.2 brings a lot of fun changes to both the operating system and the Steam client itself, allowing remote play together, changes to some visuals and UI, and the ability to change the frame rate. screen refresh. Fan noise updates, however, are bound to be hotly (sorry) debated in internet corners.
Essentially, a persistent problem with the Steam Deck has been that to keep this Pocket PC from igniting, its fan is usually turned on. And by usually I mean: All. Of. The. Time. And it’s noisy! It easily overcomes my heavy metal induced tinnitus to produce enough sound to reach an audible pitch. I got used to it (I also have hearing damage), but others weren’t so happy.
The sound inspired iFixit will sell new fans which are, if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, fairly easy to replace and offer a quieter solution. But for those of us who prefer not to open the device, SteamOS 3.2 allows the fan curve to be adjusted, reducing it so the device doesn’t start singing in its mezzo-soprano range.
Here’s where things might get heated (again, sorry) online. By lowering the fan speed, the device will become hotter. How much hotter? Good, Gamer on PC measured the change as being as high as 10°C (i.e. 50° in Freedom units) a few weeks ago in a single example. They just had to consider this update not worth it given the potential impact on the lifespan of the Steam Deck.
Digital foundry had a slightly more nuanced take; essentially, fan speed, temperature, and usage all mix together to provide different results. So you’re likely to see temperature increases of 4° or 5° up to 10°C. It was their opinion (as well as mine, to be honest) that since this stays within the expected operating temperatures for device, you probably won’t have any problems.
It’s not too different from the debates about whether you should leave your computer on all the time or turn it off when you’re not using it. As a science teacher once told me, “Heat is real”, so yes, running the device at high temperatures is not nothing. But technically speaking, unless we’re pushing the device to temperatures it wasn’t designed for, why would we have a problem?
I don’t want to dismiss this debate too quickly. According to a old military manual over the expected life of the electronics, 10°C could reduce by half the expected life of a device. Of course, there are so many factors to consider that this will likely be a debate we will continue to have on Twitter and Reddit.
I guess the only real way to know is to buy a dozen Steam Decks, have them run the same scene in something like Cyberpunk 2077 for four or five years, set half to the lower fan curve, while the other half uses the original settings. We will then see which ones die first. Until such science can be achieved, it may be best to leave the old fan curve settings on if sound isn’t that important to you. You are more than likely to come across a fountain of opinion and fact, filled with anecdotes and math on the Internet about this particular detail. Until we’re a few years into the life of the Steam Deck and start seeing real results, we just won’t know one way or another.
I’ll leave it to the comments section, I respectfully suppose, to discuss further.
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