Steam Deck With An External GPU Is Much More Powerful And Much Less Portable

One YouTuber has found that lugging an external GPU attached to the Steam Deck isn't really worth it.


A YouTuber has posted a 10-minute video detailing the steps needed to hook a Steam Deck console up to an external graphics card.

While the setup essentially robs the handheld gaming system of any portability--unless you've got really big hands that can hold both a Steam Deck and a GPU--it does provide a substantial boost in performance.

ETA Prime opened up the Steam Deck and removed the SSD storage from its M.2 expansion slot, replacing it with a Radeon RX 6900 XT GPU. After connecting the GPU to an adapter to make it fit, an external power supply was added and a copy of Windows 11 saved on a MicroSD card was used in tandem with games that were stored on an external SSD that was connected via USB-C.

The end result saw The Witcher III running at a 4K resolution on its highest graphical settings, with up to 108 frames per second. A later test of GTA V saw that game hit 70fps on 4K with high settings enabled as well.

The major hurdle in pushing the Steam Deck to its limit though--as ETA Prime found out--is its internal CPU. No matter how powerful the GPU attached to it, games will always reach a bottleneck of performance due to the 4-core and 8-thread AMD Zen 2 CPU. ETA Prime demonstrated this by showing Elden Ring running at max settings on 1080p resolution while hitting 46fps.

While the experiment was done for the sake of doing it, ETA Prime recommended that Steam Deck users avoid attaching an external GPU to their systems and rather enjoy it for the portable gaming experience that it was designed for.

In other Steam Deck news, a recent firmware update has made offline mode more convenient and Xbox Cloud streaming is now supported through the Edge browser.

In GameSpot's Steam Deck review, Alessandro Barbosa called the device a "wonderfully constructed and powerful portable PC." Preorders of the Steam Deck are currently going out in waves, with the second wave slated to begin rolling out in April.

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