Best M.2 SSDs for gaming in 2024

Experience lightning-fast loading screens with the best M.2 SSD for gaming. This reliable upgrade enhances your day-to-day PC usage, as not only does an M.2 NVMe SSD provide a much faster overall experience than other types of drive, but it's also one of the most affordable upgrades you can make for your PC. 

The best M.2 SSD for gaming on the market is the WD Black SN850X. It comes with a great blend of performance and affordability that's great for PC gaming. However, when it comes to affordability we're also big fans of the supremely good-value and surprisingly fast Lexar NM790 , which makes our top recommendation for the best budget M.2 SSD.

We're constantly conducting extensive testing to identify the top NVMe SSDs for PC gaming. While a 512GB drive may seem tempting for the money, it may not be worth it given the size of modern PC games, so 1TB to 2TB is considered something of a sweet spot. We still recommend Gen 4 drives over Gen 5, as currently there's little real world advantage over the latest versions, but if that changes we'll update this guide to reflect it.

Curated by
Shot of Jeremy Laird in front of a bookcase
Curated by
Jeremy Laird

Jeremy likes CPUs. And GPUs. And SSDs. A lot. Which is just as well, since he's been writing about them since the early Mesozoic period. Or at least since Intel released those early stuttering SSDs. Remember them? Good times.

The quick list

Recent updates

This page was updated on February 28 with some tweaks to the intro and to update the reviews and recommendations.

The best M.2 SSD

The best NVMe SSD

Specifications

Capacity: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
Controller: WD in-house (SanDisk)
Memory: 112-layer TLC
Interface: PCIe Gen4 x4
Seq. read: 7,300MB/s
Seq write: 6,300MB/s

Reasons to buy

+
Runs much cooler than SN850
+
Great all-round performance
+
All the Gen 4 SSD you’ll ever need

Reasons to avoid

-
Not a major step forward
-
No real gains in 4K random performance
-
Heat sink adds cost

Our favorite WD Black SN850X config:

WD_Black SN850X | 2TB | 7,300MB/s read | 6,600MB/s write

WD_Black SN850X | 2TB | 7,300MB/s read | 6,600MB/s write
The 1TB version is a great shout if you're after an affordable, but fast, SSD. But the 2TB drive is a decent price with regular discounts that often price it below the competing Samsung or SK Hynix drives.

The regular SN850 was one of our favourite drives, but since the WD Black SN850X arrived it took our top spot for the best NVMe SSD overall, and has stayed there ever since.

So what sets it apart from the pack? Well, while it might have some of the standard features of a regular Gen 4 NVMe drive, what with its four lanes of PCIe connectivity and the expected M2 2280 form factor, it sports some shiny new additions to the board that add some serious performance credentials.

WD's own controller has had some revisions, alongside an upgrade from 96-layer TLC NAND memory chips to newer 112-layer models. And if those sort of specs make your eyes cross, have no fear, for we shall interpret them for you: It means performance. Lots and lots of it.

The 1TB model delivers read speeds of 6,300MB/s, and write speeds of 7,300MB/s. That's plenty fast, and while it puts it in contention with some of the very faster Gen 4 drives we've tested, there are slightly faster. Two things on that point: Firstly, when it comes to small differences in synthetic SSD benchmarks, you're absolutely not going to be able to tell the difference in real world drive usage. And two? 

With the WD Black SN850X, you're not just getting great speeds, you're getting the whole package.

It's real world performance you're likely to care about most, and here the SN850X performed brilliantly

Let's talk temperatures for a moment. Simply put, like many components, if your NVMe gets too hot under sustained usage then it throttles itself back to save itself from potential damage. The WD Black SN850X, however, runs remarkable cool under load, particularly if you pick the model with the WD signature armour-style heatsink.

We found our review unit never breached 58°C under sustained load, which is a big improvement over the standard SN850 and its 77°C. 

That should give some peace of mind that you're getting the best performance out of your drive even under heavy usage, although even the non-heatsink model performs decently when it comes to temperature throttling.

You also get WD's Game Mode drive management software. The company claims this improves your gaming load times thanks to some clever algorithms. Pretty hard to test, that one, but we found the WD Black SN850X did extremely well in our game loading benchmarks, so it may very well be adding something to the pot. A nice feature to have, at the very least.

And finally, there's price. While the Lexar NM790 below can often be found cheaper and still makes our best budget recommendation for the excellent performance it provides, the WD Black SN850X has been around for a little while now, and goes on discount on the regular. You might have to wait around a bit to find the best deal, but they are out there, and all the sweeter for it.

Any drawbacks? Well, the 4K random access results weren't stellar, although you'd only really see that on the benchmarks. It's real world performance you're likely to care about most, and here the SN850X performed brilliantly.

It's an all-round performer, and a completely solid overall choice for anyone looking for an NVMe SSD that hits all the right notes. Cool, efficient and plenty fast. What more do you really need?

Read our full WD Black SN850X SSD review.

The best budget M.2 SSD

The best budget NVMe SSD

Specifications

Capacity: 1TB, 2TB, 4TB
Controller: MaxioTech MAP1602A
Flash: YMTC 232-layer TLC
Interface: M.2 PCIe 4.0 x4
Seq. read: 7,400 MB/s
Seq. write: 6,500 MB/s

Reasons to buy

+
A range of high capacity options
+
Superb performance
+
Plenty fast enough for games and more
+
Runs cool

Reasons to avoid

-
Less known controller/flash combo

Our favorite Lexar NM790 config:

Lexar NM790 | 1TB | 7,400MB/s read | 6,500MB/s write

Lexar NM790 | 1TB | 7,400MB/s read | 6,500MB/s write
Fast, affordable and from a respected brand, and it even runs cool to boot. As budget performers go, you don't get any better than the little Lexar, and we were mightily impressed when we gave one a review.

Cheap and cheerful? How about cheap and still delivering excellent performance? The Lexar NM790 is a fantastic SSD that makes very few compromises while still remaining very affordable, and that means it sits proudly as our top budget NVMe drive recommendation.

If you're in the market for a budget NVMe SSD, chances are you've been working under the assumption that you'll have to take some performance penalties in order to save some cash. Not so with the Lexar NM790, as it delivers read and write speeds that any Gen 4 drive would be proud of.

Rated at 7,400MB/S sequential reads and 6,500 writes, this drive impressed us mightily when we reviewed the 4TB version, but you'll be pleased to find it comes in a range of capacities including a very attractively priced 1TB model. But how come you can get all this performance and capacity for less?

Well, it comes down to the use of a lesser known controller and flash memory combo, the MaxioTech MAP1602 and YMTC 232-layer TLC respectively. Before you start worrying that maybe these lesser known components will under-perform however, allow us to put your minds at rest. While the Lexar has made some concessions in the name of budget, when it comes to performance, it stands alongside some of the very best drives we've tested. 

Not only is it a budget champion, but it can keep up with the big names without breaking a sweat.

Whether its synthetic benches or real world gaming tests, the NM790 performs admirably, all the while running cool, calm and collected. It makes use of a large SLC cache buffer that allows it to put in numbers that compete with the best Gen 4 drives, and that's a very neat party trick to bring to the table.

More than that, the Lexar makes for an efficient drive no matter which way you look at it. While there are heatsink models available, we tested the heatsink-free version and found that its thermal performance was admirable, which is no mean feat, so there's really no need to spend up unless you really want to make double-sure that it'll deliver its full speeds without throttling.

Every now and then a component arrives that, thanks to some clever lateral solutions, runs rings around a lot of the competition while delivering great performance for less cash, and that's exactly what we've got here. We regularly see 1TB models retailing for around $80 and 2TB models around the $130 marker, and that's a genuine bargain for such a performant SSD.

Not only is it a budget champion, the mighty Lexar, but it can keep up with the big names without breaking a sweat.

Read our full Lexar NM790 4TB review.

The best high capacity M.2 SSD

The best high capacity NVMe SSD

Specifications

Capacity: 1TB, 2TB, 4TB
Controller: Phison E18
Flash: TLC NAND
Interface: M.2 PCIe 4.0 x4
Seq. read: 7,300MB/s
Seq. write: 6,900MB/s

Reasons to buy

+
Strong all-round performance
+
Runs super cool
+
Very competitively priced

Reasons to avoid

-
Slightly disappointing PC Mark results
-
4K numbers are unspectacular
Nextorage Japan | 2TB | 7,300MB/s read | 6,900MB/s write

Nextorage Japan | 2TB | 7,300MB/s read | 6,900MB/s write
It might not have the brand recognition of its rivals, but the Nextorage NVMe SSD has a truly remarkable amount of performance and capacity, and can be found for very good prices too. This version comes with a substantial heatsink, but versions without are available for small form factor and laptop applications.

Looking for lots and lots of storage, with no compromises on performance and for a great price? You'd struggle to do better than this Nextorage drive, which comes in a variety of well-priced high-capacity specifications, making it an easy pick for the best high-capacity NVMe drive in this list.

If you're unfamiliar with the name, we don't really blame you. In a market dominated by big players with heavy brand recognition, Nextorage is still the new kid on the block, although make no mistake, it still comes with a pedigree you might not expect.

See, Sony initially created Nextorage to manufacture SSD drives for its PlayStation consoles, until Phison, creator of some of the fastest storage controllers in the business, took a controlling stake in the company. 

Soon after, Nextorage debuted drives making use of the Phison E18 controller, and it's the very same chip that graces some of the fastest drives we've had the pleasure to review.

So, as you'd expect, this drive is quick. Very quick. We tested the 2TB model and found that it was an excellent performer, demonstrating read and write speeds that put many drives to shame. It's rated for 7,300MB/s reads and 6,900MB/s writes and delivers them with aplomb, but it also managed to sustain 625GB of writes before dropping performance, thanks to the fact that a full one third of the NAND flash can be used in high-speed SLC cache mode. 

A fantastic way of adding huge amounts of lightning-fast storage capacity to your machine without breaking the bank.

Still, it's not just performance you're looking for here, its capacity, and when it comes to the 2TB and 4TB versions of these drives performance remains very similar between the two, while also often demonstrating a very competitive price compared to the closest competition.

SSD prices have been on the rise recently, but we still regularly see these capacious drives at prices that make you do a double-take. That makes them a fantastic way of adding huge amounts of lightning-fast storage capacity to your machine without breaking the bank.

You'll find variants using very substantial heatsinks and some with none at all, but if you've got the room for it in your machine we're happy to report that the heatsink version runs remarkably cool. Still, if you're looking for something more compact then the heatsink-less models should still run plenty cool, which means they'll be delivering great performance even in a laptop configuration.

Big storage, big performance, very competitive prices. Yep, Nextorage may not have made a name for itself just yet, but with this sort of hardware, it really won't be long.

Read our full Nextorage NEM-PA 2TB review.

The best SSD for Steam Deck

The best Steam Deck 2230 NVMe SSD

Specifications

Capacity: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Controller: Phison E21
Flash: 177-layer TLC NAND
Interface: M.2 PCIe 4.0 x4
Seq. read: Up to 5,000MB/s
Seq. write: Up to 4,300MB/s

Reasons to buy

+
Real world performance trumps the Deck
+
Smaller capacities don't tank the battery

Reasons to avoid

-
Inconsistent at 1TB...
-
and with higher power draw

Our favorite Sabrent Rocket 2230 config:

Sabrent Rocket 2230 | 512GB | 5,000MB/s read | 3,700MB/s writes

Sabrent Rocket 2230 | 512GB | 5,000MB/s read | 3,700MB/s writes
The 512GB drive is probably the sweet spot upgrade for anyone with either the 64GB or 256GB Steam Deck. You get both more space for your games as well as faster performance and lower power to help eke out a little bit more battery life.

If you've taken the plunge and bought yourself a Steam Deck, you may have encountered a common issue: The cheaper Decks make for great gaming machines, but can come with pretty limited storage capacity. 

If you don't mind breaking out a screwdriver and voiding the warranty (you're absolutely sure about this, right?) then there are a few different drives in the 2230 form factor to consider, but we've found no better than the Sabrent Rocket 2230 NVMe SSD, and that makes it our recommendation for the best upgrade for Steam Deck storage.

These Sabrent drives make the most sense as worthy additions to your beloved Deck.

The Sabrent drives come in 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB capacities and retail at $50, $90, and $170 respectively. That's still a fair bit of cash to pay for these sort of capacities, but given that the competition is priced similarly and you're limited to this form factor, it still represents good value for what you eventually receive.

The 256GB is rated to 4,640MB/s reads and 1,900MB/s writes, whereas the 512GB is meant to be closer to 5,000MB/s reads, and 3,700MB/s writes. The 1TB is a little slower with 4,750MB/s reads, but delivers faster 4,300MB/s write speeds. Each is still quicker than the regular SSD you'd find in a Steam Deck however, and that combined with the increased capacity is really what you're paying for here.

If you're currently slogging away with a 64GB Steam Deck and carefully managing your install options then upgrading to the 256GB or the 512GB Sabrent drive gets you much more capacity and a lot more performance, making it a very worthwhile upgrade, especially when you compare it to the price of buying a larger capacity Steam Deck in the first place.

Mobile gaming has come a long way, but storage capacity is still one of the areas where we could see some reasonable improvements in the default specifications. Get ahead of the curve and do it yourself and you can reap the benefits, and these Sabrent drives make the most sense as worthy additions to your beloved Deck.

Read our full Sabrent Rocket 2230 review.

The best M.2 SSD for PS5

SILICON POWER XS70 2TB NVME SSD on a motherboard.

(Image credit: Future)
The best PS5 NVMe SSD

Specifications

Capacity: 1TB, 2TB, 4TB
Controller: Phison PS5018-E18
Flash: Micron 176L TLC NAND
Interface: M.2 PCIe 4.0 x4
Seq. read: 7,300MB/s
Seq. write: 6,800MB/s

Reasons to buy

+
Attractive heatsink
+
PS5 compatible
+
Excellent performance
+
Price competitive

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks software

Our favorite Silicon Power XS70 SSD config:

Silicon Power 2TB XS70  | 2TB | 7,100MB/s read | 6,600MB/s write

Silicon Power 2TB XS70  | 2TB | 7,100MB/s read | 6,600MB/s write
The 2TB model comes at a very competitive price and works well as an expansion drive for the PlayStation 5. With excellent read/write speeds and an attractive and great-performing heatsink, it makes an excellent choice for those looking to upgrade the consoles storage to something faster.

While the PlayStation 5 does make use of a rather snazzy Gen 4 drive, there will be many of you hoping to fit your console with something larger to fit as many games as possible on to your shiny console machine of dreams. That being the case, we recommend the Silicon Power 2TB XS70 as our top pick for the best PS5 NVMe SSD.

For a start, it's a superb performer. Thanks to some Micron 176-layer TLC NAND and a controller that needs little introduction, the Phison E18, alongside 2GB of DDR4 RAM, the XS70 makes for a potent drive in any setup with the appropriate M2 slot. 7,300MB/s sequential reads and 6,800MB/s writes puts it well up there with some of the faster drives we've tested, along with some excellent random read performance.

But honestly, if you're just looking for a big and powerful drive to stick straight into your PS5, close the casing and forget about it, you're going to ideally want something designed with PlayStation compatibility in mind, and that's exactly what Silicon Power has created here.

There's no hardware encryption on offer, but really what you need is great performance and well-controlled thermals, and the PlayStation 5 compatible heatsink here is a superb performer in that regard. It's very efficient, and we saw top temps of a mere 63°C, which is a great result for a Gen 4 drive with this level of performance.

You're going to ideally want something designed with PlayStation compatibility in mind, and that's exactly what Silicon Power has created here.

It's small packaging reminds us of a flash drive, but when it comes to what this drive is capable of delivering then a simple USB stick this is not. Those of you planning on installing one in a PC may bemoan the lack of software support ecosystem, but console users will care not one jot.

You'll simply want a very fast drive in the right form factor that you can set, forget, and use on the regular to keep your PlayStation stocked with games, and here Silicon Power have really judged the market very well indeed.

It's not big, but it is clever, and if you really want to make the most of your console experience by installing a very fast drive designed to sit right at the heart of your PS5 without a single complaint, then this right here is the SSD for you.


Read our full Silicon Power 2TB XS70 review.

How to spot the best deals

Where are the best SSD deals?

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How we test NVMe SSDs

We put every SSD we get in the PC Gamer labs through their paces in various benchmarks made up of a mix of synthetic tests and real-world applications. To ascertain a drives sequential throughput, we use ATTO SSD Benchmark for compressible data (a best-case scenario) and AS SSD for incompressible data (more realistic). We also test random throughput with AS SSD and a combination of CrystalDiskMark 7.0 and Anvil Pro. 

When it comes to the real-world tests, we time how