The best SSD for gaming

Best SSD for gaming 2019

Best SSD for gaming 2019

Getting the best SSD for gaming makes a huge difference to your build. Functionally, you need extra space to instal the best PC games, but getting a drive with quicker file transfer and read speeds can chop load times right down. Not only that, because SSDs have no moving parts, they are quieter than HDDs and can even cut down on the power consumption of your PC. There are only upsides to getting an SSD in your rig... apart from price, as you pay significantly more per GB. That's why we created this guide: to help save you money on this most essential of components.

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Looking for more build advice? Here are our guides to the best graphics cards, the best CPU for gaming, and the best PC cases.

Right now SATA drives are more common, cheaper, and generally the best SSDs for gaming. While performance is marginally better in NVMe drives, that extra cost doesn't really justify the hike in price. You can now get a decent speed SATA SSD, with 500GB of storage, for less than $100 with many 1TB drives only just popping above the $150 mark. They're often on sale at retailers like Amazon and NewEgg for way less. While there are disparities in performance between the best drives, like the Samsung EVO and PRO, and the budget options like the WD Blue and Mushkin, you'll usually be able to find all types of SSD on offer throughout the year.

If you decide to go for one of the best NVMe SSDs, make sure your motherboard is compatible, as you'll need an M.2 slot in there. Most SATA drives fit most gaming PCs, so there's less of an issue. 

Samsung 860 Evo 1TB

Samsung 860 Evo 1TB

1. Samsung 860 Evo 1TB

The best SSD for gaming, balancing price and performance

Capacity: 1TB | Interface: SATA 6Gb/p/s | Sequential IO: 550/520MB/s read/write | Random IO: 98K/90K IOPS read/write | Endurance: 300 TBW

As fast as SATA gets
Proven Samsung reliability
SATA bottlenecks
Sometimes higher prices

If there's one company that tends to rule in the SSD market space, it's Samsung. The 850 Evo was a long-time favorite, which remains viable even today, but the 860 Evo line has largely displaced it. Samsung currently trades blows with Crucial for our top pick, depending on capacity and current prices, but both are excellent drives with proven reliability and performance. The 1TB 860 Evo hits the sweet spot for price and performance, but the higher capacity models are also worth a look, especially as they're relatively cheap and dropping in price as the months go by. 

These are great SATA drives, so you're unlikely to have compatibility issues here. The newer 970 Samsung drives are great, if you're looking for an NVMe alternative, but they currently cost about 30-50% more, so you really should consider whether you want to spend that money. For cost vs performance, this 860 Evo 1TB SATA really hits the sweet spot, and it's often reduced via Amazon or NewEgg.

2. WD Black SN750

The best NVMe SSD designed specifically for gaming

Capacity: 250GB | Interface: PCIe 8Gb/s | Sequential IO: 3,470/3,000MB/s read/write | Random IO: 515/560K IOPS read/write | Endurance: 600 TBW

Breakneck performance
Robust monitoring software
Heatsink doesn't come standard

Western Digital has long been recognized for its role in the volatile spinning hard drive market, a space often ridiculed for the the fundamental unreliability of the technology it bolsters. If we weren't clear enough already, the WD Black SN750 is proof the company can find success outside the rickety data storage hardware of yesteryear. Though it's not without its faults, this M.2 form factor NVMe drive is a speed demon, made faster by a Gaming Mode you can toggle on or off in the company's integrated SSD Dashboard software. 

Of course, kicking it into overdrive also means cranking up the heat which, according to Western Digital, necessitates the use of a thermal heatsink. Sold separately, the heatsink model is optional and sold at a premium, but the company claims its "passive cooling features" aid with ushering in "optimal levels of performance."

Crucial MX500 1TB

Crucial MX500 1TB

3. Crucial MX500 1TB

The best budget option for SATA SSDs

Capacity: 1000GB | Interface: SATA 6Gb/s | Sequential IO: 560/510MB/s read/write | Random IO: 95K/90K IOPS read/write | Endurance: 360 TBW

One of the fastest SATA drives
Competitive price per GB
Can't touch NVMe performance
500GB model a bit expensive

The ideal SSD for a gaming PC strikes a perfect price/performance/reliability balance, which is more difficult than it sounds. Crucial's MX500 is one of the few drives that really has no weak points, and with game install sizes getting larger, buying the largest SSD you can afford is becoming increasingly important. The MX500 is one of the top performing SATA drives, and perhaps more important, it's one of the more affordable SSDs. It ends up delivering an incredible value, and the only way to get meaningfully faster results is to move to an NVMe drive.

Samsung 860 Pro 1TB

Samsung 860 Pro 1TB

4. Samsung 860 Pro 1TB

Fastest SATA performance and excellent endurance

Capacity: 1024GB | Interface: SATA 6Gb/s | Sequential IO: 560/530MB/s read/write | Random IO: 100K/90K IOPS read/write | Endurance: 1,200 TBW

Costs as much as a SATA SSD
Performance is still good
Slows down as the drive gets full
1TB model hard to find

Do you want a fast SATA drive with the highest endurance around? If so, look no further than Samsung's 860 Pro line. It doesn't win every benchmark, mostly because of margin of error and the higher capacity 2TB and 4TB drives, but you can pound the drive with writes all day long without killing it. The 5-year / 1,200TB warranty translates to more than 650GB written per day, every day, for five years. I'm not even sure what you'd be doing that would require that many writes per day, probably a server workload rather than anything you'd see on a desktop PC.

WD Blue 2TB

WD Blue 2TB

5. WD Blue 2TB

High capacity SSD at a reasonable price

Capacity: 2000GB | Interface: SATA 6Gb//s | Sequential IO: 560/530MB/s read/write | Random IO: 95K/84K IOPS read/write | Endurance: 500 TBW

Aggressive 2TB price
Good sequential performance
Weak QD1 random IO
1TB price isn't as good

I've tested the 1TB WD Blue, and the 2TB model performs the same or slightly better based on my research. Performance is pretty middle of the road, and even lower on some charts, but the saving grace is the 2TB capacity at a very competitive price. This is currently the lowest cost 2TB SSD around, and runs just $0.17 per GB. 2TB is a lot of games, even with some games creeping past 100GB install sizes. The only higher capacity drives cost substantially more (see the next option if that's what you're after).

Samsung 860 Evo 4TB

Samsung 860 Evo 4TB

6. Samsung 860 Evo 4TB

The highest capacity and highest performance SATA SSD

Capacity: 4096GB | Interface: SATA 6Gbps | Sequential IO: 550/520MB/s read/write | Random IO: 98K/90K IOPS read/write | Endurance: 2,400 TBW

Faster than the lower capacity SSDs
Incredible endurance
Higher price per GB
SATA limitations

I'm giving the 860 Evo a second shout out in this guide, mostly to highlight the 4TB model. It's currently the largest widely available (and still somewhat affordable) SSD around, priced at $999. Endurance is also an impressive 2,400TB, and performance is also as fast as you can get with a SATA drive. That's thanks to the high capacity, which will almost always have some ready to go NAND available for use, avoiding periodic slowdowns.

Mushkin Reactor 960GB

Mushkin Reactor 960GB

7. Mushkin Reactor 960GB

Slightly older model with decent performance and a good price

Capacity: 960GB | Interface: SATA 6Gbps | Sequential IO: 560/460MB/s read/write | Random IO: 73K/67K IOPS read/write | Endurance: 3 years (unspecified)

Beats some newer 3D TLC drives
Great price per GB
Slower than other drives
Limited availability

Mushkin is a smaller brand that has been in the memory and SSD markets for a long time, and its Reactor line is over three years old. However, it can still be found at low prices and performance is more than acceptable. The 960GB model is the real star of the show, often beating newer budget SSDs with one of the lowest prices per GB currently available. The drive uses MLC NAND as well, which means even though no endurance numbers are given it's unlikely to run out of writes any time soon.

Mushkin Enhanced Source 500GB

Mushkin Enhanced Source 500GB

8. Mushkin Enhanced Source 500GB

An excellent price for a budget SSD

Capacity: 500GB | Interface: SATA 6Gbps | Sequential IO: 560/520MB/s read/write | Random IO: 75K/81K IOPS read/write | Endurance: 3-year (unspecified)

Low cost 500GB drive
Performance is still decent
Middling overall performance
Slow sustained random writes

Mushkin just released a new Source line of SATA drives, which use 3D TLC NAND to help reach even lower prices. The 500GB model currently sells for as little as $80, and the 1TB drive goes for $159. While performance is relatively modest (the older Reactor beats the Source in several tests, including the overall metric), this is an easy upgrade for any system currently lacking an SSD.

Gigabyte UD Pro 512GB

Gigabyte UD Pro 512GB

9. Gigabyte UD Pro 512GB

Another affordable drive using 3D NAND

Capacity: 512GB | Interface: SATA 6Gbps | Sequential IO: 530/500MB/s read/write | Random IO: 80K/75K IOPS read/write | Endurance: 200 TBW

Good overall value
More competition is welcome
Trails the fastest SATA SSDs

Gigabyte jumped into the SSD ring recently, and its UD Pro drive offers modest performance at a modest price. It also provides 512GB instead of the more common 480GB or 500GB, helping to keep the price per GB lower. It's not the fastest drive, but the overall value is still decent.

How we test SSDs

SSDs make your whole system faster and more pleasant to use. But they matter for gaming, too. A fast-loading SSD can cut dozens of seconds off the load times of big games like Battlefield 1 or MMOs like World of Warcraft. An SSD won't normally affect framerates like your GPU or CPU, but it will make installing, booting, dying, and reloading in games a faster, smoother process.

When shopping for a good SSD for gaming, one of the most important factors is price per gigabyte. How much will you have to spend to keep a healthy library of Steam games installed, ready to be played at a moment's notice? With some games surpassing the 50GB mark, this becomes even more critical.

To find the best gaming SSDs, we researched the SSD market, picked out the strongest contenders, and put them through their paces with a variety of benchmarking tools. We also put in the research to know what makes a great SSD great, beyond the numbers—technical stuff like types of flash memory and controllers.

SSD performance and value ranked

To test the SSDs, we use a PC with an AMD Ryzen 7 2700X CPU, 16GB of DDR4-3200 CL14 memory, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti graphics card, and a Gigabyte Aorus X470 Gaming 7 WiFi motherboard. We use Windows 10 Pro (running the April 2018 update) installed on a Samsung 960 Evo as the boot drive, AHCI is enabled for SATA drives, and all drives are connected to the motherboard's SATA III ports (except NVMe drives, which use the primary M.2 slot).

We use a combination of synthetic and trace benchmarks, as well as real-world file copying. This includes AS SSD, ATTO, CrystalDiskMark, IOmeter, and PCMark 8. We've removed SSDs that are no longer readily available from the pricing/value charts, but have included them in the performance charts for reference. The following gallery shows the full set of performance results.

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As you can see in the benchmark rankings of current SATA SSDs, going from the absolute slowest SATA SSD we've tested to the fastest SATA SSD is about a 50 percent increase in performance. We've left NVMe SSDs out of the charts, because they can really skew the data, but our favorite M.2 NVMe SSDs more than double performance relative to the best SATA SSDs.

This is only when you're really hitting the storage subsystem, of course. If you're not running benchmarks, the real-world differences are more difficult to detect. A good hard drive meanwhile scores around 10-15 on our overall metric. Yeah, it's that big of a jump, and you absolutely will notice the difference between any modern SSD and an HDD.

Because price and capacity are also important factors, these charts combine all three metrics to generate a different look at the drives. In terms of overall value, the Crucial MX500 takes top honors for SATA SSDs in both the US and UK markets, helping to cement its position as the best SSD for gaming. The Samsung 860 Evo 500GB is close behind, followed by the two Mushkin drives that go after the value segment.

Prices do fluctuate quite a bit over time, and we've used the best current prices we could find for these charts, but sales can and will change positioning. These value charts also remove drives that are no longer readily available from consideration. In general, any SSD will be a decent upgrade over a hard drive, and a drop in price can take a drive from the bottom of the list to the top.

Closing thoughts and a look to the future

With SSDs becoming a better value, there's simply no reason not to have one in your PC. If you were an early adopter with a 128GB or 256GB drive and find that capacity is becoming a limitation, it's time to consider an upgrade. A 512GB SSD now costs a lot less than a 128GB model did a few years ago, and we strongly recommend at least 240GB for your OS and primary applications, with 480GB and larger providing plenty of room for some games and other goodies.

While ubiquitous, standard 2.5-inch SSDs are now fundamentally limited by the speed of the SATA bus, which has a maximum theoretical throughput of 6Gbit/sec. In real world terms, the performance ceiling is around 560MB/sec for a SATA SSD, and it’s clear this is imposing a limit on flash memory technology.

The solution is to switch to the PCI Express bus, where a x4 connection allows for up to 3.94GB/sec. Unfortunately, the PCIe SSDs are (often substantially) more expensive, and they're limited to either PCIe add-in boards, M.2 drives, or the less comment U.2 form factor, which means only newer PCs have the requisite NVMe support. If you're using an Intel Skylake or newer CPU, or AMD Ryzen or newer, you should consider M.2 drives as a higher performance alternative.

In another 10 years, solid state technology may make today's SATA SSDs look like floppy disks. But for now, SATA SSDs still offer the best overall value. Just watch out for the next generation of NVMe offerings, with QLC models like Intel's 660p pushing into direct contention with SATA.

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