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Steam Deck Teardown Confirms Valve's DIY-Friendly Design Approach

Valve Steam Deck
(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The wait is nearly over for the Valve Steam Deck, which will be one of the hottest PC hardware releases of 2022. While early reservation holders still have to wait until February 25th before they can officially purchase the console, the teardown experts over at iFixit have already posted a full breakdown of the console's internals, including a sweet X-ray courtesy of Creative Electron.

The Creative Electron folks actually performed their magic on the Steam Deck before iFixit started surgery. The result is a rather intriguing 360-degree view of the portable gaming console's internals. After the X-ray was taken, the iFixit team pulled out their tools and started [gently] prying the Steam Deck apart to see what makes it tick.

Valve Steam Deck

(Image credit: Creative Electron)

Thankfully, for those comfortable with rummaging around inside a PC, taking apart the Steam Deck is not that difficult. There are only eight screws to remove on the bottom of the console, while a plastic prying tool separates the remaining retaining clips. Even better is that, unlike modern smartphones and tablets, Valve took a very consumer-friendly approach by avoiding messy adhesives during this step.

In another nod to the fact that Valve knows its audience, iFixit praises the company for clearly labeling the hardware components for easy identification. In addition, the thumbsticks are easily removed since they are not soldered to the various PCBs. This should make replacing the thumbsticks years down the road easy as pie when "drift" inevitably becomes an issue. 

One screw holds the SSD in place, and it is, of course, replaceable. Base Steam Deck systems come with eMMC storage, while the mid-range and flagship SKUs feature an SSD (with a Phison SSD controller). Digging deeper through the chassis, removing a few screws allows the copper heat pipe and cooling fan to lift off, revealing the primary motherboard with the custom AMD Ryzen SoC.

So far, so good, right? Well, the biggest downside that iFixit encountered during its teardown is that the battery is glued down, and it's pretty difficult to extract. We hope you won't need a battery replacement for your device, but while it's a pain to remove, it is possible to perform the procedure yourself. The sticking point here will be if Valve will offer replacement batteries for customers. But even if Valve isn't up to the task, we're sure that third parties will step in given the popularity of the Steam Deck so far. 

Valve Steam Deck

(Image credit: iFixit)

IFixit's big takeaway is that Valve made many critical design decisions that make taking the Steam Deck apart a trivial affair (except for the battery). The only other significant ding from the iFixit crew was that the USB-C charging port is not a modular affair, which isn't ideal if it needs replacement. However, the Steam Deck was fully functional after reversing the teardown steps and putting the components back together. When all was said and done, iFixit gave the Steam Deck a 7 out of 10 score for repairability.

The Valve Steam Deck starts at $399 with a 64GB eMMC, and the mid-range $529 SKU ups the stakes with a 256GB NVMe SSD. Finally, the flagship $649 SKU brings a 512GB NVMe SSD to the table. Make sure to visit our hands-on preview of the Steam Deck and stay tuned for our full hands-on review.

Brandon Hill is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware. He has written about PC and Mac tech since the late 1990s with bylines at AnandTech, DailyTech, and Hot Hardware. When he is not consuming copious amounts of tech news, he can be found enjoying the NC mountains or the beach with his wife and two sons.