Our picks below will show you the best Steam Deck SSDs for gaming in 2023. Of course, when shopping for the best Steam Deck SSD for gaming, you'll want to balance performance and features with your budget. We have compiled a list of the best options below based on several factors, but be sure to visit our in-depth reviews with plenty of analysis and benchmarking for more details on each SSD.
The Steam Deck was the first portable gaming PC on the market to be widely successful. The waitlist was massive, but eventually users got their hands on the holy grail. One big limitation, however, was the size of the internal storage, with a good number of units being sold with only 64GB of capacity. It’s not difficult to add additional storage by way of a microSD card and/or external storage, but upgrading the internal SSD is a surer way of having reliable, fast storage. The SSDs below will also make a good choice for use with other gaming handhelds, like the ASUS ROG Ally.
At the time, experimentation had upgraders using oversized SSDs, cut-down SSDs, double-sided SSDs, and even ribbon cables to place M.2 2280 SSDs on the outside of the Steam Deck. However, there are more elegant solutions available, and the list of options continues to grow. The Steam Deck specifically requires an SSD in the M.2 2230 form factor and this drive should be single-sided. A single-sided SSD allows for the EMI shielding to remain in place, which is critical so the drive does not interfere with the Steam Deck’s WiFi, and also a single-sided drive maintains the intended cooling configuration of the unit.
Best Steam Deck SSDs in 2023 at a Glance (more info below):
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You can see a further breakdown of our Best Steam Deck and ASUS ROG Ally SSDs below. Although the Steam Deck has only a PCIe 3.0 M.2 slot, PCIe 4.0 drives work perfectly well and are in fact more efficient at lower speeds. Efficiency is paramount for portable devices like the Steam Deck as you want to produce as little heat as possible while draining as little battery life as possible. Larger-capacity drives do peak at higher wattage and older technology. For example, 28nm SSD controllers can negatively impact overall power draw. Gaming as a whole does not tend to pull too much power, thankfully, but Steam Decks are known to get quite hot as it is.
Performance is a separate concern as a quick response time for game loading, often demonstrated by 4KB or smaller I/O benchmark results, is important. Consistent performance as a drive fills is another concern, particularly when the drive is packed full of games. In most cases there will not be a lot of variation in performance between any two NVMe drives on the Steam Deck, but it’s ideal to get the best performance for the price when all else is equal. There’s no need to pay for more than you need.
Early drive upgraders would often go to eBay, AliExpress, and other third party sites to secure a bigger SSD for their Steam Deck. This can come with warranty concerns, and further, the specifications for many drives remain uncertain. A plethora of retail drives with new hardware and explicit specifications now exist, however, making the experience of upgrading a lot easier, especially with all the guides out there. We’re here to highlight the best options available to you, tailored around your particular priorities.
How We Tested
We started with our standard test suite, but ran it in both PCIe 3.0 and 4.0 modes because the Steam Deck uses the PCIe 3.0 interface. PCIe 3.0 testing helps gauge performance on older systems or even Windows on the Steam Deck, while PCIe 4.0 testing lets the drives open up to their full potential and may reflect performance on the ASUS ROG Ally. However, we also wanted to get a feel for real world performance on the Steam Deck in its native mode, so we carefully upgraded our stock 64GB model for testing. Check our full article, linked below, for more details on that process.
We broke our Steam Deck testing down into two categories: general Steam Deck and SteamOS operations, and KDiskMark synthetic testing with temperature results. The former includes re-imaging the Deck, the initial boot to SteamOS, initial SteamOS setup, booting SteamOs, then installing and launching the game Hollow Knight. The latter uses KDiskMark, a Linux CrystalDiskMark analogue, while keeping an eye on SSD temperature. Together with our standard results, it’s then possible to get a good impression of the best drives.
See our Upgrading and Testing the Steam Deck's SSD article for more details.
Best Steam Deck SSDs You Can Buy Today
The Corsair MP600 Mini is the quintessential Steam Deck upgrade SSD, offering 1TB of fast solid state storage. It is essentially the same as the Rocket 2230 and Inland TN446, but is often better-priced. Your opinion on Corsair might be a factor, but it’s better than a generic brand in terms of support. The drive has a ton of competition at 1TB, made worse as the drive is only available at that capacity, but it’s a good pick in its spot as it performs well with excellent power efficiency.
The Rocket 2230 was and remains a popular choice for a Deck upgrade SSD. It uses TLC on an efficient platform and, unlike the MP600 Mini, has a range of capacity options. If you happen to have the 64GB Steam Deck, the 256GB and 512GB options can be a way to save a little coin. Since the Rocket 2230 launched early this year a number of competing products have come to market which made it less compelling at the launch price. Still, it’s a known solid performer, and was our best-reviewed M.2 2230 SSD for quite some time.
Sabrent’s Rocket 2230 made waves at the beginning of 2023 as a mass-produced, retail storage solution for the Steam Deck. It provided an easy update to 1TB from the stock Steam Deck SSDs. However, users were clamoring for more storage, and that led to the release of the Rocket Q4 2230. Now it’s possible to toss in up to 2TB of internal storage for the Steam Deck without having to go to eBay or AliExpress. Still missing is the 1TB SKU, but this can be filled by the Team MP44S or Addlink S91.
The Rocket Q4 2230 is not perfect, however, as it does have competition and it only reaches 2TB through the use of QLC rather than TLC. In general this is not a huge problem as the Steam Deck does not require fast storage, particularly as its M.2 slot is limited to PCIe 3.0 speeds. It’s better to have an efficient drive, which includes the Rocket Q4 2230, to help with heat and the Steam Deck’s battery life. Peak and sustained performance can suffer with QLC flash, but this wasn’t an issue in our Steam Deck tests.
The Teamgroup MP44S arrived after the Rocket Q4 2230 but has essentially the same makeup. Team’s drives tend to be hit or miss, but this drive is a winner if it’s priced right. It does use QLC flash, which has lower endurance and performance than TLC, but you can get 2TB of space in a tiny drive as a result. The MP44S has the advantage of having a 1TB option out of the gate, even if it is late to the party, for added flexibility.
In our testing, the fewer dies present at 1TB did not negatively impact performance. The drive is also quite efficient, which is perfect for the Steam Deck. It’s also less expensive than the TLC alternatives which makes it a real contender at 1TB, although you have to judge for yourself whether or not the cost savings are worthwhile. The performance gap is not large with the Steam Deck, but could be more significant with the Ally.
The Inland TN446 is Inland’s follow-up to the original TN436, which we previously reviewed. The TN436 had its issues but was an affordable option that was available relatively early in the Steam Deck’s lifecycle. The TN446 seeks to keep the affordability and great warranty while ironing out the kinks. This includes an additional 512GB capacity SKU and better all-around hardware. However, Inland as Micro Center’s house brand has limited availability and support for those without a Micro Center and especially those outside of the U.S.
Current pricing does not favor the TN446 at 1TB, particularly as QLC options like the MP44S are popping up there. However, its historical pricing at 512GB has been good enough to make it an excellent choice for a Steam Deck SSD upgrade if you can get away without more capacity. Inland wants you to jump up to their QLC-based QN446 for 2TB, but it has competition from the S91 for the best price.
Addlink is a lesser-known brand, but we have reviewed SSDs from this manufacturer with positive results. Its products are positioned as budget alternatives to better-known brands, and this makes the S91 a potential sleeper. It uses QLC to reach 2TB of capacity but is available in lower capacities, which offers purchase flexibility. At 2TB, it’s closest to the Rocket Q4 2230 or MP44S and is usually less expensive.
At 512GB the S91 uses TLC and it may be a good alternative to the TN446 with its potentially wider availability. Still, the TN446 has the better warranty and guaranteed hardware. Addlink is trying to cover all the bases with the S91 and the prices are good across-the-board, so it is worth a look if your first choice is unavailable or you want to say some money.
MORE: Addlink S91 SSD Review
The Inland TN436 was a popular Steam Deck SSD upgrade, being one of the first drives to be widely available in the M.2 2230 form factor. It’s basically a Kioxia BG5 clone and that’s not the end of the world, as many drives have the same hardware. Some stock Steam Deck drives and OEM alternatives may have even older hardware, but newer 2230 drives are better than this one in almost every way - the TN436 is not as fast and not nearly as efficient. Still, this is a solid choice if you want an inexpensive baseline drive, and its 3.0 speeds are not a problem in the Steam Deck.
MORE: Inland TN436 SSD Review
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