Steam Deck 2 should be changed
The powerful steam bridge changed the landscape of gaming PCs, but despite its success, it also felt like a missed opportunity. Make no mistake, I love the Portable Power Station and have no doubts about its overall design. However, the ability to change handheld hardware inside and out on a whim would be a real game-changer, and Valve could dominate this market indefinitely by making its next handheld modular.
The idea of a modular Steam Deck 2 may seem absurd, but the concept is far from new. While today’s best gaming laptop contenders aren’t particularly usable, iconic machines like the IBM Thinkpad once featured a car-hood approach with component blocks hidden inside. No screws, no fiddling with thin innards, just a simple swap akin to playing with Lego.
It’s worth noting that modularity isn’t dead in IBM’s ’90s technology innovation, as the Framework’s 13-inch laptop helps keep the dream alive. However, portable gaming PCs are a different beast, and I’d love to see Valve go one step further by creating a Steam Deck that’s unapologetically modular.
If you’re both a tinkerer and a Steam Deck owner, chances are you’ve cracked the handheld before. As you’d probably expect, its innards are a compact sandwich of carefully placed components, and Valve says you should think twice before digging inside. That’s good advice, because a fake slip might send it to the big gaming desk in the sky, but it sounds like the company wants to let you go inside the Deck, but it doesn’t.
Making the interior of the upcoming Steam Deck more accessible will help it feel like a conventional deck, but it won’t eliminate the associated risks. Rather than just catering to serious enthusiasts, opting for hot-swapping parts can entice novice players to get involved and make customization easier. Valve doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel to do this, as many products cater to the idea of modularity.
Replacing Steam Deck storage with the best SSD for gaming isn’t too difficult, but I understand why some users might be hesitant to try. Again, Valve advises against messing with the handheld parts, and you’ll need to manually remove the existing drive shield to protect the Deck (yuck). So to get rid of that nonsense, I think Valve should take a cue from Microsoft’s book and use something like the Xbox Storage Expansion Card.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, and I agree that Microsoft’s Xbox players are not reasonably priced. However, if Valve offers something cheaper, it will give the handheld an expandable storage method that will replace the best Steam Deck SD card options, especially if it implements an external enclosure slot.
Alternatively, Steam Deck 2 could follow directly in the Framework’s footsteps and opt for generously spaced internal modules. To make it work, you’ll probably still need to perform a less-than-intimidating technical autopsy, but at least you’ll be greeted with very clear labeling, simple connectors, and a less crowded environment to work in.
Image source: Frame
Like it or not, the Steam Deck’s battery won’t last forever and it will run out of steam at some point. You can technically replace it, but iFixit calls the job “difficult” (it’s easy to see why when you consider the steps involved). Unfortunately, this fact will likely send many Decks to an early grave, with some users looking for a new handheld rather than risk a repair.
I’m no Valve engineer, but I’d love to see a removable battery Steam Deck that pays homage to Sony’s PSP. To replace the bats on this retro bad boy, all you have to do is take out a single screw and pop it. Not only will this make replacing dead cells easier, but it will allow players to easily add a larger capacity unit, which could appeal to anyone who’s always low on juice.
Modular APU, RAM and motherboard
In a way, the Steam Deck’s low specs are part of the appeal, but they’re still a factor that will hinder the handheld’s longevity. Trying to increase the fps on the laptop’s AMD APU will become more difficult over time, and the release of a successor with a better chip continues to roll.
With that in mind, what if you could put some new guts into your handheld, instead of buying an entirely new device? In theory, this would remove the need for a Steam Deck 3 and allow Valve to keep up with competitors like Onexplayer and Ayaneo. That said, I’d still prefer to see a complete system module, rather than separate APU and RAM components, as it would save gamers from having to match the correct specs.
Image source: iFixit
Wish the Steam Deck had an OLED display? Well, not everyone shares this opinion, because it will probably increase the price of the laptop. Again, the solution to this particular conundrum is to make the display modular, as this will add an element of visual versatility that is normally locked in place.
I’m not saying that Valve should sell multiple displays pointlessly, because even the next Deck probably won’t be able to drive a 4K display. Instead, I’d like to see the option to stick with a lower screen resolution and potentially lower the price of Steam Deck 2.
It’s hard to suggest this with a straight face because there’s really no precedent, but a Steam Deck without a screen might make sense. After all, pairing the laptop with the best Steam Deck converts it into a cheap desktop rig, so you can just ditch its built-in display altogether and use a mod to fill the gap. Sounds ridiculous? Maybe, but the idea might appeal to frugal gamers on a budget.
Of course, modular displays are a huge boon in terms of repairability, and they’ll soften the blow of any unfortunate mishaps. Sure, paying for a new screen will probably break your wallet, but at least you won’t have to send it to a repair shop.
Modular buttons and sticks
Oddly enough, the prospect of Steam Deck modular sticks and buttons excites me more than anything mentioned above, not to mention it’s probably the easiest thing to implement. The change to the Deck’s layout may seem like a major change, but as someone who is easily put off by the feel of a handheld, it’s the most important.
If your current setup includes the best PC controller, you may already be familiar with modular gamepads. Accessories like the Thrustmaster Eswap Pro feature magnetic button modules, trigger sticks and grips, and you can even change the placement of each.
By using similar technology, the Steam Deck 2 could appeal to more laptop enthusiasts, especially those who weren’t into the original’s symmetrical stick layout. It will also give you the option to replace the Valve touchpads with something else. If it were up to me, I’d release a Playdate-inspired crank, but I’m not Gabe Newell.
Ultimately, a modular Steam Deck 2 will help improve the handheld’s versatility and longevity. However, it will also help in the same fight as the Framework, as modern design continues to undermine consumers’ right to repair. By giving users access to modular components, Valve can cement its dominance in the portable gaming PC space, which will benefit both gamers and the future of the platform.