In our Steam Deck review (opens in new tab), Wes made a note of just how high-pitched the fan inside this little, portable gaming device can get. People have been complaining all over the web, and it seems companies like iFixit are starting to take notice.
It's likely one of the first downsides you'll come across if you fire your Deck up in a quiet space, and could easily see yourself getting kicked out of bed to sleep on the couch. So it's no wonder Steam Deck users have put out a call for fan manufacturers to come up with a quieter solution.
The Deck's fan "will ramp up to an annoying pitch even under relatively light loads," Wes explains. "During testing Valve did update the fan profile to be less erratic and run at a lower RPM in lighter games, but the Deck fan is absolutely louder and more annoying than the Switch."
When answering the question "How loud is the Steam Deck (opens in new tab)" our Dave made it clear the Deck failed the 'significant other' test. "The combination of the pitch and the whine means the Deck's fan is just too pronounced to be happily ignored. Even when I was gaming on my own I found I had to boost the volume of the speakers because they too are competing with the chat from the exhaust port."
In the words of our Alan, "It's not loud per se, just perfect mosquito in a beer can levels of annoying."
Steam Deck review (opens in new tab): Our verdict on Valve's handheld PC.
Steam Deck availability (opens in new tab): How to get one.
Steam Deck battery life (opens in new tab): What's the real battery life of the new device?
How loud is the Steam Deck? (opens in new tab) And will it pass the Significant Other test?
Steam Deck - The emulation dream machine (opens in new tab): Using Valve's handheld hardware as the ultimate emulator.
One Reddit user notes the difference between their Q1 256GB Deck's fans, against their Q2 512GB. There seems to have been a minor improvement, but users still appear pretty perturbed.
Reddit user solohack3r proposed that the Deck's "fancontrol, lm-sensors and other dependencies can’t properly gauge temperatures," which was thought to cause the fans to spin at unnecessarily high RPM. It was said that this wasn't an issue exclusive to the Deck, and that an upcoming Linux kernel RC was going to fix it.
That was two months ago.
When the software engineers have tried all they can for the release version, the next logical step is for the modders among us to try swapping out the problem hardware.
Thankfully, Valve hasn't made the Steam Deck into a Chinese puzzle box like some manufacturers (not pointing any fingers *cough* Apple, Nintendo). The issue is that good 50mm x 10mm 5V are hard to come by as of today, owing to the uniqueness of the Deck's form factor.
After Noctua apparently told one Redditor (opens in new tab) there would be no Noctua fans for the Steam Deck coming, another Reddit user chimed in (opens in new tab), having asked Noctua support via email if there were any plans to release a 50mm x 10mm 5V fan in the future. Noctua support said "As of right now, we do not have such products planned. However, I will forward your product suggestion to our side department."
It's all very cut and paste, but it seems to be drumming up enthusiasm. Maybe if enough people pester them...
In the meantime, iFixit has jumped on the opportunity. Championing the right to repair, iFixit officially stated that it will be coming out with replacement fans for the Steam Deck.
Hi! We are planning on selling the replacement fans, and we've been looking into which ones we'll have available.April 18, 2022
If all goes to plan, we could be seeing Steam Deck fans being sold on the iFixit store, though a follow up tweet does note "We're trying to source the ones without the noise, but it will depend on what's available to us."
Hopefully this is just another step in the evolution of Steam Deck modding, and fan manufacturers will catch on that this could be a lucrative market. Whatever your opinion of the Steam Deck fan pitch, lets be honest: sell a gaming device to a community like ours, and we'll sure as hell find ways to tear it down and Frankenstein it, whether it needed it or not.