WD_BLACK C50 Expansion Card for Xbox Series X|S review: Welcome competition, but it's still not enough

WD_BLACK finally brings competition to Seagate, but prices need to be lowered even more.

Image of the WD_BLACK C50 Expansion Card for Xbox.
(Image: © Windows Central | Zachary Boddy)

Windows Central Verdict

Western Digital's long-awaited competitor to the exorbitant Seagate Expansion Card for Xbox Series X|S is functionally and practically great, and it has lowered prices. However, it's still too expensive to upgrade your Xbox Series X|S storage versus more traditional SSDs. I also wish there was a 2TB option for this card, too.

Pros

  • +

    Attractive, compact design with great build quality

  • +

    Incredibly simple, convenient installation

  • +

    Identical performance to internal Xbox Series X|S storage

  • +

    Portability makes it easy to take your games and go

Cons

  • -

    Still too expensive versus traditional SSDs

  • -

    No 2TB or bigger option

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When Xbox Series X and S joined the PlayStation 5 to begin the next generation of console gaming, each platform took a different approach to storage expansion. Sony included an extra NVMe SSD bay in the PS5 that allows players to install their own, traditional PCIe Gen 4.0 SSD with a heatsink. It's a standardized format that means there are countless options, but players have to be comfortable opening up their PS5 themselves to do the installation.

On the other side, Xbox "console-fied" storage expansion with the Xbox Expansion Slot, allowing players to simply plug-and-play a highly compact, portable external SSD with identical performance to the console's internal SSD. It's extremely convenient and dead simple to understand, but it comes with a cost — the proprietary standard means higher prices, which haven't lowered at nearly the same rate as more traditional SSDs.

Seagate dominated the Xbox Expansion Card market for over two-and-a-half years, but Western Digital finally entered the space with the WD_BLACK C50 Expansion Card for Xbox Series X|S earlier this year. It's functionally identical to Seagate's alternative, but dons a unique design. It also did what it was supposed to do and lowered costs across the board, but is it enough?

Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review unit provided by Western Digital. The company did not see the contents of the review before publishing.

WD_BLACK C50 review: Pricing and specifications

It's a tiny yet powerful card, massively expanding the storage of your Xbox Series X or Series S console. (Image credit: Windows Central | Zachary Boddy)

Pricing highlights

  • The WD_BLACK C50 Expansion Card costs $79.99 and $149.99 for 512GB and 1TB sizes, respectively.
  • This is quite a bit lower than the original $109.99 and $219.99 costs of the equivalent Seagate Expansion Card.
  • Seagate's prices have since lowered considerably, but Western Digital's offering still tends to cost a little less on average.

WD_BLACK C50 Expansion Card

• Price: $79.99 (512GB) | $149.99 (1TB)
• Storage capacity:
512GB / 1TB
• Storage type: NVMe M.2 2230 PCIe Gen 4.0 SSD
• Compatibility:
Xbox Series X / Xbox Series S via Xbox Expansion Slot
• Weight:
25g (0.9lbs)
• Dimensions:
55.6 x 31.6 x 7.7mm (2.19 x 1.21 x 0.30in)
• Features:
Xbox Velocity Architecture, Xbox Quick Resume, 5-year limited warranty

Hands-down, the biggest con of both the currently available Xbox Series X|S expansion cards is price. After all, you can often and easily find 1TB SSDs compatible with the PS5 (with the necessary heatsink) for well under $100. On this front, Western Digital did succeed in driving prices down overall for the market, although it's still rare to find either available expansion card reach the $100 price range.

Seagate's offering rarely dipped in price significantly for far too long after launch, but the WD_BLACK C50 Expansion Card's lower retail prices forced the Seagate alternative to permanently cut its prices. It's not one-for-one, though. Western Digital tends to undercut Seagate by around $10 or more for the same size, depending on current promotions. Even the new lowered prices still don't approach the average NVMe PCIe Gen 4.0 SSD, though. At least sales can make the expansion cards more lucrative, even if prices aren't low enough yet.

Specs-wise, the WD_BLACK C50 Expansion Card is every bit a match for the Seagate Expansion Card. Both cards fully support the Xbox Velocity Architecture to achieve maximum performance in all Xbox Series X|S Optimized titles. You also get full Quick Resume support, so you can quickly jump back into any games you've played recently. In these respects, both expansion cards are functionally identical to the Xbox Series X|S internal SSD. The only difference is how portable these cards can be, easily installed and uninstalled via the Xbox Expansion Slot, so you can take your games with you if need be.

Buy at: Western Digital

WD_BLACK C50 Expansion Card for Xbox Series X|S

Western Digital did lower costs all-around for Xbox Series X|S expansion cards, making it easier than ever to upgrade the storage on your current-gen consoles. These cards are still expensive, but we'll likely always be paying extra for the increased convenience, ease-of-use, and portability.

Buy at: Western Digital | Best Buy | Amazon

WD_BLACK C50 review: Build quality and design

Western Digital's distinct design language helps the C50 stand out. (Image credit: Windows Central | Zachary Boddy)

Design highlights

  • Like the Seagate Expansion Card, the WD_BLACK C50 is incredibly compact and portable.
  • Dimensions differ very slightly between them, with the WD_BLACK C50 being slightly longer.
  • Western Digital's offering features a more industrial, ridged design that is considerably more distinct than Seagate's clean, simple aesthetic.

Both Seagate and Western Digital crafted extremely compact expansion cards, thanks to the use of the condensed M.2 2230 SSD format. You can easily slip the WD_BLACK C50 into the coin pocket on the average pair of pants, making it incredibly portable and easy to move around. The WD_BLACK C50 isn't entirely identical to the Seagate Expansion Card dimensions-wise, though, being a few millimeters longer (55.6 vs. 52.95mm) and ever-so-slightly thicker (7.7 vs. 7.8mm). It's also a few grams lighter (25 vs. 30g). The differences are negligible, though — both cards are tiny.

Where the WD_BLACK C50 Expansion Card stands out is its aesthetic. Seagate's original card is clean and boring, with a forgettable and flat design. Western Digital employed its iconic, ridged industrial design language here, so the WD_BLACK C50 does look distinct. I far prefer this card visually to Seagate's alternative, but you'll admittedly rarely see the card if you intend to leave it plugged into the back of your Xbox.

The outside shell of the WD_BLACK C50 is quite distinct, but the part that matters is the same as Seagate's card. (Image credit: Windows Central | Zachary Boddy)

When it comes to build quality, both cards feel excellent and premium. I have never had a single issue or concern with the Seagate Expansion Card in years, and I have zero reason to expect any different from the WD_BLACK C50. These cards are built very well. The Western Digital card does feel a little more rugged, but that's honestly probably just because of the design and not any practical improvement in durability. You do get a 5-year limited warranty (two more than Seagate gives), so at least that should give you some added peace of mind.

WD_BLACK C50 review: Performance

In every way other than that external shell, the C50 seems utterly identical to Seagate's original Expansion Card. (Image credit: Windows Central | Zachary Boddy)

Performance highlights

  • Officially licensed for Xbox Series X|S, the WD_BLACK C50's performance is identical to the internal SSD.
  • You still get full support of the Xbox Velocity Architecture and features like Xbox Quick Resume.
  • Transferring games is fast and easy, and performance in games is generally flawless.

Performance is perhaps the most important aspect of an SSD, but it's also the easiest topic to discuss with the WD_BLACK C50 Expansion Card for Xbox Series X|S. Officially licensed for Xbox as a proprietary SSD using the Xbox Expansion Slot, the WD_BLACK C50 is entirely identical to the internal SSD of the Xbox Series X|S — and, in turn, identical to the Seagate Expansion Card.

Transferring my many Xbox Series X|S Optimized games back and forth, loading and playing several titles, and otherwise taking advantage of the WD_BLACK C50 was quick, reliable, and consistent. Performance here is flawless with the Xbox Velocity Architecture; I noticed no observable difference in load or transfer times between the WD_BLACK C50, Xbox Series X|S internal SSD, or Seagate Expansion Card. Quick Resume worked exactly as expected, too. It's one of the advantages of Xbox's storage solution — you never have to wonder if the SSD you buy will be fast enough, because the only options you have all come with that performance guarantee.

WD_BLACK C50 review: Competition

The WD_BLACK C50 has only one real competitor, and it tends to undercut that card by just a little. (Image credit: Windows Central | Zachary Boddy)

There's an endless assortment of SSDs in the world, with all kinds of sizes and formats. When it comes to expanding the internal storage of your Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S, though, there are unfortunately only two. The WD_BLACK C50 Expansion Card sadly has exactly one true competitor: the Seagate Expansion Card for Xbox Series X|S. That's a large part of why prices for these cards are still higher than they probably should be.

So, which one should you choose? That largely comes down to three factors: personal preference, price, and size. On the first front, I personally vastly prefer the design of the WD_BLACK C50, but you may feel differently. When it comes to price, the WD_BLACK C50 is almost always a little more affordable, but certain sales or promotions may even the playing field. Finally, only Seagate offers a 2TB expansion card, so if you need more than 1TB of additional storage your options are even more limited (I'm sad to say there are no larger options than 2TB at the moment).

For most people, I'd recommend the WD_BLACK C50 Expansion Card. Its more distinct design and lower-on-average price, combined with its utterly identical performance and user experience, make that an easy recommendation. Only go for the Seagate if you need the 2TB version (which is considerably more expensive) or a sale sees it fetch for cheaper than Western Digital's offering.

WD_BLACK C50 review: Final thoughts

I wish there were more competitors driving down prices, but right now the WD_BLACK C50 Expansion Card is the one I'd recommend to most people. (Image credit: Windows Central | Zachary Boddy)

You should buy this if ...

You want more storage to play Xbox Series X|S games

Most external SSDs just won't cut it when it comes to playing current-gen video games. You'll need a proper Xbox Series X|S expansion card to take full advantage of your console's power, and this is one of only two you can buy right now.

You want to save as much money as possible on an expansion card

Prices for Xbox Series X|S expansion cards still aren't as low as they should be, but this card does tend to be a little more affordable than the Seagate-made competition.

You should not buy this if ...

You just plan to play backward compatible games or store Xbox Series X|S games

This card is overkill if you're just wanting more mass storage to either store your extra Xbox Series X|S games or play backward compatible Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox games. In those cases, you're better off saving money and getting a more affordable external SSD.

You need as much storage as is currently possible

This is a great expansion card for Xbox Series X|S, but it does cap out at 1TB of additional storage. If that's not enough space for your library of Xbox Series X|S games, you'll need to opt for the (expensive) 2TB Seagate Expansion Card.

My feelings on the WD_BLACK C50 Expansion Card are mixed, and it has very little to do with the product itself. Honestly, there's almost nothing wrong at all with this card. I wish there were 2TB or even 4TB size options, but the card itself is well-designed and well-built, and performs flawlessly. This storage solution for Xbox Series X|S also has its merits in general, like offering a baseline guarantee of performance and reliability, making it incredibly easy and simple to install, and granting a level of portability not possible with other SSDs.

However, that's all moot when you can't afford the card. Xbox Series X|S expansion cards still have a cost problem, and while the WD_BLACK C50 has succeeded in permanently lowering costs (finally), it's not enough. On PS5, you can regularly find a high-end, premium 1TB NVMe SSD with a heatsink for less than $90; you'd be lucky to find a 1TB Xbox Series X|S expansion card for even $100. This space needs more competition, and I hope we see it from other companies like Samsung and PNY. Until then, the WD_BLACK C50 Expansion Card is my go-to recommendation for most people as the new best storage upgrade for Xbox Series X|S, especially if you can find it on sale.

Zachary Boddy
Staff Writer

Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.