In our Steam Deck review we already concluded that Valve created a brilliant little gaming PC, especially when you pair it with the official Dock, or experiment with some of the best Steam Deck Dock alternatives.
But, unless you’ve got the 512GB version or only play indie games, the lack of storage space will rear its ugly head sooner rather than later. And even if you opted for the best, high-end model, you’ll soon fill up that space if you’re into storage-hungry games like Call of Duty and Warzone, Destiny 2, or even Apex Legends.
As recommended by Valve, the best storage expansion option for the Steam Deck is an SD card, Glenn wrote about it in his take on the Best Steam Deck SD Card, where he concluded that SanDisk is the clear winner. So, if you’re happy with read and write speeds below 100 MBps and mostly play offline games, then the SanDisk Extreme Series will be your best bet, just keep in mind that it maxes out at 1 TB.
If you’re an esports enthusiast though, or just want a tad better performance and a larger capacity, then the next best thing would be to get an external SSD for the Steam Deck. The current market consists of devices that offer up to 8 TB of storage space, as well as 5 or even 20 times faster speeds, which makes the whole ordeal quite attractive for DIY folks.
How We Choose the Best External SSD for the Steam Deck
The most important feature during our selection process of the best external SSD was the combination between the footprint, available capacities, and transfer speeds. We only included compact drives that you can strap to your Deck and that won’t bother you while gaming.
Next, the best of the best should also achieve read and write speeds at or above 1000MBps for us to consider them. That’s very close to the maximum, 1250MBps, bandwidth of the Deck’s USB-C port. And yeah, a USB-C connection port was also required since the Deck features one of those. We accounted for other features as well, such as price, capacity, and warranty length.
- Footprint – We only considered compact external SSDs that can be attached to the back of your Deck with Velcro tape and fitted inside the carrying case while on the go. Chunky drives that add too much weight when connected weren’t considered since the Deck is quite hefty as it is.
- Speed – Since UHS-I SD cards, limited to 104MBps, already achieve more than solid results when it comes to loading times, we only considered external SSDs with noticeably faster transfer speeds than what the UHS-I protocol allows. You won’t see drives with SATA-III speeds on our list. Instead, the slowest drive featured below supports transfer speeds of 1050Mbps, noticeably higher than any SD card compatible with the Steam Deck can give you.
- Connectivity – USB-C Port is Required – Steam Deck comes with a USB-C 3.2 10Gbps port, and we only considered SSDs that feature at least USB-C 3.2 10Gbps ports. No one wants to use adapters or carry additional cables, so drives that only include USB-A or micro-USB ports were excluded.
- Capacity – Currently, the maximum SD card capacity is capped at 1TB. On the other hand, external SSDs are capped at 8TB (SATA III), and 4TB (NVMe). This is why we only considered drives with max capacity of at least 2TB. If you are already getting an external SSD instead of an SD card, the least we can do is recommend drives with a higher capacity than what you can get with an SD card.
- Price – We didn’t want to go overboard with the price and decided that our best Steam Deck external SSD should be a mainstream option that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. The Steam Deck is highly affordable — at least compared to other handheld gaming PCs — and we didn’t want to recommend a drive that would cost you more than the actual device you’re getting it for. With that said, most of the drives featured below are available in 4TB capacity, so if you have the cash, go wild.
- Warranty – We only considered drives that come with at least a three-year warranty period.
Note that we included drives with DRAM cache as well as DRAMless drives since the primary function of an external SSD is storing games and not running an OS, where DRAM cache can have a massive positive impact.
Okay, now that we have explained our selection process, let’s list the winners.
The Best External Steam Deck SSD: Samsung T7
The Samsung T7 is the most popular external SSD on the market, and for all the good reasons. It’s highly compact, weighs as much as a pebble, features more than solid speeds, and is priced just right. When paired with Valve’s new toy, the T7 works wonderfully, and deserves the title of the best external SSD for the Steam Deck. The drive is encased in a shell made of metal and weighs 50 grams, light enough to forget about it after you slap it on the back of your Deck. Regarding dimensions, the T7 is 85mm (3.35-inch) long and only 8mm (0.3-inch) thick. Samsung advertises transfer speeds up to 1,000Mbps but in reality, you should expect a max write speed of about 850Mbps. The SSD comes in three sizes: 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB and uses a USB-C 3.2 Gen2 port for connection with other devices. Samsung offers a three-year warranty and the T7 is available for immediate order.
Regarding negatives, the T7 doesn’t feature DRAM cache but that doesn’t matter much if its only purpose is storing games. We also find a three-year warranty too little considering similar devices from other manufacturers, including our other picks, come with five-year warranties. The drive tops out at 2TB, which isn’t a negative per se but you should know that you can get the rest of our pick in 4TB capacity.
The Untapped Potential: WD Black P50 Game Drive Steam Deck SSD
On the second place in our list of best external SSD’s for the Steam Deck we have the WD Black P50. This model is the ultimate portable SSD at this point, but it comes at a price. Specs wise it beats the Samsung T7 in almost every speed metric, where it tops out at 2000MBps read and write speeds, doubles up to 4 TB of storage capacity, and matches the compact looks. The drive comes with a DRAM cache and a USB-C 3.2 Gen2x2 (20Gbps) connection port.The P50 weighs 115 grams, is 115mm (4.5-inch) long and 14mm (0.55-inch) thick. The SSD features a slick, industrial design casing that we personally like better than the T7’s chassis. The P50 is also shock resistant and highly portable. The drive is available in 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB capacities, comes with a five-year warranty, and is readily available for purchase.
Regarding downsides, although it is one of the best external SSD’s on the market, the P50 does cost a lot. This is a major negative, especially since other SSDs are cheaper than ever. Next, you won’t be able to achieve P50’s maximum read and write speed on your Steam Deck considering that the Steam Deck comes with a USB-C 3.2 Gen2 port, which maxes out at 1250MBps.
However, if you own a desktop or laptop PC with a USB-C 3.2 Gen2x2 port that supports speeds up to 20Gbps/2500MBps or a Thunderbolt 4 port (Thunderbolt 3 only supports USB 3.1 10Gbps protocol), the P50 could play the role of a versatile, multi-purpose portable SSD. You can reserve half the storage for games and use the other half for other types of data.
The Rugged Steam Deck SSD: SanDisk Extreme Portable V2
On our third place for the best Steam Deck external SSD we have an outlier. The SanDisk Extreme Portable V2 supports the same read and write speeds as the Samsung T7 with the added benefits of dust and splash resistance, drop protection, and a 4TB maximum capacity. Overall, this option should be perfect for adventurers who also like to game on their Decks.
Regarding performance, expect transfer speed of about 750MBps in real life usage scenarios. As for the dimensions and weight, the Extreme Portable V2 measures 101mm (~4-inch) in length, has a thickness of 9mm (0.35-inch), and weighs 63 grams. The drive uses a USB-C 3.2 Gen2 connection port and is encased in a rugged body made of silicone and plastic that can survive drops up to 2 meters (6.5ft). You’ve also got IP55 rating, which means dust and splash protection, and a 5-year warranty. Capacity-wise, the SanDisk Extreme Portable V2 is available in 512GB, 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB sizes. You can order one right away.
While it’s, in theory, perfect out and about gaming sessions,, the SanDisk Extreme Portable V2 can get pretty hot under constant loads. This downside makes it less than an ideal Steam Deck companion if you plan to strap the SSD to the back of the handheld PC. However, if you’re looking for a high-capacity external SSD for your Deck to use with the Steam Deck Dock or a USB hub, the SanDisk Extreme is the right pick.
SanDisk Extreme Portable V2 doesn’t feature a DRAM cache but again, this isn’t a major downside for an SSD that would be primarily used for storage.
The DIY Steam Deck 8 TB External Beast: Corsair MP400 8TB M.2 NVMe
If you’re looking for the best 8TB external SSD that works with your Steam Deck, the bad news is that there isn’t a portable model on the market that supports NVMe transfer speeds and has 8TB of storage space. The current 8TB offerings are limited to SATA-III speeds – around 550MBps.
The good news is that you can create one with the help of the ROG Strix Arion, an M.2 NVMe SSD enclosure from ASUS. Couple the ROG Strix Arion with the Corsair MP400 8TB NVMe SSD, and you’ve got yourself the most spacious and fastest external SSD money can buy.
Note that this combo is super expensive and limited to 10Gbps/1250Mbps transfer speed — the MP400 natively supports up to 3480MBps read and up to 3000MBps write speed – but at least you’ll be able to fit more than one hundred games on that bad boy.
The ROG Strix Arion offers great thermals and a slick design with lots of RGB. You can strap it to the back of your Deck without worrying about it getting too hot. If you’re concerned about the potential RGB-induced battery drain, you can disable RGB effects in the ASUS AURA Sync software on your PC.
We have a detailed guide in which we explain how to combine the ROG Strix Arion with the Corsair MP400 8TB. Check it out if you want to learn how to create this DIY behemoth.
You Got the Extra Space, What Now?
Now that you’ve gotten a ton of extra space on your external Steam Deck SSD you can check out our list of the best games for Steam Deck and install all the titles featured there. And then you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you won’t have to delete a single game from your console ever again.
Does the Steam Deck Natively Support External SSD’s?
The short answer is yes. External storage is fully supported by the Steam Deck and Steam OS, and that includes SD cards, external SSD’s and HDD’s, as well as USB flash drives. The longer answer is that there’s currently no native support for external drives in the Game Mode, the default mode you enter when you boot up the console. To make it work, you would need to format the external Steam Deck SSD in NTFS, either on your PC or directly on your console, and then boot up to Desktop Mode for your Steam Deck to recognize the drive. If you’re new to adding external drives to your Steam Deck, do check out our guide on how to add an external SSD to your Steam Deck.
Will the External SSD Affect My Steam Deck Battery Life?
Yes, it will. Note that the Deck’s battery is one of the weakest points of the device, even without an external SSD hooked to it. And since an SSD can use up to 10W of power under strenuous loads, equal to two-thirds of the Deck’s max TDP, battery drain can be an issue. The best option would be to get a Steam Deck Dock, and use the external SSD when in dock mode.
Can I Upgrade My Internal SSD Storage?
Yes, you can. If you decide to embark on this adventure, know that Steam Deck only supports the M.2 2230 form factor, the shortest one. Check out this article on the best internal SSDs for the steam deck to find the right drive for your needs and budget.