News - Updated on April 12, 2022

Steam Deck is a portable, but PC. So, you can try to squeeze out more performance from it. For example, by connecting an external video card! The video blogger ETA PRIME took up such a semi-crazy experiment.

The preparation went as follows:

  • At first they wanted to connect the GTX 1650 (or RTX 3060, or GTX 1060), but the video cards NVIDIA do not work with Deck hardware, so I had to stop at solutions AMD.

  • In the end, the uber-powerful Radeon RX 6900 XT became the experimental video card. The author of the experiment understood that the Deck processor and tricks connected via M.2 would be a restrictive “bottleneck” for such a video chip. Why then is it necessary? “Because we can!”

Candidates for the role of an external video card for Deck.

  • To connect the video card used a docking station from ADT-Link, which works through M.2. Nuance: The M.2 dock adapter didn’t fit into the Deck properly – it was too long. As a result, the adapter held on with adhesive tape and parole (but still held on!).

  • A full-fledged 750-watt power supply was brought to the docking station so that the video card would accurately receive the required amount of electricity.

  • Dancing with a tambourine did not end there: the SSD slot in the Deck is occupied by an adapter, so an alternative drive had to be connected. In addition, the author of the video did not find a normal way to run SteamOS through the Micro SD card slot.

  • As a result, the experiment was carried out on Windows 11, which was installed on a Micro SD, and video games were stored on an external SSD with USB Type-C.

The final assembly looked something like this.

Benchmark and test results:

  • 3DMark Firestrike: 4,340 points on native Deck video chip, 16,357 points on external RX 6900 XT.

  • 3DMark Time Spy: 1,722 points on native Deck GPU, 10,359 points on external RX 6900 XT.

  • The Witcher 3maximum settings and 4K – about 108 fps.

  • GTAVvery high settings and 4K – about 73 fps.

  • Elden Ring, maximum settings and 1080p – about 46 fps. At 4K resolution, performance drops by only 4 fps.

  • Cyberpunk 2077, high settings and 1080p – confusion and staggering. During the tests, performance jumped from 40 to 80 fps. According to the author of the video, the problem here is the relatively weak Deck processor and the fact that the video card is connected via M.2.

  • God of War“Ultra” settings (FidelityFX scaling disabled) and 4K – about 40 fps.

  • God of War, low settings (FidelityFX is set to “Performance”) and 1080p – about 41 fps. The game clearly rested on the Deck processor.

As the author concludes, it is optimal to select a GTX 1650-level video card in a pair with Deck – more powerful boards will not reveal their potential due to the central processor. Which, however, does not negate the senselessness of the idea: Deck loses portability with an external video card. So the whole experiment was done just for fun. Well, in order to prove that it is theoretically possible to play on Steam Deck with an external video card.

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