My favorite new Steam Deck mod is JSAUX’s $30 clear heatsink backplate

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I thought I bought the JSAUX transparent backplate for the Steam Deck for bragging rights. Transparent gadgets are fun! But you know what’s cooler than looking in your Steam Deck? Have a deck that runs also cooler.

I’m happy to report that after spending $30 on my own JSAUX PC0106 transparent backplate for Steam Deck, my original skepticism fell through. Not only does it look great, the built-in aluminum heat sink actually yes help manage the heat of the $400 handheld gaming PC. And with just eight Phillips head screws and a little prying to pop off your original backplate, it’s an easy mod to do.

Comparing an original steam deck with one with the JSAUX backplate.

Comparing an original steam deck with one with the JSAUX backplate.

Originally I thought that a sheet of aluminum just sitting on top of the Deck’s electromagnetic interference shield wouldn’t make any real difference in degrees Celsius. And yet it does. I consistently saw the Deck’s CPU and GPU cores run one, two, three, sometimes even four degrees Celsius cooler Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

With the JSAUX backplate, I saw peaks of around 81°C in this room with the fan running at 5300 RPM.  Without this the deck reached 84°C at 5900 RPM.

With the JSAUX backplate I saw highlights of around 81°C with the fan at 5300 RPM in this room. Without this, the deck hit 84°C at 5900 rpm.

That’s not even the best part. Since installing the JSAUX backplate I’ve been treated to quieter gaming sessions – as the new passive cooling means the Steam Deck’s noisy fan doesn’t have to spin as much!

I’ve seen it slow down 500 RPM, 600 RPM, even 900 RPM when I push the deck to its limits. An example: I saw the fan reach a top speed of 5674 RPM with the aluminum heatsink while downloading a 35 GB game to the internal SSD – without it, it reached a top speed of 6475 RPM.

It’s a bigger difference than you might think in terms of noise level, as the Deck’s miniature cooling fan is much more noticeable at max speed.

As you can see, the thermal interface rests on top of the Steam Deck's EMI shield, not on the Deck's own heatsink - but it still works.

As you can see, the thermal interface rests on top of the Steam Deck’s EMI shield, not on the Deck’s own heatsink – but it still works.

Even in lighter dishes such as Paths in the air, which consumes only 6W of total system power, the cooler can make a difference. While it doesn’t stop the fan from spinning, I was able to game for longer before it even started spinning. I’ve seen that in more intense games too.

Just don’t expect a difference in frame rate: in the reliable ones Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark, I only saw a 1 fps improvement and sometimes got the exact same score. And don’t expect it to fix the Delta fan whine if your deck has one – it’s nice that it doesn’t spin as often or as fast, but I could still hear the whine after playing for a while.

It's hot, but touching it didn't startle me.

It’s hot, but touching it didn’t startle me.

The backplate does get hot while gaming, but I don’t mind. I measured over 126°F (52°C) after running benchmarks for 20 minutes, but it wasn’t enough to burn my finger and I had to stretch to even get to it. Meanwhile, the handles of the Steam Deck stay nice and cool.

So, what is there to complain about? Let’s start with the accessories that JSAUX includes. You get a cheap screwdriver, a crappy pry tool that didn’t work, and three whole sets of back buttons in the box – that way you can replace Valve’s shallow paddles with bigger, springier ones if you want. But while they give you the option of a shorter or longer cast, I quickly abandoned them when I found they slightly reduced my grip on the deck and also dug into my little finger.

You can mix and match the alternate back buttons, which can give you a hair trigger (top) or a very long throw (bottom), but neither leaves much room for a little finger underneath.

You can mix and match the alternate back buttons, which can give you a hair trigger (top) or a very long throw (bottom), but neither leaves much room for a little finger underneath.

The third set of back buttons looks exactly like Valve's.

The third set of back buttons looks exactly like Valve’s.

The third set of back buttons should be identical to Valve’s, and I love using them on my personal Steam Deck now – but on The edge‘s Steam Deck review unit, they don’t quite sit right and cause one of the back buttons to be constantly pressed.

I think it’s because the JSAUX backplate doesn’t fit as perfectly as the original. While it feels great for the most part, with an almost identical texture to Valve’s black plastic, screw holes that all line up and clips that click neatly into place, a few things don’t seem right. Like how my SD card now brushes the edge of the case when I insert it or the sharp plastic spikes near the triggers that are smoother on Valve’s model.

Mainly JSAUX thermal interface is one small too thick, which caused a slight bulge, and I had to screw Valve’s self-tapping case screws tighter than I’d like to counter that – which seems to have a side effect of pressing too much on the back buttons.

The bulge, which goes away when you screw the case tight.  However, Valve warns against over-tightening those screws, as there is a risk of damaging the threads.

The bulge, which goes away when you screw the case tight. However, Valve warns against over-tightening those screws, as there is a risk of damaging the threads.

Listen, you don’t need one. The Steam Deck works fine without it. But I’m very happy with my purchase: I now have a handheld that runs cooler and looks great, and it only cost me $30 and 15 minutes of my time.

$30

The JSAUX transparent backplate lets you see part of your Steam Deck – and prevents your fan from working so hard to cool down the portable gaming PC.

There’s one reason you might want to wait, though: JSAUX is about to make a new version in the classic atomic purple (and green), giving it a bit of that classic Nintendo flavor. I’d take that over a Dbrand SwitchDeck skin any day.

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