Xbox Series X Requires Proprietary Cards To Expand Its Storage

You'll still be able to store games on an HDD, but you won't be able to play them.

With both the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 using proprietary SSD solutions for internal storage, there has been some question as to how players can expand the available space. For the Xbox Series X at least, Microsoft has a solution, and it's working with hard-drive manufacturer Seagate to do it.

The Xbox Series X ships with a 1TB internal SSD, but can be expanded using proprietary SSDs encased in small metal cartridges. Microsoft explained to Digital Foundry how these small SSDs will work as part of their new "Velocity Architecture"--a new way for developers to utilize SSD memory as standard RAM to store game assets on the fly, and access them with minimal speed compromises.

Microsoft is working with Seagate on its external SSD expansion cards
Microsoft is working with Seagate on its external SSD expansion cards

Microsoft was displeased by the speed compromises of most SSDs when heating up, and worked with Seagate to produce a form factor that provided thermal dissipation while also ensuring a steady 2.4GB/s throughput that developers can depend on. This works in tandem with custom hardware within the console that allows developers to use the SSD to access game files instantly at any point during rendering.

An additional silicon block also offloads decompression of assets from the CPU, allowing more to be put towards other facets of a game. This works with an update to DirectX, called DirectStorage, which further reduces the CPU overhead of I/O protocols.

What this means is that SSDs you can purchase today aren't going to make the cut, given how closely the storage is tied to the hardware of the Xbox Series X. The only way to expand the internal storage of the Xbox Series X is through these proprietary cards, but the Series X will still support standard HDDs--specifically the one you might be using for your Xbox One currently. According to Digital Foundry's John Linneman on ResetEra, this can be used to store Series X games that will need to be transferred to the SSD in order to be played; additionally, you can play Xbox One and older titles from a standard external drive.

With the Xbox Series X only featuring a 1TB internal SSD and game sizes continually growing, it's hardly a question that expandable storage will be desirable. Microsoft has yet to price these SSDs and provide more details regarding potentially different sizes. The company did, however, detail all the specs for the Xbox Series X, including a first look at the new controller, enhancements to Gears 5, and demos for Quick Resume. Rumors of a Thanksgiving release date circulated briefly after an Xbox product page mistakenly listed the date, but Xbox officials quickly rejected the claim.

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