Wow. I have been playing with the Steam Deck regularly since I reviewed in February, and every update Valve has released over the past two months has improved the Deck a bit. But the most recent update, currently in beta testing, is by far the biggest, vastly improving the Steam Deck’s most obvious flaw: its noisy fan.
We wrote a separate post on launch day about the Steam Deck fan noting how strong he is when it’s trying to keep powerful AMD hardware cool. Loudness isn’t the Deck fan’s only problem: either due to its size or the design of the fan, when it spins at full speed, it produces a particularly sibilant noise. Steam Deck fans started talking about the fan lottery because of the two different fan models present in various Steam Decks. I don’t have two Decks to test side by side, but I can say that I notice the fan every time I use the Steam Deck. It’s a nuisance I was willing to put up with, but the latest update brings the Deck in line with the silent Nintendo Switch, at least when playing less demanding games.
As Katie explained covering the patch yesterday, the new fan curve allows the Deck to get hotter before the fan reaches full power, meaning the system can run hotter as a result. I didn’t find it to be noticeably warm in the hand, even playing Elden Ring and seeing the CPU temperature hit 80C. And the exciting thing was even at that temperature and with the fan running, it wasn’t as strong as it sometimes was before the update under much less demanding conditions.
Here is the change as described by Valve:
“Added an OS-controlled fan curve to improve the experience in low-use scenarios and adjust how the fan reacts to different scenarios and temperatures.”
After some testing I found both to be true. I first ran Elden Ring before and after the beta update; this demanding game runs the fan on both counts, but it’s noticeably quieter after the beta patch.
Front Elden Ring: notice how it rears up again when I enter the mansion after 45 seconds. And it was already strong. (Don’t forget to reactivate the gif).
And Elden Ring afterwards. Note the temperature difference: it’s currently running in the 70s, a difference of up to 10°C, but I think it will be a good compromise.
Meanwhile, with Death’s Door, a moderately demanding 3D indie game, and the Final Fantasy 3 Pixel Remaster, which is not demanding to everything, the fan was much quieter. After the update, the fan didn’t even turn on in Final Fantasy 3. I also took a few quick videos of those tests, but the ambient wind noise outside my apartment (thanks, San Francisco !) makes it difficult to really choose on the difference.
My main takeaway is that this is a noticeable improvement for demanding games like Elden Ring and a huge improvement for playing less demanding games on the Steam Deck. Prior to this update, you were going to at least hear the fan when playing a game like Death’s Door or Final Fantasy 3, even if it wasn’t running at an annoying volume. Now the Deck’s fan is less likely to spin, period, allowing you to play some games quietly. After comparing these three games, I booted up Yakuza 0 and was amazed at how quiet the fan was: I set the game to run at 60fps and it still runs great on the Deck, but with the fan on which constantly runs in the background. This time, it didn’t get past a low-end roar.
The SteamOS 3.2 update is still in beta, so Valve may make further changes to the fan curve before it hits the stable channel. And this update probably won’t be its last change for the fan in the life of the Steam Deck, but I can’t imagine them making a single improvement that makes me happier than this.