Valve’s Steam Deck, which comes out later in February, loads games nippily off an SD card, and in fact there’s hardly any compromise with titles installed on a card compared to the device’s SSD, at least going by early tests.
As PC Gamer points out, YouTubers The Phawx and Linus have been measuring the load times of the Steam Deck with the SSD versus a game on the SD card, and have been finding there’s not a lot of difference at all in many games.
Linus reminds us that Valve has in the past claimed Steam Deck gamers would see similar load times with SSD and SD card, and that he frankly didn’t believe that, but admits that he was wrong, or at least appears to be from early testing, and that there’s “very little compromise” to the experience of running off a 1TB SD card.
He shows a popular PC game, Control, loading to the main menu just a split-second slower on SD card; there really is barely any difference at all between this and the SSD.
The Phawx runs a lot more tests which show broadly that load times are largely the same or in a similar ballpark. For example, Dead Cells is two seconds faster (almost) on SSD for its initial loading time, so not something that’s going to irk anyone. Portal 2 is the same for loading to the menu with both storage mediums, though it’s 13 seconds faster when firing up the first level on SSD.
There are some instances, then, when loads are slower on SD card, between around 12 to 17 seconds in the worst-case scenarios, but many games exhibit very little difference between the SSD and SD card mediums.
Analysis: Some impressive loading trickery from Valve
While there are some instances where loading times are a touch slower, and a few occasions where you might have to wait for an appreciable period of time with a game on SD card rather than SSD, the latter seem to be in the minority – at least with this early testing.
Broader issues could turn up when a whole load more PC games are run through their loading paces, but we don’t see why they would particularly. It appears Valve has pulled off some neat loading trickery here – perhaps making good use of caching – and its early promises of pretty nippy loading speeds off SD card have come to fruition.
That’s obviously great news for those who have forked out for the base model of the Steam Deck, which comes with a rather paltry 64GB of storage in its eMMC drive, in that they can slot a pretty beefy SD card in without making much of a compromise (or any compromise at all, really, in many cases).