Steam Decks ordered at the time of the console’s release came with either a 256 or 512GB SSD, which were connected using an x4 PCIe connection. SSDs in more recently ordered consoles, however, are connected using just two lanes, according to the German tech blog HardwareLuxx. PC Gamer spotted the blog post Wednesday.
Cutting the drive’s bandwidth in this way could hypothetically result in slower performance. Worse, Valve didn’t disclose the change in a company statement, or in an email to customers, leaving new Steam Deck owners to find out on their own whether they received a console with altered specs. (PC Gamer’s report includes instructions for those who want to risk a peek.) The only “notice” Valve put out around the time of the change was an edit to the console’s webpage. According to the Wayback Machine, the edit was made at the end of May.
So far, tests performed by Kotaku have failed to find any real differences in performance, such as with load times or FPS. This must be a relief for Valve, which scrambled to explain the switch as soon as it became publicly known. The console’s design team followed up with PC Gamer by saying users won’t notice a difference except in “extremely uncommon cases.” According to them, the change was essential if Valve wanted to grab hold of the sticky supply chain, which (as we’re all exhaustingly familiar with by now) has been wrecking electronics manufacturing for a couple years. The new SSD option enables Valve to double its weekly Steam Deck shipments—a welcome development for those who ordered theirs a bit late in the game.
“Our team has tested both components extensively, and determined that there is no impact to performance between the two models,” Steam Deck designer Lawrence Yang told PC Gamer.
Still, it isn’t unreasonable for customers to wish Valve had clearly conveyed the change earlier on. Switching up the console’s hardware doesn’t make up nearly as much of the problem as the lack of communication does. That being said, plenty of gaming—er, testing—will be required to determine whether Valve’s dismissal of potential performance issues is well-warranted.