How to expand your PS4 storage space with an external hard drive

Plug in a drive to store more games

PlayStation 4 software update 4.5 is here and - rejoice! - it's delivered external hard drive support.

You're now able to connect a USB 3.0-enabled external drive to your brilliant black box and it'll increase your overall gaming capacity by anything between 250GB and 8TB, depending on the size of drive you go get.

Is it that simple, though? See, there's more than one kind of drive, which means there's more than one way to boost your PlayStation's storage.

Worry not, as we've put a host of external drives to the test to find out just which solution makes the most sense for PS4 users aching to find some extra space.

...using an external SSD

Using a tiny solid-state drive as your PS4's external expansion solution seems the obvious choice: not only are the drives properly pocketable, they're also, in theory, much faster than traditional hard drives.

Here, though, the quandry of USB 3.0 comes into play. In theory, USB 3.0 has a top transfer speed of 5Gbps, where SATA III (used by most internal hard drives) offers 6Gbps, which isn't a huge gulf. The difference, though, is that USB controllers can slow things down a lot - far more noticeably than any differences in drive speed itself.

What's the outcome? Across all the drives we tested, the speed difference was marginal at best - likely because each had to channel through the USB 3.0 interface in order to talk to the PS4.

Transcend's ESD220C SSD, for example, has a write speed of 400MB/s - which, while relatively quick, meant there was no major difference using it on the PS4 over the other drives, bar a few seconds shaved off loading times.

Still, as a drive the ESD220C is probably the one you want, if you've got the readies: while at 240GB it can't rival the capacities of the HDDs below, it's a tiny, tiny device that weighs nothing at all - perfect for packing in your game-sack.

Buy the Transcend ESD220C SSD here

...using an SSHD and a caddy

If, then, an SSD seems to make no noticeable difference beyond a couple of seconds on load screens, what's the benefit of a hybrid drive?

These disks combine the vast storage capacity of a physical hard drive, with a small solid-state component. The drive learns which files you use most and intelligently puts them onto the quicker sector.

We picked up Seagate's 1TB Game Drive for PlayStation and stuck it in a USB 3.0 enclosure to see whether that combination made a difference. The answer? Not really - beyond adding a far greater capacity for a lot less cash.

As precisely as we could measure them, load times were near identical to the SSD and, given that the solid-state drive should have been the quickest, we can't imagine the SSHD getting any faster even as it learns which games are our favourites.

That was very much the same with gameplay, where there was no noticeable lag or bugginess on any of the drives, regardless of their mechanics. The only major benefit we can think of, then, for using a hybrid drive is that it combines a big capacity with the hardiness of flash memory, which might stand the test of time (being reconnected and rebooting repeatedly) a little better.