When they were first announced, I, like many others, had hoped to be holding a Steam Deck this Christmas. But it's a hard time to manufacture tech right now, and so we're going to have to wait a little longer.
But in that time I've been spending more energy experiencing PC gaming on Linux, the base for the Steam Deck. Much has been said already about Proton and much more will be said in the months to come, but there's one bit of 'special sauce' that deserves more attention because it should be a huge deal on Valve's portable gaming PC.
AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) is, in simple terms, like NVIDIA's DLSS. It uses witchcraft to intelligently upscale games while preserving as much detail as possible so as to enable higher frame rates thanks to having been rendered initially at a lower resolution. One big difference is that FSR works on both AMD and NVIDIA hardware, and the other is that it's open-source. This means the Linux gang has been all over it.
My colleague, Brendan Lowry, has previously written about how much of a big deal it could be on the Steam Deck and having now put it to the test, he's absolutely right.
Official and unofficial support for FSR
There are two sides to using FSR on Linux, and therefore the forthcoming Steam Deck. The first is officially supported games, like the recent addition of FSR to Horizon: Zero Dawn and the second is everything else. And I mean everything. As FSR is open-source there's already a way to inject it into basically any game you try and play through Proton. There is support for it baked in, but there's also some extra magic that many are using.
This magic is courtesy of a chap known as "GloriousEggroll," a legend among the Linux gaming community. An engineer at Red Hat by day, in his free time he (and members of the community who contribute) compiles custom versions of Proton which takes everything Valve has built and adds a little more on top. Proton GE has FSR support built into it and as such, you can tell Steam to enable it with a simple launch command.
In the settings page for games you have installed there is a launch options box, and this simple command is what makes the magic happen:
With a supported version of Proton, you can launch a game, set it to a lower render resolution and FSR will do the rest.
It isn't limited to just Steam games, either. Naturally, Steam is where the bulk of Steam Deck games will come from, but since it's just a tiny Linux PC there's no reason not to think about playing games from sources like Epic Games or GOG as well.
FSR works through another popular Linux gaming tool, Lutris, in a similar way. With supported versions of WINE installed, either from GloriousEggroll or the Lutris team, you can enable FSR with a simple toggle in the configuration settings.
FSR works extremely well
Being able to use it is one thing but is it actually worth bothering with? Very much so. Whether it's in an officially supported game or not, the results can be extraordinary. Which makes it even more important for the prospective Steam Deck owners out there.
My own experience speaks for itself. I have an NVIDIA RTX 2080 inside my gaming PC so I'm lucky that I have access to both FSR and DLSS. The first game to blow me away with FSR is Control, a game that runs very well through Proton as is, though it's pretty demanding.
I could never get the DLSS support working properly on my system (it's still a bit janky on non-Vulkan titles) but using the FSR command in Steam, I was getting an average 25-30 FPS increase at the same graphics settings. And my eyes couldn't tell you if it was upscaled or not. It's that good.
I've also put it to work in Wolfenstein: Youngblood, a Vulkan title that officially supports DLSS on Linux. But using FSR instead delivers essentially the same experience. I'm able to hold a steady 120 FPS running the game at 3840 x 1200 on the Uber graphics settings and the game looks great.
Horizon: Zero Dawn, too, sees equally impressive results. The frame rate gets a definite uptick with no noticeable visual penalty. This is an officially supported FSR title and works even in Proton by enabling it in-game. Though admittedly there are other, much bigger issues with this game that will need addressing before it makes a good experience on Steam Deck.
Perhaps my favorite thing about using FSR, at least in an unofficial capacity, is that it just works. You don't have to make a decision on the level of quality you want vs performance, and since you do get more performance and the games still look good anyway, it's a perfect balance. And when it comes to a handheld like Steam Deck, the less fettling you have to do, the better.
In an ideal world, Steam will continue to work on FSR with its own Proton releases and have a simple toggle to enable it, as you get in Lutris. Whether this will happen, who knows, but we haven't yet seen Steam OS 3.0 and I think it'd be a really helpful feature to have.
An ultimate PC handheld
Play your Steam library anywhere
Wanted more places to play your Steam library? Now you'll be able to with the Steam Deck. This machine comes in three configurations, each allowing you to play your games locally and portably.
Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
Good news for FSR and the future of graphics in gaming in general. Very happy to hear about the boost to games that weren't even specifically designed for it! That also bodes well for PS5 and Xbox Series S|X users, which have ideal AMD chips for FSR. But Steam Deck is a competitor to gaming on Windows, so not good for Microsoft as a company or of any help to Windows users. I realize MS is somewhat responsible for creating this opportunity by not offering a portable system with built in hardware controls or structuring licensing to incentivize such a device from an OEM. But they did try to make nice with Valve, offering to put their games on Steam. Valve responds with this, shaking Microsoft's hand with one, and sticking a knife in them with the other. Valve is even less ethical and honorable than Google.
It'll be interesting to see how missing the holiday season impacts the SD business long term.
Giving China,inc another 6 months to prepare their answer in tbe (already extant) handheld gaming PC space is not optimal.
You might be missing the part that Linux OS global market for regular PC users and gamers are extremely low, So, I don't see this as an issue as you make it to be.
asoyemi, I agree that it may not have a large business impact. But that doesn't change the unethical move Valve is making with this. For what it's worth, I support that Valve has the legal right to do what it's doing. I just also think that businesses, like people, should not seek to screw over other companies, unless those companies have attacked them first. At this point, I hope Microsoft starts (but don't expect them to) cutting off support for Valve and Steam, beyond the same support they provide to any company that makes Windows software. Put them on Microsoft Store of course, but also GoG, GeForce Now, etc. for any options that meet their business requirements, but not Steam. I hope they remove their games from Steam, including all the Bethesda and ID games. That would be a reasonable and appropriate response to the Steam Deck. Be a strong friend to your partners, but also appropriately punish those who cheat you. That's always my been my philosophy in business.
Microsoft started this, when they introduced the Windows store with Windows 7 they started to lock down windows. It was at that point Valve started working on Linux because Valves whole business was reliant on Microsoft. Microsoft never actually locked down windows, but no business can be that reliant on another company.
And if it works, most people won't give a crap what OS is running on their Steam Deck. The people who seem to be most offended frequent the Windows Central comments sections. Like Gabe Newell personally hates them or something.
Lol is this the oposite world where windows is a good guy all of a sudden? After all the horrible stuff Microsoft has done to linux and others what valve has done is not unethical in the least, and there is several reasons why they did this, would you like to make an ecosystem of hardware and software where you have no control at all over the software on your hardware? I really doubt it, thats why they went with linux where they have some control over the software on their device. And not atacked first, I really doubt there is any company at this point microsoft has not atacked, Linux is no company but the things they have done to linux over the years is horrible and fit for a horror movie.
Linux is fine. I've put Linux on hardware devices I've sold, so I'd be quite the hypocrite if I had a problem with Linux. The problem is what Valve is doing, after MS agreed to improve their relationship by putting MS first-party games on Steam. Valve then turns around does this to MS. Yeah, it's unethical. It's the textbook example of being a bad business partner. Your views of MS behavior are decades obsolete, as most of the criticisms of MS are. MS has been about the most partner and competitor friendly company on the planet since the anti-trust days, and even more so under Nadella (whether you like him or not, he's clearly committed to ensuring MS is the "nice" guy).
I am not hugely worried about this as the Steam Deck is still pretty niche and would have been DoA without the option to install Windows on it, imo. The choice of Linux is what it is but it still has problems and getting non-Steam storefronts on the SD requires hoops to jump through. However, handheld PCs have been dominated so far by expensive Chinese options so it would be nice if this forces them to compete more on price. If it lights a fire under Microsoft to make something as well (doubtful) that would be nice too. TLDR Competition may actually help here.
ladydias, I agree with your conclusion about competition. I do see that as the silver lining and win for gamers. That said, it doesn't ease my animosity toward Valve for doing this and not even offering a version with Windows pre-installed for users willing to pay extra for the Windows license. Gabe Newell has made it pretty clear that's purely out of spite toward Microsoft. Some point out a strength that it CAN run Windows, but the number of customers who would buy the Steam Deck and then install their own copy of Windows is effectively 0, at least from a real sales volume perspective. This means Valve is hoping to win customers by telling them they can install Windows, while making sure that Microsoft sells virtually 0 Windows licenses. Aside from long-term competitive advances this drives, it just degrades the Microsoft gaming ecosystem.
Degrades the Microsoft gaming ecosystem? Lol are you ok, do you feel threatened by this..? In any case good or bad Microsoft are actually quite heavily involved in Linux at the moment, and if steam sells an MS/xbox game and people play it on steam deck it's still money for MS. Also I don't think the fact that you can install Windows on it or not is going to be an issue to most people who will just boot it up and play. The real threat here is from Microsoft, there's quite a few old games that play better via proton than in Windows, as MS keeps breaking compatibility, windows really is a threat to steam as valve relies way too heavily on them, they could just break steam and their business is switched off. No sane person is complaining that Sony and Nintendo don't run on windows..
J Anderson1, Nintendo and Sony are valid competitors. I have nothing but respect for them. Valve uses Microsoft, then stabs them in the back. It's an ethical problem I have with Valve. They are a despicable company. I resent Google too for similar reasons, but at least Google is fairly upfront about their vile business practices. Valve lies and cheats.
These are two businesses and in the end they compete with each other. Valve went down this road for multiple valid reasons and one should not look at them as some immoral entity for doing so. Microsoft had planned on locking down their store which would have blocked Valve on newer versions of Windows. They did the right thing and looked for other options. Don't sleep on Linux. It offers many benefits over Windows and in the last couple of years has really improved in a lot of areas. This article is pointing out one of the benefits. Being able to run FSR on any game native or otherwise is amazing and something Windows cannot do today.
Competition is great for customers (it's why capitalism is such a powerful force for good). And "coopetition" is fine too, where companies cooperate in some spaces and compete in others (e.g., Google and Microsoft). What's not good is when one company (MS) tries to help or at least build a relationship with another (Valve), by making its content available on Valve's platform (Steam), then Valve turns around and tries to hurt the company by selling hardware to compete with Windows devices and NOT EVEN OFFERING A VERSION WITH WINDOWS. There is no defense for what Valve has done other than, "It's only business." That's generally the refrain of those who don't believe business involves ethics. It does. It's important to be ethical in business just as much as in all other walks of life.
The chinese handhelds have been hampered (in price and performance) by having to use either low power chips or expensive laptop parts. However, AMD has been known to sell generic versions of console SOCs (look for the Anantech review of the AMD A9-9820) and now that they've signed up to let Valve use their latest tech that option opens up for other wannabe players. Looking at the landscape, a slimmed down/higher clock version of the Lockhart (without the MS proprietary features) would allow a $5-600 handheld PC comparable to the high end SD. And not just for the chinese market. ASUS. ACER. SAMSUNG. DELL. There is no reason the big PC vendors can't play in that space. A Sony VITA PC would make some sense now that Sony is dabbling in PC gaming. Or a VITA PS4. So would an XBOX "Series H"considering how scalable DirectX is. Valve might end up proving there is a market there only to be superceded by a bigger player. (Or that there isn't a viable one. The old Steam Machine consoles come to mind.) As the saying goes, "You can tell tbe pioneers by the arrows in the back. "
There are also tools it seems to allow similar benefits on Windows with non-officially supported games. Original plan was for this piece to be a much larger look at both platforms but in the end I decided to split and focus on Steam Deck and Windows separately. Will be following up with a look on Windows some time in the New Year all being well.
If unofficial tools exist under Windows, can MS equivalents for PC be far behind?
XBOX Consoles have their own upscaling tech but if the AMD algorithms are that effective they might be used instead to free up resources for higher framerates. Maybe that's why MS stopped adding BC titles?
Could be interresting.
Yeah there is tools on windows for universal fsr, some upscaling tool has it, alltho I havent got it to work as smoothly as it does in linux, and the linux version is mutch simpler to use, use proton ge and add start command, then set resolution in game to less then native and it just works. FSR is one of the reason I prefer to game on linux. The others that will benefit steam deck alot, is better responsiveness for input in games, and sharper games. And steamos 3 will feel more like a console experiance which alot of people will appreciate, alot due to limited settings options for amd in linux lol.
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