Saturday, September 30, 2023

This Steam Deck dock has a thermoelectric cooler

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If you’re lucky enough to track down a Steam Deck, chances are you’ve already experienced sweaty palm syndrome with this handheld console — just like our very own Jess Conditt did in her review. Worse, the machine is prone to throttling or even crashing due to overheating, to the point where modders came out with their own creative solutions. For the rest of us who don’t want to void the warranty, Hong Kong-based Unitek now offers the Cooler Dock Pro for steam deck. This is essentially Valve’s official dock, bolstered with a thermoelectric cooler – like the one that comes with the ROG Phone 6D Ultimate – on the back, if you don’t mind paying the extra $30.

Richard Lai/cafe-madrid

Like the official dock, Unitek’s version cushions your Steam Deck – or any portable device for that matter – with a strip of soft silicone, and there’s a short USB-C cable dangling from the back for connection to the console. The thermoelectric cooler, RGB-illuminated fan and metal contact plate are all housed in a hinged module, which allows slight adjustment of the tilt angle while supporting the Steam Deck.

The Cooler Dock Pro comes with a set of ports similar to those on Valve’s dock, but with several on the front – the latter includes two USB-A and one USB-C (up to 10Gbps), accompanied by two RGB lights. On the back you get a USB-C PD connection (up to 100W passthrough), HDMI 2.1 and DisplayPort 1.4 and Gigabit LAN. It is worth noting that this dock supports Multi-Stream Transport i.e. daisy chaining multiple monitors in Linux desktop mode of the console. Using just one video output will give you up to 8K at 60Hz or 4K at 120Hz; but if you use both ports then it’s either dual 4K at 60Hz, or 8K at 30Hz on one and 1080p at 60Hz on the other.

Unitek has added an additional USB-C port on the left, which is dedicated to the cooling module. If you want to use only the cooling function on the go ie there are no screens or accessories connected to the dock, you can simply plug a power bank into that 10W USB-C socket.

Unitek Cooling Dock Pro for Steam Deck

Richard Lai/cafe-madrid

Unitek claims that while running Apex Legendsthe average surface temperature of the Steam Deck was approximately 46°C (114.8°F), but when used with the Cooling Dock Pro, this figure dropped to 34.5°C (94.1°F) — within the recommended Ambient temperature range. For a more extreme test we walked Forza Horizon 5 on ultra graphics settings, in which case the Steam Deck wouldn’t normally start a race, but it managed to last about six minutes on the Cooling Dock Pro. The company added that when lowered to high graphics settings, the game would crash after about 45 minutes of play, but with its dock, it continued to run even after an hour. Of course, the mileage can vary from game to game, but it’s more about extending the life of your Steam Deck.

The $119 Unitek Cooling Dock Pro is now available for: pre-order, with shipments from about mid-December. There is also a cheaper $89 cooling dock for those who only need an HDMI 2.0 port (capped at 4K at 60Hz), though it won’t ship until Q1 2023. It should be noted that neither model comes with a power supply (but they do come with a 2-meter 100W USB-C cable), while Valve’s official $89 dock includes a 45W brick. Chances are you already have a compatible power supply; Unitek recommends that you need 60W or more to get the most out of the Cooler Dock Pro.

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