Connecting your Steam Deck to a TV is fairly straightforward. You plug in the HDMI, the power cable, and finally a USB cable into the Steam Deck itself. That’s it. If only getting Windows installed on the Steam Deck was this easy, eh?
Where things do get tougher is when you start playing games on a larger screen. You won’t need to factory reset your Steam Deck or anything like that, but from games looking blurry to desktop mode not displaying the right screen, we’ve been there, found the problems, and have put together a guide to walk you through how to configure your Steam Deck on a TV or monitor properly.
In This Article
Choose the Right Dock
Thanks to the popularity of the Steam Deck, there are now more dock options than ever. Unfortunately, some of them are rubbish, so always read the description and reviews when purchasing.
The obvious choice is the official Steam Deck dock, though at $89/£79, it’s one of the more pricey options.
While you can use a generic USB Docking station, we haven’t tested those out so we can’t recommend them yet. We can, however, recommend the JSAUX 7-in-1 Steam Deck Dock.
We’ve been testing the JSAUX dock recently and it’s become our go-to dock. It comes equipped with three USB ports, a DP port, a USB-C power port, an ethernet port, and it can output at 4K/60 frames per second. It doesn’t come with a charger, but the Deck itself comes with one anyway so it’s not really needed.
The sleek metal finish really brings the whole design to life, and the internal padded grips hold the Steam Deck firmly in place. Plus it’s only $59 which is a little cheaper than the official dock.
If you end up going with another style of dock, make sure you’re looking to see whether it’s 4K and 60 frames compatible. Although you won’t be running many games in 4K, if it can handle that it means it should be able to manage anything the Steam Deck can throw at it.
Move to the Beta Channel
The first thing you’re going to want to do is move to the beta channel. The reason being, Valve is constantly pushing out updates for the dock and being in the beta channel ensures you get all the latest updates as they’re released.
For us, this was the difference between something working easily and needing to perform several long-winded steps just to get one game running. We really can’t recommend switching channels enough. It’ll save you a headache in the long run.
To switch to the beta channel, press the Steam button to bring up the menu then hit settings.
From here click on system, then it’s a simple case of changing system update channel to beta.
The Steam Deck will now restart and download and install the latest beta update. When you load back up, head back into the settings again as there may be another update to download (the Deck’s weird like that).
Set the External Resolution (Important)
There’s a certain amount of luck when setting up a Steam Deck to work on a TV. Either everything will work flawlessly, or it won’t work at all. There’s no middle ground.
When we first used our third-party dock, because we’d tinkered with a fair few Steam Deck settings, our image quality was really blurry. Thankfully, there is a way to fix this and it’s quite simple.
First, try booting a game while docked to see what happens. If everything works, great! If not, read on…
Press the Steam button and head into settings. Your Deck should be docked while you’re doing this.
Next go into display. You’ll notice that because the Deck is docked, there’s now a host of different options available to you.
- Resolution – this is where you can set the overall resolution when the Deck is docked
- Automatically scale user interface – use this to change the overall size of text and the UI inside the screen boundaries
- Automatically scale image – this is for making the entire screen smaller or larger on an external device
What worked for us was to change the resolution setting. As a general rule, 1280 by 720 is 720p, 1920 by 1080 is 1080p, and 3840 by 2160 is 4K. In most of our testing, 4K breaks a lot of AAA games, so we suggest going with either 720p or 1080p.
Once you’ve decided on a resolution, uncheck the resolution setting and a new drop-down box will appear. Click on that to set your new resolution.
Next, before you boot a game head into the game’s settings (properties) and change the resolution to native. This will tell the game that new resolutions are available, and should be set to the external device rather than the Steam Deck.
Then when you boot the game up, head into its settings section and find its resolution options. In here you should see an option to switch the resolution over to what we set on the Deck earlier.
If you find the image isn’t quite as sharp as it should be, enter the power menu (the menu that pops up from the right) and turn on FSR. This should, in theory, sharpen the on-screen image.
How to Bring Up the Power Menu on Steam Deck with a Controller
Here’s an important tip: If you’ve set up a controller to work with the Steam Deck, pressing the Steam button equivalent and the A button equivalent will bring up the power menu. On an Xbox controller that’s Xbox plus A. Or on a PlayStation controller, it’s the PS button plus X.
Fix Desktop Mode to Display the Main Screen
See that image above? That’s what your TV or monitor will look like when you first boot into desktop mode. Worse still, your Steam Deck will still display the main screen on the Deck itself. Don’t worry, we’ll fix it.
With the Steam Deck still connected to the dock and your TV or monitor switched on, use the Steam Deck’s built-in controls to navigate to the blue and white Steam Deck icon in the corner of the screen.
Click that icon to bring up the start menu, then in the search box, type “settings” and click on the settings app when it appears.
Once the settings app loads, click on Display and Monitor from the left sidebar. Normally, there would only be one monitor here, but as we’ve got it hooked up to a TV or external monitor, you’ll see two big boxes on the right of the screen. The larger one is your external device and the smaller is the Steam Deck.
Click on the larger box and tick both Enabled and Primary. This will tell the Steam Deck the external device, right now, is the main screen and should display the desktop in desktop mode.
Next, click on the smaller box and make sure both Enabled and Primary are unticked. Hit apply and you’re done.
You may need to reboot, but what should happen is the Steam Deck will now turn off the screen in desktop mode and only put the main screen on the connected external device.
Something else that’s neat is when you disconnect the Steam Deck from an external display, the main screen will automatically default back to the Deck itself without needing to change any settings. Handy, right?
PlayStation Controllers Are Best on the Steam Deck
Obviously which controller is best is all subjective. But here’s the thing: When it comes to the Steam Deck, having the touchpad from the PS4 and PS5 controllers really makes life a little easier.
The touchpads aren’t perfect by any means, but they get the job done. And they work! That’s the main thing.
If you own a PS4 or PS5 controller, to link a controller to the Deck for TV play, head into the Deck’s settings and make sure Bluetooth is turned on.
Grab the controller, and while it’s powered down, hold down the PS and screenshot buttons. After a few moments, the controller will flash and it’ll show up in the Deck’s list of available devices.
You won’t be able to turn the Steam Deck on with a paired controller, but after you turn the Deck on manually and hit the power button on the controller, it’ll connect without needing to re-pair again.
Understanding What the Steam Deck Is and Isn’t Capable Of
You’ve got your Steam Deck and you’re playing the latest AAA games. Everything is great. As it should be.
That said, it’s worth remembering the Steam Deck isn’t a high-end gaming PC. It’s a gaming PC, sure, and it is powerful in its own right, but there’s only so far you can push it.
If you’re expecting 4K upscaling with 120 frames per second gameplay when hooked up to TV or monitor, then you’re going to be disappointed. The Steam Deck is powerful, but it’s not a magical box capable of everything.
We’re not saying this to put people off getting a Steam Deck dock. But when you hook it up to another device, you’re not going to get the same result as though you were playing a high-end gaming PC or a PS5.
The Steam Deck – rough ballpark coming here – places somewhere between the PS4 and PS5 in terms of power. Older games will run great when hooked up to a TV, later releases will initially run terribly until you make the necessary adjustments in the settings.
For example, Shadow of War, which we’re thinking about adding to our guide for the best Steam Deck games, released back in 2017 and we couldn’t get it to run at a smooth 45 or 60 frames per second. If you drop all the settings down to low you can manage a consistent 30 frames, but you won’t be able to play on high settings without constant stuttering (which makes the experience miserable).
One of the main drawbacks of playing the Steam Deck on a TV or monitor is that the image needs to be upscaled. Whereas on the Steam Deck the game can happily run at 800p at 1280 x 800 pixels in a 16:10 ratio, on a TV that image needs to be upscaled to offset the size of the screen. Bumping the resolution, in turn, requires more processing power, thus meaning what settings worked on the Deck may not be possible on a larger screen.
Now, as we say, this isn’t to put anyone off getting a dock. It’s to limit expectations. We have zero problem with playing more demanding games at 30 frames per second on a TV. We played Elden Ring like that, and while some will swear against it, we had a blast in between bouts of constant death.
All in all, we’re loving being able to hook up the Steam Deck to a 44-inch TV, and the fact it can do this is simply brilliant.
Just be sure to read everything on this page to get everything set up properly, because it’s not quite as straightforward as some sites make out.