With the emerging prominence of handheld PCs, we are getting powerful gaming computers that we can hold in our hands. The beauty of having a full computer in the palm of your hands is an incredible feeling, and with these devices, PC gaming has become much more appealing and accessible to console gamers. These devices found a way to bridge the best of both worlds, but it does open some other issues that can make some gamers a bit off-put by devices like this.

The biggest of these is the way games perform and the work that might need to be done to get a specific game running well. Sometimes this means going in and changing settings around, sometimes it means downloading a specific patch or mod, and sometimes it could mean using a specific version of the Proton compatibility layer. As PC gamers, this isn't necessarily new or foreign to us, but with a device that is bringing over people who aren't used to manually configuring game settings, this can look very nerve-racking.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart's Graphical Settings. There's a lot aren't there?

The good thing about handheld devices, like the Steam Deck, is that the internals of the devices can't change. Unlike desktop PCs, which can have many different parts inside, every single Steam Deck has the same exact parts that make it run. This means that the settings to make a game run well on one Deck will run well on all of them. This allows outlets and creators, like us, that are able to test, report, and publish settings and guides on how to get specific games to run on these devices. While this can be fantastic, there has been one big issue we have noticed that involve two words that are commonly used by some:


These are very strong words, implying a definitive combination of settings to play the selected game. I feel using this wording can actually be very dangerous and misleading for a couple reasons, which is why I focus on a different approach using "Recommended" or "Optimized" to describe the settings I post for games. On the surface, this may seem a bit small, why not be able to use this wording to describe settings that can work right? Well, there are two issues I have with that:

Best for One Doesn't Equal Best for All

With PC gaming, we can configure our systems both on the hardware and software side to get games running the way we want them to. Do we want more powerful CPUs and GPUs to push visual fidelity further? Do we want to focus on pushing 144 FPS for competitive first-person shooters? Do we want to cut corners and make sure we can just hit the bare minimum 30 FPS stability with low settings? There are many options, and this carries over to devices like the Steam Deck.

Streets of Rogue Best Settings

While hardware isn't easily replaceable, and is restricted to the SSD and screens, software is still very open. You can still change settings to your heart’s content and, with the Deck, SteamOS allows a lot of configuring with options like TDP control, refresh rate, and GPU Clock Speed Frequency. Because of this, people can modify the game to the way they want to play, but "Best Settings” directly goes against this.

By claiming you have the "Best Settings", you are saying that you have the settings everyone should use, but a majority of the time, there is only one set of settings. This implies that people should be playing a specific way, yet this disregards that some people prefer experiencing games differently. Some may want to focus on battery life and are okay sacrificing visuals and bringing framerate down to 30, some may want to prioritize framerate and push to a stable 60 regardless of battery or visual fidelity, some may want to push the visual quality for the sharpest and best looking image possible while retaining a stable 30, and some may want a balance of everything. By claiming Best Settings, this disregards all of that.

I have seen some best settings that don't really do any of these particularly well too. Some will push the battery to 26W - 27W drain for an unstable 30 FPS just to keep visual quality, while some minor changes could fix this entirely without much sacrifices to how the game looks or trying to push a game to 120 FPS that not only doesn't gain much benefit from it, but will drain way too much battery to do it. These might be great settings for some people, but definitely not everyone.


212 FPS Hades anyone?

This is why, if a game can benefit from different priorities, we will always give more than one group of settings. I feel strongly that, to recommend a way people play, having these other options is beneficial to the community and includes more. Claiming "Best Settings" without providing these options leaves people out, making such a definitive way of wording insignificant. There is a lot of testing that needs to get done when there are multiple builds involved though, which leads me to my second point.

Release Day Settings

I have noticed an uptick on people pushing out the "Best Settings" for games on the same day of release or a day or two after. For some games, I could see this being possible. The Expanse is a 2-3 hour-long game right now before the other episodes release, so that could definitely be done in one day, but for bigger releases, there's no way it is possible. Of course, if the outlet has the game pre-release, this is a mute point, but I have seen it happen a lot with those who didn't get a copy before release.

Remnant 2 and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, for instance, are longer games with multiple different areas and changes that affect how the game looks and is played, but it takes time to go through and test these areas. Releasing any "Best Settings" on the same day these games are released is almost completely impossible to do due to how much of the game still needs to be tested. Remnant 2 alone has multiple different worlds, different bosses, environments, enemies, and more that don't show up within the first few hours of the game that can directly affect performance.

Baldur's Gate 3 just released and will be another big one to be mindful of. The game just released, but there could be guides that are out claiming best settings. Be very careful because this isn't just a demanding AAA game, but a massive one with tons of different abilities, places, and more. There is a ton to test here, so unless an outlet or creator had access to the game for longer than a week or two and has tested most areas, these "best settings" could be outdated and not work further into the game.


This is a big reason why some of our reviews do not come out on the same day as release. We have been extremely lucky with games we review, but for ones we do not get until the day of release, whether we buy or have the game sent to us on release day, we will not push out a review just yet. To make up for this, I do have "First Impressions", where we discuss what it seems like performance will be and if the game will run, but I make it very clear that this is NOT a review of the game and I haven't fully played it yet. That distinction is important since it states exactly how much has been played and that there is more to do.


In the end, using the term "Best Settings" is one that I regard very highly. It's a definitive statement that can alienate groups of people that are looking for other kinds of settings. On top of that, it implies that the entirety of the game has been played. It carries a lot of weight to it, and with these two conditions almost never being satisfied, I feel these words shouldn't be used.

While I can understand the reasoning behind it, and that it can bring in people's attention, it can also very easily mislead people into thinking these settings are going to be the best for them. But if you prefer to focus on something the settings don't account for, or get to a part in the game the settings haven't accounted for, it nullifies the settings being viable. Taking some time to play through and re-wording may not seem like a good move, but the trust it inspires and care shown in the work you do will speak for itself.

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Noah Kupetsky
A lover of gaming since 4, Noah has grown up with a love and passion for the industry. From there, he started to travel a lot and develop a joy for handheld and PC gaming. When the Steam Deck released, it just all clicked.
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