Under the Deck
October 8, 2021 8:46 AM   Subscribe

Taking a Look Inside the Steam Deck Valve gets in front of the DIY folks with a short tutorial on replacing components in the Steam Deck. [previously]
posted by kanuck (28 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
I pre-ordered a Deck. While part of me said to wait until the v2, what pushed me was that my (almost 8k) Steam library will/should be playable AND that they did this video.

One of my daughters has been pushing me to get a Switch. The joycon issues aside, I looked back at my Nintendo history - GB, GBC, GBA, SNES, N64, GC, Wii - and on those there were maybe 6 on each platform that hit my gaming spot. That makes a Switch+game very expensive. Add into that the repairability and it's a no.

It's good that Valve have done this teardown, and good that for the major uses the buttons and thumbsticks can be repaired.

Oh yes .. and that emulation can be done and way more ...looking forward to it.
posted by I shot a fox in Skyrim and it made me sad at 9:06 AM on October 8 [2 favorites]


This seems very Right-to-Repair friendly. I like the vibe. "Please don't do this, because most like you'll break it, but if you're absolutely going to do this, here are the pitfalls and how you can try to prevent them."

Also, being able to source and buy proper replacement parts is big, so I hope Valve follows through on providing access to those.
posted by deadaluspark at 9:24 AM on October 8 [2 favorites]


Fantastic video. It's really cool to hear about all the little micro-optimizations in the build.
posted by kaibutsu at 9:33 AM on October 8 [3 favorites]


Although man the long slow sigh that they're using self tapping plastic screws instead of insets, I tell you what.
posted by Kyol at 9:43 AM on October 8 [5 favorites]


Although man the long slow sigh that they're using self tapping plastic screws instead of insets, I tell you what.

Sadly, they're still a company, and while the video is cool, things like this show they're still not our friends.
posted by deadaluspark at 9:51 AM on October 8 [2 favorites]


A nifty follow-on video from Linus Tech Tips. [YT:26min] Sort of a reaction, but also a pretty good commentary.
posted by bonehead at 9:56 AM on October 8 [1 favorite]


Hi, this is your periodic reminder that while threaded inserts are nice, they are also expensive and almost entirely unnecessary for a product that will, even accounting for repairs and refurbs, be dis- and re-assembled maybe once or twice ever. Using self-tapping screws doesn't mean they're not your friends-- I mean, they're not, but in this case it just means they're designing this properly for mass manufacturing.
posted by phooky at 10:01 AM on October 8 [10 favorites]


Can you swap out the plastic screws with metal ones? Are the screws standard?
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:01 AM on October 8


I think it's a defensive move and I kind of applaud it.

Every new device launches a flood of YouTube teardown videos and you need a certain amount of "WTF were they thinking?!?" outrage to engage viewers. Why invite that?

If you make all those videos redundant by being truthful and more interesting than the guy in the basement then maybe it's worth it.
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:07 AM on October 8 [1 favorite]


Can you swap out the plastic screws with metal ones? Are the screws standard?

The screws are metal and phillips head, but they are self-tapping and screw into plastic posts, not metal threaded inserts. This means they'll only survive a few disassemblies and reinsertions, and have to be carefully reinserted to not destroy the threads from the first insertion.

Threaded metal inserts add a lot of assembly cost, and the Steam Deck is extremely optimized to meet that $400 base model price point. It'd be nice if the $529 or $649 models had a better assembly, but that would mean different tooling, and would raise the price of all three models.

Tip for anyone dealing with these (in any device): when reassembling, carefully turn the screws backwards and apply very light pressure until they "fall" or "click" into place, then screw them in. This locates and reinserts them through the same threads that were formed when they were first installed at the factory, instead of cutting new threads and making it significantly weaker.

Also, don't be afraid of blue threadlocker! Self-tapping screws lose a lot of their strength after being removed and reinstalled, and a teeny tiny drop of blue threadlocker can make all the difference.
posted by zekesonxx at 10:18 AM on October 8 [26 favorites]


One of my daughters has been pushing me to get a Switch. The joycon issues aside, I looked back at my Nintendo history - GB, GBC, GBA, SNES, N64, GC, Wii - and on those there were maybe 6 on each platform that hit my gaming spot. That makes a Switch+game very expensive. Add into that the repairability and it's a no.--I shot a fox in Skyrim and it made me sad

Some un-asked for advice: get her the Switch. This is about her having fun, not some optimized engineering calculation about what is the most efficient purchase.
posted by eye of newt at 11:15 AM on October 8 [10 favorites]


While it might be an amazing piece of hardware, I'm not confident that it's going to be supported for very long, certainly nowhere as long as a Nintendo Switch. Hardware may not be their forte.

Remember Steam Machines? The Steam Controller? The Steam Link? All discontinued.
posted by meowzilla at 11:44 AM on October 8 [3 favorites]


So to turn the hardware on its head - how is Big Screen Mode and controller gaming in Steam these days? Like, I have a Switch, but I only use it in portable mode when I absolutely have to (killing time at the car dealership, say), but otherwise it's 100% docked and playing with a Pro pad. If Steam is finally properly controller-capable, I could see dedicating this little deskmini 3400g to couch based PC gaming.

But the last time I tried big screen mode with a steam controller and a steam link, the number of weird poorly documented shims between the controller, the interface and the game were maddening. To be fair, I was probably trying to play PC-first games that weren't really controller optimized to begin with, which didn't help I'm sure.
posted by Kyol at 11:56 AM on October 8 [1 favorite]


On my Switch I have Skyrim, Civ 6, Ori and the Blind Forest, Hades, and Cuphead. They probably ended up costing 2-3 times as much as they would have had I just bought them on Steam but I don't have a computer of my own to play them on. A Steam Deck sounds like it would solve this problem, albeit after an initial $500+ (Canadian) outlay, so it would probably only make sense for me if I played a lot more games than I currently do.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:03 PM on October 8


Valve somehow managed to make a business out of becoming an unnecessary middleman in PC gaming. Last thing I want to do is give them even more money.

(And their previous hardware has all been pretty terrible, so I don't think this will be any different)

Games written for PC that try and squeeze in a controller mode usually are terrible, even the console ports of such games somehow do it much better. Civ6 is a good example -- Switch version is actually great, but the Steam version doesn't work well with a controller at all.
posted by thefoxgod at 12:18 PM on October 8 [1 favorite]


For me, it's kind of a non-starter. If I'm not in front of my computer, I'm not in the mood to play computer games. Also, the Deck just looks intimidating af, like something Bale-Batman uses to control his spy drones.

That's why I pre-ordered a Playdate. Partly for the nostalgia factor, but that thing actually looks weird and fun and something I would be okay to open up and try to tinker with and not feel too bad if I break it (since it's under 200 and not 400+). (I am waiting for the first batch of reviews to come out and see if I'll get one or just cancel my pre-order too)
posted by FJT at 12:47 PM on October 8


Tip for anyone dealing with these (in any device): when reassembling, carefully turn the screws backwards and apply very light pressure until they "fall" or "click" into place, then screw them in. This locates and reinserts them through the same threads that were formed when they were first installed at the factory, instead of cutting new threads and making it significantly weaker.

I saw the note about self tapping screws in plastic in the video then rushed back here to post exactly that. Since you beat me, I'll just add that it's usually a _very_ satisfying clunk when "unscrewing" it . Once you feel the clunk just reverse direction and they should screw back into place with very little to no effort whatsoever. Resist the urge to crank them down, the fact that there's 8 screws means that each of them has to work ~1/8th as hard to hold the thing together.

This same wisdom works with wood screws, and can help if you're reassembling things with machine screws where the screw is say ferrous but the thing you're screwing it into is aluminum. Crossthreading in those cases can ruin a day.
posted by mcrandello at 1:27 PM on October 8 [3 favorites]


Im stoked. Its a portable computer. I can remote play from my PC if I want to and can dual boot another OS if I feel like it. Theyre re-doing big picture mode to be much better and they took all the knowledge gained from previous hardware like the steam controller. I like it, it feels less robust than Id like but it was $5 when I bought it. I have a Switch, and while perfectly fine for some people, I dont use it nearly as much as I thought I would.

Sure, I can game at my desk, but gaming on the couch is so much better. I love how customizable the controller is and its a much more enjoyable experience playing Baldurs Gate 3 with a controller than without. It costs about the same as my roughly 7 year old Linux laptop with better specs and portability except now its nicely optimized to play a backlog of games that I have in my library. Im particularly interested in trying out CIV when I get mine, but mostly want to play BG3 multiplayer.

I was going to buy a newer laptop because aforementioned Linux one is puttering along but seeing as it works just fine albeit slower and I already have a tower, Deck felt like a nice middle ground. Being able to play on PC at a desk and then quickly continue on Deck to extend a play session is an awesome option.

[p.s. some people have mobility issues, cant sit for too long, or just plain want to game on their couch. The Deck could be an option for them.]
posted by VyanSelei at 2:45 PM on October 8 [1 favorite]


(sorry for double post, thought I was fixing typos and mobile decided to *gestures around vaguely*)
posted by VyanSelei at 2:51 PM on October 8


I'm not confident that it's going to be supported for very long,

I still have a Steam Link that I use and I saw an update come through last month. It's still being supported two years after the last unit sold out with one of the devs actually engaging with the folks replying to their update thread. I like it but it also makes sense that Steam dropped the hardware component of local streaming since the hardware requirements for the Link to work are really really really low and I only really use mine out of sheer laziness

What I see out of Steam hardware are products made by people who actually use Steam, like it, and want to make it easier and more accessible for everyone even though it might not be super profitable. the people who work at Steam seem to actually really like Steam as a platform. sadly, that can be rare in software dev - you're lucky if a product owner has even a year's worth of experience in the thing they're actively writing briefs for (which is fun and very rational, thanks capitalism)
posted by paimapi at 3:01 PM on October 8 [2 favorites]


Will it play Half-Life 3
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:05 PM on October 8


Everyone looked at those specs and thought: "those look like joy-con sticks, which have to be fixed or replaced constantly" and "i bet i can upgrade the storage in this way cheaper than they're selling the bigger ones for". And... that's exactly what this covered.

But I've had to replace the screen and buttons on things, and I am a little sad they stopped after sticks / battery / storage.
posted by Anonymous Function at 5:04 PM on October 8


The joycon issues aside, I looked back at my Nintendo history - GB, GBC, GBA, SNES, N64, GC, Wii - and on those there were maybe 6 on each platform that hit my gaming spot.

The Switch is a wildly successful platform for Nintendo - the only comparable platform is really the DS, which isn't in your list, and the SNES, which is. But third-party support is available on Switch in a way it really wasn't for Nintendo's other platforms - there are a lot more good games available, and Nintendo's own efforts are more enthusiastic than they've been in a while.
posted by Merus at 7:45 PM on October 8 [2 favorites]


Two things to address here.

1. I Shot a Fox - as someone else said, your daughter will enjoy the Switch. And it is about software and enjoyability. Even a couple of games make that calculus work. I have a Switch and to be 100% honest I would consider it a worthwhile purchase just for Breath of the Wild and Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Between those two games I've gotten at least 200 hours of enjoyment from the system. But I definitely have more than just those two games, so money well spent IMO.


2. Remember Steam Machines? The Steam Controller? The Steam Link? All discontinued.

I think this is very disingenuous. Steam Machines were just a PC running SteamOS. That's like saying an Acer desktop from 2014 isn't supported with new stuff.... Steam Controller, they made a go of it for a lot longer than many other companies would and I love mine to death. Steam Link? They realized that anyone with a Raspberry Pi or an Android TV box can do it in software for free and released an official app for it. I have it installed on my nVidia Shield... it works great.

Also, if you look at Steam OS (Steam Machine) and the Steam Controller, both of those things live on in the Steam Deck. So they were stepping stones to what Valve offers today, and the Steam Deck wouldn't be possible without the groundwork especially of the Steam Machines and their Proton push for Linux-running-Windows games.
posted by barc0001 at 10:04 PM on October 8 [1 favorite]


Steam Link still exists, it just doesn't require the actual hardware these days. Most streaming game services don't these days, and those deal with even more strenuous situations (streaming across the internet as opposed to a computer on your LAN). But all the software still works fine and is regularly updated, and you can download apps for Steam Link on Android and iOS.

The Steam controller got discontinued, but the underlying software layer that made the Steam controller so good, Steam Input, still exists. It's the reason why Steam can support so many different controllers and allow you to rebind the controls on a per-game basis. And if you've looked at a Steam Deck, you might notice a bunch of things on it that, surprise, look a lot like bits from a Steam controller. Also worth noting: Valve lost a patent infringement case regarding the back paddles on the Steam controller, which might partially explain its premature disappearance. Not sure if Steam Deck's back buttons skirt around the patent, that's beyond my expertise.

Steam Machines didn't really take off, but the underlying software layer, Steam OS and the Proton compatibility layer, still exist. These form the core of the Steam Deck software, and Valve have been working on significant improvements to Proton in anticipation of the Steam Deck's release.

Plus, there's the Steam Index, which as far as I can tell hasn't been discontinued at all and still sells quite well.
posted by chrominance at 10:07 PM on October 8


Threaded inserts are not all that.

I've fixed several Toshiba Satellite laptops where the threaded brass inserts for the lid hinge screws had just torn straight out of the flimsy plastic surrounds that were supposed to retain them.

The fix involves filling the big ugly holes left behind by torn-out inserts with JB Weld, letting that set, drilling it, then replacing the factory screws with self-tappers a couple mm longer than the original machine screws. The resulting joints are, by my best estimate, about twice as strong as the original threaded insert ones and as long as the minimal reassembly precautions recommended above by mcrandello and zekesonxx are followed should be about as durable.
posted by flabdablet at 10:30 PM on October 8


I'm not sure that I'd actually want a Steam Deck, but it looks interesting and will certainly be better supported than previous devices like it. It's sure to be more convenient than carrying around a Xbox One controller and a clip to attach a phone to said controller, too. Plus you can play PC games even in places where you can't get a decent network connection.

Back when I traveled a lot it would have been a lot more attractive to me personally.
posted by wierdo at 11:17 PM on October 8


@ eye of newt - Both my daughters have a Switch. The eldest (she's 30) I gave my launch Switch to try and as she played it so much it's becamen hers. Hundreds of hours in Animal Crossing to name but one.

I am tempted by the OLED model having read reviews, and I might yet buy one but I'll first check into what games I really want to play on it.

@Merus - I mistakenly left the DS, 3DS and 2DS off that list. I really do have all but that weird red 3D device they made. And I agree with your points.
posted by I shot a fox in Skyrim and it made me sad at 5:02 AM on October 9


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