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Why it matters: For a first-gen device, Valve's Steam Deck is pretty flexible when it comes to DIY repairs and upgrades. Although Valve might not want you to do a boatload of tinkering, it is possible to upgrade the handheld's SSD without too much fuss. iFixit also sells a variety of replacement parts but these really only scratch the surface of what's possible. With a bit of imagination (and some quality-of-life compromises), it's possible to further build on Valve's vision as Linus Tech Tips recently demonstrated.
To create the "Ultimate" Steam Deck, Linus Sebastian and crew started by adding a 1TB SanDisk Extreme memory card to the handheld. They also managed to get their hands on a 30mm Micron 2TB NVMe SSD engineering sample. Micron said they weren't sure if it would even work in the Steam Deck but spoiler – it does.
The team also upgraded the Steam Deck's thumbsticks, opting for a set of electromagnetic joysticks from GuliKit. The default Steam Deck thumbsticks are potentiometer-based and can wear down over time, leading to issues like drifting. GuliKit's sticks use magnets which should eliminate such issues and are more precise.
In a previous video, the team added a massive passive cooler from Thermalright – the HR-09 2280 – to their Steam Deck. The mod sort of worked, but not as fully intended. Rather than keeping the system cooler, it just prolonged how long it took to heat up. After about half an hour, it got just as hot as before.
With the latest round of upgrades, they added a cooling fan to the passive sink. Another small passive heatsink was affixed to a tiny battery management chip that gets very toasty under load.
(iFixit has a good tutorial on tearing down the Steam Deck)
Continuing on, Linus and crew added a dbrand Kill Switch to protect the console. Some modifications were needed for the case to fit with the heatsink sticking out the back but this was easily handled with a rotary cutting tool. They also made custom thumbstick protectors and added a tempered glass screen protector as well as body skins to minimize scratches.
The team additionally affixed a 10,000mAh power bank to the rear of the Steam Deck for added battery life.
To say the build is overkill would be an understatement but it does address several of the handheld's shortcomings. Not all of the mods are graceful and they certainly add some extra weight to the overall package, pushing it from 1.49 pounds stock to 2.42 pounds. Still, it shows what's possible if you're willing to invest a bit of time and money into the handheld and with any luck, maybe Valve will incorporate some of these ideas into future builds.
I'm personally looking forward to seeing what the modding community can pull off once the Steam Deck Dock launches. Water cooling, anyone?