Each game on Steam Deck or PC is different so settings for graphics should be determined individually. If you’re new to tweaking graphics settings, however, here are three broad steps to take if a game isn’t performing well (and is otherwise Verified or of Playable status).
1. Check if there’s a per-game performance profile
Hit the Quick Access button while running a game, navigate to the Battery Icon and under “Performance Settings” you may see a “use per-game profile.” This is one such game. The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt. If you see this option, you likely won’t need to adjust much beyond accepting this setting. It will probably run perfectly.
Note: In order to access this section, you’ll need to select “Advanced View” under the Performance Overlay Level slider in Quick Settings. Advanced View displays various performance settings, including Framerate Limit, Refresh Ratio, and the option to toggle on-screen or off-screen tearing.
2. Other Quick Settings may be modified
Using the frame-rate counter I mentioned above as the metric for good performance (you’re looking to hit a relatively stable number somewhere between 30 and 60, on average), you could consider dialing back the framerate limit in the Performance menu of Quick Settings. This is a slider that stops at 15, 30, 60, and Off (sometimes called “uncapped” in PC gaming spaces).
If you’re fluctuating wildly between 30 and 60, move that slider to 30. You can also reduce the refresh rate of the screen by setting it between 40 and 60. This changes the actual rate that the screen refreshes itself (because all moving images are an illusion of several still images running in order), but for that feature to work best, you’ll want to be sure that V-Sync is running in the game’s own settings.
Other settings such as Allow Tearing, Half Rate Shading, and Manual GPU Clock Control are best untouched if you don’t understand what these do. We’ll cover those another time.
3. Modify key settings within the game
Every game is different, so a universal set of tips for graphics settings is tricky, but here are the ones you should look out for if you’re new to PC gaming:
Resolution: The Steam Deck’s screen is a native 1280×800 resolution. You’ll want to make sure that your game matches this resolution and isn’t above or below this number.
Shadow qualityShadow settings can vary between games. Shadow settings are a good place to start to reduce settings and improve performance.
Many modern games allow you to adjust the settings for shadows. Dialing these back to a “Medium” setting will often save a number of frames.
Motion blur, color aberration, film grain, and so on.These are often sexist words in PC gaming. Personally, I like a good application of chromatic aberration Motion blur and film grain. The key words there are “good application.” It’s often an effect, as is motion blur and film grain, that can muddy up the image, particularly when on a small screen like the Steam Deck. It won’t necessarily improve performance, but it can help to clean up the image.
I love film grain and color aberration, for example. Cyberpunk 2077 on a desktop PC (sue me). It adds a layer of texture to the image and gives it depth. But when playing on the Deck, I’ll shut this setting off for 2077 as it just doesn’t translate to a small screen so well.
This doesn’t even scratch the surface of graphics settings, but they are good places to start if you’re new to tweaking such options. Honestly, when in doubt, doing a quick Google of “best Steam Deck settings for X game” is often a good way to see what’s worked for other users.
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