Just a couple of weeks ago I reviewed the Data Bank for the Xbox One, a much newer product than the Data Bank for the PS4, but one that offers space-hungry consumers the same solution. The idea is that you can buy a multi-terabyte 3.5″ hard drive and install it directly into the Data Bank to expand your system’s available storage space. With more games going digital all the time and install sizes blowing past thirty and forty gigabytes, not to mention all of those “free” games from PS Plus and Xbox Live Gold (does anyone ever play those or just download them?), storage space for your consoles is at a premium.
The Data Bank and the PS4 readily support up to 2TB drives, but that can be at least doubled if not tripled from what I have read. Actually on that note, in one of the pictures in the Data Banks instructions, a 4TB hard drive is shown being installed, so there you go. But as luck would have it, I only had a 1TB and a 2TB drive available to test. The only caveat for 4TB and larger appears to be that you cannot set your PS4 to Rest Mode, for if you do when you turn it on the next time it goes through a lengthy disk check procedure, but personally I almost always do a full shutdown anyway.
That said, one really nice thing about the Data Bank for the Xbox One was that the whole process was pretty painless. With the PS4, it’s definitely more involved, but the end result is the practically the same. Unboxing the Data Bank reveals multiple parts and three separate foldout manuals labeled Sheets A, B, and C. There is also a registration form and a another document warning you to follow the instructions closely to ensure you do not lose any of your data. The Xbox One makes this process a lot easier, but just follow the very large print, illustration-laden instructions to the letter and you’ll be fine.
You will need a 2GB USB drive in FAT32 format to prepare. Sheet A takes you through the steps of creating a folder called PS4 and a subfolder called UPDATE in which you will place the full PS4 system update (around 800MB). Set this aside and move to Sheet B in which you will actually do the physical installation. There are a dozen steps, but it isn’t nearly as daunting as it sounds, although some of the spelling mistakes in the instructions isn’t super encouraging. So first, power off the PS4, remove all cabling, slide off the hard drive cover and store it for future use, and remove a single screw. Nyko provides a very small screwdriver with the Data Bank for this operation, not unlike the inclusion of Allen wrenches you find with assembly-required furniture; anyway, it’s a nice touch. Next is the removal of the old 2.5″ drive and then you connect the SATA adapter to the PS4. Then, the new shell with your drive, connect the drive to the SATA adapter, put on the cover and then connect the Data Bank’s power cable into the PS4, and then the AC cable from utility power to the PS4.
Sheet C takes you through the next phase which is all on-screen. Using the USB drive with the PS4 update file on it, you boot the PS4 into safe mode and follow the on screen prompts to reinitialize the PS4. Your new drive gets formatted, the software gets installed, and a handful of steps later you’re ready to go. Move your savegames back, re-download any digital content you need to, install your games, and you should be all set.
Now, I haven’t done any exhaustive testing as I simply don’t have the time nor resources to compare read and write speeds between the stock 5400rpm 500GB drive and the 7200rpm 2TB drive I installed, but I will say the difference is minimal at best and actually decreased at worst. IGN has some interesting numbers that they shared in their review, and while I can’t reproduce those in my own setup, there are other sources that also suggest that the Data Bank does actually slow loading times down by a significant margin. Whether that’s something that can be fixed in a PS4 system update, or if Sony would even try to do so, who knows — it might also just be a limitation of the Data Bank or the PS4 itself in hardware, I can’t say for sure. It’s something to keep in mind though if you’re considering the Data Bank.
The Data Bank can help you solve your probably of needing more storage space on your PS4 but it comes at some cost. Financially, it’s likely cheaper and does look better than doing a larger external drive, but your mileage in terms of pricing can vary. I have to admit that I’m not a fan of the unit siphoning electrical power from the PS4 either, devices that ‘piggy-back’ on the electrical feed to a console make me nervous. I much prefer Nyko’s approach to the Xbox One Data Bank in that it had its own power supply. Slower read speeds for some applications is also disappointing with the Data Bank. Let’s wrap it up in the summary…