With the racing genre being all the craze on mobile platforms, with some having revenue over $100 million, Steam Deck and sim racing games could be a match made in heaven. They provide a very balanced mix of stunning graphics, optimization, and hardware versatility. Many modern sim racing games are expected to run very smoothly and play enjoyably within the Steam Deck’s handy-dandy form factor.

In fact, the Steam Deck can offer a lot more than just playing Forza Horizon 5 on a long bus ride. It’s a fully functional PC after all. So, it’s pretty much just a matter of who’s getting the beefier peripheral setup.

Why Exactly are Sim Racing Games Great for the Steam Deck Again?

It all boils down to having more optimized visual assets. Sim racing games focus on the immediate playable surrounding, without the need to open a vast expanse or render super tiny texture details. This is something that the Steam Deck’s updated 4-core 8-thread custom Ryzen APU and its RDNA2-based  8CU integrated GPU should handle very, very well.

Of course, our best example of this is the somewhat recently-ish released Forza Horizon 5. Even with the aging GTX 1050 Ti, players can still expect a smooth 50-60 FPS experience on 1080p Medium settings. Extrapolate that on the Steam Deck’s reduced 800p screen and CPU/GPU combo, and you can probably even crank it to High with pretty much the same stable performance.

Needless to say, any other sim racing game released before Forza Horizon 5 is expected to play even better. If you don’t mind a cinema-like FPS of 30, it’s even possible to dial the settings up to Ultra!

True Resolution Docking: No Internal Rendering Voodoo

But perhaps the most interesting feature when visually scaling up your sim racing game up or down. When docked, the Steam Deck will be able to natively output the resolution and (if possible) frame rate of the connected monitor. EsportsHeadlines.com also reports that you’ll have the option to plug in additional USB-based hardware such as dedicated controllers or sim racing wheels.

Depending on your intended resolution, toning down the settings further might be necessary:

  • 1080p – as mentioned earlier, the Steam Deck can be expected to perform similarly to a 1050 Ti (based on the 750 Ti-level performance of Vega-based APUs), and as such Medium settings are enough for stable play. 24-inch is the default PPI recommendation, but 27-inch should be just fine for added immersion.
  • 1440p – APUs aren’t really built to handle 1440p gaming well yet at this point in time. So, unless the game supports a good resolution scaling feature such as FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR), it is recommended to dial down the settings even further and settle for 40-ish FPS.
  • 2160p/4K – not exactly impossible, but you would have to settle for a highly customized Low setting, plus you’d most likely be stuck at 30 FPS. The older the title over the last five years or so, the better its graphics tweaking will be, at least.

Predicted Performance on Specific Sim Racing Titles

If you want more tangible information on expected performance levels, though, we can provide rough estimates using these well-known sim racing titles:

  • Forza Horizon 4 – the sweet balance of contemporary and being a semi-classic. As such, it is highly well-optimized to something like the Steam Deck. By default, 800p should go well with Ultra/High. 1080p docked is still High but with dropped frames. Even 4K docked is predicted to be very playable, though, at a high cost to visual settings.
  • Project Cars 2 – old but gold, even after all this time. If there is a sim racing title that would perform nicely on the Steam Deck regardless of settings period, then this would be it. You can even set the game to Low to play on high-refresh-rate monitors!
  • Assetto Corsa Competizione (ACC) – trailing behind the addictive potential of Project Cars 2 is this fan-favorite mainstay. High settings would still likely yield a somewhat stable 60 FPS experience if playing directly on the Steam Deck. Docked on a 1080p monitor, however, and you might want to step down to Medium.
  • F1 2020 – F1 2021 is nice, but the optimization award for Steam Deck uses still goes to its technical predecessor. Performance expectations are much like Forza Horizon 4, but instead of occasionally dipping to the ’50s, it’s most likely going to be a more stable 60 FPS performance… for 1080p! (yep, 800p is going to be even better)

Enhancing Your Simulation Experience? Not so Fast Buddy

Wait, wait. Don’t get too excited about using your pedals n’ wheels for your Steam Deck docked sim racing experience. Remember, at its intended MSRP, the Steam Deck is still pretty much a regular console at heart. If you must, invest in something that would be significantly lower in cost to the actual gaming hardware. A few good recommendations that come to mind would be the Logitech G923, and the similarly tiered Thrustmaster T248. You could easily pair it to the console via the USB ports found on the dock. The next step would be to set yourself up in front of a TV in something like a cozy PlaySeat Challenge or Next Level Racing F-GT cockpit, and you’re all set and done to perfectly hit every corner apex. Enthusiast-level ones like the Fanatec sim racing gear are nice and all, but if you can afford that, it is better to build a full, dedicated desktop PC for it instead.

Oh and, there are surprisingly not many restrictions on pixel density if just for sim racing games. If you can, though, we recommend docking with a 32-inch 1440p monitor for that perfect balance of immersion, 90+ PPI (pixels-per-inch), and updated details.

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