Seagate's Game Drive for Xbox SSD loads games lightning fast, but at a cost

Seagate's new SSD for the Xbox One gives impressive loading times for big games, but it's not cheap.

The story goes that PC gamers can already do 4K gaming and have lighting fast game loads due to the more advanced hardware abilities compared to a console. Some of that is finally changing with Project Scorpio next year and even this year's Xbox One S, which has slightly improved performance.

Seagate's new Game Drive for Xbox SSD aims to give console gamers a boost in game load times, but at a price. I've been using the USB-enabled 512GB external drive for a few days and here is what I have found.

Let's first explain the advantages of Game Drive for Xbox SSD.

SSD versus HDD

Solid-state Drives (SSD) are commonly found in higher-end PCs and laptops. With no moving parts compared to traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) and much faster read and write times an SSD makes all the difference in performance. You could have the fastest processor on the market, but it won't matter if you are running an HDD instead of an SSD.

Seagate Game Drive for Xbox SSD

The officially branded Seagate Game Drive for Xbox SSD is tiny and looks sharp (Image credit: Windows Central)

External drives that are SSD also tend to have fewer problems since they are not mechanical. You bang a mechanical HDD the wrong way and you could have just ruined the drive. SSDs, on the other hand, are more resilient.

Per the teardown site iFixIt the Xbox One S features a Seagate Spinpoint 2 TB 5400 RPM with 32 MB Cache SATA III 6.0 Gb/s hard drive. They speculate, however, that the One S may only be operating at SATA II speeds of the original Xbox One.

While affordable, that is far from the fastest mass storage device on the market. Enter in – not so coincidentally – Seagate with a pricier and supposedly faster solution.

Seagate Game Drive for Xbox SSD

The 512GB Game Drive for Xbox SSD from Seagate retails for a jaw-dropping $210. To put that in perspective you could buy an Xbox-branded Seagate 4TB external HDD for $184. SSDs have come down dramatically in price in recent years, but they're still far from HDD cheap.

The performance difference, however, between a Seagate HDD and SSD is not insignificant. Their HDD has a read speed up to 140MB/s. The new SSD version has a read speed up to 440MB/s – just over 3x faster. Both are measured over USB 3.0.

Data write speeds are also improved (140MB/s versus 430 MB/s), but you only write to the drive during installation and game saves whereas most of the time the Xbox is reading data.

Storage is also capped at 512GB, which while a nice boost falls short of the 2TB that some Xbox One S's come with or the 4TB external option.

Design and setup

The Seagate Game Drive for Xbox SSD is a slim and handsome looking device. The wallet-sized drive weighs just 100 grams (3.5oz) and is emblazoned with the Xbox logo and traditional black and green colors. The brushed aluminum shell and slim profile give the SSD a visually appealing design. You won't be embarrassed putting this next to your console.

Compared to some external hard drives for the Xbox One the Seagate SSD is around 1/10 of the size.

Seagate Game Drive for Xbox SSD

The Seagate Game Drive SSD (Left) is dwarfed by a typical external HDD (Right) (Image credit: Windows Central)

Setup is easy too. With a single USB 3.0 cable (included) you just plug it into the back of the Xbox. Unlike hard drives, there is no need for a power cable here, saving you a vital power outlet for your TV set-up.

Once plugged in, the Xbox asks if you want to use the drive to store media (music, photos, etc.) or games. If you choose games, the Xbox reformats the drive and it becomes an extension of the console.

Seagate Game Drive for Xbox SSD

All that is needed for data and power is the included USB 3.0 cable

At 113 x 76 x 9.6 mm, the little SSD can easily be unplugged and taken with you to a friend's house. That is something you can't quite do with a traditional external HDD, not without some risk.

Real world testing

So, is there an actual difference when using an SSD on the Xbox One S versus a standard HDD? There is, and here are some numbers to back it up. I compared the initial load times of two popular (and large) games.

Game Initial Load (in seconds)

Swipe to scroll horizontally
GameHDDSSD% Change
Gears of War 40:57s0:49s14% faster
Dead Rising 40:32s0:24s25% faster

To get some finer detail, I also decided to toss in some level loading on some other large titles:

DOOM

Swipe to scroll horizontally
TestHDDSSD% Change
Game Load0:54s0:43s20% faster
Level Load0:50s0:38s24% faster

Just Cause 3

Swipe to scroll horizontally
TestHDDSSD% Change
Game Load0:41s0:34s17% faster
Level Load0:44s0:40s9% faster

Titanfall 2

Swipe to scroll horizontally
TestHDDSSD% Change
Game Load0:45s0:33s27% faster
Level Load0:44s0:39s11% faster

As you can see, on average the SSD reduced loading time of many games by 20 percent. Respawn's Titanfall 2 hit as high as a 26 percent decrease with Dead Rising 4 close behind at 25 percent.

Level loading also saw a decrease in time but only around the 10 percent mark except for DOOM, which saw a large decrease of about 24 percent in loading time (tested on the new Arcade levels).

I should mention that you can, of course, put apps like Netflix, Hulu, and more on the SSD too. However, since those apps are less than 100MB (versus 70GB for some games) the increase in speed is less noticable. Nonetheless, I still recommend putting your most frequently launched on to the SSD for that extra boost.

Final thoughts and should you buy?

So, here's the deal. The Seagate Game Drive for Xbox SSD does significantly reduce loading times of games and levels, just as expected. It's a beautiful teeny thing that sits nicely near your gaming console. You can also easily take it to a friend's house, which is great.

While the 20 percent decrease may not seem a lot, those ten seconds or so add up over time. Don't forget for games and apps stored on the SSD this speed boost comes from more than just the initial load — it also loads cut-scenes and game saves faster, accelerates saving of games, and even menu loading in some games. A few seconds here and there really begin to make a difference over time. While it's not a night and day experience it does feel zippier.

If there is anything to not like about the drive is the wire is a bit awkward and there is no real place to put the drive. You lay it on the side, on top of the Xbox, or whatever. It just kind of dangles there. I may put a Velcro square on the bottom just to 'lock it down'. These are nitpicks, however.

Seagate Game Drive for Xbox SSD

While expensive the Seagate Game Drive SSD delivers plenty of boost (Image credit: Windows Central)

As to whether it is worth $200 for fast 512GB or $187 for slower 4TB is up to you. I find it hard to tell you to rush to drop $200 on storage if you are a casual gamer. In fairness, Seagate boasts that this drive is for "elite gamers" i.e. the same people who drop $300 on gaming headphones. Seagate's SSD does give a modestly impressive boost in load times, and pro players will enjoy it.

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I think the lesson here is the same as always: if you can afford it, get it, and you'll get and enjoy the fastest experience. Nonetheless, it's not something to fret over either if you don't have one. Personally, I'm just glad we have an SSD storage option for the Xbox One and One S on the market now.

Daniel Rubino
Editor-in-chief

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

52 Comments
  • Not a bad price for an SSD drive.
  • $210 for a 512GB isn't a bad price? I'd say it's pretty bad when you can buy 512GB drives for ~$130
    They can also be much smaller than this. Seagate got lazy and threw a 2.5" laptop SSD into their existing Xbox One branded enclosure.
    Here is a much better buy
    https://www.amazon.com/MyDigitalSSD-SuperSpeed-Portable-External-Storage...
    $130 for the 500GB SSD and much smaller too.
  • Ah, not sure about this one. With SSD you have to consider TBW and endurance.
    Don't just buy an SSD for the sake of it. $210 is indeed a lot for 512GB, maybe something like evo 850?
  • It is a bad price, all your paying for is an xbox logo, there is nothing special in the firmware that makes it work better than any other SSD. Buy any other brand external SSD and you get the same or better performance. Also this article doesn't seem to be aware that on Xbox hybrid HDD/SSD drives can deliver 80-90% of the performance from a pure SSD, so if you want capacity buy a hybrid drive and stick it in an external enclosure, don't ever buy a plain old HDD.
  • Yeah, I made this mistake trying to go cheap. Bought a SATA1 drive as well. It does seem to be faster considering it's a 7200 RPM drive, but definitely bottle necked. Good to know the hybrid drive also matters.
  • Considered this for Battlefield 1. I would expect it would make a significant difference, as the load times are closer to minutes. Just to be clear, by standard HDD, I assume you mean built in? I wonder what an external HDD offers?
  • You still have to *wait* for other players who don't have SSD. Single player stuff should be ok though.
  • That's for coop but for multiplayer ffa it helps
  • If you like using vehicles, it loads fast enough that you can select whatever vehicle you want before everyone else has loaded. It loads a BF1 multiplayer map a good ~40 seconds quicker that a mechanical drive.
  • Oh yeah! Does it have to be SSD?
  • Give it another yr then maybe would like more storage for that price
  • Hopefully we will see a Scorpio with a hybrid hdd/ssd drive next year.
  • You can get a middleground with a 7200 RPM drive without external power adapter.
    HGST has a 1TB 2.5” 7200 RPM HDD that can provide 160MB/s and pretty good seek times, and that can be powered completely through a USB3 adapter. I have two of these HTS721010A9E630/0J22 (https://www.hgst.com/products/hard-drives/travelstar-7k1000) with DATA 6Gb/s to USB 3.0 enclosures from DeLock (http://www.delock.de/produkte/F_235_fuer-SATA-HDD_42537/merkmale.html) and both are connected to the Xbox One (original) since months without any power issue. Faster than most notebook-class HDDs, silent and not too power-hungry, and together they add 2TB without too many cables.
    That’s the best HDD-based solution I found so far without extra power bricks, would be great to see these in the comparisons as well.
  • While the seek times are slightly higher on 7200RPM drives, they are about the same as 5400RPM drives when comparing performance differences to SSD. Going from 5400 to 7200 is like putting better tires on your bicycle. Going to SSD is like switching to a Ducati motorcycle.
  • I use a WD My Passport Ultra 4TB ($170) which is way smaller than the HDD compared in the article. It is 3.21 x 4.33 x 0.83 in vs the Seagate's 2.99 x 4.47 x 0.38 in.
  • Why is the author referring to read & write speed as "time" is eluding me...
  • Fixed, but you understood what it meant. Seems trivial.
  • I just hope that the Scorpio will get a SSD. In late 2017 a HDD would be strange.
  • It won't be strange if the SSD forces the price up. Microsoft doesn't intend to price the Scorpio at Xbox One S prices but they won't want to price themselves out of the market either. And the only people to really give a crap about loading speeds are hard-core gamers... Which are all on PC, not consoles anyway so if compromises need to be made, SSD vs HDD will likely be one of them.
  • Why not meet in the middle with a hybrid drive?
  • Microsoft is bringing more and more apps to the Xbox. And long loading times are a weakness. Same for system booting.
    A SSD is not really that expensive for Microsoft especially when they start the production in summer 2017. They don't have to pay the consumer prices like we have to. 500GB would be ok or even a hybrid form (SSHD).
    Further more the cost for the console is (more or less) irrelevant for the pricing. At the beginning of the XboxOne generation they lost money with every console they sold. Same for the Xbox 360. But that's not really a problem. They don't make money with selling the hardware. Microsoft is making money with Xbox live gold and the games.
    If Microsoft wants to make money out of the console hardware they're already lost.
    The Scorpio will be pricy but the hardware itself will cost more.
    They did the same with the first XboxOne.