Microsoft recently open preorders for Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, its next-generation console duo headed to market this November. The devices represent a sizeable leap in graphical prowess, coupled with the latest in AMD CPU and GPU technologies, and system-wide refinements to improve speed. That also includes an ultra-fast solid-state drive (SSD) storage solution, which Microsoft leverages to cut load times, and eliminate a bottleneck of the prior generation.
The Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S feature custom NVMe SSDs, with a direct line to the CPU via PCIe 4.0. The implementation is costly, but results in 2.4 GB/s raw speeds (or 4.8 GB/s compressed), translating to up to 40 times increases over the Xbox One’s sluggish spinning platters. Microsoft subsidizes the cost to hit each console’s $499 and $299 retail price but makes compatible SSD expansions rather pricey.
The Xbox Series X packs a 1TB SSD, while the Xbox Series S comes in at just 512GB. With several modern blockbusters now surpassing 100GB each, the out-of-box storage could prove restrictive. Microsoft’s solution is the Xbox Storage Expansion Card, a proprietary 1TB NVMe drive matching the console’s internals, manufactured in collaboration with Seagate.
Much of this Seagate-branded cartridge has remained a mystery, with Microsoft yet to discuss pricing and availability. The card has now surfaced at Best Buy in the U.S. with a $220 RRP, over two-thirds of the Xbox Series S starting price.
I previously predicted the premium price back in April 2020, primarily down to the notoriously costly nature of NVMe PCIe 4.0 technology. The card purposely mimics the internal Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S SSD, used as a part of Microsoft’s “Xbox Velocity Architecture” inside each console. While likely to deter some, it’s the reality of bleeding-edge hardware.
As a proprietary solution, this card is mandatory to play Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S games beyond the internal storage. However, Microsoft will support USB 3.2 drives, previously compatible with Xbox One consoles, when playing Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox titles backward compatibility. Xbox Series “Optimized” titles may also be stored on these slower drives, although only if transferred to the NVMe SSD when played.