Should You Buy A Storage Upgrade At All?
Hardware enthusiasts struggle to leave their systems alone, and I'm no different. It's hard for me to buy anything (even a console, which you wouldn't think would be ideal for tweaking), and not want to improve on its stock form. Fortunately, Sony really does make it easy to pull out the PlayStation 4's hard drive and swap in the storage device of your choosing.
Our testing shows that there are some performance gains to be had from tossing an SSD into the PS4, but they're small. You can shave a few seconds off of its boot time or load a saved game slightly faster, but ultimately, you're going to spend way too much more or lose too much capacity in the process. Sure, solid-state drives are getting cheaper. To match the PS4's stock 500 GB disk, though, you're looking at several hundred dollars. That's enough to build an entry-level gaming PC!
We can actually make a case for Seagate's 1 TB SSHD, though. At $120, the drive is affordable. It also delivers somewhat SSD-like performance, even as it doubles the console's stock capacity. In many cases, the speed-up you get will be difficult to feel. But at least you can fit a lot more content onto the SSHD without sinking a ton of cash in an upgrade.
As for the 1 TB WD Scorpio Blue we had lying around, it turns out to be a little slower than Samsung's stock Spinpoint M8. The good news is that you give up minimal speed for twice the capacity. And if you have a spare notebook drive taking up space somewhere anyway, the upgrade turns into a fun little no-cost project.
In the grand scheme of things, you don't get enough out of a PlayStation 4 hard drive upgrade to justify spending a lot of money. The PS4 was designed with its stock disk in mind, and it delivers a well-balanced experience, given the console's total cost. You wouldn't buy a new car and then drop half of its cost on an exhaust system for 10 more horsepower, right? That'd be the SSD equivalent. Those same gains you get on the desktop just don't translate over.
Again, we like the Seagate 1 TB SSHD for its speed, size, and selling price. If you do feel compelled to upgrade immediately, that's the drive to buy. But even then, there aren't enough games to fill the included 500 GB disk. Storage is only getting cheaper, and we'll eventually see 2 TB devices in a 9.5 mm form factor. Perhaps by then you'll need the extra space.
Here's another idea for gamers with money burning a hole in their pockets. Pick up a PSN Plus subscription, play online, and gets discounts on new titles. Or just buy a couple of PS4 games and enjoy some quality time with the console. Still feeling too flush with cash? The PS Vita might make a more compelling purchase for its Remote Play capability. That's a story for another day...