When it comes to a new generation of consoles one naturally looks toward improved visual fidelity, better graphics, and more impressive sound, and that’s certainly true of the Xbox Series X. As per our in-depth review, getting to experience high-end 4K visuals running at an impressive 60fps is the sort of generational leap you can immediately feel - even on titles already available on Xbox like Gears 5, Forza Horizon 4, and Sea of Thieves. Smooth doesn’t even begin to describe the jump from 30fps to 60fps, and Microsoft’s focus on in-game performance alongside fancy visual updates is commendable.
But, there’s one area where the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S present a generational leap forward of massive proportional proportions -- akin to jumping forward a decade. Or, going from Hill Valley 1985 to Hill Valley 2015 in a DeLorean. And that feeling comes purely from the new internal storage, an ultra-fast SSD solution for the Series X and S to rival even the most powerful PC builds out there.
Going from the old-timey hard-drives found in the Xbox One line-up not only drastically reduces load-times, but you get a faster and more responsive interface to boot. Throw in technology like Smart Delivery and Xbox Velocity architecture, and storage is as central to the next-gen Xbox story as the new AMD Zen-based CPU and RDNA 2 GPU.
The catch? Well, you only get 1TB of storage. The answer? Available day one thanks to Microsoft and Seagate.
Plug-and-Play Your Dreams
General consumers that snap up any next-gen console will no doubt be puzzled by the lack of storage capacity increase - the expectation probably being jumping from the 1TB in the Xbox One X to something like 2 or 3TB in the Xbox Series X. As next-gen install sizes for games increase (even with excellent features like Smart Delivery), as soon as you fire up the Series X or Series S there’s an invisible countdown that begins. Counting down to the second the internal storage fills up and you need to juggle games to and from an external like some sort of juggling person.
Storage is as central to the next-gen Xbox story as the new AMD Zen-based CPU and RDNA 2 GPU.
Even though backwards compatible titles run fine off of a traditional external drive connected via USB - the need to expand that launch-day 1TB inside the Series X is very real. Thankfully, it's something Microsoft has been aware of from the get-go, with the solution baked into the Xbox Series X and S design back when they were still figuring out stuff like cooling. And in working with Seagate what we’ve got here, available on dayone, is perhaps the most user-friendly storage expansion solution in console history.
The Seagate Storage Expansion Card for Xbox Series X|S isn’t cheap by any measure, at $359 AUD it’s well on its way towards “brand-new console” pricing, but the technology it presents is definitely cutting edge.
Using the same SSD technology found inside the new Xboxes you get a PlayStation 1-style Memory Card that clicks and slots into place on the backside of the console, effectively doubling the storage capacity in less time than it takes to open the box and walk over to your TV cabinet to do so. The plug-and-play dream is always something in the minds of companies developing technology for a broad consumer base - and the Seagate Storage Expansion Card fits that description and then some. The Series X itself immediately recognises the storage, with no additional input, or anything really, required.
In terms of functionality buying additional storage for a new console has up until now been just that - external or additional storage measured in TBs or GBs. Where the Seagate Storage Expansion Card differs is that it acts in much the same way as the internal drive, leveraging the same Velocity Architecture (that is using CPU/GPU bandwidth and other stuff to minimise loading and in-game data streaming) and like-for-like read/write speeds.
Form Factor: External Storage Card
Type: Custom NVMe SSD
Max Sustained Transfer Rate: 4.8GB/s uncompressed
Weight: 0.03 kg
So in practice this means the same load times found when installing games on the internal drive -- getting into titles like Gears 5 or Sea of Thieves in a matter of seconds and not minutes. In testing the Seagate Storage Expansion Card we played through sections across a number of Optimised first-party titles and alongside identical load-times found no streaming issues when playing at 4K 60fps. The result? Again, one of the most user friendly and easy to manage storage releases for a console, well, ever. Also great (not that many will do this for a while) is the ability to swap out Expansion Cards (the Seagate comes with a handy protective cover) so you could theoretically run multiple drives covering countless next-gen titles.
The Seagate Storage Expansion Card acts in much the same way as the internal drive, leveraging the same Velocity Architecture (that is using CPU/GPU bandwidth and other stuff to minimise loading and in-game data streaming) and like-for-like read/write speeds.
From its small form factor to ease of installation to true next-gen storage speeds that result in fast loading on par with the internal drives found inside the Xbox Series X and S, there’s no reason why Seagate Storage Expansion Card shouldn’t be on the top of the purchase list alongside a brand-new Xbox this holiday season and throughout next year.
Okay there’s one -- it’s expensive. Hopefully as the industry shifts towards SSD over traditional drives thanks to the Xbox Series X and PS5, costs will come down as the generation progresses. And we can get a 2TB or 4TB version.
What we liked
Simply plug-and-play setup
Same ultra-fast SSD speeds as the internal drive
Makes full use of Xbox Velocity Architecture to feel like a true expansion