Why Xbox Series X’s expandable storage is not as expensive as you think

The Xbox Series X expandable storage price has finally been unveiled and it’s a doozy: the new Seagate Storage Expansion Card costs $219.99. This might seem like a lot of money, but it’s an entirely reasonable price once you look at the tech.

Let’s start with a quick recap: earlier this year, the hardware specs of the Xbox Series X and PS5 were released. Both consoles have their subtle differences, but the SSD storage has been touted as a big game-changer for next-gen gaming. The PS5 will launch with an 825 GB SSD and the Xbox Series X will launch with a 1 TB Custom NVMe SSD.

Games are ballooning in size, though, and 800–1,000 GB might not be enough for a healthy library of games. (I’m looking at you, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.) That’s why both consoles also offer the option for expandable storage.

The PS5 went with the ability to plug in any NVMe SSD that meets the speed requirements. Microsoft, on the other hand, announced that it would be going with a proprietary solution. That device has now been revealed in greater detail — but it comes at a price.

Why is the Xbox Series X expandable storage price so high?

Xbox Series X expandable storage Seagate Expansion Card standalone

$219.99 is a big ask for a console that retails for $499. It might be even crazier for the budget-conscious gamer who purchased the cheaper Xbox Series S at $299; expanding your storage nearly doubles the price of your console in that case.

Why does the Xbox Series X expandable storage cost so much? That was one of many questions asked of Xbox’s Director of Program Management Jason Ronald in a recent interview.

“The Xbox Velocity Architecture is a key innovation of our next generation consoles, delivering unprecedented speed and performance enabling transformative gaming experiences never before possible on console. This level of consistent, sustained performance requires advanced components which comes at a higher cost than traditional hard drives or SSDs often found in PCs.”

There’s also the matter of the drive using NVMe technology. In laymen’s terms, NVMe is the latest and greatest technology for consumer SSDs in terms of speed. New technology, however, often comes at a price — but it looks like it would be worth every penny.

Is the Xbox Series X expandable storage a good value?

Xbox Series X expandable storage slot Seagate Expansion Card

The other big question to address is the value of the Xbox Series X expandable storage. Is it worth $219.99 and, if so, why is it worth that price?

To start, the Seagate Storage Expansion Card for the Xbox Series X will deliver “the exact same consistent, sustained performance of [the] internal SSD” according to Jason Ronald. One of the issues with external drives is that they may not be as fast, but that’s not the case here. Faster speed and better tech cost more money.

For example, the 1 TB Western Digital Black NVMe SSD costs $149.99. That’s the sale price, mind you — it normally lists for $249.99. Sure, you could get a cheaper WD Blue NAND SSD or an even cheaper model of WD Blue, but you’re not going to get the same level of performance. Seagate’s expandable storage is definitely a performance gaming SSD, so the price falls in line with PC products that you can buy today.

A more direct comparison can be made thanks to the flash memory specs: the expansion card will have PCIe Gen4x2 NVMe. The “x2” represents two “lanes” of data throughput, each of which can serve up a total of 2 GB/s of data transfer, making for a maximum cap of 4 GB/s.

That certainly falls in line with Jason Ronald’s statement that the Xbox Series X expandable storage will deliver “2.4 GB/s of raw I/O throughput.” One terabyte PCIe 4×4 m.2 SSDs, which are what will be required for the PS5,  from Sabrent and Corsair are priced between $200–$250. Granted, these do offer an additional 4 GB/s of data transfer, but even this high-end 1TB Samsung SSD from the PCIe 3 generation is in the same price range.

Aside from the SSD itself, there’s also the practical mechanics to consider. This thing is tiny — notice that the drive is near a USB port and an HDMI port in the above image. Making a smaller custom PCB costs more money. There’s also the fact that it’s an enclosed drive like the console memory cards of yesteryear, which means it’s designed to be more durable than the average m.2 form factor NVMe drive which usually comes as a bare PCB.

The Xbox Series X expandable storage is a lightning-quick gaming performance SSD packed into a surprisingly tiny package. $219.99 is not a small amount of money by any means, but you’re paying for the same kind of high-speed performance that you’ll get from the console itself in a durable package. Seagate’s price is more than fair for what you get.