It’s hard to get your hands on an Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S, but if you can you’ll enjoy it quite a bit, as you can see in our review. While the Xbox Series X has a 1 TB NVMe SSD, the Xbox Series S has a 512 GB NVMe SSD, with 802 GB and 364 GB of usable space, respectively. To give you an idea of how fast that can disappear, check out this list:
- Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War – 190 GB
- NBA 2K21 – 122 GB
- Red Dead Redemption II – 89 GB
- Dirt 5 – 73 GB
- Cyberpunk 2077 – 70 GB
- Destiny 2: Beyond Light – 66 GB
- Gears 5 – 65 GB
- FIFA 21 – 50 GB
- Assassin’s Creed Valhalla – 50 GB
It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that you may be completely out of space after just two or three games. So what are your options? The Xbox Series X and S both support external USB 3.1-powered hard drives. That said, the fastest SSD is going to get you around 540 MB/s versus the 2.4 GB/s raw / 4.8 GB/s compressed speed you’ll get out of Microsoft’s internal proprietary SSD — a pretty heavy tax on cheaper or larger storage. Heading down into the spinning disk speeds, you’ll be in the land of larger and more affordable drives, but the best these can deliver is around 110 MB/s. Given that you can’t even install an Xbox Series X game on an external hard drive, you’ll need something faster — enter the 1 TB Seagate Drive Expansion card.
Microsoft’s internal architecture of the Xbox Series X is an absolute masterpiece of engineering. Realizing that they needed to enable proper expansion of their system, but wanting to retain the “Velocity Architecture” design meant building their expansion port with the same rigor as they applied to the internal memory and storage for the platform. This meant the same direct access to the same pipeline as the internal NVMe SSD, the same hardware-accelerated decompression engine, the Sampler Feedback Streaming (SFS) system that reduces load on the GPU, and the new DirectStorage API that enables multiple I/O queues and prioritization. All of that then had to be bundled up and funneled into a proprietary port that would allow consumers to use features like quick resume, as well as having the same experience across the board. Let’s unbox this thing, take a very intimate look at it, and see where it lands in terms of performance.
As you can see, there’s virtually no difference between the speed of the internal drive and this drive from Seagate — assuring developers that the game they’ve built looks exactly the same for everyone on the platform. Something they couldn’t say when you could run a game off of nearly any storage device you could jam into the Xbox One.
Getting into the specifics on the card, Seagate created something that is incredibly simple to use. Plugging in the drive, the Xbox Series X detects it immediately and it’s ready to use — no formatting needed. Being a 1TB drive, and without the operating system soaking up any of it, this leave 920 GB of usable space, expanding the system to a full 1.722 TB of usable space — more than enough to be able to install every game listed above and still have 950 GB of space to use on media, music, and more.
One of the best features of the expansion card is one that I think gets overlooked the most. Installing games to the card directly allows you to unplug the card and take it with you. Using your Xbox Live login to authenticate on another system, unlocking all of your games. This means you can head over to a friend’s house, plug in your expansion card, and play whatever you want, all without the need to even reinstall. When you are ready to head home, unplug the drive and off you go.
The video above showcases the loading speeds for the system, but it also reinforces the central point — this expansion drive from Seagate is more an extension of the platform itself. By marrying it directly to the Velocity Architecture, it becomes a seamless and integrated part of the system. It’s smart on Microsoft’s part, creating a “you must be this tall to ride this ride” for the platform.
The only real hitch for the 1 TB Seagate Drive Expansion is the cost. 1 TB of storage is going to set you back $229.99. That’s a full 75% of the cost of the Xbox Series S, and 46% of the cost of the Xbox Series X. Here’s the thing, though — it’s actually right in line with the cost of a 4th Gen NVMe. Seagate’s own FireCuda 520 delivers roughly the same speeds as you can see in our review, and the retail price is, you guessed it, $229.99.
When you look at what has held back console gaming for so long, it’s been storage. It forces developers to put redundant assets in their code to compensate for slow transfer speeds, it makes load times unbearably slow, taking players out of the immersion they are trying to build. The move to high speed solid state drives is a literal gamechanger, and steps like that are frankly expensive at the start. Could we see lower priced and higher capacity cards in the future? Almost certainly. In the meantime, jump in and enjoy not having to juggle games so often.
Seagate Storage Expansion Card
A true extension of the platform, the Seagate Drive Expansion card is an impossibly small, easy to use storage expansion for both Xbox Series X and Series S. With blazing fast NVMe speeds, plug and play, and the ability to take it on the go, this drive will let you install every launch game with plenty of space to spare. Sure, it’s pricey, but hardware this powerful often is. It’s also very much worth it to spend less time juggling and more time gaming.