Portable PC gamers who have been anticipating a new Steam Deck with improved hardware got a glimmer of hope recently thanks to the regulatory approval of an upcoming “Model 1030” edition of the hardware. But all indications suggest this new model will not be a more powerful “Steam Deck 2.0” that offers better pixel-pushing processors to support the latest high-end games.
Last month, Valve sleuth Brad Lynch noticed a South Korean certification under the Valve Corporation for a “specific low-power wireless device” in a new piece of hardware identified only by a model number: 1030. With no additional details, speculation about what might be coming ran the gamut from a new standalone VR headset to a revamp of the defunct Steam Controller.
This week, though, Lynch dug up the FCC approval details (dated August 13) for that same revision, which notes explicitly that it is for “Valve Steam Deck/ Model: 1030.” The registration was made somewhat stealthily through Valve partner Quectel, which will apparently now be supplying wireless antennas for the Steam Deck hardware.
While the regulatory approvals are light on details, the FCC registration refers to a Quectel FC66E chip, featuring support for the updated Wi-Fi 6E standard (i.e., 802.11ax). That would offer an upgrade over the current Realtek chip in Steam Deck hardware, which only support Wi-Fi 5 (i.e., 802.11ac) and would allow the Steam Deck to take advantage of additional bandwidth through the 6 Ghz spectrum (for those with a compatible wireless access point).
Let the speculation commence
Any additional changes in the Steam Deck’s model 1030 update would be unlikely to show up in an FCC regulatory document since the changes would probably have no impact on the wireless interference that the FCC regulates. Theoretically, that means the new model could include any upgrade you might want to imagine, from a more powerful processor to a completely redesigned outer shell.
Before you let your imagination run wild, though, remember that Valve has already set expectations for what we should expect from the next Steam Deck. Last December, for instance, Valve hardware designers Lawrence Yang and Pierre-Loup Griffais said they would be focused on improving battery life and screen quality rather than improving processing power in any potential Steam Deck upgrade.
More recently, Griffais told the Verge that he wants the Steam Deck to provide a “fixed performance target for developers” and that “changing the performance level is not something we are taking lightly, and we only want to do so when there is a significant enough increase to be had… I don’t anticipate such a leap to be possible in the next couple of years.” Taking him at his word would mean not expecting a Steam Deck with a more powerful processor until 2025 at the earliest.
Even without a beefier processor, though, there’s still plenty of room for the “Model 1030” Steam Deck to improve other parts of the portable experience. Maybe this will be a slightly pricier model with a truly top-notch portable display, like the Switch OLED. Maybe it will just pack the same general hardware power into a smaller shell, like the Game Boy Advance SP or Nintendo DS Lite. Maybe it will sport a larger or more efficient battery to get more than a couple of hours of play out of the most demanding games.
Or maybe this update really includes nothing more than a new wireless antenna from a new supplier, and we’re speculating over nothing.
Regardless, any Steam Deck revision in the foreseeable future won’t help the hardware with its struggles to run modern top-end games like Starfield or The Last of Us Part 2 with reasonable performance. For now, Valve seems more than willing to leave that kind of hardware power to (more expensive) competitors like the ROG Ally or the upcoming Lenovo Legion Go.