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Best external hard drive solution for Xbox One – HDD vs SSD

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From time to time we like to spend a moment to touch on one of the questions that come our way, especially when it’s a good one. One of the latest was Kelly P from refreshing San Diego, CA, who asked “My Xbox One is starting to run out of space and I heard using an external hard drive would improve load times–so what would be the best solution for both speed and space?”. Great question!

We love the Xbox One and have tested out an army of drives against the console. You do indeed see a performance increase when using an external drive, although at times it’s not always going to be mind blowing. We’ll briefly explain why and then go straight into the best drives we have found.

The reason an external drive performs better is the fact that the Xbox One takes advantage of USB 3.0, which allows transfer speeds of up to 5 GBit/s (640MBps). The internal drive solution relies on a SATA 2.0 connection (3.0 is the latest) and a 5400 rpm drive, which is slower at 3 GBit/s. If Microsoft chose to go with SATA 3.0, you would see speeds closer to and some day better than USB 3.0, but it all comes down to cost in the end.

Using an external USB 3.0 drive, you can find load times during games will decrease and will see a pretty big boost when it comes to saving or copying data. Sometimes it could mean a 2 second difference during loading screens and sometimes it could cut that load time in half or better. It really depends on the game and what is happening on the back end. It will not however affect the boot time of the console itself as the OS (operating system) and system files will still be located on the internal drive. Even those who went through the lengthy process (which I will not go into nor recommend unless you are an advanced user) of replacing the internal hard drive said that the OS doesn’t see any improvement during console boot, even with an SSD.

So that aside, is it worth it to use an external drive? Absolutely. If you label yourself a hardcore gamer, you want to maximize your performance every which way you can. You will want to run all of your installed games/add-ons from the external drive to take advantage of the performance boost.

So that leaves us with the big question. Which hard drive is the best for the Xbox One? Of all of the drives we have tested against the Xbox One, I will break it down to two drives.

WD-Passport-Ultra

The first option is all about capacity and budget. Western Digital’s My Passport Ultra USB 3.0 portable hard drive is the best external HDD that we have used, proving to be both affordable and quick. You get the performance increase you are looking for while keeping costs low and capacity high. You have the option of 1, 2 or 3 TB models (…as well as 500 GB, but no one cares about that), providing plenty of space for your content. Power and data are handled via USB 3.0 so you have nothing to plug into the wall. Just a small drive that easily fits in your pocket and a USB 3.0 cable running between it and any of the USB 3.0 ports on your console. You can typically find the 2 TB drive for less than $99.

SanDisk-UltraII-SSD

Your other option is using an SSD at the sacrifice of less capacity unless money is isn’t a concern to you. This means even more speed, normally far more than any HDD. However, on the Xbox One, you won’t see much of an increase. You will but it will be minimal in our experience (which is a bit surprising, but is what it is). If you feel those few seconds mean the world to you, then an SSD would be your solution. Our favorite so far is SanDisk’s Ultra II SSD (480 GB model). The capacity is much less than a normal HDD, but these drives can move data at up to 550 MB/s. So if you decide to re-purpose the drive later on, it makes for an amazing OS drive for a computer, greatly increasing boot times and system performance. The average price is around $120-$130.

So there you have it. Two of the best drives we have used with the Xbox One for both speed an capacity while also keeping price down.

Happy gaming!

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About Author

Designer, Editor and Product Reviewer Poc Network Ryan is an avid gamer that spends most of his time either commanding teams on the Xbox One or out on the grass kicking the soccer ball around when others are willing to take the challenge. He comes with a bachelors in electrical engineering and a hobby in the installation of advanced audio-video environments.

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