Wednesday, April 13th 2022

Immovable Steam Deck? Enthusiast Enables AMD RX 6900 XT Graphics Card "eGPU"

A Steam Deck enthusiast has done what Steam would not (at least not in the first rendition of its popular Steam Deck handheld console): he went and added an external GPU to the mix. The owner of the ETA Prime YouTube channel managed to increase the Steam Deck's APU-powered graphical oomph with a much more powerful AMD RX 6900 XT graphics card. To do so required sacrifices however: since the SteamDeck doesn't feature a proper Thunderbolt 3/4 connector, ETA Prime had to remove the Steam Deck's SSD from its M.2 port, instead mounting a special M.2 to PCIe adapter in the SSD slot itself.

This, of course, required that installed games be run off memory cards, which generally offer lower speeds (a less than stellar experience) than the onboard SSD. It also required butchering the Steam Deck's OS by replacing it with Windows 11. But it did allow the Steam Deck's APU to tap onto power otherwise unavailable to it, unlocking playable framerates with maxed out detail settings on games such as God of War, Cyberpunk 2077, Elden Ring, and others.
Some of the games were run at 1080p, while others were run at 4K, but all of them showcased improved graphical performance compared to the Steam Deck's comparably puny APU graphics. For now, this solution remains a novelty. At the same time, the 3D Mark Time Spy score increased by almost 8000 points. Should Valve introduce a Thunderbolt port in future revisions of the Steam Deck, and one can imagine having an extremely powerful Switch-like experience for a hybrid gaming environment. Valve?
Sources: ETA Prime @ YouTube, via Tom's Hardware
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15 Comments on Immovable Steam Deck? Enthusiast Enables AMD RX 6900 XT Graphics Card "eGPU"

#1
Hyderz
Haha defeats the whole purpose of a handheld, but it’s always fun to see people do this kinda thing :)
Posted on Reply
#3
AnarchoPrimitiv
Videocard is probably bigger than the steamdeck

Next step will be use a DC to DC ATX adapter, throw a 100 AH AGM battery in a book bag or take a lithium cell pack off an electric bike and take this setup on the road, haha
Posted on Reply
#4
ZoneDymo
AnarchoPrimitivVideocard is probably bigger than the steamdeck
I mean yeah, look at the first picture :P
Posted on Reply
#5
SOAREVERSOR
HyderzHaha defeats the whole purpose of a handheld, but it’s always fun to see people do this kinda thing :)
It ships with a dock for at home. I don't think it's "pointless". Its like those laptops that pack a mobile like 2060/3060 and then you eGPU it up when its in a dock.
Posted on Reply
#6
Ravenas
Comments are looking at a picture and then making a reaction.

Steam Deck has a dock, and can be used in desktop mode.

eGPUs have popularity of laptop users already, this is no different.
Posted on Reply
#7
trsttte
SOAREVERSORIt ships with a dock for at home. I don't think it's "pointless". Its like those laptops that pack a mobile like 2060/3060 and then you eGPU it up when its in a dock.
RavenasComments are looking at a picture and then making a reaction.

Steam Deck has a dock, and can be used in desktop mode.

eGPUs have popularity of laptop users already, this is no different.
I wouldn't say it's pointless but this is very different from a regular dock or egpu. The Steam Deck doesn't have thunderbolt or any free pcie slots other than one dedicated to m.2 storage, for this to function they need to tap into that slot and run the OS from the SD card (not ideal). For a permanent install it would also require a new heavily modified backplate for the steamdeck or having to dissassembly it each time.

It's a cool experiment but not really interesting as a use case (you could build an equivalent desktop for cheaper, the soc on the steamdeck is only a quad core after all)
Posted on Reply
#8
Ravenas
trsttteI wouldn't say it's pointless but this is very different from a regular dock or egpu. The Steam Deck doesn't have thunderbolt or any free pcie slots other than one dedicated to m.2 storage, for this to function they need to tap into that slot and run the OS from the SD card (not ideal). For a permanent install it would also require a new heavily modified backplate for the steamdeck or having to dissassembly it each time.

It's a cool experiment but not really interesting as a use case (you could build an equivalent desktop for cheaper, the soc on the steamdeck is only a quad core after all)
the problem statement: Should Valve release Steamdeck with a thunderbolt port?

My comments are directed towards those stating it defeats the purpose of a handheld. The article is showing a case to a specific need that could be addressed in future models.
Posted on Reply
#9
defaultluser
if you're already going to spend this kind of time and money on an external GPU, you might as well buy a system that doesn't come with such a castrated Zen 2 quad-core CPU.

I mean, Zen 2 APU with 4MB L3 means most newer games are going to get massively castrated!
Posted on Reply
#10
trsttte
Ravenasthe problem statement: Should Valve release Steamdeck with a thunderbolt port?

My comments are directed towards those stating it defeats the purpose of a handheld. The article is showing a case to a specific need that could be addressed in future models.
They really should, it's though because on a custom soc like they're using they'll want to save all the die space possible for just the essentials but it would increase the usability of the platform a lot. They could also try their hand at a more competitive egpu since current solutions are way overpriced which always limited their adoption.
Posted on Reply
#11
SOAREVERSOR
defaultluserif you're already going to spend this kind of time and money on an external GPU, you might as well buy a system that doesn't come with such a castrated Zen 2 quad-core CPU.

I mean, Zen 2 APU with 4MB L3 means most newer games are going to get massively castrated!
It's not meant for that. It's meant for indie/old games. It's another swipe at nintendo in the portable market from a company with history of hardware disasters. All of these are either going to be indie game platforms or loaded with another linux distro for emulation.
Posted on Reply
#12
Ravenas
SOAREVERSORIt's not meant for that. It's meant for indie/old games. It's another swipe at nintendo in the portable market from a company with history of hardware disasters. All of these are either going to be indie game platforms or loaded with another linux distro for emulation.
Indie/old games? Are you remotely familiar with Linux gaming in its current state with Proton?


ProtonDB | Explore | Most Steam Followers
Posted on Reply
#13
auxy
SOAREVERSORIt's not meant for that. It's meant for indie/old games. It's another swipe at nintendo in the portable market from a company with history of hardware disasters. All of these are either going to be indie game platforms or loaded with another linux distro for emulation.
Not only is the steam deck more than powerful enough to play current games just fine—even with ray-traced effects—it doesn't need to have a different Linux distribution installed for emulation. SteamOS is a customized Arch; you can install any Arch software you want and it works with no caveats.

You probably should refrain from commenting on things you don't know about.
Posted on Reply
#14
BArms
Fake? I'm calling fake. It's all fake, all of it. Also it's kinda cool, nice job.
Posted on Reply
#15
LabRat 891
I'm happy I got beat to this one.
Feels nice not being the only nutjob with the intention to do this with the Steam Deck.
Posted on Reply
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