The Xbox Series X provides a fantastic leap forward for console gaming unlike anything ever seen in history. That means more realistic eye-popping graphics, higher resolution, and seamless gameplay thanks to drastically reduced load times.
The core of what makes this possible is the storage system of the Series X.
For the first time – along with their rivals at Sony – a console will be making use of solid-state drives (SSD) for its internal storage.
That means, however, that expanding the Series X’s internal storage will be much different from what we’ve experienced before.
In this post, we’ll take a look at the SSD storage architecture of the Xbox Series X, but first we’ll look at how to increase Xbox Series X storage & the best Series X memory cards.
How to Expand Xbox Series X Storage
The Xbox Series X also enables users to expand the internal SSD storage, but not through a conventional external hard drive or even SSD. In an old-school move harking back to the days of PS1 and PS2, memory expansion cards are making a comeback. These are inserted into a dedicated expansion slot at the back of the console.
As of the moment, Microsoft will partner with Seagate to produce the official Xbox Series X expansion cards. The two companies worked closely together, so the card will work as good as the console’s internal SSD.
Currently, the size of the Seagate expansion card will be 1TB at launch. It sports a PCIe Gen4x2 NVMe SSD card. And as far as current SSDs go, NVMe is the fastest you can buy. It also uses roughly the same form factor and technology to closely match the internal SSD of the Series X, according to Seagate.
It’s available here:
A lot of dedicated gamers might find 1TB to be a bit small, considering the potential game sizes of next-gen titles. It also doesn’t help that the Series X only has one expansion slot available. However, larger capacities will likely be introduced by either Seagate or other third-party companies at a later date.
If that’s a bit expensive, there are other options below.
Best Xbox Series X External Hard Drives
With the reliance of the Series X on SSD expansion cards, does this mean you can’t use an external hard drive anymore?
Fortunately, the answer is that you still CAN use your existing external HDDs and SSDs from your Xbox One. Series X calls them “external storage” to differentiate them from the SSD expansion cards, called “extended storage”. You can plug them via the console’s USB 3.2 ports.
Unfortunately you can’t play Xbox Series X games directly from the drive like you used to do with the Xbox One. That’s because these drives can’t handle the fast data transfer speeds that the console needs to load these games. PS5 external hard drives work in exactly the same way.
You can, however, play Xbox One and older titles directly from the hard drive. So, the good news is that you can still play your old library from that trusty hard drive.
Essentially, external hard drives will be relegated purely for storage purposes, which isn’t all bad. As your Series X library grows in the future, you’ll eventually need to shelve games to make way for new ones. Using your existing drive or buying a new one for this purpose will be way cheaper than investing in a Series X or Series S expansion card.
Bottom line, keep holding on to those external hard drives as they still have a place beside your Xbox Series X.
If you’re looking for an external HDD or SSD to beef up your storage, or you simply want a Seagate Storage Expansion Card alternative, check out our recommendations below.
Despite being designed for the previous version of the console, this is still a great option for storing the games you want to keep downloaded but don’t want to play right now.
After all, if you want to save a bit of storage on your Series X by removing a game you don’t want to play for the time being, you don’t want to wait hours on end to re-download it when you want to play that deleted game in future.
In these situations, it’s best to have an external hard drive compatible with the Xbox Series X.
Whilst most will be compatible and will do a similar job, this one is Xbox branded which immediately gives it a bigger draw here.
The storage size is also ideal and transfer speeds are nice and quick.
Most importantly, you get a lot of bang for your buck – it’s nice and affordable, especially when compared to Xbox Series X expansion cards.
This is one of our top recommended gaming hard drives and for good reason.
It’s a fast, affordable, durable and high quality option for storing all of the Series X games that you’re currently not playing.
WD are one of the most popular manufacturers in the external storage world and this is due to their reputation for making the best quality products at a fair price.
If the Xbox game drive isn’t your cup of tea, the WD Black might just be.
The Xbox Series X SSD and How It Works
When the Xbox team realized the vision they have for the Series X, they encountered a roadblock.
To maximize the full potential of the AMD Zen 2 processor and new Radeon GPU of the console, the data fed into the system needs to keep up. Unfortunately, today’s hard drive technology has reached the limit of how fast it can go. A new storage scheme was in order.
That’s where the Xbox Velocity Architecture comes in. It’s the next-gen storage architecture of the Series X, designed to deliver data throughput from storage 40 times faster than previous consoles.
We’ll briefly get into the other components of the Velocity Architecture. Right now, we’ll take a look into its star player – the internal SSD storage.
The Series X comes with a custom-built 1TB NVME SSD which can achieve raw transfer rates of 2.4 GB/s. We say raw because, in practice, the SSD can deliver much more than that thanks to hardware and software support. Compare this with the 120 MB/s throughput of the Xbox One, and you’ll see that this is a huge deal.
The Series X SSD is, by far, faster than any other SSD currently available in the market. The reason is simple; consumer-grade SSDs are built to be compatible with almost every computer system. The one in the Xbox Series X, in contrast, can be tailor-fit to the console to help it achieve even faster speeds.
The SSD of the Series X also has better heat management, thanks to the metal enclosure that functions as a heat sink. This gives the Series X SSD consistent performance throughout, as opposed to standard SSDs that drop in performance the more they heat up.
The Xbox Velocity Architecture, Explained
As we’ve mentioned, the 1TB SSD is just one component of the innovative new I/O system of the Series X, called Xbox Velocity Architecture. The other parts of this breakthrough include hardware decompression, a new dedicated DirectStorage API, and the innovative Sampler Feedback Streaming (SFS).
Together, all of these components work to give the Series X data performance levels that go beyond what the specs say is possible.
The hardware decompression module, for instance, quickly decompresses files at the hardware level. This effectively doubles the transfer speed of the SSD, with almost zero overhead. If decompression were done using software, it would take four times the processing power.
The other two components, DirectStorage and SFS, work in tandem to make I/O file transfers in the Series X much more efficient. SFS, for example, cuts back on the number of textures that need to be loaded in a game, drastically speeding things up. DirectStorage gives developers more exceptional control over the I/O file processes in their games.
What Does This All Mean To You As A Gamer?
The 1TB SSD and Xbox Velocity Architecture of the Series X are impressive and all, but what does it mean to you as a gamer?
The most apparent benefit of the new SSD storage system is that load times are drastically reduced or even eliminated. It works not only for Series X games but for older Xbox titles as well (remember, the Series X is backwards compatible with the entire Xbox library).
To give you an idea of what’s possible, Microsoft released a video demo of the game State of Decay 2 loaded side-by-side on the Xbox One X and Series X. The older console took almost a minute to load, while the Series X took a mere 10 seconds.
The real kicker is that the demo uses an Xbox One game. A next-gen game designed specifically for the Series X will most likely load even faster.
The other benefit of the Series X SSD system is that it gives game developers lots of data performance to work with. And they can do a lot with this, from creating seamless open worlds to running games at ultra-high resolutions. Gamers will get gaming experiences, unlike anything ever seen before.
You can see the potential of this new technology in a trailer for the new Ratchet and Clank game for the PS5. Yes, it’s not on the Series X, but with the capabilities of both consoles not too far off, you can expect this same level of innovation on the next-gen Xbox.
In the trailer, the game characters Ratchet and Clank leap through portals that lead to entirely new game levels. And remember, this is all done in-game with no load times at all. With current game technology, that’s just impossible to achieve.
The SSD architecture also makes some platform-level features on the Series X possible. One of the most exciting ones is the Quick Resume feature. With it, you can freeze a game then return when you left off later on. It allows you to hop from game to game seamlessly with minimal load times, great for multiple players playing multiple games.