A month ago, Valve quietly noted that some Steam Deck models were getting slower SSDs, and now that players have noticed the change, the company is emphasizing that it expects no changes to gaming performance.
In May, Valve updated its Steam Deck specs page (opens in new tab) to note that "some 256GB and 512GB models ship with a PCIe Gen 3 x2 SSD. In our testing, we did not see any impact to gaming performance between x2 and x4." The change was recently noted by German outlet Hardwareluxx (opens in new tab), and has sparked a whole lot of speculation - to which Valve has now directly responded.
"In extremely uncommon cases, differences in read/write speed caps may minimally impact file transfer speeds," Steam Deck designer Lawrence Yang tells PC Gamer (opens in new tab), "but OS performance, loading times, game performance, and game responsiveness are identical between the x2 and x4 drives."
In terms of current, real-world Steam Deck performance metrics, there's little reason to doubt Valve's assessment. And, as Yang explains, "many Steam Deck components come from multiple suppliers for improved redundancy and production capacity" - so the decision to use some slower SSD standards in order to get more of the handhelds to market faster makes sense. (Especially as Valve moves to double Steam Deck production.)
But theoretical performance improvements could be possible with firmware updates to the Steam Deck, and that could leave users stuck with the x2 SSDs looking at worse performance. APIs like DirectStorage can be used in games for improved load times and better performance - but on PC at least, no games yet released support it.
Similar Steam Deck APIs could make more of the SSDs installed on the platform, but that would likely require either support from individual games, or from broader optimizations developed by Valve.
Want to know what's up with Valve's hardware? Check out our Steam Deck review.