Valve starts shipping some Steam Decks with slower SSDs but says performance is unaffected

Shawn Knight

Posts: 14,250   +159
Staff member
In a nutshell: Steam Deck production is on the rise but performance may be trending in the opposite direction. It was recently discovered that Valve at some point quietly updated the tech specs on its Steam Deck product page to reflect a change with regard to the solid-state drive used in the handheld. A note under the storage category indicates that some 256GB and 512GB models ship with a PCIe Gen 3 x2 SSD.

Previously, all of these models came with a PCIe Gen 3 x4 SSD.

A Valve spokesperson told IGN that many Steam Deck components come from multiple suppliers for improved redundancy and production capacity. Specifically, one of their SSD suppliers provides PCIe Gen 3 x4 NVMe SSDs while another provides an x2 (two lane) variant.

The rep said they have tested both components extensively and determined there is no impact on performance between the two.

"SSD performance is currently gated by factors not related to PCIe bandwidth," the rep noted. "In extremely uncommon cases, differences in read / write speed caps may minimally impact file transfer speeds, but OS performance, loading times, game performance, and game responsiveness are identical between the x2 and x4 drives."

Valve announced earlier this week that it was more than doubling Steam Deck shipments moving forward.

There doesn't appear to be a way to request which type of drive your Steam Deck will ship with. Those unhappy with an x2 model could upgrade the drive at their expense but Valve doesn't recommend doing so. What's more, a quality microSD card could get you more storage with much less hassle and only a minor performance hit.

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Dimitriid

Posts: 2,216   +4,268
Going 2230 was a fairly significant mistake imo: It would have been much better to compromise z height or even overall size by even just a tiny bit to accommodate at least 2242 drives but ideally offering a 9" class device that can just have 2280 drives and probably quite a bit better battery life on top.

It's not like this thing is super portable anyway and they *are* trying to keep costs downs but they obviously can't source enough specialized 2230 ssds
 

poshflamingos

Posts: 11   +21
Unfortunate, but we have yet to see a game where SSD bandwidth makes more than a insignificant difference in performance/loading, and by the time it does matter for future next-gen games the Deck won't be running those games too well for other reasons (I.e. CPU/GPU) anyway.
 

hahahanoobs

Posts: 4,536   +2,513
I'm sorry, but what?!
If it doesn't matter then why didn't Valve just do it that way from the start? This whole launch has been sketchy.
 

human7

Posts: 51   +33
That sucks, but at least they aren't like Nvidia in releasing a product which has two (or more) different specifications under the hood that actually does affect performance very significantly, but there would be no way to tell which one you are buying until you get it. I'm glad Valve did their due diligence in benchmarking it. Time will tell if their claim holds true.
 

Jrfeimst2

Posts: 26   +28
I don’t really have an issue with this but I feel that the price should reflect the slower storage. They should NOT charge the same amount for slower speed wether it does or does not affect gaming. The slower one should be sold as a 30 dollar discount or something and have transparency when you get the email to proceed with your purchase on which one you are getting.
 

veLa

Posts: 1,163   +833
I don't have a big problem with specs changing over time, as long as they're honest about it.

I recently setup a fleet of video editing bays with HP Z8 G4's in two phases. The first group of machines came with professional NVIDIA RTX cards, where as the second group of machines came with professional AMD Radeon cards. I was made aware by our HP sales rep they would be specced differently because of the chip shortage and that it shouldn't impact our video editing workflow.
 

Dimitriid

Posts: 2,216   +4,268
Unfortunate, but we have yet to see a game where SSD bandwidth makes more than a insignificant difference in performance/loading, and by the time it does matter for future next-gen games the Deck won't be running those games too well for other reasons (I.e. CPU/GPU) anyway.

Total size of the ssd does makes a pretty big difference and a specialized 2230 drive carries a pretty significant price premium over the same speed and capacity 2280 drive (Along with the other 2 standard sizes in between)

So while I wouldn't notice loading speeds being affected by a slower 2230 drive they could have done something like bumping up to 128gb instead of 64 for the base model if they were using standard 2280 drives.

As I discussed in my post this goes back to their design not being ideal to begin with: it's not small enough to justify the really small 2230 size so if they really couldn't possibly fit a bigger size ssd they could have just make the entire unit bigger and it wouldn't really be that much more worst: it's already not small enough to be extremely convenient anyway so getting a better screen, better battery and better ssd size with a model that's something like an inch and a half physically bigger would have been an extremely welcome trade off imo.