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The most important new Xbox accessory costs almost as much as the console itself

Updated Sep 24th, 2020 6:57AM EDT
Xbox Series S Specs
Image: Microsoft

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  • The new Xbox Series S ships with just 512GB of onboard SSD storage, and new Xbox games will have to be installed on fast internal or external memory to run on the console.
  • Microsoft has fixed the problem by creating a custom port that takes a custom SSD drive that runs as fast as the internal storage.
  • That’s the 1TB Storage Expansion Card that’s currently made exclusively by Seagate.
  • The accessory is now available for preorder, but it costs almost as much as the Series S console.

Sony and Microsoft have started taking preorders for their new PlayStation and Xbox consoles and the new accessories made for the gaming rigs. This highly anticipated first phase of preorders was marred by issues, particularly on the PS5 side, where preorders were incredibly messy. But not all the new accessories went on sale at the same time with the new consoles. There’s one key advantage the Xbox Series X and Series S have over the PS5 models, a gadget many people will want to buy soon. That’s the custom Storage Expansion Card for the new Xbox that only Seagate makes. After a leak earlier this week hinted what the gadget might cost, we now have an official price listing, as Best Buy has started taking preorders.

The PS5 and new Xbox models all come with fast internal SSD storage, which will offer considerable speed gains, whether it’s booting the console or loading levels and in-game content. The drives will offer almost instant gameplay, too, allowing players to resume games instantly. The downside is that storage will be limited to 825GB on the PS5 and PS5 Digital Edition, 512GB on the Xbox Series S, and 1TB on the Series X.

Both consoles support the old external HDD and SSD drives that you might have used on previous-gen consoles. But these drives will only run old games, not games that were crafted for the PS5 or the new Xbox models. You will need different external storage to run modern games, and both platforms support it.

Storage Expansion Card for Xbox Series X
The Storage Expansion Card for Xbox Series X goes into a special slot on the back of the console. Image source: Microsoft

However, Microsoft has a considerable advantage over Sony. The two Xbox consoles ship with a custom SSD port that takes a custom storage solution so that the external drive can run at the same 2.4GB/s speed as the internal SSD. These external drives come in 1TB capacities and are hot-swappable, meaning you can buy as many as you want and store as many games as you desire.

The Seagate Storage Expansion Card fits both the Series X and Series S, but not the PS5. Sony needs external drives to support speeds of around 5.5GB/s to run PS5 games. Not only that, but these drives have to fit the mysterious PS5 external storage bay that Sony is yet to show off.

Prices have dropped significantly for SSDs in the past few years, and all new laptops and desktops will ship with SSDs or hybrid storage. But those affordable SSDs do not support the high-speed requirements of the consoles. That’s why some customers are not going to like the $219.99 price of the Seagate SSD, even if it’s cheaper than the initial $250 estimates.

The external card is almost as expensive as the Xbox Series S, which is priced at $299.99 in the US. Microsoft implemented a feature that allows developers to reduce the size of Series S games compared to Series X versions. Still, the 512GB internal drive will fill up quickly, so the storage expansion seems inevitable. Once Seagate’s exclusivity deal with Microsoft expires, other SSD makers will likely supply similar cards, and prices will drop. But until then, this is the only choice you have.

Storage Expansion Card for Xbox Series X
From left to right: Storage Expansion Card, Xbox Series X console, and Xbox controller. Image source: Seagate

A different “fix” might be buying the Series X for $499, which will get you an extra 512GB of storage, a faster GPU, and it will help you postpone the Seagate card purchase.

Things are better or worse on the PS5 side of things, depending on how you look at things. PCIe 4.0 drives are scarce, and they’re expensive as well. Samsung’s newly announced 980 PRO costs $229.99 if you need 1TB of storage, but the 250GB version costs less than $100. However, Sony is yet to certify the drives as PS5-compatible. Also, there aren’t many alternatives that can support those 5.5GB/s speed requirements. But prices might drop faster for PS5 external drives, as more storage solutions will offer 980 PRO-like drives. The advantage of these SSDs is that they can be used in laptops and desktops, not just the PS5.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.