PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X: Why Your SSD Storage System Matters So Much

Now that we know the technical specifications of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, they do not have many differences at the hardware level. Both have a custom AMD GPU based on their RDNA2 architecture. Both have ray tracing support . Both have almost the same number of Teraflops, and the number of graphics cores and their operating frequencies have approximately the same amount of performance. Both consoles have CPUs with almost identical specifications. So what will make it worth choosing one over the other, aside from availabilityof games or minor features like a better haptic engine in the controllers or support for cloud games? The answer is storage. One of the least exciting elements of past consoles is about to become one of the most crucial and important.

Before this next generation, the PlayStation and Xbox used hard drives (HDDs), which are noticeably slower than solid storage drives (SSDs). The data on an HDD is written to a physical disk that has moving parts, while SSDs, on the other hand, generally have information written to flash memory and have no moving parts, causing read and transfer rates to writing are very different between both types of units. Some hard drives may have a transfer rate of only 210MB / s, but some SSDs have more than 5GB / s. That high transfer rate can equate to faster load times, among other things. But SSDs barely started taking off around 2010. Sony and Microsoft didn’t implement them on PS4 and Xbox One a few years later because SSDs were expensive at the time and would have raised the price of their consoles by hundreds of dollars. SSDs have become much faster and cheaper since then, so it’s time for next-gen video game consoles to opt for an SSD as their primary storage system.

But while both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X will use SSD as standard storage for the first time, each console has implemented it differently. The PS5 has a custom designed 825GB SSD and they boast a lot of it. Compared to the PS4’s 500GB HDD, Sony designed the PS5’s SSD to be as efficient as possible, with a 12-channel interface and controller that connects to a PCI Express 4.0 interconnect, suggesting that you are using a PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD, which are now widely used in desktop and laptop computers. Additionally, Sony has said that the PS5’s SSD has a transfer rate of 5.5GB / s when it comes to raw data, and 8 to 9GB / s when it comes to compressed data.The PS5’s SSD has a transfer rate of 5.5GB / s when it comes to raw data, and 8 to 9GB / s for compressed data. The Xbox Series X SSD has a speed of 2.4GB / s for raw data and 4.8GB / s for compressed data.

The PS5 also offers an NVMe SSD slot to expand storage, and if someone decides that 825GB of space isn’t enough, you can use almost any standard solution in that expansion slot. Sony hasn’t released an official list of compatible devices, but I would imagine that most standard NVMe SSDs, like Samsung’s 970 Evo or Adata’s XPG would work, assuming Sony hasn’t done anything weird with the expansion slot. The PS5 also has external USB support for hard drives.

In the case of the Xbox Series X , although it also has an expansion slot for SSD, the new Microsoft console only supports its own proprietary SSD expansion cards, but it also supports any external HDD with USB 3.2, which at least it should make storage expansion easier. The Xbox Series X has a custom primary SSD, but it’s slightly more capacity than the PS5, with 1TB of space. However, transfer speeds are much lower than the PS5: just 2.4GB / s for raw data and 4.8GB / s for compressed data.

It seems that the PS5 is trying to tackle one of the biggest drawbacks of the current generation of PlayStation: the way it handles game installation and update . Even if you have 90GB of available space for a 60GB game, the PlayStation 4 operating system requires at least twice the amount of space in the game to install or update it. Why? Basically it creates a complete and temporary copy of what you are trying to install. This isn’t necessarily a big issue with the PS4, but definitely one of the most annoying due to that barely 500GB hard drive, depending on the type of games you play.

And the games are getting bigger. Much larger. Final Fantasy VII Remaketakes up 100 GB of space. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare wasoriginally 90GB, but with all the updates that number has grown to 175GB . Red Dead Redemption 2 is 105 GB. Unless you invest in some extra storage, you can only have a few of those games installed at a time. Since Xbox Series X and PS5 target games at 4K and 60fps (up to 120fps), games like the ones mentioned above should take up a lot of space because they have a lot of texture packs, especially to display them at 4K.

If you look at the 2K resolution texture size, for example, and let’s say a game has 9,600 unique textures, that equates to roughly 150 GB of space if all of the game’s textures weren’t compressed. 4K textures in the same file size result in only 2,400 textures as they have a higher resolution. That really isn’t much to do certain types of games, especially the ones mentioned above. All of those games have tons of unique environments that need many, many textures, and I’m not even considering other elements of the game, like sound effects and music, that also make it grow in size.The Xbox Series X SSD has a capacity of 1 TB, the PS5 825 GB. Both consoles can expand their storage.

If you really want to dig into some numbers, Unreal Engine has a great table that will tell you roughly how much space a single image / texture will take up based on its uncompressed resolution. So, if we look at how much space a 4K texture occupies (4096×4096 resolution), depending on the texture version you are using, a single 4K texture can take up 21.3MB of space, which when multiplied by 9,600 textures adds up to a total of 205GB. Only for textures!

There is software called DirectX Texture Compression (DXTC), which is a fixed speed image compression algorithm that helps you pack more images into a game while keeping the file size as low as possible. The software compresses the game’s images to a ratio of 4: 1 or 6: 1 (most commonly), which means that a game can store four to six times more images in a given space. It also helps determine which textures really need to be stored in full resolution and which don’t. However, even with the reliance on games in compression, they have gotten huge and will continue to grow.

That alone makes it especially important how PS5 and Xbox Series X are implementing their new storage systems. Obviously 1TB is better for storing more games, but the best transfer speeds on the PS5 will be able to load all those textures and other game assets faster. Combine that with the option to add a standard SSD to increase storage space, and it looks like the PS5 is set to win the storage war.

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