xbox Series X – I Finally Installed Xbox Series X’s Not-So-Secret Weapon
No, I’m not talking about Developer Mode and a bunch of retro emulators, though that would be an excellent topic for another article. Maybe ‘I Finally Installed Xbox Series X’s OTHER Not-So-Secret Weapon’. My headline creativity is boundless.
You know, I used to quote the late Ron Ponpeil’s infamous late night cooking infomercials all the time, saying ‘Set it and forget it!’ to reference the ease of just about any general task. Hilarious, I know, but the corny tagline is endlessly useful (and annoying).
That being said, I honestly can’t think of a better slogan for Seagate’s plug-and-play Xbox Storage Expansion Card, which I’ve finally gotten the chance to test.
For those who’ve been living under an Xbox-sized rock, Seagate’s proprietary NVMe memory card, which was released in late 2020 alongside the directly compatible Series X|S hardware, serves to extend the internal storage mileage of both Microsoft’s current-gen consoles. Note that I specifically used the word ‘internal’; the tiny card was designed to integrate directly with Xbox’s Velocity Architecture to provide all the performance benefits of internal SSD speed.
Basically, this is rather different from plugging an external HDD or even SSD into your Xbox. USB 3.1-based storage is great for simply storing any Xbox software, and is ideal for not having to re-download large game files. You can simply hold those previously downloaded titles on an external drive until you’re ready to either play them directly (in the case of Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Original Xbox games) or transfer X|S-optimized titles to internal storage for compatible play.
The downside to external USB storage, even newer SSDs, is that you can’t use it to play X|S-enhanced games. The USB connection just won’t cut it. X|S optimized titles are, at least for actual booting and playing, relegated to internal storage only. Or as luck would have it, Seagate’s handy Storage Expansion Card, which according to the product box copy, has “seamless integration with the Xbox Velocity Architecture in Xbox Series X|S to achieve peak performance”.
Speaking of the product box, once you open it, there’s literally one thing inside: the almost laughably small storage card. If you haven’t seen one in person, let me tell you, it’s downright micro. More miniscule even than an old PS1 memory card, a strange observation that struck me as surreal, given the vastly disparate storage capacities of each device.
Separated by decades of technological advances, the PS1 card stored a paltry and quaint 128 kilobytes in the 90s and early 2000s, while Seagate’s current card holds 1 terabyte of data, which is equal to a whopping 1,000,000,000 kilobytes, at least according to a quick Google search. This is at perhaps (roughly) half the physical size of Sony’s retro card. Wild, right?
Ridiculous cross-era comparisons aside, once I plugged in the Storage Expansion Card to the back of my Xbox Series X, I don’t even think I got a notification that it was ready to rock. Or if I did, it happened so fast that it must have occurred while I looked away to grab a delicious swig of Monster Energy. Within seconds, the small-but-mighty SSD-extension was primed for use.
Initially, I decided to transfer a bunch of large Xbox titles from my internal drive, basically to see what kind of speed I was dealing with. This included games with big file sizes, like Mortal Kombat 11 and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla to Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War and Outriders. After pre-selecting a good test-pool of games, I’d probably queued up just over 600 GB of data for moving, and then I pressed start. Much to my amazement, the entire giant transfer was done in under twenty minutes, maybe just at fifteen.
Beyond witnessing swift transfer speeds, I put the card through its paces with general X|S-enhanced gameplay. Overall, it performed like a dream, and was virtually indistinguishable from using the Series X’s factory-made internal storage. Plus, it freed up plenty of space on the aforementioned drive, which is always a nice bonus, even if I do have a bog-standard 8 TB external USB HDD attached for basic backup.
Yes, Seagate’s Storage Expansion Card is rather expensive ($220) for the somewhat measly amount of modern game space you actually get. I mean, 1 TB of SSD storage, while blazingly fast and helpful, only lasts so long on Xbox Series X or S, especially with a Game Pass Ultimate subscription.
As we all know, game files these days are downright gigantic and the Xbox library is practically screaming for a larger capacity card. 2 TB? 4 TB, anyone? Hell, I’d pay good money for a beastly 8 TB card if it meant that I could keep virtually unlimited enhanced titles at the ready and transfer them between internal storage and external storage at the (relative) blink of an eye. Okay, maybe a dozen or so slower blinks, but you get my point.
On the notion of ‘steep’ price, I recently wrote about PS5’s software update to include the installation of M.2 SSDs for beta users. The initial batch of compatible SSDs, some of which are also from Seagate, are coming in at comparable, if not exceeding, prices to that of Seagate’s sole proprietary Xbox option. Yeah, it’d be nice to get some competition in the Xbox space, and I’ve heard rumors that other SSD manufacturers are looking at possibly getting into storage expansion cards, but we’ll see.
As for now, this little memory card, especially when compared to PS5’s cumbersome SSD installation process, is Xbox’s not-so-secret storage advantage. Now, if only I could plug in two, or three, or…
Disclaimer: Seagate provided review product for coverage purposes.