Valve's upcoming Steam Deck console/PC hybrid console starts shipping to customers in December of 2021, and since Valve is marketing the Deck as both a rival to the Nintendo Switch as well as a full-fat gaming PC, many are wondering if, like a PC, the Deck will be upgradeable. In this article, we'll explain what the Steam Deck upgrade situation is actually like.
To answer the question simply, no, the Steam Deck isn't upgradeable like a traditional gaming PC. However, there is more to the story. First off, the Steam Deck is an open platform in the sense that Valve will be licensing the Deck's software and operating system to other vendors, so a manufacturer like Dell could source their own hardware and sell a different version of a Deck-style device.
If the Deck is successful, it's likely we'll see other similar devices to the Deck, and any of these may be more modular than the Deck itself. More importantly, they'll offer customers different choices of hardware configuration, so upgrading may be less relevant.
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Also, it's important to note the actual Steam Deck likely won't be impossible to upgrade. Naturally, the Deck supports SD cards, so you'll be able to increase your storage as you please. But it's also likely there will be community-created guides on how to replace, say, a Deck's internal SSD with a larger capacity drive.
In terms of software, the Deck is completely modular. You'll be able to install Windows 10 on it or a variety of other operating systems. You'll also be able to install Windows 11, even if TPM 2.0 support isn't completely worked out on Deck by launch, because there are already workarounds for installing Windows 11 on machines without TPM 2.0.
Hovering above all of this, though, is the actual hardware that comes packed inside the Steam Deck: with a current-gen Ryzen processor and AMD APU, the Deck is most comparable to an Xbox Series S or current-day gaming laptop. It's far and away more powerful than a Switch, and likely more powerful than a PS4 or Xbox One, too. Though one-to-one comparisons here become a little more complicated.
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Suffice it to say that the Steam Deck won't be lacking in power, needing to be upgraded soon after it launches to keep up with the games of today. Plus, with a base model that retails for $399, if another generation of Deck launches in a couple years, that will give gamers more options if they want even more power.
In summation, the Deck won't be a modular device like a PC, even if tech enthusiasts find ways to homebrew all kinds of upgrades on Steam Deck. These kinds of upgrades will likely only appeal to a niche audience of power users and not the average gamer because of how much experience and knowledge would be required to upgrade a Deck this way.
All of this is subject to change depending on how well the Deck actually does when it goes on sale. Success will open the door for the Deck, and more upgrades may become possible in the future if the device finds its way into the hands of many different people.
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Though the Deck starts shipping this coming December, many who pre-ordered the Deck have ship dates ranging far into 2022, so it may be the case that supply will be a major factor in the Deck's success, as it has been with the PS5 and Xbox Series X. Next-gen consoles and the latest graphics cards continue to be extremely difficult to locate and purchase