Let's compare the DAY ZERO Steam Deck to the Q3 Deck.

Let's compare the DAY ZERO Steam Deck to the Q3 Deck.
Photo by Petar Vukobrat / Unsplash

About a week ago, the Steam Deck that I originally reserved finally arrived here at the Heavy Element Studio. Emily and I posted a story about getting it over on our second channel.

But as soon as our new Deck was in my hands I immediately started noticing little differences between our new Deck, and the one we've been playing for months.

Keep in mind: Valve sent me a Steam Deck just a few days before they shipped to everyone else. It's something I'm exceptionally grateful for. And because of that, I got a first-hand look at day-one hardware. It's had its ups and downs and I have been (rather obsessively, let's be real) comparing how these two devices stack up. Looking for every minute detail.

And yep. That's what this video's going to be: the tiny, barely perceptible differences in the hardware from Day One to Today.

And kudos to Valve. I mean, their attention to detail here is commendable. Making slight alterations, tiny adjustments that contribute to the overall experience.

And I think it's worth pointing out that Valve sent me a Steam Deck. For free. And they told me to keep it. And yet, when the time came, I decided to spend my hard-earned money to buy the Steam Deck that I originally reserved. That's about all you need to hear from me; that's my comprehensive review. I liked it so much I bought it even though I already had one.

Anyway, all that being the case, I thought it would be informative to take a look at the slight hardware differences between day one and Q3 hardware. So let's just jump into it.

The very first thing I noticed immediately after taking it out of its case is the Q3 Deck is slightly lighter than the day one Deck. And when I weigh the two units, the OG Steam Deck is 0.02 ounces heavier than the Q3.

We will discuss why the OG Deck is little heavier later on in this article. But before we get to that, though, we should talk about the other differences I've noticed.

And, actually, the very next thing I found was that my new Deck had a more distinct texture to the chassis. It's hard to capture on camera, but the difference is noticeable when held in the hand. It's grippier and provides a more solid hold on the unit. So it might go without saying that I much prefer my new Deck's texture.

I can hear detractors saying "the day one Deck has been worn out from too much use..."

No. No it isn't.

If my first Deck has worn down that much, that fast (keep in mind, I've had it less than six months)... so much so that the texture between my new and old is so distinct? Then there has to be something deeply wrong with Valve's manufacturing process.

Furthermore, I know it's not that the Deck is worn out because my first Deck has a uniform feel to it across the entire chassis. And the same is true for my Q3 Deck.

What's interesting, though? The trackpads have more texture as well. This is slightly less discernible than the chassis's rougher feel at first touch, but I can sense a small difference.

Another important improvement I've found is that the original Steam Deck's thumbsticks quickly (and grossly) accumulated... thumbprints? Dead skin cells? I'm not sure. And I'm not the only one who this has happened to. I've seen other people over on the Steam Deck subreddit that this has happened to.

And it also happened right away. Like... as soon as I started using it I was leaving prints behind. My Q3 Deck's thumbsticks are not collecting thumbprints nearly as badly as the OG Deck's sticks.

Next up, let's talk about the fact that my Q3 Steam Deck has a much better fan. I can play many of my favorite games without the fan even needing to turn on while playing. But on the old one, it always wants to be on. Keep in mind both devices have the same software running on it.

And speaking of the fans, my OG Steam Deck has a Delta fan. It's quite loud and--now that I have the Q3 Deck to compare it too--it does have a higher pitched sort of whine. I have seen lots of people complain about the delta fan's whine saying it's super loud, annoying, and whatever. I honestly didn't realize I had the noisier fan until I got my Q3 Deck. I guess my ears just aren't as sensitive to that sound.

Now, I'm not sure if this is luck of the draw or if Valve sourced a replacement for the delta fans. I don't know for sure. But different fans could also contribute to the difference in weight.

Since we're still on the topic of fans, let's talk about something else that's changed. And this could be that my OG Deck has seen a ton of usage. But the smell of the exhaust is quite different. Not bad in any way. Just different. My OG Steam Deck smells kinda like a Best Buy? And my Q3 Deck smells more like an furniture store. Keep in mind that I like both those smells and they're only noticeable when you stick your nose right up against the hot air exhaust while it's going full bore.

Another difference is that of the SSD. Both Decks are 512 Gig models, but the old model has a Phison PS5013 E13 and the new one has a Kingston OM3PDP3. I'm not 100% sure if the new Steam Deck has the quote-unquote "downgraded" SSD or not.

After thorough research, I can say that it is NOT. I ran this command to see the connection speed on the PCI bus and, yeah. Apparently my Q3 Deck has a Gen 3x4 NVMe. Cool.

sudo lspci -vv | grep -A 66 "Non-Volatile memory controller" | grep -E "(LnkCap:|LnkSta:)"

Finally, I think the biggest improvement has to be the STEAM and Quick Access buttons. On the original Steam Deck, these buttons are absolutely miserable. To the point where I called them the Deck's biggest hardware flaw. Much to the chagrin of many commenters who said the delta fan was the biggest flaw.

Anyway, my Q3 Steam Deck's STEAM and Quick Access buttons are an improvement over the day-one. They have an actual sense of tactility to them rather than having literally ZERO tactile feedback. I don't know if I can get this on camera, maybe through audio? Let's see.

Though they could still use a substantial upgrade, what we have here are better than what shipped back on launch day.

If you want to see a visual comparison, you can check out the video I made on this topic: