The Steam Deck will be arriving in early adopters’ hands this December, and undoubtedly one of the first things many new owners will do is crack it open to see what makes it tick.
Valve’s advice? Don’t.
In a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ move, Valve has published a teardown video of the Steam Deck showing users how to replace components while advising people that they don’t try this at home.
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“In one way, this is a how-to video, but in another way, it's a why you really shouldn't do this video,” a voiceover explains at the beginning of the five-minute video.
This isn’t because Valve doesn’t believe you have the right to open up the hardware — in fact, the video makes it quite clear that it’s yours to do what you want with. The reasoning is that the hardware packs a lot into a small space, and the tiniest mistake can lead to serious issues.
“The parts are chosen carefully for this product with its specific construction so they aren't really designed to be user-swappable,” the video continues. “Opening up and replacing parts might mess things up… like profoundly.”
How profoundly? Well, alongside the risk of starting a fire by damaging the battery, Valve suggests that you could simply break the Steam Deck in a number of more mundane ways.
Opening it up risks weakening the structural integrity which could make it more susceptible to drops, and putting in your own pick of SSD could mess with the device’s power consumption or affect Wi-Fi performance. In other words, there’s a lot of things that can go wrong, even for seasoned PC builders.
While this likely won’t put off pro tinkerers, it doesn’t sound like Valve particularly wants to. For curious amateurs who just want to see inside the Steam Deck, maybe this will be enough, and there will be a few less dead handhelds in the world.
But behind the tongue-in-cheek tone of the video are two quite interesting things. The first is that it’s pretty clear the impact that sites like iFixIt’s teardown videos are having. That a company of Valve’s size feels the need to show how its hardware is constructed with instructions of how to take it apart is a major sea change in the way hardware makers interact with their buyers.
The second is that Valve explicitly makes the point that it’s your hardware to do what you want with. That may sound like it’s simply stating a matter of fact, but ownership has been something other vendors have been keen to dispute in the ongoing fight against proposed right-to-repair laws.
Both of these points could be batted away with Valve just being Valve — after all, it’s not your average hardware maker. On the other hand, this kind of openness might just encourage others to do similar, and that would be a significant change of attitude.