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Seagate Game Drive

Platform(s): Xbox One
Genre: Hardware
Release Date: June 1, 2017


Hardware Review - 'Seagate Game Drive for Xbox One'

by Adam Pavlacka on March 8, 2018 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

The Seagate Game Drive is an external hard drive that lets gamers boost their Xbox One's storage capacity.

Buy Seagate Game Drive

Back in the early days of gaming, passwords and save states were the only options for saving your progress. Having a younger brother or sister overwrite your save was one of the worst things that could happen to someone who grew up playing on the Genesis and SNES. The PlayStation and Nintendo 64 made memory cards popular, while the Dreamcast tried to make them do double duty as minigame systems.

Memory cards were a staple across generations in gaming, even as Microsoft and Sony both introduced hard drives as standard fare. While it was convenient to save games to hard drives, it really wasn't until the middle of the last gen, when both Microsoft and Sony went full throttle with the digital games-on-demand concept that the necessity of a large hard drive became obvious. Save games may not have taken up much space, but full games do, and when current-gen games can easily top 100 GB, having a console that ships with a mere 500GB or 1TB of storage just doesn't cut it anymore.

Microsoft realized that storage would be an issue with the Xbox 360 generation, when it first allowed for USB storage, and it built on that idea with the Xbox One family of consoles. While you cannot replace the internal system drive without voiding your warranty, you can easily expand the console's storage capacity (and, as it turns out I/O performance) by attaching a USB hard drive.

When choosing a drive, both capacity and performance should be considerations; otherwise, you'll end up with a large amount of storage, but no performance benefit. If you're familiar with hardware specs, you have your choice of off-the-shelf PC parts. For someone who doesn't want to deal with picking the "right" drive, storage manufacturer Seagate offers the Game Drive family of products, which come in both 2TB and 4TB capacity. Seagate sent over the 2TB Game Drive for Xbox, which I put through its paces.

The Game Drive for Xbox is available with multiple case variants (based on different games), but the default is a plain white shell that matches nicely with the white Xbox One S console and provides a solid contrast to the black shell of the Xbox One X. The packaging provides solid protection for the drive, while at the same time being easy to open. Because the 2TB drive is USB 3.0 bus powered, setup is as simple (and direct) as plugging it in and allowing the Xbox One to format the drive.

Once formatted, the 2TB Game Drive for Xbox provides 1.8 TB of usable storage space on the Xbox One X. This is more than double the available storage that you get out of  the box with the console, as no space is required for the system OS.

In order to properly test the drive's performance, I selected 16 games and captured them booting up, as well as a few random level loads. This was done on the Xbox One X's stock internal hard drive, as well as from the Game Drive for Xbox. Although there was no consistent metric (performance differences varied from game to game), the majority of games tested typically loaded about 10-20% faster when stored on the Game Drive for Xbox.

When testing a game launch time, I started counting from the moment the game was selected from the Games menu to the moment an interactive prompt appeared on the screen. When testing a load time, I started counting from the moment the save was selected to the moment the save had fully loaded and was playable.

All of the games tested were Xbox One X Enhanced, including the three Xbox 360 BC titles in the list.

GameXbox One X (Internal)Seagate Game Drive (2TB)Game Drive Percent Difference
Assassin's Creed Origins (Launch)41.3541.700.85% slower
Assassin's Creed Origins (Load)40.0539.970.21% faster
Diablo III (Launch)36.9533.609.1% faster
Diablo III (Load)26.0020.1222.6% faster
Forza Horizon 3 (Launch)37.6235.286.20% faster
Forza Horizon 3 (Load)80.9244.7744.68% faster
Forza Motorsport 7 (Launch)48.5046.583.95% faster
Gears of War 4 (Launch)59.8553.0211.4% faster
Halo 5: Guardians (Launch)50.9839.1823.1% faster
Halo 5: Guardians (Load)27.7724.9710.1% faster
Halo Wars 2 (Launch)45.9840.7211.5% faster
Killer Instinct (Launch)50.0237.9524.1% faster
Killer Instinct (Load)22.1017.3521.5% faster
Path of Exile (Launch)32.0532.100.16% slower
Quantum Break (Launch)39.8540.601.88% slower
Quantum Break (Load)13.2013.331.01% faster
Rise of the Tomb Raider (Launch)23.0820.859.68% faster
Rise of the Tomb Raider (Load)88.3883.435.60% faster
Sea of Thieves Beta (Launch)29.8021.1518.96% faster
Skyrim Special Edition (Launch)29.6524.0818.8% faster
Fallout 3 (Launch)72.0770.282.47% faster
Gears of War 3 (Launch)44.8743.383.31% faster
Halo 3 (Launch)47.5545.474.38% faster
Halo 3 (Load) faster

Note: All times are measured in seconds.

As one-off experiences, none of the differences are that big of a deal, but if you're someone who plays games heavily, the loading time differences quickly add up. A few seconds here, a few minutes there, and by the end of the year, that could mean hours of time spent waiting rather than playing.

The only caveat is the fact that not all the games I tested saw a performance gain. Some titles, such as Path of Exile and Quantum Break, appeared to load from both drives with nearly equal speed. The Xbox 360 BC games also saw a much smaller improvement than the majority of the Xbox One X native games. Three percent is still an improvement, but it's not the 10-20% improvement seen on most of the games.

Forza Horizon 3 is the biggest standout, with a level loading time that is almost twice as quick when launching from the Game Drive for Xbox. There is no obvious reason for why it is an outlier, but multiple test runs showed that this was not an error.

Outside of game performance, the physical size of the Game Drive for Xbox is also a plus. The 2TB version is about the size of a deck of cards, and it's incredibly lightweight. If you ever game at a friend's house, this is an easy way to bring along your collection with you. It's also a great way to sideload games if you have an Xbox One where bandwidth caps are in place, as you can copy a game off the Game Drive for Xbox and authenticate on the system, as opposed to re-downloading the whole thing.

In addition to the hardware, the 2TB Game Drive for Xbox also includes a code for one month of Game Pass (the 4TB version includes a two-month code). While it's not a reason to buy the hardware, it's a nice bonus if you're planning on picking up extra storage, especially given Microsoft's plan to include major first-party titles, like Sea of Thieves, as day-one inclusions on the service.

I suppose my only real complaint with the Game Drive for Xbox is that it doesn't come pre-loaded with any of the Game Pass titles. While I have fiber at home, that's still not commonplace across North America. Since Game Pass games don't work without a subscription, having the Game Drive for Xbox ship fully loaded wouldn't be a piracy risk, and it would allow for gamers with bandwidth caps to start playing immediately.

Finally, it's worth noting that while the Game Drive for Xbox is meant for the Xbox One family of consoles, it works just fine on the Xbox 360. The Xbox 360 can only support up to 2TB USB drives, so if you plan on using this with your older console, stick with the 2TB version and not the 4TB version.

Compared to generic hard drives, it's possible to find cheaper storage options on a raw dollars-to-GB comparison. If fit and finish is important to you, or if you're looking to show off your favorite title with a branded drive, then the retail premium is worth it, as the underlying hardware is no slouch. If you own an Xbox One of any sort, the Seagate Game Drive for Xbox should be an integral part of your gaming setup.

Score: 9.0/10

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