PlayStation 4 can now load games from external drives – does it make a difference?

Years ago, 500GB seemed like an unimaginably huge amount of hard drive space. For your phone and for most daily computer use, it still is. For gamers, though, it seems like a pittance, and it’s only going to get worse as games with ultra-high-resolution textures meant to be viewed at 4K become a thing. To mitigate that, the Xbox One allows users to plug in an external drive of their choice, allowing for massively-expanded game storage without the need to crack open the system or worry about copying games.

With the recent 4.5 update to the PlayStation 4 firmware, Sony’s bringing the PlayStation 4 up to standard in that arena. The question is, then, does it make a difference? If the only concern is space, then there’s no doubt that it does. But does it affect how games play? The guys over at Eurogamer‘s Digital Foundry team took the system to task to figure out just how big a difference it would make and come away with some pretty interesting results.

There are a bunch of ways to test this, but Digital Foundry kept it pretty simple with two drives. Focusing on space, they chose a 4TB Seagate drive that runs at roughly the same speed as the PlayStation 4’s internal drives. For speed, a 480GB SSD dropped into a USB enclosure did the trick. It’s slightly less space, but a potentially huge jump in speed.

It’s a win-win situation

The good news is that, if you’re looking to expand your space, you’re going to come out on top no matter how you do it.

On a standard PlayStation 4, Digital Foundry saw noticeable jumps on both the rotational drive and the solid-state drive. The gains on a PlayStation 4 Pro are less significant, but still present.

In Battlefield 1, for example, the team saw a drop from 110 seconds to 87 seconds switching from the internal 500GB drive to the external 4TB drive. The External SSD was even better, clocking in at 51 seconds. Some games were less impressive. Skyrim Special Edition only saw improvements from 22 seconds to 18 and 15 seconds. With how many screens a standard playthrough of Skyrim involves, though, we’re talking about half-an-hour fewer loading screens. Dropping the SSD into an external enclosure even seemed like a better option than dropping the drive directly into your PlayStation 4.

Each game, without fail, showed some improvement. If you plug an external drive into your system and load games off of it, you’ll have a better experience, it seems. Digital Foundry also notes that the FreeBSD formatting Sony uses on the system means that even a drive chock full of games will offer those benefits, where more standard formats tend to slow as they become full.

It is worth noting that, very occasionally, some games do have difficulties with external drives. Digital Foundry’s team ran into issues using an external drive on Prey on Xbox One. With so many games and potential installation options, issues are sure to crop up occasionally, but overall it seems like a big improvement for a moderate investment and very little work. Check out the source link below for more in-depth analysis on the benefits of each option.