My Steam Deck is my Desktop Now

The Year of the Linux Desktop

It’s been about a year since the steam deck was released. At the time I was aware of it’s existence but my focus was elsewhere.

For those that might now know I’m am absolute Linux fanatic. I started my journey on Ubuntu 8.04 and haven’t looked back. For years I lamented having to dual boot windows to play my favorite games or just choose to miss out.

Years would go by and there’d be more articles declaring “The Year of the Linux Desktop” and yet here we are and it seems desktops will more likely disappear before they are replaced by anything related to Linux.

Gaming on the other hand is another story entirely. A little project called “Proton” started gaining traction a couple of years ago and it aimed to allow any windows game to run on Linux with similar performance.

About a year ago I was using Nobara Linux and decided to give it a shot. The results were more than I hoped for. As I ran benchmarks and tested games switching back and forth to windows I saw comparable numbers. In many cases the numbers on Linux with proton were better in many ways. Often I would see higher max FPS and lower min FPS on windows, but Nobara Linux would have more consistent FPS overall closer to the max FPS on windows.

Ball and Chain

Unfortunately my second job required me to run an application for development that only ran on windows and so I was stuck dual booting my circa 2014 custom desktop.

2022 rolled by and doom scrolling revealed the usual catastrophes in the news. They blur by my vision without a second though. War in Ukraine, political scandals, FTX Collapse…. didn’t matter to me. At least not til early January when I got a notice I was being laid off from my side job indefinitely.

It seems our investors had all their money in that crypto exchange that passed my notice and there were no more funds. Whoopsie! Almost a poetic end, but with that end came the realization that I don’t need windows anymore! With renewed determination to finally rid myself of the anchor that chained me for all these years I took an image of my OS and wiped the windows drive. That was it!

With Eyes Renewed

There were new developments from the lack of a second job, namely less money and more time; a trade-off that is more worth it 12 years into a stable career that would have been much worse 2 years into an unstable career. I came to rather enjoy gaming on Linux. My free time allowed me to catch up on my back catalog. I played Nier:Automata, 35mm, and The Long Dark among a few others. I thought to myself how thankful I am that Valve has contributed so much to gaming on Linux over these years. I still have a steam link and use it often. Finally it dawned on me I had forgotten about the steam deck.

So the research began, how good is the steam deck? I looked for benchmarks of CPU and GPU, I compared the specs of the hardware vs the specs of my desktop and the answer really wasn’t obvious.

My desktop was built in 2014 and even back then it was a budget build. The CPU was an Intel i5 3570k, 8gb of DDR3, 140gb SSD (yes that’s all), and an AMD RX 480 4gb video card, and the Case was about as loud as a running microwave.

Unfortunately apples to apples comparisons did not exist at least at the time. My best guess is that the steam deck CPU is definitely faster, maybe 10-50% faster, the GPU is about 10% less powerful, the steam deck ram is faster and more of it while the Steam Deck NVMe drive is significantly faster than my desktop.

So, I took a chance

An Unorthodox Arrangement

When the deck arrived I was met with mixed feelings. It was a bit like adopting a dog, you don’t know what to expect. I had opted for the 256gb model since it was nearly double the storage of my previous computer.

Whipping out “The Long Dark” and running it against my computer the performance was similar when running the deck at native 1280×800 resolution against my desktop running 1920×1080. Again, I had more mixed feelings.

Weeks went by and I tinkered with the deck more. I played “Untitled Goose Game” and then “Inside” and I started forming opinions.

I liked it. A lot!

There’s something that is not entirely quantifiable about playing it. It reminded me of when my mother bought me a Gameboy Advance at Toys R Us for my birthday. I had a PS2 at home but even though the GBA was technically inferior in every way it was liberating to not be locked to a TV.

In this case however, the Steam Deck really wasn’t less capable than my desktop and it possessed capabilities beyond what I imagined.

Playing with desktop mode revealed it is indeed faster than my desktop. Noticeably faster, I don’t have numbers, but likely just the NVMe drive alone grants much better performance. It was quiet, silent really, under normal desktop operation. I picked up a dual monitor capable docking station which I am typing this on. it was $30 from a brand called “Selore & S-Global”, never heard of them, but it’s amazing and works perfectly. Also it has the network plug on the back which is important for cable management.

Here is a link to it and no it’s not an affiliate link: Steam Deck Docking Station

I had totally underestimated how nice it is to sit in a silent office. I was so used to a Desktop that is roughly as loud as a running 1000w microwave.

After sitting at a desktop all day at work it’s chicken soup for the soul to sit on the couch with my wife playing games on the steam deck instead of being tied to my office.

About 4 weeks ago I unplugged my desktop and put it away in storage.

It Only Gets Better

It’s been a few months now and I continue to learn of new capabilities I hadn’t heard of before. There is not a single game in my library I’ve thrown at this machine that it cannot handle given the right circumstances. Clever software development allows for a plethora of ways to handle the gaming experience.

I’ve experimented with playing games from desktop, 4k TV in living room, and just on the deck. Honestly I prefer just playing on the deck itself. In all cases it seems at least 30 fps is achievable at any resolution by clever tinkering with the game settings and steam overlay.

Steam Deck Mode:

Hitting the 3 dot quick access menu brings up the quick settings and the important settings to note here are, refresh rate, FPS lock, and FSR. These settings will be key for all configurations.

Under most circumstances any game will work without issue on the deck itself at the native 1280×800 resolution. The way I like to run it though is to set screen refresh rate to 40hz, and lock FPS to 40.

I find that 40hz is high enough that the games run smoothe enough to where I don’t notice the frame rate, but it maximizes the battery life and minimizes load on the CPU and RAM.

If the game you are running does not keep a constant 40 FPS or 60 FPS if you want to run at 60hz this is where FSR comes in.

FSR is AMD’s ai upscaling software. It allows you to run games at a lower resolution while having FSR upscale it to a higher resolution. FSR is not usually necessary in deck mode but is critical on 4k TVs.

To activate press the three dots quick settings, scroll to the battery icon, scroll down to “Scaling Feature” and set it all the way to the right to FSR.

Next in your games settings turn the resolution down. First go down to 1280×720. You should see FSR kick on in your overlay. If you get your desired framerate and quality then you are golden. Otherwise keep lowering the resolution. I find that 480p is about the lowest you can go without issues.

4k TV Mode:

As mentioned above FSR is key here, I have not tested 40hz on a 4k TV but I suspect it will be terrible. So FSR is the name of the game. Our target resolution is 1080p for now. Following the steps above try to get to your desired FPS at 1080p. If you are not reaching 60 fps then lower resolution and repeat.

Most modern TVs have built in ai upscaling themselves. Sony for example is well praised for this tech. So once you display 1080p from the steam deck to the TV, the TV will take it from there without doing anything extra.

I find that quality is more forgiving on the living room TV. You are usually sitting across the room and cannot make out find details so I suspect native 4k vs upscaled 4k is mostly comparable.


This post went way longer than I expected when I sat down but I’m quite excited with my steam deck. There’s so much more to talk about like emulation and the SteamOS desktop but I’ll save those for another post.

I’m very happy with my steam deck and even the the ROG Ally is coming out I really don’t care. I don’t care to run windows again and I’m not confident that Microsoft cares enough about a handheld to work closely with ASUS to maintain it.

So if you are on the fence about a steam deck or your tired of being tied to your desk or living room, just get a steam deck. Even the basic $400 model is fine if you throw in a 512gb micro sd card for $30.

I don’t regret mine and I know you won’t either.

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