At a fundamental level, the best SSDs for gaming are those that offer lightning-fast speeds and consistent performance when doing just about anything on your PC. Now, while gaming is the predominant focus that you would expect to excel with these solid-state drives - anything from the boot time of your OS to the transfer speeds of files is something that must be taken into consideration, too.
Whether you're looking to speed up your existing rig, or hoping to build one of the best gaming PCs that you can for your money, the best SSDs for gaming nowadays tend to be NVMe/M.2 PCIe models, usually Gen 4.0 (though Gen 3.0 still very much have their respective place as well). It should be reiterated, however, that if you're chasing the fastest possible sequential read and write speeds possible in this form factor that things do tend to get expensive when considering high capacities.
In terms of the best PS5 SSDs on the market, Gen 4.0 is an absolute minimum, as are the specific requirements needed to function in your console, such as a maximum width of 22mm and a dedicated heatsink - be that DIY or from an NVMe/M.2 SSD with its own built-in heatsink or heat spreader. On PC, however, you've of course got the options to use SATA III SSDs, which are still very much feasible in a modern rig, as well as more affordable for much larger capacities of 2TB and up, but the most optimal way to get the most out of your rig is a tandem setup of NVMe/M.2 drives combined with traditional SATA III SSDs.
Regardless of SSD type or capacity, you're sure to save money on some of the models that we've got featured below later this month in the Black Friday SSD deals, and if you're solely interested in console storage, we've got you covered, too, with the Black Friday PS5 SSDs as well.
The best SSD for gaming
Right now, cutting-edge contenders for the best SSD for gaming don’t deliver big benefits over cheaper drives, in-game. That might change once Microsoft ports part of its fancy ‘Velocity’ storage architecture over from the Xbox to PC in the form of DirectStorage, perhaps as soon as later this year.
When that happens, the new WD Black SN850 might just become the storage weapon of choice for well-heeled PC gamers. Tested here in 1TB form and also available in 500GB and 2TB capacities, the SN850 is an absolute screamer thanks to its quad-lane PCIe Gen 4 interface, shiny new controller chipset, and a large 300GB chunk of its SanDisk 96L 3D TLC flash memory running in super-fast SLC cache mode. Where it really scores, however, is in 4K random performance, which is arguably more important in terms of how responsive your PC feels. At 250MB/s, it’s the fastest flash drive we’ve seen for 4K random writes at queue depth one. Impressive.
As you’d expect given the SLC cache provisioning, sustained performance is excellent, too, maintaining peak performance right up to that 300GB marker, which should be plenty for most people. WD’s confidence in the SN850’s broader longevity is likewise indicated by the five-year warranty and 6TB write rating. All of which means our only reservations with this excellent SSD involve cooling and pricing. For the former, there is none as standard, which is a slight concern given this SSD can run hot.
When you think of the best SSD for gaming, the first thing that comes to mind absolutely isn't one in the form of an expansion card. The WD Black AN1500 is one of the first and best of this type on the market though, and while the speeds are utterly astounding, unfortunately, you do need to pay for the privilege. The smallest capacity for this bad boy is 1TB which will set you back around $330/£270, while the largest capacity available – the 4TB – is a staggering $999/£840. This is arguably the fastest SSD on the market for any gamer, but it's only worth it for true PC gaming enthusiasts.
In terms of some benchmark numbers, the AnvilPro tool has the sequential 4MB read and write scores for the 2TB AN1500 as 4,231 MB/s and 3,448 MB/s respectively, which is far higher than the other SSDs we tested (although also a bigger capacity). In CrystalDiskMark, the sequential 1MB read and write scores were 6511 MB/s and 4412 MB/s.
On a more practical level, however, this has been my main SSD for gaming recently and I've been mightily impressed: loading my multiplayer games like Valorant and Rainbow Six Siege takes no time at all. There's more than enough room on the AN1500 variants to store the majority of your games and then some. But be braced for impact when you see the price - this one is ripe for saving for or watching out for sales.
The Samsung 980 Pro is one of the best SSDs for gaming at the Gen 4 end of the spectrum that's on the market right now, and it's made even more appealing by the fact that it's regularly on sale. Keep in mind that this particular NVMe drive only goes up to 2TB capacity, but if you're wanting to operate within that 1TB-2TB range, then you can't go wrong with performance on offer.
The highlight of the Samsung 980 Pro NVMe SSD is the Intelligent TurboWrite 2.0 feature, which essentially acts as a boost to write more data than its predecessors (including the 970 Evo Plus) at much faster, more consistent rates. It should be noted that the SSD comes with specialist software (Samsung Magician) in order to track the health of your drive, as well as tweak any settings to your liking, which could be particularly important if you're not using a heatsink (but we definitely recommend using one to keep those core temperatures down).
Silicon Power's US70 SSD is one of the better value-for-money propositions when expressly considering 1TB and 2TB capacity M.2 PCIe models. It may not have the absolute fastest read and write speeds that you may have seen on some 4.0 NVMe SSDs, but if you're just looking for something to load your games up quickly, with more than respectable file transfer times, then you could certainly do worse in its price range.
In our testing, we found that the Silicon Power US70 held up remarkably well when put through its paces in Anvil with read and write figures at 5,847.19 and 10,744.14 respectively. CrystalDiskMark was similarly promising with 2,823.10 read and 3,321.54 write, which is more than enough for gaming in 2021.
However, as far as real-world gaming performance is concerned, every game that was tested with this SSD booted up instantaneously no matter how demanding it was, and that's going to be the real selling point here, especially for people looking to transfer their Steam game libraries over from a SATA III drive for a very noticeable performance boost.
Read more: Silicon Power US70 SSD review
The Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus offers phenomenal sequential performance and comes with a suite of advanced software so that you can tailor its functionality to suit your needs - all for a cheaper rate than a lot of flagship Gen 4.0 NVMe models from other brands. The highlight of the drive comes from its consistent sustained data transfer rates, and with capacities ranging up to 4TB, it's likely to offer all the grunt and space you need in your rig.
Really it's in the largest size available that the Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus shines the brightest, especially when considering that the Samsung 980 Pro and WD Black SN850 Gen 4.0 drives currently don't come close to that kind of size range. On the performance front, however, the Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus can indeed hit those promised 7,100 MB/s read and 6600 MB/s write, making it one of the top-performing Gen 4.0 drives out on the market right now.
How much SSD do you actually need for a gaming-centric PC? Probably about as much as the SK Hynix Gold P31 offers in 1TB format. That’s enough storage to keep a fair few of your favorite titles stored for quick access. As for performance, this is a PCIe Gen 3 rather than Gen 4 M.2 SSD. So, it’s limited to half the interface speed of the very best drives. But it’ll still knock out around 3.5GB/s of both read and write performance, which will be plenty for most gamers.
Anyway, if you don’t have a PC with PCIe 4.0 support - and that’s most of us - it’s something of a moot point. Elsewhere, performance is mostly strong, with sustained throughput never drooping below 750MB/s even when filling the drive to capacity, no doubt thanks to the use of TLC rather than cheaper QLC memory chips. 4K random access performance is a tiny bit patchier, but not to the extent that you’ll feel it subjectively in use.
The same goes for game-level load times. Yes, the very best SSDs for gaming are quicker. The fastest available drives deliver double the peak bandwidth, but only around 15 to 20 percent faster load times.
One of the best performing M.2 SSDs on the market is the WD Black SN750. It doesn't innovate much over its predecessor – it's still on the same hardware, after all – but the performance tests prove that you don't need to fix what ain't broke. It's worth noting that we've only tested the 250GB variant of the SN750 – the increased sizes seem to offer better performance, peaking at 1TB, before the 2TB option starts to decrease again. However, at just £45/$55 for the 250GB model, you're not breaking the bank for an SSD that can hold a good few games.
In AnvilPro, the 250GB SN750 came back with 2,474 MB/s and 1,488 MB/s read and write scores in the sequential 4MB category, but improved upon them slightly – as expected – in CrystalDiskMark's 1MB test, with 3108 MB/s and 1575 MB/s. These are incredibly hearty numbers and show that the drive has the chops to handle whatever you throw at it.
I've been mainly using the SN750 for my single-player games – Assassin's Creed Valhalla, Cyberpunk 2077, etc. – and the loading is impressively quick, to the point where this SSD – especially at this price – would easily take the number one spot in this buying guide were it not for the incredible speeds of the AN1500.
SATA-type drives are the oldest form of SSDs on the market. And while they can't quite compare against the M.2 form storage devices, they are still worthy of their place in the best SSD for gaming conversation - almost purely on value alone.
Simply put, nowadays, they are remarkably cheap. And you can have multiple SATA drives in your PC, provided you have the cables and setup, and for a bargain price. These drives can really shine as great backup drives for games and storing files on and the Crucial MX500 is the best of the lot, so you can't go far wrong. Especially since it costs considerably less than other SATA SSD models at just $50 or £40 for 250GB, or around $225/£200 for a 2TB bad boy.
On the benchmarking front, the Crucial MX500 doesn't 'impress' much compared to the other SSDs in this guide, but as explained above, that's due to the SATA connection - everything is relative, after all. In the sequential 1MB test, it provides 561 MB/s read and 468 MB/s write – almost identical to the 4MB test with 524 MB/s and 482 MB/s respectively.
If you're looking for a main SSD, then, budget-dependent, one of the above SSDs are likely your best bet, but if you're looking for a secondary drive, or are building a budget rig, then the Crucial MX500 is certainly one of the best of the rest. I currently use it for all the games I can't fit on my other drives and while the loading speeds aren't quite the same, it's still far better and faster than any HDD would be (and most other SATA SSDs, for that matter).
For the asking price, the WD Blue SN570 offers exceptional value for money, with the trade-off being fairly average sequential speeds even by Gen 3.0 standards. Its asking price overall though is what elevates this particular drive above its competition, with the 1TB configuration we tested coming in with an MSRP of only $125 (though its frequently on sale for under $100) making it one of the better all-rounder performers we've seen at this capacity.
You're not going to witness the blistering speeds of Western Digital's flagship Gen 4.0 range, such as the WD Black SN850, but for the money, you're getting a very solid drive with more than respectable read and write figures, as well as decent transfer times. Make no mistake, while not face-meltingly fast, the WD Blue SN570 is still quicker, and cheaper, than most SATA III style drives on the market, while offering performance comparable to the SK Hynix Gold S31 in many respects.
You can also save money later this month on external drives of all kinds in the Black Friday external hard drive deals. If you're looking to make further upgrades to your current gaming PC then the Black Friday RAM deals are definitely ones to watch as well.