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PC Gamer Hardware Awards: What is the best SSD of 2020?

PC Gamer Hardware Awards
(Image credit: Samsung)

Storage has seen a healthy shift over the last 12 months. The fastest storage around is no longer the sole remit of the incredibly well-heeled, and in fact prices across the board are in a much better shape for gamers than they were at the start of the year. You can pick up 1TB SSDs without having to sell your PC to do so. M.2 NVMe drives have seen the biggest price drops, and we can't see any reason why you wouldn't want one of these superfast drives in your gaming machine. 

We've seen a major shakeup of the PCIe 4.0 storage space too, with the likes of Addlink and Sabrent coming out swinging with well thought out drives at great prices with serious performance. The fact you can hit 5GB/s with these next-gen drives on current AMD CPUs (and Intel's next chips) makes them a boon for anyone with a lot of files to throw around. They aren't bad for gaming either, although we have high hopes as we go into 2021 around Microsoft's DirectStorage and unleashing the full potential of these drives in our games going forward.

We've also seen some incredible value in the high capacity game too, with Sabrent in particular releasing a 4TB drive using QLC NAND seemingly without any of the usual performance pitfalls.

A lot of these next-gen drives are built around the Phison E16 controller, with plenty of smart caching technologies present to help keep things moving smoothly. Its successor, the Phison E18, is on the way as well, and performance leaks have been circulating for a while that promise some impressive speed improvements. 

These benchmark figures were partly leaked to counter a next-gen drive you can buy right now though, and that is the Samsung 980 Pro, which was released in September. It's an impressive drive, and you'll find it nominated below, along with some of the more affordable options out there, that have made NVMe SSDs that bit more attainable for everyone.

It's been a great year for storage basically, and these three drives highlight why:

 Best SSDs 2020: the nominees 

Best SSD 2020 nominee

Sabrent Rocket PCIe 4.0 2TB
Built around the Phison E16 controller and Toshiba 96-layer TLC NAND flash, the Sabrent Rocket PCIe 4.0 SSD takes well-known components and packages them together at a great price. You'll hit sequential read and write figures of 5GB/s and 4.4GB/s, as well as manage impressive 4K random figures as well. This is a next-gen drive that you can pick up for last-gen prices, and that alone makes it a knockout option for us. You can also get it in slightly more affordable 1TB and 500GB spins as well.

Best SSD 2020 nominee

Sabrent Rocket Q 4TB
The theory goes that QLC NAND drives are slower than their TLC counterparts, but are much cheaper. That's the theory anyway. The Sabrent Rocket Q strolled onto the scene and showed that the pricing part of the equation was true, but performed far better than we were expecting, thanks to a healthy amount of RAM and flash cache to make sure that it feels like a next-gen drive. And while this 4TB model is pricey, it represents great value for money per gigabyte. You can also pick it up in 8TB trim, or less if your budget doesn't quite stretch that far.

Best SSD 2020 nominee

Samsung 980 Pro 500GB
Samsung has been a brand to watch out for in SSDs for years now, and it didn't disappoint when it let its new drive loose on the world. With peak sequential reads of 7GB/s and writes of 5GB/s, this is a drive for anyone that simply wants the best performance around. It is a tad on the expensive side, but you do absolutely get what you pay for. We'd recommend grabbing the 1TB drive over the 500GB model though, as it offers better bang for your buck, and room for all those massive games that keep appearing.

We'll be announcing which one of these speedy drives will be picking up the award for SSD of the year on New Year's Eve, so be sure to check back then and see which drives has impressed us the most over the last year. It's not necessarily the fastest, or the most affordable, but the one that we think has pushed SSD storage forward the most. It's a tough category this year, for sure, and that's always a good sign that the industry is moving forward a decent pace.

Alan has spent far too much of his life in World of Warcraft and playing Magic the Gathering to be a normal human being, which is why he has retreated to the warm embrace of gaming hardware.