Valve announced Steam Deck, a handheld gaming PC, this week, and gamers are full of interest. When pre-orders opened on Friday, questions flooded in about various aspects of the device powered by AMD’s Zen 2 CPU and RDNA 2 GPU technology. It is available in three variants that only stand out in storage capacity and type. Among other things, potential buyers were eager to know if and to what extent the storage options on board can be upgraded. Co-founder and president Gabe Newell has confirmed that all three models of Steam Deck use a m.2 track, although Valve advises buyers not to try to upgrade the storage space themselves.
Gabe’s email response was first posted on reddit’s r / Steam community by u / midnight_watch and u / BernardoOne. u / midnight_watch first asked to know if the SSD could be upgraded or not, to which Gabe replied “2230 m.2 slots”. This indicates that the SSD can actually be replaced – but more on that in a moment. Noted that the base of the $ 399 model uses eMMC storage instead of NVMe, u / BernardoOne received confirmation that the m.2 slot is present in this model, and therefore can also be upgraded.
Following these exchanges, Valve updated the specification page on steamdeck.com to reflect the inclusion of a 2230 m.2 track in all models. Then Valve continued to include the additional clause, “Not intended for replacement of end users”. This sentence is peculiar because Valve spied on the open nature of the device. For example, Steam Deck runs Valve’s redesigned SteamOS built on Linux, but nothing prevents end users from installing Windows (or another Linux flavor) instead and using it as a regular PC. At the same time, nothing in the wording suggests that Valve will prevent end users from performing the upgrade either. Valve probably only releases itself from liability in case something goes wrong with the prey.
So is the upgrade so easy then? Well, maybe not quite. While m.2 NVMe drives are ubiquitous these days, Steam Deck does not use a particularly common size. The number sequence, 2230, in front of m.2 indicates the module’s dimensions in millimeters. Most PC builders are used to 2280 m.2 drives measuring 22 mm wide and 80 mm long. These 2230 modules, on the other hand, are less than half the length and are usually intended for OEM construction.
As a result, brand new 2230 m.2 stations can be very difficult to find, as most models are only sold in bulk. Here in the US, for example, we can only easily find a single 128 GB model from KIOXIA on Amazon that only doubles the capacity of the 64 GB base model. Instead of new ones, buyers need to seek out devices sourced from OEM devices and listed on sites like eBay. As a result, it still makes sense for most consumers to stick to the supported high-speed microSD card slot for expansion.
Of course, none of these worries have stopped Steam Decks pre-orders from selling out like crazy. Scalper has not been disturbed by Valve’s purchase protection policies, and so-called “Confirmed Pre-Orders” are listed on eBay and other sites for hundreds of dollars over MSRP.