When it comes to gaming on your personal computer (PC), storage is absolutely essential. A solid-state drive, or SSD, is a type of computer storage that uses solid-state flash memory to store data on your computer so you can quickly save and access your games whenever you need to.
The industry of SSDs is ever-evolving as our need for storage increases with larger, more complex programs and games. With this ultimate guide on how to find the best SSD, we’ll show you the basic features to look for, including examples of some of the best SSDs for gaming that you can buy, even if you’re on a budget.
Top 2.5” Picks
Last update on 2021-10-21 // The links above are affiliate // Images from Amazon
Top M.2 Picks
Last update on 2021-10-21 // The links above are affiliate // Images from Amazon
What is a SSD?
A solid-state drive, or SSD, is a data storage device. This is where you install all of your permanent or commonly used programs and games. If you’re not using an SSD, then you’re using a hard disk drive, or HDD. This is an older and slower version compared to SSD. The working principles of SSDs and HDDs are very different, with SSD generally being a more superior option for gaming.
Hard drives are always moving. They have round metal disks or platters that spin constantly when your system is running and your computer reads the data on them with a needle (a similar concept to turn-table playing records). The needle, or head, has to move to the exact location where you’re read or writing data to the hard drive from.
Solid-state drives read and write data without this constant movement. Instead of having the disks or platters continually spinning and the needle finding the data, SSDs have blocks where data is stored. The SSD sends messages to the computer that tells it which block to look at for the data that it needs.
What to Consider When Choosing The Best SSD for Gaming?
HDD or SSD – Which is Better?
There are several factors to consider when choosing SSDs and HDDs for your gaming PC, including:
- Price. HDDs are much cheaper than SSDs. You will notice that you can get more for your dollar with an HDD when looking at the storage capacity, however the disadvantage to HDDs is how much slower they are compared to a modern SSD.
- Loading time. Your PC will boot up much faster with an SSD. Due to the way SSDs are designed, they provide a much easier and quicker way to read and write data, which is an essential ability for gaming when it comes to loading time. Faster speed also affects how quickly your computer can boot up. Additionally, other applications and programs can be accessed more quickly with SSDs. This is a huge advantage when it comes to time management and reducing frustration; no gamer wants to sit around waiting for their PC to start up when they could already be in a game.
- Noise. Because there are no moving parts, SSDs are much quieter than HDDs.
- Power usage. SSDs generally uses less power than HDDs.
- Lifespan. SSDs have a limited lifespan due to the way they work. Each time the SSD erases and writes data, it is shortening its lifespan (this is often called read/write cycles). While this may sound concerning, the advances in technology and the way SSDs are designed allow SSDs last for years, depending on what you put them through.
Many people choose to have a combination of SSD and HDD memory in their PCs, using SSD for more frequently used files and HDD for everything else that requires more space but is less commonly accessed. Overall, modern and high-quality SSDs are generally more reliable and extremely faster than HDDs, making them a great choice for gamers.
Types of NAND Flash Memory (SLC, MLC, TLC and QLC)
As you probably already know, SSDs are using NAND flash memory for storing data. Yes, that same flash memory that is used in flash drives.
In order to properly function, both of these devices require not only the memory chips but also for an adequate controller that will communicate with the computer and notify it which chip it should look in to find the required information.
These tiny chips are positioned in blocks, or cells, that obtain a certain amount of bits and depending upon their number, NAND flash memories are divided into four types: Single-level Cell (SLC), Multi-Level Cell (MLC), Tri-Level Cell (TLC) and Quad-Level Cell (QLC) memory.
To be more precise, SLC memory can acquire only one bit of information, MLC acquires two bits, TLC – three bits and QLC, four bits of information. However, with the increased number of obtained bits, the speed of an SSD decreases, because the search for a proper cell in a much more crowded environment requires for more time. In other words, the higher the density of information, lower the speed of an SSD.
Single-Level Cell flash memory is the most durable, efficient and expensive of all the flash memory types. It is mostly dedicated to servers and professional working stations that require constant processing and top of the line performance.
Because of its low number of bits in each cell, this memory type delivers the best possible longevity and allows for up to 100.000 read/write cycles.
Multi-Level Cell flash memory probably delivers the best value for the money of all the memory types. It is still efficient enough to allow for comfortable video editing or gaming, but at a much lower cost.
It can withstand between 10.000 and 35.000 read/write cycles and is without a doubt the best option for power users, looking for solid durability and reliability.
Triple-Level Cell flash memory has a significantly lower efficiency than the two previous memory types. Therefore, it is much more suitable for regular home or office users that won’t take their machines to the limits.
It can handle up to 5.000 read/write cycles and, as you can anticipate, it offers only modest durability.
Quad-Level Cell flash memory, as you may guess, is the worst of all the flash memory types and offers only a mediocre performance that is good enough only for basic tasks and typical office work.
It can withstand the modest 1.000 read/write cycles and overall represents a budget-friendly solution with limited efficiency and rather questionable longevity. Still, QLC memory becomes popular nowadays as it allows to lower the potential cost.
Sequential Transfer Speeds
Sequential Transfer Speeds are how fast the SSD transfers data. You will generally see them on the sales page of any solid-state drive. For example, on a product listing, it might look like “up to 550 MB/s”, referring to the maximum megabytes per second that the SSD can read and write data. It’s extremely uncommon that you’ll actually achieve these maximum speeds seen on the sales page unless you are attempting to read or write one large block of data going to the same cell or location. More commonly, your SSD will be working with a combination of larger and smaller files, so speeds will vary depending on what you’re trying to do.
So how much do read/write speeds really matter when it comes to PC gaming? That depends on a wide range of factors, such as the type of files you’re dealing with, your budget and your personal preferences for having the highest potential speeds. In general, sequential transfer speeds may not be as important as the type of NAND flash memory, IOPS, storage space and price.
Input-Output Operations Per Second, or IOPS, is a measure of performance for SSDs and their flash memory. Unlike sequential transfer speeds, IOPS is not actually measured in MB/s. Instead, it’s a whole number that measures how many actions that the SSD can do per second. When seen on a sales page, IOPS refers to about how many 4K blocks of data can be written to the SSD in random locations. The more operations that an SSD can do per second is going to assist with better performance in day to day tasks, especially for gaming activities.
How to Choose the Right SSD?
If you’re shopping for the best SSD for gaming, there are several features you should be looking for when it comes to finding the best option to fit your preference and budget, including:
- Sequential read speed/write speed. While you may never reach the maximum speeds listed for a given SSD, SSDs with higher sequential read speeds are generally capable of reading and writing data at a faster potential rate.
- IOPS. How many read/write requests your SSD can handle may be important to consider for certain types of games that require a large workload. IOPS is also considered in conjunction with 4K performance, which is important for how your SSD accesses smaller files in random locations.
- Longevity and endurance. Unfortunately, any SSD will degrade in performance over time. However, higher-end models with SLC or MLC flash memory will generally last longer.
- 2.5” SSDs versus M.2 SSDs. While looking for the best SSD for gaming, you may see SSDs that are either 2.5” or M.2. The differences between the two have to do with the way they are attached and mounted within your PC, so your choice will depend on the way your PC is constructed. M.2 is usually faster but more expensive than 2.5”.
- Storage. Different SSD models usually have various storage capacity options, with 128GB on the lower spectrum and 1TB or more on the higher spectrum. In general, you’re going to need a large storage capacity if you intend on owning and playing a lot of games.
The Best 2.5” SSDs
Samsung 860 QVO
A Very Good Drive for the Price
If you are a mainstream gamer seeking a decent, but not too expensive SSD drive from a familiar brand, Samsung 860 QVO is the right device for you. Although its performance cannot be compared with the best gaming SSDs on the market, its cost per gigabyte (especially 2TB and 4TB version), as well as solid endurance, AES 256-bit encryption and other features make it a rational buying option that will satisfy the majority of mainstream gamers.
Samsung 860 QVO comes with a three-year warranty and is available in 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB capacity. More importantly, it can achieve read/write speeds of 550MBps/520MBps, allowing for a solid overall performance that is showing signs of weakness only when the secondary cache is overloaded, which, on the other hand, can be expected from a 4-bit NAND drive.
In other words, if you are after an excellent everyday drive, dedicated to regular, but not too demanding users, Samsung 860 QVO is a pretty good deal.
- Excellent cost per gigabyte
- Very thin
- A solid performance
- Good endurance
- AES 256-bit encryption
- Shows signs of slowing down when the secondary cache is overloaded
WD Blue 3D NAND SSD
A Good Performance SSD with an Entry Level Price
WD Blue 3D NAND SSD is proof that SSDs can deliver good performance and have an affordable price. With its 3D BiCS NAND (improved TLC) flash and older Marvell 88SS1074 controller with an LDPC technology for an improved error-correcting, this SSD delivers performance very close to the Samsung’s 850 EVO, which is more than impressive for a drive that has an almost entry-level price.
When talking about the exact numbers, its sequential read-write speed is above 560/530MB/s, which puts it in the group of the fastest TLC drives you can find on the market. Also, although it uses a TLC flash, WD Blue 3D NAND doesn’t suffer from serious performance issues during the long hauls as the other similar drives. It does slow the write speed to some 450MB/s, but not more than that, which is very good for a TLC drive.
When it comes to other interesting aspects of this drive, it is good to know that WD Blue 3D NAND is exactly the same drive as the SanDisk Ultra 3D. Therefore, no matter which of the two you buy, you will end up with the same drive.
- Affordable price
- Good endurance rating
- Performance very close to MLC NAND
- TLC consistency issues
A Cheap Entry-level SSD that Won’t Disappoint You
Highly affordable, PNY CS900 is a device designed for SSD newbies that are just starting to enjoy all of its benefits. This drive doesn’t offer a monumental performance, but a decent one that will suit the majority of the mainstream users.
PNY CS900 uses a TLC 3D NAND flash, reaches respectable sequential read/write speeds of 515/490MB/s and offers extremely low power consumption, which, combined with its durable, shock-resistant housing and small weight, makes it a perfect choice for laptops, or similar types of devices.
If you are into upgrading from a hard drive to an SSD, there is also accompanying Acronis True Image HD 2017 software that will preserve all your system settings, removing the need to reinstall the system and the stresses produced by it.
If you want to enter the SSD world, PNY CS900 is a pretty good option – small price and a good performance in one.
- Great price
- Low power consumption
- Not that great performance
SanDisk Ultra 3D NAND SSD
A Quality Twin Brother SSD That Delivers Much More Than it Costs
As previously mentioned, SanDisk Ultra 3D NAND and WD Blue 3D NAND are essentially the same drives, with a different label. They both have sequential read-write speeds of above 560/530MB/s and use the same Marvell 88SS1074 controller and nCache 2.0 (SLC caching system) that prevents drastic speed drops during long hauls.
SanDisk Ultra 3D NAND comes with a limited 5-year warranty and generally presents a good mainstream SSD option, just like WD Blue 3D NAND. According to performance, they are somewhere between the slower Crucial MX300 and a bit faster 850 EVO, and offer a good combination of performance, cost and low power consumption.
If you are a newbie in the SSD world or just want to have a decent drive that won’t cost you too much, any of the two, SanDisk Ultra 3D NAND or the WD Blue 3D NAND, will do more than a good job.
- Nice performance improvement over the previous generation
- Good price
- Not that great benchmark numbers
An Entry-level SSD Designed for Lightly Used Systems
If you are building a new system for your parents or just want a cheap drive upgrade for your lightly used PC, Crucial BX500 comes as a nice option. Of course, if you accept that its highly affordable cost also means a lack of DRAM, which is the most visible in its poor small random writes performance, but also not that great performance in general when compared to the other SSDs.
When talking about its sequential read/write speeds, they are very good 540/500MB/s, which is pretty similar to the more costly SSDs with a DRAM. Crucial BX500 uses Silicon Motion SM2258 XT controller combined with a Micron 3D TLC flash and offers not that great endurance of 120 TBW (total bytes written), because of which it has a modest 3-year warranty.
Overall, Crucial BX500 is a cheap option SSD, with limited capabilities enough for lightly used systems, or internet browsing, but nothing more than that.
- Nice price
- Good sequential read and write speed
- High read latency
- Significant speed drops during the large files writing
- Poor random writes performance
Samsung 860 Evo
A Great Performing SSD that Struggles to Fulfil Its Full Potential
If you are looking for premium quality that will deliver a top-notch SSD performance, Samsung 860 EVO is a great choice. This drive comes with a 3bit MLC 3D V-NAND flash and improved MJX controller, thanks to which it has a great endurance rating (half of the 860 PRO’s, but still among the highest ones on the market) and nice sequential read/write speed of 550/520MB/s.
Samsung 860 EVO presents a slight improvement over the previous 850 EVO, and in real life situations, due to Operating system limitations, the majority of the users will not see the difference. Another thing that is problematic for 860 EVO is competition (Crucial MX500, SanDisk Ultra 3D, etc.) that offers slightly lower performance, but for noticeably less money. Even worse, unless you are into frequent heavy workloads, you won’t spot the difference between the EVO and the rivals.
In other words, Samsung 860 EVO is a great SSD, but due to the SATA limitations and the arrival of cheaper entry-level NVMe SSDs is a bit too pricey for its own good.
- Exceptional performance
- Superb endurance
- Highly reliable
- SATA limits its full potential
An Excellent Entry-Level SSD
Kingston A400 is cheap, lightweight, and low power-consuming SSD that presents a great option for every gamer that has limited resources and wants the most for his/her money, thanks to its superb price/performance ratio. This is a budget-friendly drive devoted to lap-top gamers and entry-level users, so don’t expect from it to perform as Samsung 860 PRO or some other high-end drive. However, expect to have a reliable and durable SSD that, considering its cost, is more than an overachiever.
Kingston A400 is available in capacities from 120GB to 1.92TB, it provides the reading speed of 500MBps and writing speed between 320MBps and 450MBps, which depends on the size of the drive, and offers a fairly decent three-year warranty, especially if you add its low price into the equation.
When talking about its components, they include the Phison PS3111-S11 controller and Toshiba 15nm TLC flash memory that aren’t anything spectacular; nevertheless, they deliver very good overall performance and certainly position Kingston A400 among the best cheap gaming SSDs available on the market.
- Solid performance
- Low power consumption
- Three-year warranty
- No software included
- No DRAM buffer
Affordable SSD With Good Transfer Speed
The Crucial MX500 is a fairly inexpensive 2.5 inch SSD with decent transfer speeds and a generous 5-year limited warranty. It offers 560/510 MB/s Sequential Read/Write speeds while Random Read/Write speeds are at 95k/90k IOPS respectively.
This SSD is designed with an “Integrated Power Loss Immunity” feature so that your data will always be saved, even in the event of a sudden power outage. If you need a 2.5 inch SSD with lots of storage and a reliable build at an affordable price point, the MX500 could be the right SSD for you.
- Easy installation
- Includes integrated power loss immunity
- Sometimes runs a bit hotter than other Sata SSDs
The Best M.2 SSDs
Samsung 970 EVO Plus
Exceptional Value at More Than a Reasonable Price
Samsung 970 EVO Plus is affordable, yet very competitive NVMe 1.3 SSD, with excellent read/write speeds that go from 3500MBps/2300MBps (250GB model), at up to 3500MBps/3200MBps (higher capacity models).
This drive provides excellent endurance that rises at up to impressive 600TBW in a 2TB model, as well as great IOPS values that are, in the case of a random write, positioned around 550,000.
Samsung 970 EVO Plus is fitted with a five-year warranty and it comes with a great Samsung Magician Software. However, what is more, important is hidden “under the hood”, and that is a brand new Samsung 9x-layer V-NAND TLC memory that is performing miracles, along with the Samsung Phoenix controller, which is also used in older Samsung 970 EVO NVMe SSD, and is the key reason for this drive’s great performance.
In other words, Samsung 970 EVO Plus is a great drive, considering both performance and price. Therefore, if you are looking for something that will rock your gaming, Samsung 970 EVO Plus is definitely a great choice.
- Excellent read/write speeds
- Five-year warranty
- Great software package
- Good endurance
- Fairly priced
- Slows down a bit during long writes
WD Black SN750
A Discrete Upgrade that Still Keeps up with the Ruling Bunch
Reliability and good performance are usually the most important characteristics that users are looking for in their new SSD purchase, and WD Black SN750 is the device that perfectly fits that model.
Although it doesn’t bring any large updates over its previous generation, except for firmware updates that have significantly boosted its performance, this piece of hardware is still among the best SSDs for gaming and highly competitive with the other premium NVMe SSD devices. It is available in four capacities (250GB, 500GB, 1TB and 2TB) and is equipped with the same Western Digital in-house controller and San Disk 64-layer 3D TLC NAND, as its previous model.
Moreover, it comes with an optional heatsink that may prove to be very handy for gamers that are forcing their hardware to their limits, and a very nice five-year warranty.
More importantly, WD Black SN750 offers solid performance, with reading transfer speeds that vary from 3.1GBps in the case of the 250GB model, to 3.4Gbps with the 1TB disk, and write speeds of 1.6GBps in the case of the smallest 250GB drive, and the very impressive 3GBps ones with the 1TB disk.
In other words, WD Black SN750 still has a kick and can compete with the other big guys.
- Good power efficiency
- Excellent performance in applications
- Optional heatsink
- Too small upgrade over the previous generation of WD Black
Sabrent Rocket Q
A Great Value and Solid Performance in One
Sabrent Rocket Q is a small, attractive looking NVMe 1.3 SSD that comes with a great price and variety of capacities that expand from 500GB up to the impressive 8TB, a size that was unimaginable for an NVMe drive just a few seasons ago.
Inside of this drive, you will find highly efficient Phison E12S controller and Micron 96L QLC memory (although it provides lower endurance than TLC memories, it still offers more than solid performance) that positions this drive neck to neck with the competition, such as WD’s Blue 3D, Crucial P2, etc.
Sabrent Rocket Q comes in a package that includes FREE Sabrent Acronis True Image; it offers a five-year warranty and provides support for SMART and TRIM functions. Also, it is equipped with an advanced LDPC error correction engine that drastically enhances the drive’s overall endurance and offers support for APST, ASPM, and L1.2. power management protocols. More importantly, its read speed moves around the 3200MBps mark in most models, especially higher-capacity ones, while the writing speed is mostly around 3000MBps, with the exception of lower-capacity models, especially 500GB one that provides only 2000MBps/1000MBps read/write speed.
All in all, if you are seeking one of the best gaming NVMe SSDs out there, Sabrent Rocket Q would surely be an exceptional choice.
- Available in 8TB capacity
- Five-year warranty (when registered)
- Good software support
- Very good performance
- Speed reduces when the cache is filled
Silicon Power P34A80
A Good Performer in an Affordable Package
Silicon Power P34A80 is an NVMe-based SSD that brings good value for the money, or in other words, a more than solid performance for the price. Although, it’s not really comparable with the pack of the best SSDs, such as, for instance Samsung 970 EVO Plus, this drive is still very competitive in the entry-level market. There, it surpasses drives such as Intel SSD 660p and Crucial P1 and with its maximum sequential read speeds of around 3.4GBps and maximum sequential write speeds of around 3GBps, has a pretty similar performance to MyDigitalSSD BPX Pro drive.
Silicon Power P34A80 is fitted with Phison E12 controller and Toshiba 256Gb 64L 3D TLC NAND Flash and comes in four capacities (256GB, 512GB, 1TB and 2TB). Moreover, it supports SLC Cache and DRAM Cache Buffer and comes with a five-year warranty that is rather common for today’s TLC drives.
All in all, if you have a limited budget, but still want to treat yourself with a decent NVMe SSD, Silicon Power P34A80 is a great choice.
- Fast performance
- A fair price
- Excellent value for the money
- Not the best endurance
A Budget-Friendly NVMe SSD Solution for Mainstream Gamers
If you are searching for a solid NVMe SSD drive that will give you much faster read/write speeds (around 2300MBps/1000MBps) than the regular SSDs for a slightly higher price, Crucial P2 is the hardware for you.
This is a drive that presents a significant upgrade over its predecessor P1, allowing for trouble-free mainstream gaming and professional work at a low cost. It is equipped with a Phison E13T controller and Micron’s 96-Layer TLC flash that aren’t doing miracles but do a proper job and deliver more than a solid value for the price.
Crucial P2 is available in 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB capacity and is backed with a fairly convincing five-year warranty that, along with its long list of features that include TRIM support, Error correction code, good software package, etc., makes this drive a really good buy.
To make a long story short, if you want one of the best gaming SSDs for the price, Crucial P2 should definitely be in the top part of your list.
- Five-year warranty
- Good software package
- Solid power efficiency
- Decent performance
- Firmware requires a bit of polishing
- Small SLC cache
- No DRAM support
Whether you’re searching for the best SSD for the money or you just want a cheap SSD to satisfy your basic PC gaming needs, there’s an SSD for everyone.
Pay close attention to customer reviews and don’t get wrapped up in any one feature or specification. Consider the overall pros and cons and choose a higher quality SSD if you want a longer-lasting and higher-performance SSD for gaming.