Valve has confirmed that the storage on all three models of the Steam Deck can be replaced for repairability reasons, but has stressed that it’s only for people “who know what they’re doing.”
Valve hardware engineer Yazan Aldehayyat revealed the design decision to IGN, stating that the SSD is not soldered to the motherboard, which means it can be replaced or even upgraded by people with the right tools. “We are using a standard M.2 NVMe SSD in there. It's a separate module – we went against the trend of putting it directly on the motherboard.”
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But clearly this isn’t something that Valve is encouraging buyers to do for casual upgrades, with repairability being the focus. “The repairability is something we did actually focus on and try to make it as repairable as possible,” Aldehayyat continued. “But, it's really meant for people who know what they're doing, and have experience doing it.”
How difficult will that be? Well, Valve’s Pierre-Loup Griffais reportedly shed some light on this point on Discord:
Still, this does potentially leave the door open to buyers who pre-ordered the $399 model with 64GB of slower eMMC to improve the Steam Deck at a later date. Valve’s own specs sheet page states that “all models use socketed 2230 M.2 modules (not intended for end-user replacement).”
But before you cancel your pre-order, there are a few reasons why upgrading might not be the most sensible way forward.
Not only does Valve say that switching SSDs is intended for experts, but it seems likely that cracking open your brand new Steam Deck could affect your warranty, as Griffais highlighted above. Given the ongoing issue Nintendo has with Joy Con drift (something Valve is confident won’t be an issue with Steam Deck), it might be wise to ensure your warranty status can’t be questioned in the future, should any other issues arise.
Secondly, the M.2 2230 drives required aren’t hugely widespread, and can prove pretty expensive – around $200 for a TB. Granted, per GB, that’s not as expensive as the equivalent jump in Steam Deck from 64GB to 256/512GB, but it’s still pricey enough to alter the cost/benefit analysis of making the switch.
Finally, and possibly most importantly, if you’ve already secured a 256- or 512GB Steam Deck for this year, then cancelling the order and switching to the entry-level version will involve rejoining the queue at the very back. And reservations placed for the 64GB model today are now expected to ship “after Q2 2022.”
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