Steam Deck update brings improved graphics driver for better performance, along with fixes and features galore

A Steam Deck LCD on a wooden desk, with the SteamOS menu screen on the display
(Image credit: Future)

Steam Deck owners rejoice, for Valve has bestowed us with many gifts in the most recent SteamOS preview update, taking it to version 3.6.0. There are plenty of fixes and added features to enjoy, along with a graphics driver update that promises "many performance and correctness improvements".

The OS itself has been moved to a more recent Arch Linux base, with an update to the Linux kernel too. I thought I'd lead with the most exciting bits. Ah just kidding, there's a whole host of fixes including improved pairing with Apple AirPods, improved Bluetooth connection speeds, better performance and stability in high memory use scenarios, and the added ability to wake the device from sleep with Bluetooth devices.

The graphics card driver has been updated to Mesa 24.1, which according to the release notes delivers many performance improvements. I had a drive around some of the more demanding areas in Cyberpunk 2077 and did notice that the frame rate appeared to be a little less stutter-prone than previous, although of course this is no magic bullet fix that turns your Deck into an RTX 4090-like monster.

Still, any performance improvements, I will take. Those of you that fancy pushing the hardware to its limits will be pleased to find overclocking controls added to the BIOS for the Steam Deck LCD, and you can now set the SD card as the default boot device, which should keep tinkerers happy.

Speaking of LCDs, there's been a few software improvements to the screen, too. Display uniformity should be improved with Mura Compensation, which is designed to help mitigate the dreaded "Mura effect", a common issue with LCD displays exposed to high temperatures over time in which the displayed image can look unintentionally grainy. 

I never noticed the issue personally on my Deck, but if yours has been suffering this should hopefully minimise the effect. There's also improved display colour balance at lower brightness levels, which should make things look better with the screen turned down to maximise battery life.

In desktop mode you now get thumbnail previews for videos in the file browser, and the Deck Dock—a name I love to say out loud—gets some intriguing HDMI CEC features too, including TV remote input, TV wake up, and TV input switching. There's also some compatibility fixes for high refresh rate VRR displays.

The update is for those opted in to the preview channel for now, but it's easy enough to activate by going through the settings menu to the system panel, before selecting "Preview" from the dropdown box next to "System Update Channel". 

A red letter day for Steam Deck owners then, with plenty of quality of life and compatibility improvements, and a little bit of a performance boost too. Still no version you can use on other hardware though, which is a shame, although you can't have everything, ey?


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Andy Edser
Hardware Writer

Andy built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 12, when IDE cables were a thing and high resolution wasn't. After spending over 15 years in the production industry overseeing a variety of live and recorded projects, he started writing his own PC hardware blog for a year in the hope that people might send him things. Sometimes they did.

Now working as a hardware writer for PC Gamer, Andy can be found quietly muttering to himself and drawing diagrams with his hands in thin air. It's best to leave him to it.