As we move towards the next generation of consoles, one item that is presenting challenges for Microsoft (and likely Sony too) is that games are getting bigger. If you look at titles like the most recent Call of Duty, they can easily surpass 100 GB in size.
With next-generation consoles pushing for 4k graphics with additional visual enhancements, the size of a game is only going to increase which means that storage is becoming a challenge. Even though 1TB is sufficient for most PCs these days as documents and other content is much smaller, for a console, that could mean only having 9 or fewer games installed on your device.
A few weeks back, we got our first look at the backside of the Xbox series X. At that time, I believed the long-rectangular port between the HDMI and digital audio port that was for diagnostics and I was incorrect. That port is for storage expansion, according to people familiar with the company’s plans, and offers the series X a work-around as games continue to expand in size.
The bigger question, which I don’t know the answer to quite yet, is what technology is Microsoft using for the expandable storage. Considering that the internal drive is going to be of the ‘high-performance’ variety, a flavor of NVMe is expected and not a platter drive, external storage needs to be quick as well. While the back of the device does have USB ports that could be used for expansion, that mystery slot is a dedicated storage expansion for high-speed hardware.
A couple of weeks back, a reader actually dug up some interesting information that could identify the exact components inside the console. The thereverendslim wrote in our forums:
Given that 1) the “debug port” on the Xbox Series X looks to be roughly 31mm x 4mm, 2) that a LinkedIn entry showed Phison’s PS5019-E19T controller being developed for or used by the Series X, 3) that Phison’s datasheet for that controller shows that it can be used in a CFExpress form factor, and that the dimensions of a Type B CFExpress card are 29.8mm x 3.8 mm… Do you think it’s possible that rather than having an internal non-replaceable NVMe-style SSD, they are using Compact Flash Express for the SSD so that you can expand in the future?
And I think he/she may be right, but keep in mind that CFExpress cards are not cheap with a 512GB cards currently being sold for around $600. At that price, Microsoft is betting that the technology will drop significantly in price over the lifespan of the console or they have found a way to utilize that style of port with different storage.
The last option is that Microsoft does use CFExpress cards and lets the customer decide if they want to really spend the same price as the console on expanding the storage but that seems unlikely. Regardless of the outcome, Microsoft is looking at ways to expand storage options for its next-generation console with high-speed options that USB does not currently offer.
What this all means is that the Xbox series X will offer flexibility in your storage options and that if needed, it should be easy to expand the storage with a high-speed solution. Keep in mind, the console is still in development and Microsoft could make changes that remove this port but for now, it looks like the company is moving ahead with this type of functionality.