Valve downgrades Steam Deck NVMe SSD, but with a good reason

Valve is packing its Steam Deck with a slower NVMe SSD standard, but the risk of getting PCIe 3 x2 means you'll get your hands on the portable gaming PC sooner

It’s welcome news that Valve is doubling shipments to get the Steam Deck into your hands quicker, but you could end up with a handheld gaming PC that’s not quite as quick. Updating the Steam Deck website, Valve says it’s now packing its portable with a PCIe 3 x2 NVMe SSD, which has half the top speed of the current PCIe 3 x4 models.

Of course, this doesn’t affect the 64GB Steam Deck, as that relies on eMMC storage. If you’re still waiting for your 256GB and 512GB model, however, it’s anyone’s guess as to which PCI express version you’ll be lumped with when your pre-order comes through.

Neither version compares to the best SSD for gaming you’d find in a full rig, and Valve says there isn’t a cause for concern. Its tests “did not see any impact to gaming performance between x2 and x4.” Without knowing what tests it conducted, you’ll need to take this claim with a pinch of salt, especially as pairing it with the best Steam Deck dock makes the machine more than just a gaming device, but somewhat of a desktop and gaming laptop replacement you could use for productivity.

Chatting to PC Gamer, Steam Deck designer Lawrence Yang clarifies that this change can impact transfer speeds in “extremely uncommon cases.” Otherwise, “OS performance, loading times, game performance, and game responsiveness are identical between the x2 and x4 drives,” according to Yang.

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Valve made the change quietly, with Hardwareluxx noting that the website was updated as early as May 28 without anyone noticing. It might leave a bitter taste to see Valve opting for a cheaper standard and seemingly not passing the savings onto you, given that prices remain the same as before, but this is much more than a cost-cutting measure.

The reason Valve is able to double its output is by including this slower standard in production, allowing it to navigate part shortages. Since storage speeds on the Steam Deck are already hampered by other bottlenecks, no model makes the most of the theoretical PCIe 3 x4 limit, anyway, meaning x2 makes sense if more people get their hands on a device.

You can find out which model you own by heading into Desktop Mode, selecting the Device Viewer in your applications, and navigating to Storage Devices. If you don’t see ‘E13T’ near the end of your model number, you’ve likely lost the silicon lottery and ended up with a slower x2 version. Ignorance is bliss, though, so perhaps it’s best to just not take a peek.