Valve’s Steam Deck is a handheld gaming PC with a 7 inch display, built-in game controllers, a custom AMD processor with RDNA 2 graphics, and a starting price of $399, which makes the Steam Deck one of the most affordable devices in its category.
But the entry-level model has just 64GB of eMMC storage, which means you have to pay $529 or more to get a version with a faster, higher-capacity PCIe NVMe solid state drive. The good news is a new video from Valve shows exactly how to open up the Steam Deck and add or upgrade an SSD. The bad news is Valve highly recommends you don’t actually do that, since there’s a high risk that you’ll damage your device.
Unlike most companies advising against opening up your hardware, Valve notes that once your Steam Deck arrives, it is yours, and you can do whatever you want with it. But the company also says the warranty doesn’t cover any damage you do if you open the chassis to perform repairs or upgrades and something goes wrong.
The Steam Deck is a compact device with a lot of components crammed into a small space, and the company notes that once you’ve opened the case, you’ll immediately weaken it structural integrity, making it less drop resistant.
As for SSD upgrades, the company notes that there are multiple potential issues with replacing the SSD using an off-the-shelf version:
- Power Draw: If the third-party SSD consumes more power than the one Valve uses, it could lead to overheating and/or decreased battery life.
- Electromagnetic interference: The SSD is located very close to the wireless module, and Valve tested the SSD it uses to ensure that there’s no interference with WiFi and Bluetooth. That may not be true for all third-party SSDs.
- Mechanical: There are components on the motherboard under the SSD, and it’s possible that a different SSD could interfere with those components, particularly when the Steam Deck is vibrating.
- Assembly: One of the screws holding the SSD shield in place is also used for the thermal module over the AMD processor, so removing it could affect cooling.
The Steam Deck also uses an M.2 2230 SSD, which an unusually small and uncommon type of solid state drive, so it’s not like there are as many third-party options for this type of storage as there would be if the company was using an M.2 2280 drive (the size more commonly found in laptops).
Interestingly, Valve notes that even the $399 Steam Deck with eMMC storage uses an M.2 connector, so if you disregard all of the company’s warnings and open the chassis, you should be able to upgrade that model by adding an SSD.
Valve also used some custom components, which means that even if you do manage to open the case, you may not be able to easily perform repairs. The analog thumb sticks, for example, are all part of one assembly featuring a board, stick, and cap and the only officially compatible replacement will be the exact same type of thumb stick.
The company says it will eventually let customers know where they can buy replacement components including thumb sticks and SSDs, even if Valve only recommends experts perform repairs or upgrades.
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Unless you plan on getting a 1+ TB SSD, it doesn’t seem worth getting the 64 GB model and upgrading it.
Well there you have it: If you get the $399 version, you will be fine.
Aside from disrupting the thermal pad solution a little, it will be very easy to put an NVME in the $399 version. Valve will even be offering links to places where you can buy new Steam Deck compatible Analog sticks / NVME’s, etc.
There will definitely be a market demand for 1TB NVME’s specifically for the Deck, so a lot of people will be opening theirs up and replacing the drive, not just $399 owners.
Any non-pocket sized Android/emulation device is now completely redundant in comparison to the $399 Steam Deck.
non-pocket sizedAndroid/emulation device is now completely redundant in comparison to the $399 Steam Deck [or you already have an Android phone].
Really hope the Deck does really well so that Valve continues with gaming handhelds and other large companies also enter the market.
Now to wait for my Deck.
i need other distribution and…. keyboard like GWin chinese
Nice! I hope the initial batches go well so my Q1 512 GB (doesn’t seem worth sourcing and installing an SSD yoursefl) Deck arrives without delays or other issues.
If you’re going to get the 64 GB model and just install a <= 512 GB SSD, it seems better to just get the higher tier models.
Are there good 1+ TB M.2 2230 SSDs? I guess people could try hacking in longer SSDs and probably sacrifice the shielding and power consumption.
Lot of deck ssd from reputable manufactures are available, they share same ssd as surface products from Microsoft.
Just go Amazon and search 2230 ssd.
Steam deck is a very appealing device. But user replaceable battery is a must and frankly, hot swappable batteries are a major major want. Weakened integrity just from opening it? That’s discouraging.
Interested in seeing future user feedback if they see wireless, power consumption and other degradation after replacing the SSD.
Nice to see that, in addition to replacement/mail repair, Valve will also sell parts for DIYers.
It’s nice they’re providing this info. With warnings of course.
Can’t wait for my Q1 Steam Deck.
Another thing to keep in mind with M.2 2230 is that most of your options are DRAM-less, which means they have significantly lower performance than typical SSDs. Many of them barely outperform eMMC.
For SSDs that are installed in a device from the factory, this isn’t necessarily a problem because the NVMe specification offers a feature called HMB (host memory buffer), which allows the SSD to use the system’s RAM instead (like 30-40mb).
So to me, the biggest concern with user-upgrading the SSD in the Steam Deck is that they might not support HMB with an aftermarket DRAM-less SSD, and you could end up with an SSD that is slower than the factory eMMC option because it lacks buffer memory.
But that’s a good thing.
The consumer may want the slower drive, they may get it from a refurbished laptop/tablet, or buy it for very cheap. Having the choice is good. Most owners will likely do their proper research, and buy the correct and best-value drives, and the process of swapping it.
I really can’t fault the device.
Someone above mentioned having a User Replaceable Battery, and while that would be neat…. have you looked at the chassis? It’s very compact in there. And such a battery is going to be a large unit, it is not going to be pocketable like a Phone’s Battery. You’ll be carrying this in a handbag or backpack. So at that point, it isn’t bad to bring and rely on an External Power Brick instead.
Great job, Valve!
“Having the choice is good”
Yes, but the ambiguity of support/performance isn’t good. My point is that I’m not comfortable buying the device with the expectation that I will be able to successfully upgrade the storage.
If I spend money on the eMMC model, and I buy a 512gb SSD to replace the eMMC but the SSD ends up being slower than a mechanical HDD… I’m going to be quite disappointed. I would have preferred to know what kind of performance/support was possible from the beginning, because I might have rather purchased the 512gb model.
Great Job Valve, indeed. But mostly on being clear and transparent about upgrading.
Personally, I’m waiting to see what kind of 3rd party OEMs decide to make their own Steam Decks. I’m hoping to see more options. I’d love to see a model with a downward-facing USB-C port, and a user-accessible M.2 2280 slot. I’d gladly pay a premium for something like that.
I’m not disappointed with the Steam Deck, I’m extremely impressed by it. I just think we could have seen a much better product made by a company that isn’t launching it for the purpose of attracting people to the platform with a “shock value” price tag ($399 was too ambitious).
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