Starfield on Steam Deck Gets Mixed Reception

Starfield running on the Steam Deck
(Image credit: GamingOnLinux)

Starfield is set for imminent general release, but we already have some deep analysis of the title in terms of performance on Intel GPUs and Nvidia DLSS 3 drivers. Starfield looks set to be one of those titles which can make PC gamers and enthusiasts reconsider their desktop's specs. Moreover, its graphics hardware idiosyncrasies have many wondering how much GPU you need to run Starfield.

With all the questions and concerns about the game's performance on desktop PCs, many Steam Deck users will be wisely sitting on the fence with regard to Bethesda's latest AAA release. Now we have a couple of interesting videos to look at for analysis of the Starfield experience on the Steam Deck, so let's take a closer look at the current state of play in this massive spaceborne RPG.

ETA Prime tests Starfield on the Steam Deck

YouTuber ETA Prime is very positive about his Starfield experience on the Steam Deck. His Steam Deck has been updated with the latest SteamOS updates plus Proton Experimental.

During the footage, you are seeing the game with all settings set to low, and a 30fps frame lock option turned on (but some dips will be observed). ETA Prime hopes that the dips he saw will be ironed out. Moreover, he reckons some settings will be able to be lifted to medium in due course.

Continuing in his overall positive opinion of Starfield on the Steam Deck, ETA Prime summed up that it is currently "not a bad experience." Realistically, most will also probably agree that "it's only going to get better from here."

In our viewing of ETA Prime's footage we noted the that lowest FPS dip was to about 16fps. The YouTuber added that there was almost always great performance in space, even in space battles where things get busier. An incidental observation was that the small text on Starfield ship controls in-game can be hard to read on the small-ish Steam Deck display. FSR is partly blamed for the lack of text clarity.

ROG Ally users might face a rockier experience, noted ETA Prime. Even though the APU is more powerful, less seems to have been done to make this title play nicely with Windows portables. ETA Prime reported "running into a lot of crashing," with the Asus Windows handheld, at the current time.

GamingOnLinux tests Starfield on the Steam Deck

Liam from GamingOnLinux also used the latest edition of the SteamDeck OS (specifically version 3.4.10 Stable) with Proton Experimental. Valve was congratulated on acting quite quickly here, with a pre-launch and post-launch (early access) set of optimizations delivered to its handheld users.

Also like ETA Prime, GamingOnLinux noted that everything was left at default during testing, but with lowest settings applied, and FSR2 is turned on. The game was installed on the system's internal SSD.

The pair of videos from GamingOnLinux were overall less positive than the ETA Prime review, top. In the first video, Liam introduces the footage by admitting that "I don't think this is something you are going to want to play on Steam Deck." Starfield on the Steam Deck "really struggles, and it goes well below 30fps," explained the video voiceover. Moreover, it was asserted that the performance deficit can be both seen on screen and felt in controls.

Moving onto some area-specific notes, GamingOnLinux echoes ETA Prime's sentiments that space sections and some planets and city regions saw fine performance. If you are looking for the worst case scenario though, we suggest you have a look at the second video from GamingOnLinux, where New Atlantis City is highlighted as one of the worst areas in the game. A 15-minutes+ section of the second video is devoted to this area, and you can keep an eye on the frame rate too, thanks to the overlay at top.

On a positive note, Liam from GamingOnLinux recounts how numerous new PC AAA games have been released and felt unplayable on the Steam Deck initially, "and in a few weeks become much more playable." Many go on to subsequently become Steam Deck verified titles. It is still disappointing, in some ways, how other games can manage to both look better and perform better on the Steam Deck.

Lastly, GamingOnLinux expects to see subsequent updates and patches from graphics driver providers, Valve, and Bethesda increase performance. Modders might also be quite helpful here, and we have reported on DLSS 2 and 3 mods being made available to those with Nvidia GPUs.

Mark Tyson
Freelance News Writer

Mark Tyson is a Freelance News Writer at Tom's Hardware US. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.

  • cknobman
    I think what is shocking is how poorly Starfield performs in general.
    Game performance is not great in general on any GPU.
    And there appear to be no bottlenecks or performance issues with CPU to blame performance on.

    The game isnt that great looking, very last gen and even some last gen games looked better.
    So it sure is perplexing that the FPS is so crappy.
  • Dr3ams
    I would rather play a game like Starfield on a large display.
  • Ltldogg
    I have had no problems running Starfield on my Steam Deck (Model 3) on low settings. In fact, the battery life is great. That being said, Starfield is not yet Steam Deck certified and I definitely prefer to play a game like Starfield on my large screen PC, which also runs Starfield fine.

    Modders will fix some minor issues with Starfield's PC performance as usual with Bethesda games, but they will also bring so much content and improvements to an Starfield once it is older that will make the game last for decades to come. 🙅‍♂️