Steam Deck gets a boost from desktop RX 6900 XT GPU
ETA Prime published a video demonstrating the eGPU capabilities of the Steam Deck console running on Windows 11.
Valve’s Steam Deck is a full-fledged PC, except in a handheld form factor. In early April, the company announced that their console now officially supports Windows 11 operating system. There is still some work to be done, but additional and updated drivers are being added on a frequent basis.
ETA Prime decided to attach an external full-sized desktop GPU to the console. Unfortunately, Steam Deck does not have a Thunderbolt port, which means that the only way to connect an external GPU is through the M.2 slot. This also means that the only such slot this console has will be used by the GPU, while Steam Deck has to be loaded from the microSD storage.
Unfortunately, none of the tested NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards currently work with the console. However, the console boots up with AMD Radeon cards, which was to be expected considering it is based on the AMD platform.
In 3DMark Fire Strike, the RX 6900XT bottlenecked by Steam Deck’s Van Gogh APU (Zen2) and M.2 connection scored 26855 points in graphics test. Without the eGPU, integrated RDNA2 graphics offer around 4856 points, which means it Deck running RX 6900XT is 5.5x faster. The TimeSpy test is even more impressive, the iGPU scores 1576 points while RX 6900XT almost 10 times faster at 15579 points.
In gaming tests, the console with eGPU are capable of 4K gaming in titles such as Witcher 3 (~108 FPS, Ultra) or GTA 5 (~73 FPS, Very High). In Elden Ring or Cyberpunk 2077 it performed at 47-70 FPS with 1080p High settings. These games are possibly bottlenecked by CPU and M.2 GPU connection.
The Steam Deck console was clearly not designed to work with external GPUs. After all, it is a portable console with limited performance to extend battery life. Although Deck is already a large console compared to other handheld devices, the RX 6900 XT GPU alone is more than 3 times as big, not to mention the power supply or all the cables needed. However, this is what the PC gaming is all about, playing around with hardware and making things faster.