News Xbox Series X Will Use Proprietary External SSDs For Expansion

Dec 6, 2019
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Even 2TB is not a lot given the number of games people may have using Game Pass. A speculation of mine is that the XSX will come with a large spinning hard-drive so games can be swapped out from the SSD.
 
Wanna bet it will have firmware/software locks to prevent people from making converters in order to sue standard non overpriced SATA/USB SSDs.
It's possible they could lock it down, but the drives are just likely standard NVMe drives in a plastic cartridge, and my suspicions are that standard NVMe drives will work with an adapter. After all, if they really wanted to lock storage down to proprietary options, they could have already been doing that with external hard drives.

Even 2TB is not a lot given the number of games people may have using Game Pass. A speculation of mine is that the XSX will come with a large spinning hard-drive so games can be swapped out from the SSD.
Most people using the game pass are likely to have fast connections that they can re-download games on in a reasonable amount of time, so that's probably not too much of a problem. It sounds like new games designed for the consoles will be expected to run from fast NVMe storage, so you won't be running them directly from a hard drive. And of course, external USB drives can still be used for older games and such, and it might even be possible to backup new games to external hard drive storage, so I have doubts that they would bother to include an internal mechanical drive. As the cost of SSDs come down, they will likely launch revisions of the system with more NVMe storage capacity, as well as higher-capacity expansion NVMe drives for existing systems.
 
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Can console gamers use normal PC keyboards and mice for controls?

(Serious question, I've always rolled my eyes at consoles, but, one serious complaint is I find the mouse and keyboard FAR superior for a skilled gamer)
 
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I actually don't understand why it is so difficult for Microsoft to make a storage upgrade easy. Sony allowed easy upgrade of PS hard disks for some number of years now, and I don't see much negatives. If they want Game Pass to have better chance, they should allow for easy upgrade to a higher capacity SSD since the games are ridiculous when it comes to storage requirements.
 

King_V

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Because "Velocity"?

Is that REALLY going to offer any kind of magical performance benefit that a normal external USB SSD couldn't achieve?

C'mon, Microsoft - don't go down this route of trying to profit off of proprietary hardware. It can't end well. Didn't really work with the whole "IE is an integral part of Win98" fiction back in the day, either, in case an object lesson is needed.
 
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alextheblue

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Is that REALLY going to offer any kind of magical performance benefit that a normal external USB SSD couldn't achieve?
I mean, yes and no. I don't think I'd want a USB SSD when a PCIe 4.0 option is available (which is almost certainly what they're using). As for it being proprietary, only time will tell if there end up being additional third party options and/or adapters for M.2 drives. I would bet we'll see options from a couple others, at least, and prices will come down over time and capacities will go up. No matter what you use, it will have to hit certain min performance targets or it could affect the gaming experience, since devs will build their streaming around the internal drive.

We don't know for sure how many lanes it will use, either. It would really throw a wrench in the idea of an M.2 adapter if they were using a custom 6-lane drive. Like, maybe you could do it... but it wouldn't be able to hit the same speeds. It's an interesting thought, at any rate - but they probably use 4 lanes.
 
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Dec 6, 2019
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Most people using the game pass are likely to have fast connections that they can re-download games on in a reasonable amount of time, so that's probably not too much of a problem.
Most ISPs impose data cap though. With games around 100GB you can pretty easily hit a 1TB cap. And reloading from HDD cold storage is a better experience. A game that you rarely play (which got swapped out as a result) is probably not one you want to wait for. It might be something that you'd you have friends around. Even three, four minutes would feel agonizingly long.
 

Rdslw

Estimable
It's possible they could lock it down, but the drives are just likely standard NVMe drives in a plastic cartridge, and my suspicions are that standard NVMe drives will work with an adapter. After all, if they really wanted to lock storage down to proprietary options, they could have already been doing that with external hard drives.
best way for them is to allow BOTH but lock something out of not-ours. so yes it will propably work but as they mentioned non-usb gains, I think they will apply here also.
and its microsoft. they will charge 50% margin over their own margin.
 

daglesj

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Hmm I was thinking it would have been better to have gone with a SSHD hybrid type approach with maybe a custom 128/256GB Optane type module paired with a 3/4TB HDD.
 

Kiril1512

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It already will come with 1TB NVMe SSD. I hope that they will not block the port just for xbox adapters and we will be able to use other storage to connect to the console.
 

TJ Hooker

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The specs say that the system still supports external storage via USB 3.2. So it seems you don't have to use the proprietary storage if you don't want to, unless they decide to limit what USB-connected storage can be used for.

I mean, yes and no. I don't think I'd want a USB SSD when a PCIe 4.0 option is available (which is almost certainly what they're using).
Outside of a few niche use cases or bulk file transfer, every real world PCIe 4.0 SSD benchmark I've seen only only shaves off a second or less compared to a plain old SATA SSD. We're talking single digit % improvement in most cases, I doubt most people would even notice let alone care.
 
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Hmm I was thinking it would have been better to have gone with a SSHD hybrid type approach with maybe a custom 128/256GB Optane type module paired with a 3/4TB HDD.
Considering that Optane still costs upward of $1.25 per gigabyte, I don't think that would be at all practical for a mass-market game console. 256GB of Optane would cost about as much as 3TB of NVMe storage. Also, with a hybrid approach, you can't guarantee what data is cached on the faster drive, so it wouldn't be ideal for loading the assets of a few terabytes worth of games.

Outside of a few niche use cases or bulk file transfer, every real world PCIe 4.0 SSD benchmark I've seen only only shaves off a second or less compared to a plain old SATA SSD. We're talking single digit % improvement in most cases, I doubt most people would even notice let alone care.
Another thing to consider though, is that all of this software is still designed around the expectation that it may be getting run from a slow mechanical hard drive. If the developers know for a fact that their software will be running from an NVMe drive, they may be able to better optimize for that. It's possible that we might see the performance difference between NVMe and SATA SSDs increase in the coming years as the expectation of at least having some form of SSD becomes the norm.
 
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alextheblue

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Another thing to consider though, is that all of this software is still designed around the expectation that it may be getting run from a slow mechanical hard drive. If the developers know for a fact that their software will be running from an NVMe drive, they may be able to better optimize for that. It's possible that we might see the performance difference between NVMe and SATA SSDs increase in the coming years as the expectation of at least having some form of SSD becomes the norm.
Exactly. These consoles are going to have lots of GPU grunt and limited RAM, developers will have to be aggressive at streaming data to get the most out of them. Might even have to use more than one thread!

That aside, just to showcase how much it varies by workload, I notice a huge difference in Windows boot times comparing a decent SATA SSD (like an 860) to a likewise decent NVMe drive (like a 970 or 970 Plus).
 

daglesj

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Considering that Optane still costs upward of $1.25 per gigabyte, I don't think that would be at all practical for a mass-market game console. 256GB of Optane would cost about as much as 3TB of NVMe storage. Also, with a hybrid approach, you can't guarantee what data is cached on the faster drive, so it wouldn't be ideal for loading the assets of a few terabytes worth of games.
Well when you buy in bulk and over say a 6-7 year period that contract will have a much lower cost per unit than we get charged. That $1.25 would be wayyy lower. But yeah I get what you are saying. It didn't necessarily have to be Optane type flash, just a whopping great big SSHD style setup.
 
Well when you buy in bulk and over say a 6-7 year period that contract will have a much lower cost per unit than we get charged. That $1.25 would be wayyy lower. But yeah I get what you are saying. It didn't necessarily have to be Optane type flash, just a whopping great big SSHD style setup.
Problem with the SSHD is you increase the points and chances of failure. If either mechanical or SSD elements fail the whole drive is lost. I’d expect this is a factor when selling on these scales.
 

King_V

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Exactly. These consoles are going to have lots of GPU grunt and limited RAM, developers will have to be aggressive at streaming data to get the most out of them. Might even have to use more than one thread!
Which is weird. RAM is cheap. Isn't it cheaper than going with limited RAM, but expensive/proprietary forms of SSDs? I mean, I get the swappable part, but even a standard USB-connected SSD is going to be way faster than a hard drive. And more RAM couldn't possibly be adding THAT much to the bottom line that this weird setup is needed, can it?
 

alextheblue

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Which is weird. RAM is cheap. Isn't it cheaper than going with limited RAM, but expensive/proprietary forms of SSDs? I mean, I get the swappable part, but even a standard USB-connected SSD is going to be way faster than a hard drive. And more RAM couldn't possibly be adding THAT much to the bottom line that this weird setup is needed, can it?
At best I could speculate, and I will, but first: I'm sure you saw the PS5 info. They basically say the same thing Cryo and I were hinting at. They are planning on developers being able to (perhaps with the assistance of a custom hardware block) stream massive quantities of data to RAM. They're each taking slightly different approaches (each with ups and downs) to adding more SSD storage, but overall the storage scenarios closely mirror each other. As far as why they didn't use more RAM, well again this is just speculation, but I can think of a few possible reasons:

First, decent GDDR6 isn't as cheap as standard DDR4. But neither one is really THAT cheap when you look at trimming cost in areas that won't cripple performance. They each know that both companies are building around GDDR6 too. That means supply will get hammered as both companies attempt to crank out millions of machines each using 16GB worth of fairly fast GDDR6.
Second, the memory interface/bus likely makes it challenging to effectively utilize more than 16GB without going well above that mark, which ties into the supply/cost issue. In particular considering this is a semi-custom APU, rather than a pair of chips with independent memory interfaces.
Third, they have to spend their money as wisely as possible to keep costs down. They HAD to go solid state for storage this time around, so it doesn't really cost them that much more to build an aggressive solution with a powerful controller. So if you can achieve similar results by streaming from a high performance SSD to RAM, it starts to make a lot of sense... especially when you're looking at a ~$600 machine.
 
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