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Computing

Steam Deck battery life: 5 tips to extend your play time

The Steam Deck is a great device, but it has a major flaw: Battery life. In the best of cases, you can get around four hours before charging, and in the worst, the Deck can die in as little as 90 minutes. We rounded up the five Steam Deck battery life tips so you can extend your playtime as long as possible.

If you just picked up your device, make sure to read our top Steam Deck tips so you can get the most out of it. We also have a roundup of the best battery packs for the Steam Deck, which are essential if you plan on taking the handheld on a long trip.

Reduce screen brightness

The easiest way to save battery life on the Steam Deck is to turn down the brightness of the screen. Valve includes an option for dynamic brightness in the settings, but you shouldn’t use it — it’s way too sensitive, and the constant adjustment could actually decrease your battery life. Set it manually to the lowest point you can while still being able to see the screen.

Valve sets the default screen brightness fairly high. With God of War, we were able to play for just over an hour longer with the brightness down to its minimum setting. That’s the difference between playing for two hours and three hours in a demanding game like God of War. It’s simple, but screen brightness goes a long way to improve the Steam Deck’s battery life.

Use the frame rate limiter

The Steam Deck laying on a laptop.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Beyond reducing the screen brightness, always use the frame rate limiter on the Steam Deck — even if you don’t need to. We recommend setting the frame rate limiter to 30 fps in the Quick settings menu regardless of the game you’re playing. This is especially true for games that hover between 40 fps to 50 fps on the Steam Deck. Those extra frames could represent 45 minutes or more of extra battery life (as we saw in God of War).

You can also adjust the refresh rate of the display, which you should do to match whatever your frame rate is set at. The refresh rate won’t save as much battery life as turning on the frame rate limiter, but the two together can give you an extra hour or more of playtime.

Limit power and GPU speed

Power limit settings on the Steam Deck.

If you don’t mind a bit of trial and error, limiting the Steam Deck’s total power and GPU speed can massively improve battery life without sacrificing performance. You’ll find both in the Quick settings menu, and you’ll have to play with the exact numbers depending on the game you’re playing and the frame rate you want to hit.

We recommend turning on the frame rate overlay on your Steam Deck to see how much power the device is consuming and the clock speed of your GPU. From there, set the TDP and GPU around the mark you see in the overlay. It’s best to start low, see where your frame rate is at, and then slowly increase from there until you can maintain the frame rate you want.

For example, we limited the retro-styled platformer Blasphemous to 5W and were able to maintain a steady 60 fps (and improve battery life by around an hour and a half). The Steam Deck allows you to store these settings as per-game profiles, too, so you can set everything up once and keep your battery life steady.

Use FSR

Performance overlay on the Steam Deck.

The Steam Deck supports AMD’s FidelityFX Super Sampling (FSR) upscaling, and it’s hands-down the easiest way to save battery life. FSR essentially runs your game at a lower resolution, which takes a lot of strain off of the Steam Deck to improve battery life (and reduce fan noise in the process).

Using FSR on the Steam Deck is a little confusing, though. You can turn it on in the Quick settings menu, but you’ll need to turn down your in-game resolution for FSR to actually do anything. The Steam Deck has a resolution of 1,280 x 800, so bump down your resolution to 960 x 600 to save some battery life (or 640 x 400 if you need your battery to last even longer).

Turn on half rate shading

Half-rate shading option on the Steam Deck.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Valve recently added half rate shading to the Steam Deck, which is an interesting piece of graphics tech that can massively improve battery life. Shading is a complex topic, but the short of it is that every pixel on the screen needs a color value — and figuring out all of those colors takes a lot of power. Half rate shading cuts the rate in half, essentially only shading half of the pixels on-screen and using nearby pixels to fill in the missing information.

The result is that your game looks like it’s running at a lower resolution, even if half rate shading isn’t exactly the same as FSR. Keep this tip in your back pocket, though. Several Steam Deck games don’t allow you to adjust the resolution, so half rate shading can be a major help to save your battery life.

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Game

SteelSeries Arctis 7+ and 7P+ gaming headsets boost battery, add USB-C

SteelSeries has announced an update to its popular Arctis 7 gaming headset with the new Arctis 7+ and Arctis 7P+ models. The two new Arctis options bring hotly-anticipated upgrades to the aging model, perhaps the best of which is finally swapping out the micro USB port for USB-C. The Arctis 7+ and 7P+ support just about every gaming platform except for the Xbox.

The SteelSeries Arctis 7 has been a popular headset among gamers for years and the new models aren’t likely to be an exception. The Arctis 7+ and 7P+ retain the company’s signature design and many of the features users love while building upon them with the latest hardware and functionality.

Both models support the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, PC and Mac, Oculus Quest 2, and mobile devices. The Xbox consoles, however, are notably absent from the list, meaning gamers who prefer Microsoft’s console will need to go with one of SteelSeries’ other models.

Both models bring high-end gaming audio features to the table, but the Arctis 7P+ is ideal for PS5 owners who want to leverage the console’s Tempest 3D AudioTech. SteelSeries says it designed the 7P+ specifically for the PlayStation 5, enabling gamers to hear the most subtle sounds in games and the direction from which the sounds originate in a simulated 3D audio environment.

Both models include a compact USB dongle for wireless audio support across various devices, as well as a battery boost of up to 30 hours on battery. Likewise, both Arctis headsets sport a ClearCast bidirectional noise-canceling microphone certified for use with Discord. The microphone is retractable and, for the Arctis 7P+ model specifically, offers the same noise cancellation tech found in headsets used by aircraft carrier deck crews.

The Arctis 7+, meanwhile, gives buyers early access to the company’s Sonar audio software, making it possible to hear the game in 7.1 surround sound, enable ChatMix, and other features. Both the 7+ and 7P+ feature 40mm neodymium drivers, a 20 to 20,000Hz frequency range, and an on-ear cup design.

Though this isn’t a huge update, it is a solid one that brings welcomed changes for PS5 owners and Arctis 7 fans who have grown tired of hanging on to their old micro USB chargers. The addition of USB-C makes fast charging possible, plus the overall battery life improvement means gamers won’t have to recharge their headsets daily to enjoy their favorite video games.

The SteelSeries Arctis 7+ and Arctis 7P+ are available now for $169.99 USD each.

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Game

SteelSeries updates its Arctis 7 headsets with longer battery life and USB-C

Since 2019, Engadget has the SteelSeries Arctis 7 as one of the best gaming headsets you can buy. At this point, it’s iconic but with a design that hasn’t changed much since 2016, it recently started to show its age. Thankfully, SteelSeries just announced the Arctis 7+ and Arctis 7P+.

The tweaks the company has made are modest, but they’re ones current Arctis 7 owners will appreciate. Most notably, SteelSeries has replaced the finicky micro USB port you used to charge the headset with a more modern USB-C connection. Using the new port, it’s possible to get three hours of uptime after 15 minutes of charging.

Arctis 7+

SteelSeries

On that note, battery life is also improved. SteelSeries claims you can get up to 30 hours of gameplay on a single charge, up from the approximately 24 hours you got from the previous version. As for the differences between the 7+ and 7P+, there aren’t many. You can buy the latter in both black and white colorways where the former is only available in black. Additionally, the 7P+ includes support for the PlayStation 4 and PS5’s 3D Audio functionality. That said, you can use both headsets with pretty much any system or device other than Xbox consoles.

The Arctis 7+ and Arctis 7P+ are available to buy today from the SteelSeries website. They’ll both set you back $170. That’s an increase from the $150 MSRP of Arctis 7 and 7P, but what’s an extra $20 when you don’t have to deal with micro USB anymore. 

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Game

Steam Deck can limit frame rates to give you longer battery life

Valve may boast that the Steam Deck will run games well, but you won’t have to worry about the handheld PC running games too quickly. As The Verge notes, Valve’s Pierre-Loup Griffais has revealed that the Steam Deck will include a “built-in” frame rate limiter option that caps performance in return for longer battery life. If you’re playing a title that doesn’t demand highly responsive visuals, you can trade some unnecessary frames for extra game time.

Not that games will necessarily drag the system down. After Valve told IGN it was aiming for a 30FPS target, Griffais added that the frame rate was the “floor” for playable performance. Every game the company has tested so far has “consistently met and exceeded” that threshold, the developer said. While you probably won’t run cutting-edge games at 30FPS with maximum detail (this is a $399 handheld, after all), you might not have to worry that a favorite game will be too choppy to play.

The company already expects Portal 2 to last for six hours at 30FPS versus four with no frame rate restrictions. We wouldn’t be surprised if the effect is reduced for newer or more intensive games that are less likely to reach high frame rates.

The Steam Deck might not offer a completely seamless experience even with the limiter. Digital Foundry warned that you might get a less-than-ideal experience with V-Sync active. And of course, the 30FPS target generally applies only to existing games — don’t count on a cutting-edge 2023 game running at playable frame rates, at least not without significantly reduced detail. This is more about ensuring that your existing game library is usable on launch.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.



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Game

Steam Deck optional FPS limiter to offer better battery life

Valve’s Steam Deck, just like many of the company’s hardware endeavors, has stirred up mixed responses to the portable PC gaming handheld. The device itself seems to have a yin yang characteristic to it. Its tempting price tag was offset by pre-order chaos, while its capable hardware, at least for a portable computer, was balanced by some puzzling decisions about its performance. The most controversial aspect seems to be the “30 FPS target” for the Steam Deck that Valve revealed. As it turns out, the story is actually more confusing than that simple statement.

The company best known for its Steam games store and platform revealed that the Steam Deck targets 30Hz gameplay. That sounds like an arbitrary and strange limitation considering that the device’s screen is actually capable of 60Hz refresh rates. At the same time, it does sound almost on par with the Nintendo Switch’s capabilities, except the older gaming handheld has far weaker hardware inside.

Valve’s Pierre-Loup Griffais later clarified that this 30 fps target is simply a floor or minimum requirement. Very few modern PC games run at lower than 30 fps these days anyway, so it’s a pretty low bar to reach. The developer also clarifies that the games they’ve tested so far exceeded that floor, perhaps giving hope that the experience, in general, won’t be as bad as that number sounds.

The more interesting revelation, however, is that the Steam Deck will have an optional built-in FPS limiter. This would allow users to pick between performance or battery life, the latter probably locking games at 30Hz.

This, however, raises even more questions and concerns about the quality of graphics that the Steam Deck will deliver. Considerations about frame syncing, frame-pacing, and tearing when locking games at this 30 fps mode will surely come up, though it’s definitely too early to say how good or bad the Steam Deck’s performance will be.



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Tech News

Albemarle opens a Battery Materials Innovation Center in North Carolina

Albemarle certainly isn’t a household name, but it’s a major US-based producer of chemicals, particularly those used in the production of lithium batteries. Lithium batteries are key to all manner of electronic devices and are particularly critical for electric vehicles. The company has announced that it opened a Battery Materials Innovation Center (BMIC) and its Kings Mountain, North Carolina site.

The BMIC will be fully operational in July 2021 and will support the company’s lithium hydroxide, lithium carbonate, and advanced energy storage materials platforms. The facility is designed to enable the synthesis of new materials, material property characterization, and analysis. It also supports material scale-up capabilities and material integration into battery cells for performance testing.

The facility has a dry room with a multi-layer pouch cell line that can create cell phone-sized batteries to demonstrate critical aspects of performance and accelerate the transition of new products to customers. BMIC will also develop lithium metal anode technology to increase battery energy density using advanced lithium metal ruling to achieve lithium foils 20 microns thick. Twenty microns is about one-fifth the average thickness of a human hair.

The facility will demonstrate lithium foils even thinner with a thickness of 3 to 5 microns using new technologies currently under development. Albemarle says that its BMIC provides realistic and relevant cell building capability to generate data for next-generation battery material design. The company will leverage the resources to optimize the materials for creating a drop-in solution for customers to help deliver high-performance and cost-effective batteries to the electric vehicle market.

Albemarle is the only US-based producer of lithium metal anodes. The company says novel materials developed in its labs will enable the next frontier of lithium-ion battery performance. Moving from conventional graphite battery anodes to lithium metal offers the potential to double energy density and reduce cost by as much as 50 percent.

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Tech News

OtterBox’s new Xbox controller battery pack prevents interrupted gameplay

OtterBox has a new accessory for the Xbox Wireless Controller that’ll help players avoid interrupted gameplay when their batteries run low. Called the OtterBox Power Swap Controller Batteries, this new power pack features quick-release tech so that users can quickly pop the power pack out using one hand and then pop another into the controller in its place.

OtterBox claims its new power packs are the first rapid hot-swap design for the Xbox Wireless Controllers, enabling players to quickly toggle out a drained power pack for a second one that is fully charged. This can be done rapidly enough to prevent disconnecting from the console, avoiding the interruption that too many Xbox players have experienced.

The new product is part of the Designed for Xbox program. The key to the system is a reserve cell that keeps the controller powered on for a short period of time while the player removes the drained battery pack and inserts the second charged unit.

A red low-power alert is designed to illuminate the players’ hands when the batteries are low, giving them a chance to change battery packs before the controller dies. As you’d expect, the product includes two battery packs, meaning you can keep one on the charger while the other is connected to the controller.

OtterBox notes that its new hot-swappable batteries are compatible with its wider line of accessories for the Xbox Wireless Controller, including the Mobile Gaming Clip and Easy Grip Controller Shell introduced earlier this year. The Power Swap Batteries will be available starting June 15 for $59.99 USD.

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Game

OtterBox made an Xbox controller battery that can be swapped out mid-game

If you’re a PlayStation or Nintendo Switch player, you know you need to keep a cord nearby in case your controller runs out of charge mid-game. If you’re an Xbox gamer, however, it’s a little trickier — those gamepads still rely on AA batteries so, while you can easily pop in a new set when needed, you may have to resync the controller to your console, which can be a real hassle when you’re in the middle of a match. OtterBox, better known for its protective cases, is now looking to make your charging experience seamless with its Power Swap Controller Batteries.

These new batteries aren’t just regular rechargeable batteries — those wouldn’t solve the common problem of losing connection with your system while you make the switch. Instead, Otterbox came up with a cage that you plug into the battery compartment, and then each battery gets inserted into that. The key to a seamless swap is the small reserve cell in the cage, which maintains power to the controller for about 30 seconds, which is just about enough time to pull out the drained battery and replace it with a fresh one from the dock.

Power Swap Controller Batteries from rear

OtterBox

Each battery has a low battery indicator on it so you’ll get an extra heads up to change out the pack; you won’t be caught unaware by a message on the screen or an unresponsive controller. The batteries can be popped out with one hand too, so you never actually have to stop playing.

Each $60 set comes with two batteries, so right out of the box you have one to play and one to keep ready in the charger. There’s a dock to power up both at the same time, though you can also plug in the included USB-C cord to charge batteries right in the controller. Also included in the package are two cages, one for the Xbox One gamepad and one for the Xbox Series X|S, so you don’t have to worry about buying the “right” set for your system, or having to pick up a replacement if you decide to upgrade your console later on.

Power Swap Controller Batteries in gamepad

OtterBox

Even if you don’t have an Xbox you can still benefit from the Power Swap Controller Batteries, since Xbox gamepads are compatible with both Windows and Mac desktops and even mobile — Otterbox made sure that the new battery didn’t interfere with the Mobile Gaming Clip it introduced back in January. And the extra space in the company’s Gaming Carry Case should be enough to carry your extra battery and cables as well.

The OtterBox Power Swap Controller Batteries will be available on otterbox.com starting June 15th, though you’ll also see them on microsoft.com and Amazon as well. And that’s $60 for the entire set; right now the batteries won’t be sold by themselves but it’s not out of the question if this new charging solution takes off.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Tech News

IBM 2nm chips envision phones with four-day battery life

There is only so much you can cram inside a smartphone without sacrificing other things like phone size, internal space, thermal emission, and battery life. One solution is to shrink those components while maintaining or even improving their performance and efficiency. That is often the case with semiconductors, particularly the processors that power phones, laptops, and computers, and IBM’s first 2nm chip, also the world’s first 2nm chip, promises to do exactly that and then some.

Most of the processors that power high-end smartphones and devices today utilize 5 or 7 nm FinFET processes. To put it into perspective, a 5nm chip crams less than a million transistors per square millimeter while this proof-of-concept 2nm chip can hold more than 300 million. According to IBM, that results in a 45% improvement in performance.

With more transistors, of course, comes more processing power but also more power consumption. That isn’t the case here, however, as IBM advertises an even lower 75% energy use compared to current chips in use. In practice, that could make it possible to have smartphones that will take days, not hours, before needing to be recharged.

It’s not just about smartphone battery life, of course. IBM tries to envision a world where data centers will produce less carbon footprint and self-driving cars can detect objects faster and, consequently, avoid crashing into them. The smaller chips will also be a boon to the IoT industry that has always been constrained when it comes to available space but also need sufficient processing power to offer smart features.

That said, it’s too early to get excited over IBM’s 2nm processors, enticing as they may sound. It will probably take years before actual 2nm chips become commercially available, especially considering the global silicon shortage we’re facing now.

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Tech News

DJI Mini 2 battery discharging issue will get a firmware fix soon

DJI already launched no less than two new drones this year, that despite the legal debacle it has in the US over its involvement with the Chinese government’s activities. Fortunately, it hasn’t forgotten about its relatively young products, namely the DJI Mini 2. Owners of that drone have been reporting minor but still unfavorable issues about its LiPo battery. The good news is that it will need only a software fix. The bad news is that its arrival is still unknown at this point.

Some owners of the DJI Mini 2 have been reporting that the drone’s battery doesn’t get discharged slowly over time when left in the drone or on the charger while not charging. While this would normally sound like a good thing, the problem is that it also degrades such a battery’s life. LiPo batteries in particular need to very slowly discharge when full in order to prolong their life, ironic as it may sound.

DJI’s Intelligent Flight Batteries actually have this function but it turns out that the batteries in DJI Mini 2. Most owners will have probably missed that, though, as it might only surface in tests and closer examination. Fortunately, the fix isn’t that hard either.

In a statement to Digital Photography Review, DJI says that it will be pushing out a firmware update that will fix this situation. It will initiate auto-discharge when the battery is left in the drone or in the charging hub and hasn’t been used recently. It doesn’t say, however, when it plans to actually push out that update.

Although it could be costly in the long run, since users might have to replace their batteries sooner, the issue is actually very minor and, thankfully, doesn’t pose a safety risk. That said, DJI does recommend that Mini 2 owners take out the battery when it won’t be used for a long period of time, with or without the firmware update.

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