The new generation consoles have opted for the use of NVMe SSD units to store games, but faced with the expansion of memory the two brands did not get along, since Microsoft with its Xbox opted for memory cards. owners extension. However, there is the possibility of opting for a lower cost alternative which we are going to talk about in this article and by the way it will help us to explain how the external storage of Xbox Series consoles works.
Xbox Series external storage
If we want to expand the storage capacity of our Xbox Series X or Xbox Series X, we have to buy a custom or custom expansion card, which doesn’t mean they make us a custom one, but they don’t. There is only one model and Microsoft controls the price of the same. The reason is very simple, consoles are sold on waste, and manufacturers get the money back in two ways: with game royalties and by selling certain accessories at a higher price like Xbox Series X storage.
Xbox Series Memory Cards
But what is the particularity of being expansion cards? These are really CF Express cards with a proprietary terminal to be connected to the storage expansion port of the Xbox Series S and Series X consoles. This connector is proprietary and therefore its specification is not officially documented, although it already exists. experts who rely on Reverse. Engineering discovered that it was a PCI Express port, but with pins arranged differently so that standard NVMe SSDs could not be connected.
The reason this was possible discovered is because for storage the Xbox Series X uses a four-lane PCI Express interface which is subdivided into two two-lane paths. The first one is used by the internal SSD installed in the console, which is exactly the same as the external one, but without the plastic case, as it is not necessary. While the second is for the storage expansion port.
CF Express Cards
CF Express cards, Compact Flash Express, are a type of memory expansion cards that are the evolution of expansion cards already disappeared in the market of the same name, except for the last word. Its name is due to the use of a PCI Express interface, normally between 1 and 4 communication channels. So they are for all practical purposes the equivalent of an M.2 NVMe expansion card, but in the form of a memory card.
Compact Flash cards were used with DSLR type cameras, but gradually they were replaced by SD format, but the need for faster bandwidths, especially when it comes to storage for 4K video / 8K or even HDR in professional camcorders eventually creates the need for a new memory card format.
CF Express Card Types
CF Express cards have three different variations:
- Types A are the smallest, measuring 20 x 28 x 2.8mm and have a single lane PCI Express interface. Its form factor and contact layout are the same as an SD card, allowing manufacturers to create an expansion port that accepts both types.
- As for Type B cards, they are 38.5 x 29.8 x 3.8mm and have two PCI Express lanes, they use the same size and interface as XQD cards and many compatible devices are compatible with it. this type of expansion card.
- Type C is the rarest, its dimensions are 54 x 74 x 4.8mm and use 4 PCI Express lanes. They are still much smaller and more compact than a SATA 2.5 SSD.
Well, Microsoft has gone with the CF Express Type B for storage for its Xbox Series, but with one important difference when using PCI Express Gen 4, the cards on the market are not compatible with the Xbox console because they cannot transmit the signal with sufficient speed, besides having some differences with the memory cards of the Xbox Series S and
CF Express versus Xbox Memory Cards
One of the problems when transmitting data is power consumption and this power consumption generates heat and CF Express cards are designed to operate at lower bandwidths than Microsoft console. Xbox memory cards are therefore designed to operate with the highest bandwidths provided by PCI Express 4.0 interfaces. .
So if what you are looking for is to be able to connect a CF Express as an Xbox memory card, not only will you not have enough bandwidth, but they are also extremely expensive, since they use NVMe memory chips which have passed more demanding tests and therefore fewer are available. Instead, Microsoft’s design allows them to use standard chips and thus reduce costs.
Alternatives to Xbox memory card
Officially there isn’t, but once we know that the interface is a modified CF Express, which in turn is a variant of PCI Express, so logically we only need to connect one NVMe converter like the one you see in the picture above, yes the NVMe M2 must support 4th gen PCIe.
And the reality is that by using this type of adapter, the console reads the unit without a problem, so it’s a great way to save money when buying a memory card for our consoles. Xbox. In addition, since the Microsoft console is designed to use lower bandwidth than the PS5, it is compatible with a larger number of NVMe PCI Express SSDs, but in any case, since there is no support official, we can not know what they are 100% compatible and which are not or are causing problems.
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