Is it possible to connect an external GPU on Steam Deck?

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External GPU on Steam Deck
Steam Deck

Manufactured by Valve Corporation, Steam Deck was released on February 25, 2022. It contained revolutionary technology allowing the gamers out there to have a portable gaming setup. With the release of the Steam Deck, one of the most important questions is if we can put an external GPU on Steam Deck. This article will discuss that.

Steam Deck is inherently designed to be a portable PC which is why it contains everything it needs inside the machine itself. Running on Zen 2 4c/8t, 2.4-3.5GHz CPU and 8 RDNA 2 CUs, 1.0-1.6GHz GPU, it is claimed to run all the latest AAA games easily. Steam Deck is so famous currently that there is a reservation system where you’ll get into a queue after you reserve your Steam Deck.

External GPU on Steam Deck
Steam Deck Reservations

As you can see, Steam Deck features up to 512GB of NVMe SSD which is mind-blowing for a machine that size. But unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, Steam Deck is designed to be self-sufficient hence there is no direct way to connect an External GPU on Steam Deck. The USB C port is only 20 Gigabits/second while to run a GPU you need at least 40 Gigabits/second.

A way to put External GPU on Steam Deck

Luckily, for gamers looking to connect an External GPU on Steam Deck, there is a way that has been revealed recently. This is through the M.2 Port using an M.2 Port to PCI Express adapter. The concept and the way to do it is simple and easy. For the people interested in the method itself, UFD Tech has made an in-depth video for the same. Link below.

External GPU on Steam Deck – By UFD Tech

While there is a way to put External GPU on Steam Deck, it currently only supports Radeon GPUs so that’s a little bit of a bad news for RTX lovers. There are no known ways to support an RTX GPU on Steam Deck at the time of writing this article.

This method supports an External GPU on Steam Deck even up to the latest Radeon RX 6900 XT. We’ll be providing benchmarks and other information for the same down below but before you go ahead and buy something like that exclusively for your Steam Deck, it is worth mentioning that even if you can run an insane GPU like that on the Steam Deck, it definitely gets bottlenecked by the CPU itself. If you are planning to get a GPU specifically for your Steam Deck, a Radeon RX 6500 is more than enough.

Let’s discuss the performance some of the External GPU gave when connected to the Steam Deck:

Effects of External GPU on Steam Deck

During a benchmark test with a Radeon RX 6900 XT, the increase in the score of the benchmark test was insane. During a 3Dmark FireStrike test, the score jumped up from 4340 with in-built GPU to around 16000 with the Radeon GPU which is a phenomenal increase. While doing a 3Dmark TIME SPY, the score went from 1722 to 10,395 which proves that the external GPU on Steam Deck does indeed work.

Some games were tested on Radeon RX 6600 XT and Radeon RX 6900 XT and results were as follows:

  • Elden Ring

While testing Elden Ring with both 6600 XT and 6900 XT, the game performed around 40-50 FPS throughout the 1080p and 4k Resolution. The game was more than playable and that’s remarkable considering Elden Ring is one of the most graphic-heavy games out there. The similar FPS rate even after changing the graphic settings massively (1080p to 4k) signifies that GPU is doing it’s job but the CPU is bottlenecked. It was found out that the GPU was working at around 80% while the CPU worked at 100% constantly and it did not like the performance-load.

  • CyberPunk 2077

Testing Cyberpunk 2077 with a 6600 XT gave around 60 FPS in the start with 1080p setting but it dropped down to around 40-45 during the actual gameplay. Even on 4K, it gave around 30-40 FPS which again signified that the issue is a CPU bottleneck. But these performance issues are expected when it comes to running games with Steam Deck. The game, when tested with 6900 XT showed a lot of FPS stutters and the frames kept going up and down between 40 to 80.

All of these benchmark tests prove that the External GPU on Steam Deck does indeed work. The bottleneck happens because of the CPU but the games are still more than playable in medium or low settings which is remarkable.

Also, Read: How to Play Android Games on Steam Deck Easily (Guide).

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