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Xbox Series X and PS5: The new consoles are all about crazy fast storage

Ray-tracing may be getting the attention, but it's really all about SSDs
Christopher Schodt
C. Schodt|04.01.20

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The Xbox One and PS4 were the start of an unusual console generation. Both systems adopted very "PC-like" architecture and instead of a new generation we instead got a refresh where Microsoft and Sony both released faster versions of their existing consoles, the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X.

We may still have a few months left to wait, but finally we've gotten details of what the next real generation will bring. Microsoft and Sony have both stuck with the PC-like design of their predecessors, and are again using AMD as their CPU and GPU supplier, but the Xbox Series X and PS5 will be very different from the current generation.

The biggest changes come from the storage systems. Considering the Xbox One and PS4 both still use slow mechanical hard drives, we figured a move to smaller, faster, more efficient flash-based SSDs was inevitable, but Microsoft and Sony have gone all out. Both systems feature custom storage interfaces with PCI Express 4.0 SSDs and custom hardware to handle real-time decompression. That means these drives will move serious amounts of data very quickly. The Series X is claiming transfer speeds of around 3-4GB/s, while the PS5 may be capable of data rates as high as 9GB/s.

With data rates that high (the current consoles manage maybe 150MB/s in ideal conditions), load times should be cut down to seconds, and in-game load screens may become a thing of the past. Faster data rates could also enable higher resolution textures for more photo-realistic graphics, and enable you to switch between games with the click of a button.

Add in a significantly upgraded CPU and a long-awaited AMD ray tracing solution for hyper-realistic lighting, and these consoles represent a huge leap forward. Hopefully, their benefits will also trickle down into the PC space as well, and games on every platform will be able to leverage these new possibilities to be faster and better looking.

We don't know exactly when they'll arrive yet, or how much they'll cost, but we'll have more details on the Series X and PS5 as soon as they're announced.

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