Consoles Xbox Series X and S are approaching. Arrival scheduled for November 10 and it is also on this date that Seagate will offer its storage expansion card on the market: the Storage Expansion Card. A small card worth gold. It costs 270 euros and offers 1TB of additional storage for new Microsoft consoles.
Clearly, for this price, you multiply by almost 3 the storage space on the S Series and by 2 (almost as well) on the Series X. It’s very interesting … as long as we have the means. Because the usefulness of this type of device is indisputable: the games occupy tens (or even a hundred for some) of gigabytes and therefore the internal space of the console will quickly be full if you do not sort or choose. Especially in the case of the S Series, equipped with 512 GB on paper … but less in reality (probably around 460 GB).
As Seagate announced, it’s not just any type of storage that’s trapped in the Xbox Storage Expansion’s tiny sarcophagus. This is the same one that is soldered to the Series motherboard. And the login interface looks a lot like Compact Flash Express.
To learn a little more about it, how it interacts with the AMD processor of consoles but also on the cooling of the case, and possible future variations in other capacities, we spoke with two American representatives of Seagate who have followed the project very closely, MM. Eber Legarreta and Dereck Hockman.
Velocity Architecture and Custom modules
We first asked them about how Microsoft and the Seagate teams had carried out the project. It appears that Microsoft came up with its ideas and desires and that Seagate got down to work to best meet the specifications of MS and Velocity Architecture, the magic sauce that animates consoles and which consists of hardware and software ingredients. We understand, half-heartedly, that there were a huge number of trials before Seagate and Microsoft managed to find the right solution.
In detail, the SSD modules present in the Storage Expansion are interfaced in PCIe Gen 4 and work in 2x. They are not the same components as those Seagate’s FireCuda gaming SSDs. Those of the small card were specially manufactured for Microsoft (again, Custom) to achieve speeds identical to those of the modules present in the console: 2.4 Gb / s of raw data and 4.8 Gb / s of data compressed.
A special controller is also soldered to the circuit to optimize the flow of data. It can run on its own, but also communicates with the huge hardware block engraved on the console’s compute chip. Because, as a reminder, the Storage Expansion communicates directly with the chip once connected to the console.
None of the communications or data exchanges pass through the hardware interface that manages the inputs / outputs (such as USB for example) to avoid latency.
And the best for last: this little card can be hot plugged or unplugged. No need to eject it like a USB stick or SATA hard drive, via the OS.
Contain the heat so as not to limit performance
However, accommodating so many gigabytes in such a small space and making them compatible with PCIe has generated a significant heating phenomenon. It was therefore necessary to deal with it quickly because if the modules heat up too much, the speeds drop and, worse, there is a risk of damage to the cells.
Microsoft and Seagate have therefore imagined the somewhat special sarcophagus that traps the modules. It acts both as ” protection but also as a calorie concentrator. Calories which are dissipated by the console cooling system for the part which is inserted inside the passenger compartment, in a housing positioned on the path of the air flow “.
For the part outside the Series X, it is the plastic shoe that would have been specially designed for this. It should therefore come as no surprise that the latter can be a little hot after playing for several hours on the console, especially if the games are hosted on the card.
A high price to start …
As MM. Legarreta and Hockman, the price of the first model is high because it took ” innovate and manufacture modules in a different way that meet very specific criteria “. In addition, if this module is associated with the Series X in Microsoft’s communication strategy, it is because “ is more designed for players who may fall for this version. Gamers who want maximum performance and maximum storage for their games “.
As a reminder, the Series S was not designed for the most passionate players, but for the most casual, likely to adopt the Game Pass or to be confined to playing only a few games, always the same, probably online. And since the Expansion is almost worth the price of the S Series, many will think twice before they crack.
Moreover, the representatives of Seagate wished to recall that the old games could be hosted and run since an external USB 3.0 drive. It is a less expensive way to increase the storage space of consoles when you want to enjoy old generation games.
… but probably doomed to decrease in the coming months
Moreover, according to spokespersons, in the months and years to come, when the manufacturing process will be more industrialized and controlled, “ costs should go down “. Of course, both refused to give us a possible deadline.
Likewise, they’ve managed to sidestep all the traps we’ve set for them about whether or not other lower or higher capacity cards will see the light of day next year.
However, they told us that “ this was only the beginning and other models were of course not excluded “. Finally, we asked them if they were aware of a device that would allow more than one card to be connected to the back of the console, like a docking station. They told us that, ” for the moment, no solution was ruled out “. Microsoft is keeping an eye on the grain and wants to ensure that its partners do not have the long haul.
The latest rumors to date evoked the arrival, a posteriori, of other external storage solutions for Microsoft consoles, manufactured by brands other than Seagate. The brand declined to comment on the existence of a temporary exclusivity agreement.