How and why to use a USB SSD in your Xbox Series console?

If you have an Xbox Series X or a Series S you will have noticed one thing: in no time the storage of the console is totally occupied and you have to be installing and uninstalling the games all the time as you play them. The only solution is to buy the official memory cards which are extremely expensive. Can something be done about this? At first glance it is buying a USB SSD for your Xbox, after all they worked in the previous generation, but you realize that with the new one it is not like that.

Why can’t we use a USB SSD on Xbox Series?

The reason for this has to do with the communication interface used, the NVMe SSDs make use of the PCI Express interface, which has the ability to access the system RAM, which is essential to be able to dump the data from the memory from the solid-state drive to RAM as data requests are made. Not only that, but the GPU also has access to the PCIe controller in order to access the NVMe SSD. In other words, said interface has access to the APU and the main RAM of the console.

Xbox Series Southbridge Plate

The USB, on the other hand, to access the RAM needs to go through the Southbridge and, therefore, through the IOMMU and the process is much slower and has higher latency. In a game it is important that the data is on time and if it is not it is fateful. Add to this that the graphics processor does not have access to USB and that we are talking about a difference in transfer speed of almost an order of magnitude, so with that said, we already have the answer. Do not forget in passing that speeds in USB are given by Gbits per second or billions of bits per second, while in PCI Express it is expressed in Gbytes per second, each byte being 8 bits or an octet.

So we find an interface that is too far away, negatively affects latency, without access to the GPU and too slow to be used on Xbox Series.

backwards compatibility

Halo Master Chief SSD drive connected to Xbox Series S

The new Xbox Series is backwards compatible with the previous generation. This means that a good part of their catalog is not optimized for the high speeds of an NVMe SSD and, therefore, we can run them on a hard drive or an external SSD. The counterpart of this? We are going to lose capabilities such as extremely fast loads or the Quick Resume that the Microsoft console gives us.

To this we must add the fact that if a game has been patched to take advantage of the capabilities of the new generation, then you can only load it from the internal NVMe SSD or from official Xbox memory cards. Note that there is the so-called SmartDelivery, in which the version of the game optimized for our Xbox model is automatically downloaded. Don’t worry, the console interface will let you know what they are.

So previous-gen load times, if they don’t bother you, will allow you to move previous Xbox games to a USB SSD.

What are the recommended USB SSDs for Xbox Series?

The first thing to keep in mind is that both Xbox Series have a USB 3.1 type A port with a transfer speed of 5 Gbits/s to connect peripherals including external storage, so buying a unit with a bandwidth higher does not make sense and especially if you have to pay more for a speed that the console will not use.

The SanDisk model that we show you is ideal to be able to store Xbox One and 360 games in a separate unit and leave space for those of the new generation, its cost for the same amount of storage is half of what it would cost you to buy the official memory card. Of course, remember that these storage options are not used to play Xbox Series games.

Another option is the 1TB WD Black D30, but this makes less sense since the Xbox USB interface can’t go beyond 625MB/s and, therefore, will not take advantage of those 900MB/s. We’re sorry to say, but you’re going to end up overpaying for bandwidth your console can’t take advantage of.

So our highest recommendation is the Seagate Game Drive, which gives us a capacity of 2 TB of storage.

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