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Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S raise the bar for console performance, with its new custom NVMe solid-state drive (SSD) storage a crucial component in those gains. You can also expand either console’s storage capacity with external add-ons, with an SSD delivering the pinnacle in speed. However, both consoles vastly differ from the Xbox One family, with firm limitations applied to most drives. That makes the Seagate Storage Expansion Card for Xbox the best SSD for Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, mirroring each console’s own internal SSD.
The Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S heavily rely on fast internal storage, with custom-built, NVMe SSDs one component of Microsoft’s secret sauce headed into a new generation. Those SSDs max out around 40 times the Xbox One hard drive’s speed, removing a crucial performance bottleneck and speeding up load times system-wide. With both consoles heavily reliant on fast storage, USB devices don’t meet the standards required.
That makes expanding your Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S storage more complex, with the console maker partnering with Seagate for a specific 1TB SSD expansion card. The cartridge matches the internal SSD speeds exactly, peaking at 2.4 GB/s uncompressed, with a direct line to the CPU via PCIe 4.0 technology. It connects via a dedicated, proprietary port located next to the rear HDMI port, labeled “Storage Expansion.”
Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S games can be stored on USB devices, but can only play from the internal SDD or officially licensed SSD expansion cards. Hard drives and SSDs connected via USB can only play Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox titles via backward compatibility. While they can store games designed for Xbox Series X and Series S, you’ll need to transfer games onto the internal SSD or expansion card to play. A full per-category breakdown follows, reflecting the differences between an expansion card and USB storage.
The Seagate Storage Expansion Card takes a compact form, measuring 53mm by 32mm, only marginally larger than the average thumb drive. It’s a simple plug-and-play solution, automatically configured to work with Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S straight out the box. Microsoft also allows those with multiple expansion cards to hot-swap storage on the fly without restarting the console. The device ships alongside a plastic sleeve, protecting the card when not in use.
Seagate only distributes a 1TB version of the Storage Expansion Card in late 2020, doubling the base Xbox Series X storage and tripling the initial offering of Xbox Series S. Microsoft suggests it may work with more manufacturers on alternative cards post-launch, although with no ETA provided. It also plans to launch additional capacities in the future, but Seagate’s 1TB SSD is your only choice right now.
The primary hurdle for most will be the price of the Seagate Storage Expansion Card. The 1TB model costs $220 in the U.S. with a similar $280 RRP in Canada and £220 in the UK. The price isn’t surprising, in line with notoriously costly PCIe 4.0 hardware over on PC. It’s the nature of cutting-edge technology, drawing the best performance from either console with no compromises.
While Xbox Series X and Series S support countless USB devices, only the Seagate Storage Expansion Card provides a true internal storage extension. It comes with no limitations, mirroring the base console in every way. If you can afford the premium, there’s no better SSD than this.
Microsoft and Seagate’s custom NVMe SSD card is the only external storage capable of playing Xbox Series X and Series S titles. It’s available in a single 1TB flavor at launch, leveraging bleeding-edge PCIe 4.0 technology to guarantee unbeatable read and write speeds.
With Xbox Series X and Series S expandable storage extending to external USB drives, the Samsung T7 Portable SSD should be on your radar. Its latest solid-state lineup delivers a balance of performance and relative affordability in a compact form factor. It’s already among the best SSDs for Xbox One, with many of the same benefits also amplified on Microsoft’s latest console family.
Samsung distributes the T7 range in three capacities, 500GB, 1TB, or 2TB, with the former an accessible entry into high-performance storage, often available far below $100. The series peaks at 1,050 MB/s read and 1,000 MB/s write speeds, with the USB 3.2 support on each new Xbox pushing towards the best each drive delivers. It’s about half the speed of Microsoft’s internal NVMe SSD drive used by Xbox Series X and Series S. However, that speed differential has a minimal performance impact on titles compatible with USB-connected storage.
The Samsung Portable SSD T7, as with any USB drive, can only play Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox titles on Xbox Series X and Series S. The drives can also store Xbox Series X- and Series S-optimized titles, but with each manually transferred to the internal SSD if played. The T7 SSD is a backward compatibility maestro, while also excelling at shuttling upgraded titles to and from the internal storage. The high speed slices the transfer time over using a slower hard disk drive (HDD) for the same purpose.
The Samsung Portable SSD T7 also impresses with its construction, using premium materials for a lightweight yet rugged design. The drive sports an aluminum unibody, available in grey, red, or blue colorways, weighing just 58 grams. And inside the box comes the SSD, alongside USB Type C-to-A cable used for Xbox consoles, and a USB Type-C to C cable for other compatible devices.
While USB drives come with a handicap on Xbox Series X and Series S, the Samsung Portable SSD T7 provides the best in class when balancing performance with the price tag. The Seagate-branded expansion card may feature extended functionality, but this provides some of the benefits at a much more palatable starting price. While it requires some additional legwork due to limitations on new consoles, it’s the best you’ll find when skirting the expansion card.
The Samsung T7 SSD lineup boasts high speeds and premium construction for a first-class storage solution. The smaller capacities start sub $100, ideal for backward compatibility, or creating space for your next-generation blockbusters.
While solid-state storage often comes at a premium versus slower HDDs, this entry-level drive from ADATA makes such technology more accessible at a reduced price. The company sells one of the cheapest SSDs on the market, allowing budget-conscious buyers to upgrade with some compromises. The SC685 provides a capable foray into SSDs for Xbox consoles, undercutting a brand new video game cost.
ADATA packs the usual benefits seen with flash storage, producing faster speeds, reduced power consumption, and improved durability over hard disks. The quoted 530 MB/s read and write figures clock in around one-fifth of Microsoft’s next-gen internal SSD, although real-world results often fall short of that peak. But it still delivers a sizeable leap over your average hard drive, topping other cost-conscious alternatives.
The SC685’s cheapest model provides 250GB for just $50, with 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB capacities also available. The best value comes at those lower capacities, and while the company has an even cheaper “SD600Q” SSD, we recommend the SC685 for steadier overall performance.
The rest of the package provides less glamour, with flimsy construction and weighing just 35 grams. It comes in simple black or white plastic shells, although that does align with the Xbox Series X and Series S colors. There’s also a short USB-C to USB-A cable included in the box or USB-C to USB-C for other compatible devices.
And as with all USB drives, the ADATA SC685 has the same limitations on playable titles due to its transfer speeds. You can play Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox titles direct from this SSD, although it’s limited to only storing next-generation games. However, the speed boost comes in handy when shutting games to your internal SSD. ADATA might not provide the best, but it’s a price that’s hard to ignore.
If you need maximum space and maximum performance, the Seagate Barracuda family tops out at 2TB. It’s ideal for offloading titles from your internal SSD, with short loading times and transfer times.
When expanding Xbox Series X and Series S storage, choosing a high-capacity SSD provides speed benefits while multiplying the room on your console. Opting for both speed and space will cost a premium but offers optimal performance across a broader catalog of installed titles. The 2TB variant of the Seagate Barracuda earns our pick, positioned among the best SSDs for Xbox consoles.
This SSD delivers up to 540MB/s read and write speeds, just over one-fifth of that provided by the internal Xbox Series X and Series S SSD. It still locks down a sizeable leap over standard hard drives, cutting load times, reducing transfer times, and generally eliminating a crucial bottleneck for your next-generation console.
While the 2TB model represents the top of the line, Seagate also has 500GB and 1TB models at lower RRPs. We recommend opting for some of the best hard drives for Xbox for higher capacities, which, while slower, provide several terabytes at reasonable prices. SSDs also offer fewer gigabytes or terabytes per dollar over an HDD.
And if the Barracuda looks familiar, Microsoft and Seagate previously repurposed this design for its Xbox-branded “Game Drive” SSD back in 2018. It packs the same internals and silhouette with a different coat of paint, saving a little by avoiding Xbox branding.
For a high capacity SSD for Xbox Series X and Series S, you can’t go wrong with the Seagate Barracuda 2TB External SSD. It comes with the same restrictions as all USB devices, capable of storing next-generation titles, but with a requirement to move them to internal storage to play. However, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox titles are all playable, pushing the best from your existing library.
Expand your Xbox Series X or Series S with an external USB SSD that’s surprisingly affordable. While compromising performance and build quality relative to peers, don’t overlook the low starting price.
With Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S featuring custom NVMe SSDs, the next generation heavily leans on fast storage to maximize performance. That high demand means that while USB 3.2 drives work with the console, they’re limited compared to baked-in storage. Microsoft has partnered with Seagate on its own proprietary expansion solution, mimicking the internal SSD used, but compacted into a portable form factor. That positions the Seagate Storage Expansion Card for Xbox as the only SSD expansion capable of playing Xbox Series-optimized titles.
But the Microsoft-approved expansion card isn’t cheap, with other USB SSDs also suited for backward compatibility and storage. The Samsung T7 Portable SSD provides a high-speed alternative, ideal for Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox titles via backward compatibility. And provided you’re open to navigating the limitations, it’s also a quick drive to shuttle games back and forth from your internal SSD.
Matt Brown is a staff writer at Future for Windows Central. Following years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Xbox and Windows PCs. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.
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Xbox One, Solid-state drive, Seagate Technology
World news – GB – Best SSD External Drives for Xbox Series X, Series S 2020