Valve’s gaming handheld Steam Deck will only go on sale in February 2022. However, the queues to get one of the coveted devices are as long as a horse’s ass. Those who want to reserve one of the three models now can expect delivery in October 2022 or later. The reason is the ongoing chip shortage. To improve the availability, Valve downgrades the device via Steam Deck and equips the handheld with a slower SSD. However, this is not supposed to have any effect on the performance.
Steam Deck downgrade with slower SSD
Valve has made an adjustment to the specs for the Steam Deck, according to the official store website, as the HardwareLuxx website found out. However, this can only be found in the English-language description so far.
While the entry-level model of the gaming handheld is only equipped with a 64 GB eMMC memory, an M.2 SSD is used starting with the mid-range model, which has a capacity of either 256 GB or 512 GB.
This was previously connected via PCIe Gen 3 with four lanes (PCIe Gen 3 x4). Now, the English description of the specifications has been updated with an additional note that the connection could also be made via only two lanes (PCIe Gen 3 x2).
According to the manufacturer, this should not mean any performance losses in practice: “In our tests, we did not notice any impact on the gaming performance between x2 and x4.”.
From a technical point of view, doubling or halving the lanes mainly affects the sequential data rates of the SSD storage, but not the load times or the streaming speed of textures in gaming use.
Valve: “Losses only in extremely unusual cases”
Lawrence Yang, Steam Deck designer at Valve, asserts to PCGamer that the team “did not notice any performance impact between the two models”. With the exception of “extremely unusual cases”, which they did not go into detail about.
The SSD performance in the Steam Deck is limited by various factors, which are not related to the PCIe bandwidth, Yang added. Operating system speed, load times, game performance and game title responsiveness are “identical between the x2 and x4 hard drives”, he said.
However, Valve and potential buyers will benefit from much better availability due to the SSD downgrade of the Steam Deck.
In order to keep quantities up and keep demand high despite the current chip shortage, Valve is now sourcing the SSDs from another supplier. “One of our SSD suppliers provides PCIe Gen 3 x4 NVMe SSDs, while the other contributes a x2 (2 lane) SSD,” Valve told PCGamer. On the other hand, Valve had just upgraded the Steam Deck Dock (still not available) in April 2022, which among other things made the USB ports faster.