As reviewers dig into the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X ahead of their respective launches, we’re seeing some console teardowns and software evaluations that touch on deeper aspects of both systems. There’s been a new discovery for each platform.
First, platform disassemblers have discovered that the Xbox Series X uses a standard (if uncommon) M.2 form factor for its SSD. The XSX has an M.2 2230 SSD. In the M.2 standard, the number gives the proportions of the standard — 2230 means the drive is 22mm wide and 30mm long. You can buy consumer drives in this size, but we more commonly see it used for Wi-Fi cards and modems.
Series XIS SSD is a M.2 2230 format, inserted in a slot on the motherboard. Easy to replace.
— Siri’s Ex. (@architectu2) November 8, 2020
The discovery is largely academic, since there are no >1TB SSDs in M.2 2230 on the consumer market. Even if there were, it’s not clear if there are any protections against cloning the OS off the original drive before restoring it to the replacement SSD. Microsoft, of course, doesn’t want consumers trying to upgrade their SSDs this way — that’s the entire reason the company built a user-expandable storage port — and I doubt we’ll see many people trying to upgrade the base drive if Microsoft and Seagate keep pricing competitive on their expansion drives throughout the life of the console. That’s going to mean periodically cutting price and introducing new capacities as opposed to leaving the expansion card at its current $220/1TB for years at a time.
It would be interesting to know if the Xbox Series X is capable of booting off expansion-card storage, or whether the OS can be cloned, though. And this does suggest that some console repairs should be faster and less expensive for end-users because swapping out an SSD is much cheaper than replacing a motherboard with soldered-on storage.
Sony Investigating External Storage Support
Meanwhile, on the Sony side of things, we’ve got a story on external storage support on the PlayStation 5. As of this writing, there is no way to copy games from the PlayStation 5 for archival purposes. This does not affect PlayStation 4 games — these can still be copied to, and played from, external storage — but it does impact all next-gen titles.
Modern game download speeds are large enough relative to storage capacities and broadband sizes that a fair number of gamers use an external HDD for backup. Sony didn’t implement support for this feature before it launched the console, but has updated its FAQ to note that “Explorations for allowing players to store (but not play) PS5 games on a USB drive in a future update are underway.” This happened shortly after Eurogamer published an article criticizing Sony’s storage policy on this issue, so the company is clearly paying attention. Given this, I’d like to point out that Sony also blocks local save game backups now, and that you can only use cloud backups if you pay for PlayStation Plus.
Forcing gamers to pay to back up saved games is profoundly anti-consumer and anti-gamer. While Sony is exploring the idea for storing PS5 games on local storage, it ought to check and see if saved games might just be possible, too. Hopefully, we’ll see more flexibility implemented in a post-launch update.