New Steam Deck competitor lets you easily swap in more RAM and storage

Enlarge / A sliding screen is just one of the novel features of Adata’s Steam Deck clone.

For PC gamers accustomed to the modular design of a desktop platform, there are pros and cons to the Steam Deck’s pre-built all-in-one design (and its many subsequent imitators in the growing portable gaming PC market). For one thing, you don’t have to worry about pricing individual parts and making sure they all work together. On the other hand, the only way to upgrade one of these devices is to essentially throw out the old unit and replace it entirely, console style.

Adata, the Korean computer storage manufacturer, seeks to combine these two extremes. Lilliputing reports on Adata’s XPG Nia prototype, which was shown at the Computex show. The unit is the first gaming handheld yet to adopt the CAMM (Compression Attached Memory Module) standard that allows for easily replaceable and upgradeable memory modules, as well as a host of other mod-friendly features.

CAMM on down

Samsung shared this rendering of CAMM ahead of the release of the CAMM2 standard in September.
Enlarge / Samsung shared this rendering of CAMM ahead of the release of the CAMM2 standard in September.

If you’ve read our previous coverage of the emerging CAMM standard, you’ll know how excited we are about ultra-thin modules that can simply be screwed into a laptop or portable motherboard. This offers a viable replacement for the now-standard soldered LPDDR RAM, which saves space but is incredibly difficult to repair or replace.

The CAMM standard offers the same easy-swap design as the older SO-DIMM RAM standard, but has a smaller footprint, thermal design, and power usage specifically designed for portable devices. Reports suggest that the XPG Nia will use the low-power LPCAMM2 version of these RAM modules, which will be easily accessible by lifting the bracket on the back of the XPG Nia. Along with a standard M.2 2230 slot to add more storage, that should make the new handheld much easier to upgrade than the Steam Deck, which requires some serious hacking to get past the standard specs.

A Dell rendering showing the size differences between SODIMM and CAMM.
Enlarge / A Dell rendering showing the size differences between SODIMM and CAMM.

Dell

The only real drawback to CAMM2 memory modules, at the moment, is the price; A recent CAMM2 deal from Crucial costs $175 for 32GB or $330 for 64GB. That’s significantly more than similar, bulkier SO-DIMM modules, but those prices should come down as more device and RAM manufacturers begin to support the standard.

A “circular computing device”?

So far, the XRG Nia’s modular design does not appear to extend to the AMD Phoenix APU or the planned Ryzen Z1 Extreme processor. That said, users will be able to remove the entire motherboard from the portable case, which can then be inserted into a smaller, display-less case for a possible second life as an Arudino/Raspberry Pi-type mini-PC.

Adata says it also plans to release the system’s 3D design files and pinout details, allowing modders and third-party manufacturers to design their own cases and accessories. It’s all part of what Adata calls a “circular computing design” that’s part of its “sustainable future” initiative.

GGF Events talks to the creators of the Adata XPG Nia prototype at Computex.

There are a few other features that set the XRG Nia apart from the waves of Steam Deck clones. In addition to the rear kickstand, the entire display casing slides up on a sort of pivot, providing a shallower viewing angle that requires less neck tilt when holding the device in front of your chest. Adata also promises a front-facing camera that can be used for streaming and eye tracking, which could theoretically power some fancy foveated rendering tricks for additional graphics power.

It is too early to know how all these features will develop in the transition from prototype to final device; Reports suggest that the company is aiming for a launch sometime in 2025. Still, it’s nice to see a company trying some new things in the increasingly crowded space of portable PC gaming devices that Valve has unleashed. If Adata can deliver the laptop as a real consumer product with its 1.5-pound, $600 target, it could be something to consider.

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