Valve's Steam Deck is set to begin shipping out to customers who pre-ordered the console/PC hybrid this December; though, shipping dates range far into 2022 for some. Nonetheless, many are wondering which of the Steam Deck's three models is the best get and which is the best bang for the buck. In this article, we'll explain why the $399 base model of Steam Deck isn't worth the money.
For starters, Steam Deck comes in three different SKUs: the $399 base model with 64GB of eMMC memory; the $529 256GB NVMe SSD SKU; and the $649 512GB NVMe SSD SKU. The varieties of Steam Deck are all identical aside from the change in storage, except the 512GB model comes with anti-glare etched glass, while the other two models have the same display without the anti-glare coating.
The base $399 64GB is a problem for a number of reasons. First off, eMMC memory is significantly slower than an NVMe SSD. And for modern games that require fast read and write times in addition to lots of bandwidth, this could be a performance bottleneck in some instances.
Related: Can Steam Deck Run Windows 11?
On top of that, many, many modern games have install sizes far greater than 64GB, and 64GB is the entire storage capacity of the device without an SD card. Then, there's the SD card situation: this is even slower than eMMC memory and could create more performance bottlenecks down along the hardware chain.
Unless you play exclusively indie games, which rarely have large install sizes, then you'll very quickly reach the end of the base model's storage. Once that happens, you'll have to buy an SD card to increase the Deck's storage capacity. Large-capacity SD cards can still be expensive, and it will quickly become more economical to simply buy a Deck with a larger storage capacity from the get-go.
Considering both the storage capacity of the base model of Deck as well as its speed, most consumers will be better served by buying either the 256GB or 512GB model. This will give consumers space to install a variety of games on an ultra-fast storage device without needing to think about increasing storage further.
Related: Does Steam Deck Have an OLED Screen?
Ultimately, unless you're an extremely casual gamer without any intention of installing other operating systems or otherwise doing data-intensive tasks on Deck, the $399 base model likely won't bring enough to the table for you. Most users will be better served by at least picking up the $529 256GB NVMe SSD model.