Anyone who bought one of Valve’s Steam decks at launch got a very special model of solid-state drive installed on their device. Anyone who recently bought one has gotten another drive, one that is possible slower.
As Hardwareluxx report (via PC gamer), all Steam Decks that originally shipped with a 256 or 512 GB SSD would be connected via four “lanes”. Now some units come with drives connected through only two “lanes”, a change that could theoretically lead to slower performance as you essentially cut the bandwidth of the drive in half.
This trade was not publicly announced via any press release or statement, and Steam Decks that ship with these newer drives are not distinguished by a new model number. Indeed, the only public mention of the change came from Valve who was quietly editing the handheld’s specs page in late May.
As a result, you can only find out whether you have the original SSD installed in your Steam Deck or not by checking the specifications in the system menu. Under “Hard Disk” as PC gamer advise, you should look for:
There is a code in the right panel. Our 512GB test model has a Phison ESMP512GKB4C3-E13TS drive. That appears to be a custom 2230 SSD with Phison’s Gen3 x4 E13 controller. So you want to check if your code also ends in -E13T or something else entirely. If it contains a code like -E08 (Phison’s Gen3 x2 controller), then your deck is one of those with a drive running on a Gen3 x2 interface.
I’ve been careful with my language about the above achievements as we haven’t seen any tests that would do that prove there’s a distinct difference in things like load times or fps between drives, at least with games currently available and fully supported on the platform. Which is understandable given that the news has only just been reported, and that with units still hard to come by, few, if any, people will have two Steam Decks to directly compare with.
It should also be noted that there are all sorts of ways a game’s performance can be bottled beyond an SSD’s own performance, and Valve would have tested these components internally before they were released, so you’d expect that had there were some noticeable hits on how a game ran, the change would have been announced more publicly. However, we have reached out to the company for comment and will update if we hear anything.