Unreal Engine 5 vs. The Steam Deck – can the Deck hold up?

Unreal Engine 5 vs. The Steam Deck – can the Deck hold up?
Source: Digital Foundry

Our friends over at Digital Foundry have put the Steam Deck through a litany of Unreal Engine 5 benchmarks in an attempt to determine if the hardware will be able to hold up against the march of software progress.

For those not familiar, Unreal Engine 5 is the latest game engine from Epic Games. The creator of Fortnite, Gears of War, and Unreal Tournament series.

Unreal Engine is extremely popular due to its ease of use for developers, wide support for PCs and console, and how performant the engine can be. Consequently, it's one of the most ubiquitous engines in the industry.

In the above video, Digital Foundry were able to benchmark the Unreal Engine 5 title Fortnite against the Xbox Series S console.

One of the most fascinating things about this benchmark is that Fortnite runs at an average of 30 frames per second with hardware ray-tracing enabled.

It should be noted that, given several quirks between versions of Fortnite, there was no 1:1 settings configuration between the Series S and PC version of the game. Furthermore, in their tests with RT enabled, they had to use temporal super resolution to upscale the gameplay from 360p to 800p.

Source: Digital Foundry

Any way you shake it, however, this is truly impressive for the 15w APU at the core of the Steam Deck. Playing any game at native 720p with hardware ray tracing enabled and achieving 21 FPS is incredible. Especially when you consider that this is running:

  1. On Windows
  2. With a graphics driver that is widely regarded as inferior to the SteamOS driver
  3. With mostly high graphics settings that the DF team deemed comparable to the Series S' graphical fidelity

When the DF team went on to investigate how to get better performance on Deck, they turned off ray tracing and were able to hit 50+ FPS. This is even with UE5's more impressive and taxing features like Nanite geometry enabled.

The conclusion Digital Foundry reached?

We're clearly able to run all of the Unreal Engine 5  features on Steam Deck. The caviat being that this is on a Fortnite game that's running at 60 frames per second of the current gen consoles and we're settling for 30 here... But still, it looks like you can indeed run UE5 games on Deck...
 - Rich Leadbetter, Digital Foundry

My conclusion? All of this goes to show that the small–but loud–chorus of folks decrying the Deck as "obsolete" are just wrong. With further software optimization  from Valve and AMD and broader game dev support for SteamOS, we'll see unprecedented longevity for the Steam Deck's hardware.