Steven Bergeron Meza's FrameDeck Is a Valve Steam Deck-Inspired Handheld for On-the-Go PC Gaming

Designed to make use of discarded Framework Mainboards, the FrameDeck offers battery-powered portable gaming with a PC twist.

Gareth Halfacree
4 months agoHW101 / Games / 3D Printing

Maker Steven Bergeron Meza has designed a do-it-yourself alternative to Valve's popular Steam Deck handheld PC and games console gadget, powered by a Framework Mainboard single-board computer: the FrameDeck.

"It has hot-swappable mechanical switches for face buttons, [a] 1200p touch screen, and is powered by the Framework 13 Mainboard," Meza explains of his creation. "It has two external TB3 [Thunderbolt 3] ports and the stock battery. The goal is for people to use their old Mainboards & battery and make a handheld from parts they can easily order online (PCBs and 3D printed pieces included) and assemble with basic tools."

If you've upgraded a Framework Laptop and have a Mainboard spare, the FrameDeck offers it a new lease on life. (📹: Steven Bergeron Meza)

The Framework Mainboard family of single-board computers didn't specifically start off that way: they were designed by the company as the driving force inside its eponymous Framework modular laptops, offering an easy way to upgrade its internals without having to discard the entire device. Shortly after launching the laptops, Framework made what became known as the Mainboard SBCs available to purchase separately — while those who had upgraded their first-generation Framework laptops sought to make use of the Mainboards they'd removed in the process.

"The mainboard gets sufficiently cooled," Meza claims of his handheld Mainboard-powered Steam Deck-inspired design, "as long as you don’t block the air flow intake/vent. I've never had the Mainboard on its own become hot though, even while running games the board is just well cooled and the battery is sufficiently isolated from the mainboard that heat doesn’t transfer through. The only heat 'problem' is the screens controller board I’m using [at the moment]. It gets far warmer than the Framework Fainboard. It uses the screen as a heat sink but it’s not ideal."

The device is a self-contained portable gaming gadget, though it includes Thunderbolt connectivity for external add-ons. (📹: Steven Bergeron Meza)

Primarily designed with gaming in mind, the FrameDeck in includes dual analog stick inputs, analog triggers, and hot-swappable Cherry MX-compatible mechanical switches for the face buttons — driven using a Pro Micro board. Everything is housed in a 3D-printed case, with a swish upgrade in the queue for the future: "I plan on having a transparent 3D-printed resin chassis made for the final revision," Meza explains, "for that sweet sweet transparent tech look."

More information on the project is available on the Framework forum; design files and source code have been published to GitHub under the reciprocal GNU General Public License 3.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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