Microsoft has announced a new Xbox One SKU that will go on sale in November at GameStop and the Microsoft store. The new console will feature an Elite wireless controller (sold separately at the eye-watering price of $149) and a 1TB SSHD. If you’re not familiar with that acronym, SSHDs arehybrid drives that combine a small amount of NAND flash storage alongside traditional spinning discs.
The advantage of an SSHD (Solid State Hybrid Drive) is that they’re often quite a bit cheaper than an equivalently-sized HDD and offer many of the same benefits. Boot times typically much faster, and Microsoft is promising that boot times on this new drive could be “up to” 20% faster. As of a year ago, benchmarks indicated that “up to” had quite a bit of play in it. Eurogamer’sextensive profiling showed that while faster storage was a huge benefit to the Xbox One in some games, other titles saw very little improvement, even when the default hard drive was swapped out for a full-fledged SSD.
Microsoft probably isn’t commissioning a custom drive, which means the new SSHD will likely be provided by Seagate. Hopefully the company can do more work to optimize the drive’s performance, however. This may or may not be possible — the Xbox One may not be optimized for faster storage, which would explain some of its performance lag. Alternately, the benefits to upgrading may simply be fairly modest. There should be no data loss or associated risks with an SSHD that you sometimes see on SSD cache drives — on previous SSHD products, Seagate kept the NAND in read-only mode, which simplified the data protection process.
At $499, the new bundle is also a bit pricey for what you get. As nice as Microsoft’s Elite controller reportedly is, paying $149 for a controller is… steep. Given that you can buy an Xbox One today for as low as $349, and SSHD’s aren’t that expensive, even at retail, and the $499 Xbox One isn’t going to include any games. Basically, you’re buying a slightly discounted Elite controller and a faster, larger SSHD. There’s nothing wrong with that, as such, but after steep price cuts drove record sales last holiday season, Microsoft is apparently hoping that it can stoke its volume without cutting price. Whether or not that’s enough to boost it against the PS4, which enjoys an enormous sales advantage and is generally seen as having more momentum around it than the Xbox One, remains to be seen. Microsoft has done a great deal of work to improve its services after the console’s disastrous debut and initial post-launch period, but consumers haven’t looked back from buying into Sony’s infrastructure.