For 4K gaming hack add AMD GPU to the Steam Deck

Add AMD GPU to the Steam Deck for 4k gaming using this hack

Steam Deck owners may use a clumsy workaround to connect an external GPU to their portable PC to boost its graphics capabilities, and that feat has now been accomplished with AMD’s current flagship graphics card, allowing the Deck to run games at 4K with high frame rates.

For 4K gaming, the AMD GPU is added to the Steam Deck hack
Image: ETA Prime / YouTube

First and foremost, as demonstrated by ETA Prime on YouTube, this solution entailed directly attaching an ASRock RX 6900 XT OC graphics card to the Steam Deck via the M.2 port.

We’ll return to the realities of that later – in the sense that it requires running the OS from the SD Card (which must be Windows, as SteamOS cannot be loaded on an external disc).

In any case, ETA Prime jury-rigged the 6900 XT to operate with the Steam Deck running Windows 11, then put it through its paces with a variety of games to see how well they ran. Despite the Steam Deck’s CPU clearly bottlenecking the flagship AMD GPU, the answer was rather smooth in several circumstances.

For example, The Witcher 3 clocked in at over 100 frames per second (fps) in 4K resolution with ultra settings, but GTA V clocked in at over 60 fps with the identical 4K hardware (the widely acknowledged level for smooth-feeling performance).

With the Deck’s CPU hampered, more demanding cutting-edge titles like Cyberpunk 2077, Elden Ring, and God of War couldn’t reach that level of performance at 4K, settling for around 40 frames per second (though Cyberpunk 2077 did get up over 60 fps at points, the frame rate was pretty variable and inconsistent overall).

Messy and unworkable, but entertaining – and a (kind of) glimpse into the future?

While this is an intriguing – and, let’s face it, entertaining – experiment, due to the slew of restrictions involved, it’s not something that anyone would want to conduct with their Steam Deck.

To actually put in the graphics card to the M.2 slot, you’ll need to remove the SSD from the Steam Deck – and so run the OS like Windows 11 on the SD card (using an M.2 to PCIe adapter). Oh, and don’t forget that the GPU need its own dedicated power source (a 750W Corsair PSU was drafted in on that score).

In summary, this is a very messed-up setup, and it’s more about experimenting with what the Steam Deck can do than it is about what’s realistic. It’s worth mentioning that, as PC Gamer points out, UFD Tech has done this before on YouTube using a less powerful RX 6600 XT GPU, and that ETA Prime tried Nvidia graphics cards but couldn’t get them to work in this messed-up setup.

Who knows, maybe the Steam Deck 2 will have a Thunderbolt port, and fans have already speculated about a future dock for the sequel handheld that would allow you to connect an external GPU, monitor, and peripherals to your desk, allowing you to use the Deck as your home PC (perhaps with a much beefier APU inside Valve’s portable next time).

That type of flexibility may be quite fantastic for individuals who are prepared to sacrifice and not have the fastest gaming PC on the market, but something that can get the job done while saving a tonne of money (the only outlay would be the graphics card, of course, and its enclosure).

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