On Tuesday, Microsoft issued a software update for its Xbox 360 video game console that adds an interesting new capability: Users can now connect up to two USB storage devices to the console to supplement the Xbox 360's hard drive. But although this functionality is indeed promising, it's a bit less useful than it could be. Each device can allocate only 16GB of storage to the console.
"\\[This\\] system update will allow USB flash drives to be used for storing profiles, game saves, demos, and more," a Microsoft statement reads. "Any flash drive can be used. We are \\[also\\] partnering with SanDisk to release an Xbox 360-branded USB flash drive in May that comes preconfigured out of the box and ready to go." That SanDisk device is available in both 8GB and 16GB versions.
Because of the storage limitations, users will be able to add only 16GB of storage per device, for a total of 32GB, and they'll have to manually manage which data is stored in which location. For the sake of perspective, today's Xbox 360s ship with hard drives that range from 60GB to 250GB. Microsoft says it's limiting the storage allotment to 16GB because of performance: Flash drives offer far better performance than hard drives, and most come in smaller capacities. But larger hard drives would be a better option for media content such as movies.
Aside from the storage limitation, it is possible to install Xbox 360 (but not original Xbox) games directly onto the USB storage. This capability could yield significant performance improvements. Previously, Microsoft had offered a way for customers to install games to the Xbox 360's hard drive, which provides a performance boost, so moving to flash storage could offer another similar boost.