The best gaming SSDs are some of the most necessary and significant upgrades you can buy for your ultimate dream machine. The solid state drive enables fast booting and loading old school gamers used to dream of back in the 90’s. The saying “Once you’ve tried SSD, you will never go back” is accurate, and the best way to experience it is to get one for yourself.
Key Factors to Consider When Buying One of the Best Gaming SSDs
Typically, SSDs have labels which contain read and write speeds such as 550MB/sec, and even these numbers look fantastic, they only represent the best-case scenario you can expect from your chosen product. This spec usually entails large sequential file transfers, which means each block of the data are in line one after the other and caching is at its peak.
In practice, most programs usually utilize both big and small files so that you won’t get the maximum speed of your SSD. You might get the mentioned 550MB/sec speed above if you are transferring chunky, 1GB file, but it will be a bit slower for a 1GB folder with multiple smaller files inside.
Speed also affects how some of the best gaming SSDs are priced, so knowing your budget is important before setting an expectation. Of course, you can’t get NVMe speeds for the price of a SATA SSD, but even so, it will still be leaps and bounds compared to a regular HDD.
2. Input-Output Operations (IOPS)
IOPS is another aspect used to portray the best gaming SSD’s capabilities for consumers, but this topic is quite complicated. This spec is related to how many operations per second an SSD can handle. Simply put, the more operations your product can handle, the faster it will be in practice.
However, the difference still lies in what type of file is being read or transferred, since a tiny text file is read differently from a massive 4K texture file. Performance in games will vary since each one is coded uniquely. Much like the speed rating of an SSD, IOPS numbers are usually the optimal results.
Still, IOPS is one of the standards in measuring heavy-workload performance rather than an indicator of its overall capabilities. It would be easier to base your choice for the best gaming SSDs on read/write speeds and pricing since these two facets are less complicated.
Pricing is the biggest factor you should consider since it determines what kind of performance you can expect from an individual product and how your build’s flow continues until it is completed. Spending on a thousand dollar NVMe SSD for the fastest read/write speeds and skimping on RAM or your video card will be detrimental to your experience since our subject only holds the data you need to run your titles on that incredible display you have.
Meticulous enthusiasts usually want the rewards of faster and costlier SSDs. If you ask me, it would be practical to get a mid-range or even a budget gaming SSD just to save you from the lazy load and boot times of HDDs.
But if you have the funds, then, by all means, you can bypass this piece of advice. Having a few seconds of boot time is almost as satisfying as getting enough frames on ultra settings to push your gaming monitor to its limits, so we can’t argue with the best gaming SSDs and their costs.
128GB SSDs are enticing nowadays since most of them have become dirt cheap. But you have to remember that modern PC titles now eat up more or less 50GB of space. If you opt for a petite offering, you might only be able to accommodate an OS and a single title. Although these smaller sized modules are faster and easier to manage, nothing beats having enough space for your top priority titles and applications.
By now, 500GB is the acceptable minimum standard when buying SSDs ever since pricing came down hard. You can now get a decent-sized gaming SSD for the price of a 64GB or 128GB device back in the day, so the choices are plenty and almost unlimited.
You can also opt to purchase multiple smaller modules and add another as time passes by, but you might eventually run out of SATA or M.2 ports. Another solution is to buy a 128GB M.2 SSD for hair-raising boot times, and a large format SATA SSD as a secondary drive for your programs and games. But as always, work within your budget so you can get the best-sized gaming SSD for your battle station.
You can choose between SATA or PCIe SSDs nowadays since both have become familiar and a lot of gamers and enthusiasts have become accustomed to the two. SATA SSDs became popular a few years ago since it made this technology affordable for all masses and it was the first type to introduce large capacity modules on a consumer level.
PCIe SSDs used to ask four digits for ownership, but since the supply, demand, and competition is pulsing at a steady rate, they have become within reach as well. PCIe types are faster than their SATA counterparts because they operate through your motherboard’s PCIe lanes instead of going through a SATA controller.
Both still have pros and cons other than price. SATA SSDs usually face a cap or bottleneck because SATA interfaces have limitations in bandwidth. PCIe SSDs on the other hand, rely on limited PCIe lanes which differ between each processor and motherboard model. If you do not have enough lanes, you might experience a small penalty in performance for other PCIe devices which performs their functions through this channel.
Either way most would say the difference is nearly negligible in real world performance, so users would barely notice the difference. The speed increase in both loading and booting for the two types is still massive when compared to a typical HDD, so you are safe with either choice.
The Best Gaming SSDs
Since SSDs come in two types, we will divide the list into each category for easier comparison. As mentioned above, you can’t compare one with the other, since they come with pros and cons which set them apart. But then again, you can go wrong with either of these, just make sure you have the necessary free slot on your motherboard.
SATA SSDs will require a SATA III port on your motherboard, similar to what your HDD and disk drives use. PCIe SSDs on the other hand, use either an M.2 slot or a PCI slot on your board for it to function.
Our choices for SATA SSDs are limited simply because this category has reached its operational limit. The future of high-performance storage now lies in M.2, U.2 and PCIe interfaces because they allow a higher ceiling in performance, consume less power, and take up less space than their SATA counterparts.
I. SATA SSDs
1. Samsung 850 Evo SATA III SSD
The Samsung 850 Evo has been available for quite some time now, but it still is regarded as the best gaming SSD for the money for its cost to performance ratio which can sometimes outpace more expensive options from other brands.
This model strikes the perfect balance between reliability, capabilities, and price as proven by its excellent track record over the years. The Samsung 850 Evo SATA III comes in a multitude of sizes which can go up to 4TB, with pricing which starts around $90.00 to $100.00 on Amazon.
Another advantage you can avail from getting a Samsung 850 is that the company is one of the only manufacturers in the world which handles all parts and aspects of their products, down from R&D to manufacturing. The collaboration behind each aspect enables the 850 Evo to be one of the best at every aspect including endurance, so you are assured that the money you pay is well spent.
2. Crucial MX300 SATA III SSD
Crucial is one of the oldest and primary players in the consumer SSD industry, and they now produce some of the most affordable products making it easier for first timers to avail of the joys of zippy loading times. The Crucial MX300 is a top tier performing offering which is closely following the 850 Evo in every facet, except pricing.
Crucial conceptualized the MX300 as a cost-effective replacement for large-sized HDDs instead of competing with its faster counterparts. The company made its intentions clear when they introduced this model in a 750GB variant, followed by a 1TB and 2TB and eventually the smaller sized varieties.
Choosing the Crucial MX300 over its counterparts could net you a savings of around 50% more or less across the whole range when compared to Samsung products, even if the speeds are nowhere near what the last offers.
3. Corsair Force LE SATA III SSD
The Corsair Force LE series of SSDs are some of the most aggressively priced competitors who deliver exceptional performance for the money. This model sits in between the Samsung 850 Evo and the Crucial MX300 in performance, but what it does have that the others don’t is the reliable software custom made by Corsair.
That utility alone adds tremendous value even if this offering suffers from a minor performance penalty in its small block writing performance. Corsair has a long-standing and excellent reputation in the enthusiast communities thanks to their focus on customer satisfaction and excellent after sales service.
Although Samsung includes an equally excellent software suite to their products, the value this model presents is hard to ignore since the price gap is too big to compare to the performance side of things.
II. PCIe SSDs
1. Samsung 960 Evo M.2 SSD
The Samsung 960 Evo M.2 sets the standard once again for this category regarding reliability and performance. Much like how the company presented the 850 Evo and the 850 Pro, this model trails its prosumer variant, the 960 Pro, by a reasonable margin in both performance and cost.
The Samsung 960 Evo has a peak performance of 3,200/1,900MB/s read/write and 380,000/360,00 IOPS which is already in the top mainstream category of NVMe performance. It would be difficult to find something even faster for the same price in 2017. You also get an excellent software suite with fantastic features to help you keep this SSD in tip top shape.
The Samsung 960 Evo M.2 only comes in 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB, but we have little reason not to recommend it to power users since wanting a bigger capacity will entail prosumer levels of spending. If you want a Samsung-branded 2TB option, your best bet is the 960 Pro M.2 which costs at least 20% more.
2. Samsung 960 Pro M.2 SSD
If you already have high-end components in your CPU and you need a storage unit with raw firepower and a large size for all of your games, the Samsung 960 Pro M.2 is the only available choice. This model packs a five ARM Core controller which allows more resources to access data while running cooler thanks to lower clocks across the five cores.
The Samsung 960 Pro is the current fastest SSD in overall performance as of the moment, but one problem we have with it is its price. It is quite expensive especially if you consider the value offerings we presented in this lineup. But when compared to other snappy NVMe SSDs, the 960 pro is competitively priced, so if you are considering something from that bracket, this model is a no brainer.
If you are running professional applications for work and meticulous about large file transfer speeds, the Samsung 960 Pro is the SSD to get. Also, if you want to pack as much storage into a single M.2 slot, this model is currently the only available solution on the market, and it is an excellent one at that.
3. Team Group T-Force Cardea M.2 SSD
The Team Group T-Force Cardea is an out of the box option since it is overdesigned to solve thermal throttling issues which are rare in natural circumstances, but possible with small form factor cases or those with limited air cooling features. The red heatsink takes up ever millimeter of space available to maximize its passive cooling abilities, without sacrificing its compactness, so it will still fit underneath the meatiest GPU.
Even if this model isn’t the pioneer in including a passive cooling solution, it is one of the best implementations the market has seen so far. If you want to use this model for a Laptop, you can quickly remove the heatsink without voiding warranties, so your upgrade path’s possibilities are always open.
Of course, the Team Group T-Force Cardea isn’t all looks since it can provide a performance which sits in between entry-level and high-end models. Even if the performance is middling, having an option which ensures your M.2 SSD’s safety in that compact case makes it worthy of being one the best in our books. This offering is also competitively priced against faster competitors, but in our books, letting go of that unnoticeable margin is a worthy sacrifice for peace of mind.
4. Plextor M8Pe Series SSD
Plextor has been missing from the best of the storage scene for quite some time since their last commendable release was way back in 2012. The Plextor M8Pe changes that as it enters the midrange gaming bracket to compete against worthy opponents such as Samsung and Intel.
Priced more or less $50 lower than the Samsung 960 Evo, this model can outperform the latter in light use conditions which accounts for most of the normal PC workloads. Both of these results are due to the use of MLC flash, enabling Plextor to beat Samsung who uses TLC flash in pricing.
The Plextor M8Pe comes in a PCIe form factor complete with a cooling solution, a white indicator LED, and a unique feature which lets you remove the M.2 stick inside so you can utilize it in tight spaces. This model also comes in a dedicated M.2 form factor with a removable low profile heatsink, but we prefer the PCIe variant for its novelty design.
As computer performance advances and hits new records, SSDs become even more important since the waiting time on aging hard drives has become one of the biggest annoyances gamers and professionals face. GPU and RAM capabilities have increased exponentially over the past few years, making graphics increasingly realistic. Of course, these benefits come at costs such as large file textures and effects, so storage speed has become one of the biggest bottlenecks we have seen.
As SSDs become more affordable each year, more and more individuals down from the entry level up to the extreme power users can now avail of a solution to this issue since the market is vibrant and ever evolving. Newer and faster products are introduced every year so that it can get complicated or costly. But the real scoop is, no matter how much you spend, the only big difference you will ever experience is if you are moving from an aging hard disk to a shiny new SSD.
Our final recommendation for our readers is to get what fits in the budget and keep your expectations within the limits of that spending ceiling. Also, if you already have a satisfactory SSD in your system, it might not be practical to upgrade to a faster model since the gains you receive might be too little or negligible. Much like 144Hz gaming monitors, upgrading to 165Hz or 180Hz is a waste, but 240Hz is a different story.
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