Serious Steam Deck Software Flaw Gone Unsolved Since Launch (WiFi issues)


Sep 7, 2014
So I've uncovered what appears to be an extremely significant issue with the Steam Deck. It's affecting a huge amount of the people who own it and as far as I know, there's no acknowledgment from Valve about their timeline on fixing the issue or on the gravity of the issue itself. A little research on Reddit reveals that there consistent threads posted by users who share this issue since the Steam Deck launched. Such a serious issue going unsolved for months indicates to me that Valve still has no idea how to solve the issue and that they might not be able to fix it.

Essentially Valve decided to use a cheap 2x2 Realtek WiFi chip in their device (likely due to prior chip shortage) and due to the poor Linux drivers, the Wifi capabilities of the Steam Deck are currently *dreadful*. This particularly affects people running 5GHz and/or Mesh networks. My WiFi connection consistently drops making it very difficult to play online or LAN. Even if I attempt to use a different, 2.4GHZ Router which isn't mesh, the results are about the same. I was able to overlook this temporarily because I used the NAS on my LAN to transfer my games over and my first impressions focused on the singleplayer and offline performance. Now that I've had a chance to test its online capabilities - I'm shocked to see how bad things are right now. A work-around has been shared by Valve which involves turning off the power-saving features on the WiFi in developer mode, but this only works for *some* people. Here are a list of ways this breaks the Steam Deck...

1) Initial setup process will not complete (setup freezes and loops). I've had to connect to a slower, secondary network in my house simply to complete the setup process. Brief research on Reddit shows me many threads where people were unable to complete the Steam Deck setup process on their home network and had to find another network altogether.

2) Multiplayer/LAN games consistently drop (at least once every 20 minutes).

3) Constant disconnections hampers the ability to download games unsupervised (consistently have to resume downloads that are being paused).

Funny enough, the Reddit forum is so anti-consumer that if anyone begins to question the Steam Deck's wifi capabilities, people start attacking people's "old routers", which is funny because the issue is that the Steam Deck works better on older 2.4GHz networks. As an IT technician who spent a couple years doing internet-related service calls, I can confirm this isn't the usual case of an aging router not playing well with a new device. Dual-booting into Windows appears to completely solve the issue (for me and others), which indicates this must be a driver issue in the SteamOS.

If anyone has a Steam Deck and has experience running into this issue or solving this issue, please share your story. Otherwise the purpose of this thread is to raise awareness about a serious Steam Deck issue which could very well be a "gamebreaker" for the device.
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Any way to load up a console and figure out what realtek module is being loaded, the device ID, and whether all required firmwares are installed?

I would hope Valve included all the needed firmware from the factory, but you never know.

Will need to run lspci, check the logs for errors related to rt* modules, and check the linux firmware directory (/lib/firmware, iirc).
Mine should be coming tomorrow, I actually have a ton of tools at work to test this, as we do extensive testing of wireless networks, devices, aps, etc as one of our services. Could always toss it in a faraday cage and try it out with a bunch of different radios to see if there's like, a specific example to isolate, heck, could even do some Ixia traffic to it to test.

Kinda curious now. It is just a linux box, we should be able to throw whatever dev tools we want on it.
Thank you for bringing this up and illustrating how serious it is. You inspired me to dig a little deeper and I was able to find a solution, at least for what was going wrong with mine. Hopefully this helps and if not, good luck in the fight.

Really interested to see what Balkroth is able to come up with.
I haven't had any problems with a 5GHz wifi mesh by Ubiquiti. Although I will say that download speeds are pretty bad. I can usually get either 40 megs a second, or 80, depending on my device, but with the Deck, I haven't seen more than 11. Just shy of 12 at best.
Is the module removable?

EDIT: ooh man it looks soldered! Damn! I'm curious to see if Intel wifi has the same physical package then you could at least put it on a BGA machine to attempt a swap for a decent card.
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I haven't had a problem with the onboard wifi but I've only had it since Sunday. It downloads things at about 70 MB/s when in line of sight of a wifi 6 AP and in the 60's everywhere else in our house except in the laundry room (hordes of plumbing and wires plus the 2 200a meters and 4 breaker boxes on the exterior of it) where it gets 12-13MB/s on 2.4ghz. Nothing gets good wifi in there and I don't care at all. Hopefully by the time the warranty expires there will be a writeup on what kind of intel wnic to buy and pay to be bga'd to the board in place of the realtek shovelware.