Valve had recently released the Steam Deck. This portable computer acts much like the Nintendo Switch, in that it lets you play any Steam (and many non-Steam) games wherever and whenever you want.
So, you might want to naturally load your Deck with as many games as you can for your library. However, you might soon be faced with an entirely new dilemma.
Does the Steam Deck have enough memory?
There are several Deck models, and each has a different internal storage capacity. The cheapest Steam Deck, the one that cost 399$ dollars at the time of this writing, only comes with 64 GB of memory. The $529 model has 256 GB available and the most expensive $649 Steam Deck has 512 GB of space.
Is this enough?
The cheapest model definitely doesn´t have enough memory. We don´t think 64 GB is enough for the Nintendo Switch (which has way smaller games), so the capacity is tiny for a console that´s supposed to play PC games.
For comparison, you would be barely able to install Elden Ring, as it needs 60 GB of space. Call of Duty Modern Warfare would be impossible to install, as it requires 175 GB of free space on your hard drive.
The more expensive models do offer significantly more space. I would argue that if you are not going to play more than two or three games at a time, they should have all the memory you need. But, if you´d like to keep a sizeable library on your deck, then...
Can you increase the Steam Deck memory with SD cards?
Thankfully, you are not stuck with the internal memory of the Steam Deck, you can increase its storage capacity with SD cards, again, kind of like the Nintendo Switch. You can get a 128 GB card for around 19 dollars (the price can fluctuate a bit), and if you never want to worry about space again, you can even get a 1 Terabyte card (1000 GB) for 169 dollars.
Is buying a card a good idea?
If you only care about the different storage capacity and not the internal drive between the models, then buying a 256 Gb card for the most basic Steam Deck will only cost you 35 dollars. The combo of the cheapest Steam Deck and the SD card would cost 435 dollars in total.
The second most expensive Deck costs 529 dollars, therefore you would be saving 94 dollars with the aforementioned combination.
Installing a card is easy too, all you have to do is insert it into their slot and it will work, your Deck will have all access to all of the card´s memory.
So, as you can see, it is easy and not that expensive to solve the memory issue even if you bought the cheapest Deck model.
In theory, reading the data from the card will be slower than doing it from the internal memory, but the difference should not be noticeable. Valve has worked to improve the SD card reading speed for the deck. However, if you want to squeeze a bit more performance into the portable console...
Can you upgrade the Steam Deck´s SSD?
The answer depends on the model. The cheapest version of the Steam Deck doesn´t use an SSD (Solid State Drive) at all for its internal memory, but an eMMC (Embedded MultiMediaCard) so that model is already out of question. You can´t replace the EMMC with an SSD.
The more expensive Steam Deck models do use an SSD, the NVMe SSD to be more precise. They are both faster and have more internal capacity than an eMMC. But what if you want more? Can you upgrade the Deck´s drive?
Theoretically, yes. You can open the back of the Steam Deck and change or upgrade the SSD if you know what you are doing. However, Valve has warned precisely against doing this in their video where they open up the Deck.
The SSD wasn´t designed to be upgraded or modified at all, so you would be doing it at your peril, risking damage to all other components of the Deck. Even if you install it correctly, the difference between the power consumption of an off-the-shelf SSD and the NVMe SSD can damage your Deck, as well as create wireless interference for Wi-fi and Bluetooth.
Valve even warns that damaging the battery could cause the whole thing to catch on fire and that all the circuits inside the case are very susceptible to static electricity. Just one "bolt" can damage them irreparably. As a last consideration, the warranty doesn´t cover damages you might cause while opening up the Steam Deck.
And that´s it! The Steam Deck´s memory can be upgraded via SD cards, but it is really not recommended to upgrade its SSD, even if it´s theoretically possible. Curious if you can connect a keyboard or controller to your Deck? Check out our article over here.