The announcement that Killzone Shadow Fall hit 290GB in uncompressed data before the development team started optimizing the game for a smaller target raises the question of whether or not the 500GB storage capacities for the next-gen PS4 and Xbox One are going to be large enough — and, more importantly, which console offers the better options for the end user? Right now, the Xbox One has promised to allow external drives for game installation, while the PS4 flatly doesn’t. The PS4′s hard drive, on the other hand, will be easily replaceable where the Xbox One’s is not.
So which of these approaches is going to best deal with consumer data need? And how much storage should you plan on needing, anyway? Is an SSD upgrade a good idea?
The PS4′s (probable) performance edge, versus eventual Xbox flexibility
Both systems absolutely will benefit from an SSD upgrade. The PS4 has a simpler path here, thanks to internal SATA support, and will likely beat the Xbox One’s USB 3.0 linkage when MS finally adds external storage capability. Exactly how large the gap is will depend on underlying drivers, the SoC’s storage I/O performance, and whether Microsoft opts to include support for USB 3.0′s UASP (USB Attached SCSI Protocol), which can substantially improve USB 3.0 performance over the more-typical and default BOT (Bulk Only Transport) method. A 5-10% performance advantage for the PlayStation 4 seems likely, barring a major problem on the Sony side of things.
Sony wins the SSD side of things for another reason, though — USB 3.0 doesn’t support TRIM and SSDs don’t necessarily respond well to suddenly being unplugged. If you want to leverage SSD performance in a console through a drop-in replacement on day one, the PS4 is going to be the way to go.
Where the Xbox One has a longer-term advantage is going to be in flexibility. According to Sony, gaming off an external drive is verboten. That’s problematic, because it means whatever storage you might drop into the console’s internal drive, you’re stuck with that option — and 500GB SSDs aren’t exactly cheap, even after the hefty price drops we’ve seen this year. It’s not clear how Sony authenticates the internal hard drive, or if users could create their own backup discs by installing one drive, dropping a bunch of games on it, then uninstalling it and putting it in a safe place (more on this in a moment).
The Xbox One could be a better solution for users who like keeping games local. Assuming that the console lets you choose which drive to use for game installations, users will have the option of dropping games with short load times and relatively few load transitions on to the conventional disc, while saving the SSD for a game like Skyrim, which loves nothing more than load screens of occasionally interminable length.
Next page: Some games might take 10+ hours to download
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