Best SSD for Gaming in 2021

Storage isn't just about capacity, the best SSD for gaming can make a huge difference to the overall feel of your PC. We're not talking about the traditional frame rate increase the best graphics card can deliver, but in terms of how responsive, your system is, and how quickly you can actually get into a game of Rainbow Six Siege, a great SSD can make all the difference.

If you do go for a high capacity SSD, too, it will give you enough speedy space to cope with the incessant demands of gaming's biggest storage hogs. We're looking at you, CoD: Modern Warfare and Red Dead Redemption 2.

The performance difference between an SSD and a standard hard drive is night and day, and the same can be true between SATA drives and the best PCIe 4.0 SSDs too. Suddenly everything is right there at your fingertips—no frustrating waiting for your data to chug around your rig like some old steamboat. At some point, you get tired of your games taking forever to load up. 

We've run all six of the drives on the list through our own benchmarking suite, including both real world game loading tests, as well as synthetic storage speed tests, to find out which is the absolute best SSD for gaming. Each will have had a fresh Windows 10 install loaded onto it on the test rig, so we know how they will perform as your primary drive.

Our pick of the top SSDs includes both 1TB and 500GB drives because smaller SSDs, though cheaper, lose performance. And, with games taking up well over 150GB each, you need a lot of storage space these days to avoid a whole lot of inventory management.

Best SSD for gaming

 

Addlink S70 SSD on a grey background (Image credit: Addlink)

The best SSD for gaming

SPECIFICATIONS

Capacity: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB

Controller: Phison PS5012-E12

Memory: Toshiba 3D TLC

Interface : M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4

Seq. read: 3,400 MB/s (512GB version)

Seq. write: 2,000 MB/s (512GB version)

REASONS TO BUY

+Great value+Top-end PCIe 3.0 performance+Excellent endurance

REASONS TO AVOID

-Below average low queue depth performance

Our favorite Addlink S70 config:

 

Addlink S70 1TB | 3,400MB/s read | 3,000MB/s write
The 1TB version of the Addlink SSD is the perfect sweet spot in terms of price and performance for a PCIe 3.0 drive. It may not have a particularly recognisable brand name, but the Phison controller and Toshiba memory are totally reliable.VIEW DEAL

Addlink came out of nowhere to drive down the prices of every competing NVMe-based SSD. And it seems to have been the catalyst for bringing nigh-on price parity across the PCIe and SATA SSD ecosystem. Addlink who? So yeah, it may not be a recognised name in storage, but given that the S70 is still using a completely recognisable Phison E12 controller and Toshiba's 3D TLC memory, there's not much that can go wrong.

With the sticker off, the Addlink drive is almost identical to the pricier Seagate Firecuda. It also performs practically the same as the WD Black SN750, which subsequently had to drop its price to compete. At the 512GB level, the Addlink S70 is arguably the best SSD to build your system around, and the 1TB version has even better writes... and we've seen that as low as $120 before too.

We've no concerns around reliability either, despite the relatively unknown name, having used both the 512GB and 1TB variants regularly as part of our test rigs without fault. When SATA drives are costing the same, and Samsung SSDs cost more but don't deliver much extra performance, then the Addlink S70 is our pick of the bunch.

 

WD Black SN850 1TB SSD on a grey background (Image credit: Western Digital)

2. WD Black SN850

The best PCIe 4.0 SSD

SPECIFICATIONS

Capacity: 1TB

Controller: WD_Black G2

Memory: BiCS4 96-layer TLC

Interface: PCIe Gen4 x4

Seq. read: 7,000 MB/s

Seq write: 5,300 MB/s

REASONS TO BUY

+Blistering PCIe 4.0 throughput+Excellent real-world performance+Solid 5 year warranty

REASONS TO AVOID

-Runs hot-No AES 256-bit encryption

Our favorite WD Black SN850 config:

 

WD_Black SN850 1TB | 7,000MB/s read | 5,300MB/s write
Again, it's the 1TB version that would be our pick from the SN850 range. The 500GB drive lacks the full punchy pace that is the signature of PCIe 4.0 SSDs, and is pricier than most 1TB PCIe 3.0 drives, while the 1TB SN850 has a decent sticker price and stellar speed.VIEW DEAL

The Western Digital Black SN850 makes a fashionably late entrance to the PCIe 4.0 party. It's capable of hitting 7,000MB/s reads and 5,300MB/s writes in sequential transfers, which is well beyond most drives' capabilities. That's because it uses the latest PCIe 4.0 interface, which has double the theoretical bandwidth limit of other PCIe 3.0 drives.

Performance ultimately defines any SSD; the WD SN850 really stands out from the crowd. The synthetic benchmarks, spearheaded by ATTO and AS SSD, show that this is very much a second-generation PCIe 4.0 drive, with peak sequential read speeds knocking on 6,750MB/s and 5,920MB/s, respectively. Writes are lower than the Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus, but still healthy, at either side of 5GB/s. The 4K write performance in AS SSD manages to flip this over, and the WD SN850 outpaces the Sabrent drive. 

Out of the new PCIe 4.0 drives on the market, the SN850 is hands down the most impressive out of the gate with its impressive real-world performance though it does run a little hot. If you want the fastest next-gen drive, this is it.

Read the full WD Black SN850 1TB review.

 

Samsung 970 EVO 500GB SSD on a grey background (Image credit: Samsung)

3. Samsung 970 EVO Plus

Samsung most affordable PCIe 3.0 SSD.

SPECIFICATIONS

Capacity: 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB

Controller: Samsung Phoenix

Memory: Samsung 3-bit MLC

Interface: M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4

Seq. read: 3,500 MB/s

Seq. write: 3,200 MB/s

REASONS TO BUY

+Samsung SSD technology+Outstanding real-world performance

REASONS TO AVOID

-Could be better optimised for efficiency

Our favourite Samsung 970 EVO Plus config:

 

Samsung 970 EVO Plus 500GB | 3,500MB/s read | 3,200MB/s write
Samsung can always be relied upon to deliver great SSDs, and the 970 EVO Plus is the best half terabyte SSD around. It delivers speeds on par with higher capacity drives and will still deliver a hefty chunk of storage along with that Samsung seal of quality.VIEW DEAL

The Samsung 970 EVO Plus offers a slight bump in write performance over the 970 EVO, all for the same price. There was a time when you could pick up the non-Plus version for slightly less, but those drives seem to have disappeared now. If you can find a straight 970 EVO for less, then go for it but they're a rarity.

Both drives still use the same Samsung Phoenix controller, which means they can outperform the competition in real-world usage. If you want peak PCIe 3.0 performance, then the Samsung drives are hard to beat, but you have to pay for that little speed hike. Compared with the 512GB Addlink, the Samsung is a little quicker in real-world testing but costs another $20.

That's not a huge issue at this half-terabyte level, but when the 1TB version comes in at close to $170, it does make the higher capacity 970 EVO drives a bit more of a difficult recommendation. The 500GB 970 EVO is still a great drive, smartly specced, well-made, and with a more competitive price.

 

WD Black SN750 1TB SSD on a grey background (Image credit: WD)

4. WD Black SN750

One of the top PCIe 3.0 SSDs.

SPECIFICATIONS

Capacity : 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB

Controller: Western Digital

Memory: SanDisk/Toshiba 3D TLC

Interface: M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4

Seq. read: 3,470 MB/s

Seq. write: 3,000 MB/s

REASONS TO BUY

+Competitive pricing+Serious SSD performance+In-house technology

REASONS TO AVOID

-High idle power consumption

Our favorite WD Black SN750 config:

 

WD_Black SN750 500GB | 3,430MB/s read | 2,600MB/s
You don't have to spend a fortune to get serious SSD performance. The half terabyte SN750 is still a mighty fast drive, and with 500GB of storage capacity it will happily contain your Windows installation as well as your most oft-played games. VIEW DEAL

Like it's move into PCIe 4.0 drives, Western Digital's entry into the SSD arena as a whole was a long while coming, especially at the speedier end of the market. But the WD Black SN750 was worth the wait. It nails solid-state performance on par with the best consumer Samsung EVO SSDs and undercuts them on price too.

The combination of an in-house memory controller and Toshiba memory (also essentially in-house after the acquisition of the SanDisk/Toshiba memory division) means what we've got here is a drive that can match Samsung in its build methodology too. And that all means WD can be very aggressive on how much it charges people for the privilege of having a speedy PCIe SSD in their gaming PC.

There is a more expensive version on offer with a heatsink attached to it. Still, so long as you don't bury your drive in an M.2 slot beneath your GPU, you should be golden, and the SN750 will maintain peak performance without burning out.

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Crucial MX500 1TB Crucial MX500 1TB (Image credit: Crucial)

 

Crucial MX500 1TB Crucial MX500 1TB (Image credit: Crucial)

 

Crucial MX500 1TB Crucial MX500 1TB (Image credit: Crucial)

5. Crucial MX500 

The best SATA SSD for secondary storage

SPECIFICATIONS

Capacity: 1TB

Controller: Silicon Motion SM2258

Memory: Micron TLC

Interface: SATA 6Gbps

Seq. read: 560 MB/s

Seq. write: 510 MB/s

REASONS TO BUY

+One of the fastest SATA drives+Competitive price per GB

REASONS TO AVOID

-Low endurance rating for heavy data writes-Slow compared to any NMVe SSD

Our favorite Crucial MX500 config:

 

Crucial MX500 1TB | 560MB/s read | 510MB/s write
It's not always possible to jam an NVMe SSD into your PC or laptop, and if that's the case then you need a great SATA drive. And the Crucial MX500 is most definitely that. With a full terabyte of storage, and performance at the limit of the SATA interface it's a quality drive.VIEW DEAL

It seems strange that the Crucial MX500 is the only SATA drive left on our list of the best SSDs for gaming, but when the price delta between PCIe and SATA is so small, it's difficult to make an argument for the far slower technology. But, as there is a hard limit on the number of M.2 slots on your motherboard, there is still a place for SATA SSDs as secondary storage.

And the Crucial MX500 is one of the best. With SATA's maximum theoretical bandwidth limit of 600MB/s, it's nearly as quick as you'll get, and Crucial's drives have long been among the best-value options available too. This is the most affordable 1TB SATA drive you can pick up and make a great second home for your Steam and Epic libraries.

It will happily function as a boot drive on systems with no M.2 sockets, or at least no bootable M.2 sockets anyway. You will still be missing out on the zippy response of your operating system running on the SSD-specific NVMe protocol, but if that's not an option anyway, this drive will see you right. 

 

Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus 2TB SSD on a grey background (Image credit: Sabrent)

6. Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus

A lightning fast PCIe 4.0 package for a decent price.

SPECIFICATIONS

Capacity: 1TB, 2TB, 4TB

Controller: Phison PS5018-E18

Flash: Micron B27 96-later TLC

Interface: M.2 PCIe 4.0 x4

Seq. read: 7,100 MB/s

Seq. write: 6,600 MB/s

REASONS TO BUY

+Great first-gen performance+Solid value for money+Useful software bundle

REASONS TO AVOID

-High initial investment

Our favorite Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus config:

 

Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus 2TB | 7,100MB/s read | 6,600MB/s write
High capacity SSDs are expensive, particularly the latest PCIe 4.0 drives. But the Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus is one of the fastest around, and yet is still not a huge amount more expensive than an equivalent PCIe 3.0 2TB SSD.VIEW DEAL

The Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus was one of the first drives to use the new Phison E18 controller; the follow up to the immensely popular Phison E16 controller found in basically every first-gen PCIe 4.0 drive. No, seriously, that's the controller you'll find in everything from the Corsair MP600 to the Gigabyte Aorus to the Addlink S90 as well as plenty of Sabrent's own drives. 

It topped out at just over 5,000MB/s for reads, and 4,400MB/s writes, while the best PCIe 3.0 drives managed reads of 3,500MB/s and writes of around 3,000MB/s. 

This new Phison E18 controller ups the ante significantly, offering sequential throughput of up to 7,100MB/s reads and 6,600MB/s writes. The theoretical limits of the interface are 8GB/s for both, so those figures aren't far off how fast you can expect PCIe 4.0 to go. It's incredibly fast basically, and on paper at least, the fastest drive to be released so far.

YOUR NEXT UPGRADE

 

(Image credit: Future)

Best CPU for gaming: the top chips from Intel and AMD
Best graphics card: your perfect pixel-pusher awaits

On to the performance, and it's here where Sabrent's latest drive impresses almost effortlessly, especially when it comes to the synthetic throughput. The sequential read and write figures in both benchmarks are impressive, but it's the write performance that stands out most, leaving the competition eating dust. The Samsung 980 Pro in particular really struggles to keep up with the Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus.

The PCMark 10 storage tests are a bit more off the pace though, with both the Full and Quick benchmarks showing the Sabrent lagging behind the Samsung 980 Pro and the WD Black SN850. The Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers benchmark loaded the levels in just over seven and a half seconds, which is notably quicker than the first generation drives, although behind the WD Black SN850.

If you want the very best performance, then the WD Black SN850 just has the edge over this drive. That SSD does run hotter than the Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus though, a good 12­°C hotter, something that in a cramped case would have us recommending the Sabrent in its place. This drive is also often $50 cheaper than the 2TB WD Black SN850, which makes this a better value proposition.

Read the full Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus 2TB review.

Best SSD for gaming FAQ

Q: What's the difference between SATA and NVMe PCIe-based SSDs?

 

As the prices of NVMe SSDs fall every day, we don't see much difference in cost between the best NVMe SSDs and their SATA-based equivalents. When the cheapest 2.5-inch 1TB SATA SSD is only $24 less than an equivalent capacity NVMe PCIe drive (and four times slower), why bother with older SATA technology when you can move into the future for so cheap?

Many of the best SSDs for gaming still use the PCIe 3.0 interface, but we're starting to see more PCIe 4.0 drives sliding into the market. Corsair was an early pacesetter here, and the newly launched 500GB Samsung 980 Pro SSD did well in testing, but the value proposition isn't the greatest, unfortunately.

Where SATA's theoretical performance limit is 600MB/s, and PCIe 3.0's is 4,000MB/s, the newer PCIe 4.0 SSDs can double that figure to a maximum of 8,000MB/s. The current top speed of available Gen4 drives is around 7,000MB/s, which is double that of the previous generation, top out at 3,500MB/s, in the real world.

How big an SSD should I buy?

 

The easy, slightly dumb answer is: as big as you can afford. With SSDs, the higher capacity, the quicker they are. That's because you end up with more memory dies plumbed into a multi-channel memory controller, and that extra parallelism leads to higher performance. 

We would traditionally say that an entry-level SSD should come in at least 512GB in order to pack in your operating system, for slick general system speed, and your most regularly played games. But such is the increasing size of modern games that a 1TB SSD is increasingly looking like the minimum recommendation. That's also where the performance starts to go up too.

Is PCIe 4.0 worth it for SSDs?

 

If you want the absolute fastest drives available then PCIe 4.0 SSDs are the way to go. They're quicker than any PCIe 3.0 drive, and will make large file transfers for such things as video editing lightning fast. They will also be prepared for the future of gaming in Windows 11 with the DirectStorage feature being used to take the load off the CPU and fire data directly at the graphics card to improve performance and shorten, or even remove, load times in tomorrow's open world games.

Can you put a PCIe 4.0 SSD in a 3.0 slot?

 

Yes, you can. They M.2 socket is identical between the two generations of interface and so a PCIe 4.0 SSD will fit comfortably inside a PCIe 3.0 slot. They will also function perfectly well too, except the Gen4 drive will be limited by the speed of the older interface.

That is is theoretically 4GB/s, but is actually closer to 3,500MB/s due to various overheads. PCIe 4.0 SSDs do cost more than their PCIe 3.0 counterparts though, so unless you're planning to upgrade to a supporting platform soon, it's probably worth sticking with a more-affordable PCIe 3.0 drive.

Q: How do we test SSDs?

 

A: 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 Red Dead Redemption 2, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, or MMOs like Final Fantasy XIV. An SSD won't 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 the price per gigabyte. How much will you have to spend to keep a robust library of Steam games installed, ready to be played at a moment's notice? With many new games surpassing the 50GB and even 150GB 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 various benchmarking tools. We also researched what makes a great SSD great, beyond the numbers—technical stuff like types of flash memory and controllers.

PCIe 4.0 SSDs are supported by 2nd and 3rd Gen AMD Ryzen CPUs and X570 and B550 motherboards as well as by Intel's latest Rocket Lake platform. Sure, they're mighty for bandwidth, but when it's crunch-time in-game, there's not a vast amount more it can deliver than a PCIe 3.0 drive, at least not until Microsoft delivers DirectStorage, which will be exclusive to Windows 11

Is PCIe 4.0 worth it for SSDs?

 

If you want the absolute fastest drives available then PCIe 4.0 SSDs are the way to go. They're quicker than any PCIe 3.0 drive, and will make large file transfers for such things as video editing lightning fast. They will also be prepared for the future of gaming in Windows 11 with the DirectStorage feature being used to take the load off the CPU and fire data directly at the graphics card to improve performance and shorten, or even remove, load times in tomorrow's open world games.


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Last Updated: Aug 26, 2021

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