SSDs became a mainstream necessity these days. It is hard to imagine a brand new PC without one of them inside. This is no longer a matter of preferences, but common sense. Hard drives have been a bottleneck of computers for a long time, but with the SSDs, especially NVMe ones, that problem has shifted to CPU’s, RAM, program code, etc.
When we talk about the best SSD for gaming, things are not that simple – other than the fact you definitely need one. Everything else is up to your budget, needs and personal preferences. Choices are usually not that easy and SSDs are no exception. There are 2,5” versions, M.2 ones, different capacities, sequential transfer speeds, NVMes and many other things that make this choice more complicated than it should be.
2.5” vs. M.2
If you don’t want to fool around with cables, or have a laptop or a small form factor PC, with a motherboard that supports M.2, or want to enjoy the beauties of NVMe, M.2 SSD should be your logical choice. In other situations, especially if you are limited with slots on your older motherboard, 2,5” is the right choice for you.
Sequential Transfer Speeds (Read/write speeds)
Although sequential read/write speeds are not the best or only sign of fast performance, they do indicate what you should expect from your drive. 2,5” drives based on SATA interface have maximum values of around 560 MB/s, while NVMe ones can go above 3,500 MB/s
SLC has an expected read/write lifecycle between 90,000 and 100,000 writes per cell, MLC ranges between 10,000 and 30,000 writes and TLC is between 3,000 to 5,000 writes. Unfortunately, due to cuts in cost (which, on the other hand, made SSDs much more affordable), SLC became limited only to servers and other enterprise users. MLC is still available, but only in rare models, while other SSDs use TLC, that is nowadays combined with SLC technology to increase transfer speeds, like in WD Blue 3D NAND for instance. If you can, choose MLC, but since it is usually too expensive, go for 3D NAND TLC.
When we talk about the capacity of the drive, it is a known fact that no matter how large it is, it can always be larger. If your budget allows it, go for higher numbers, but have the performance vs. price ratio in your mind. Sometimes it is even better to choose a smaller, but better performance SSD for your OS and applications and regular a hard drive for storage, than going for bigger capacity SSD with lower performance, that won’t fully satisfy you.
The Best 2.5” SSDs
Samsung 860 PRO
A Great Performance SSD That Will Satisfy Any Gamer
Samsung 860 PRO is another great performance SSD from the Samsung’s “kitchen”. It’s a real successor to the 850 PRO, which made a real impact in SSD market. This SSD comes in various capacities from 256GB to 4TB, that will satisfy even the most demanding users.
Its performance is very smooth and tests have shown that it is better or close to the competition in most categories. Such good results are mostly achieved thanks to its new 64-layer V-NAND flash that showed to be less latent than the old 48-bit and 32-bit layer flash, thanks to its brand new MJX controller.
Samsung just continued where it left off with 850 PRO, upgraded the technology, improved the performance and created another high-performance SSD that will attract a lot of gamers and professionals. All in all, a fast SSD with a maximum sequential read/write speed of 560/530 MB/s and great endurance rating, that can surely compete for the place of the best SSD for gaming.
- It uses MLC NAND
- There are versions from 256GB to 4TB
- Great SATA performance
- 3-year warranty
- A bit pricey
WD Blue 3D NAND
An SSD Made for Great Budget Gaming
If you need a high-quality SSD that is affordable, good for gaming and doesn’t go that far from the best, WD Blue 3D NAND might be your best choice. Although this WD SSD uses the old Marvell 88SS1074 controller that was used in previous WD SSDs from 2016, thanks to its 3D NAND TLC flash, its performance is more than good – very close to MLC NAND drives. In some tests, it even outperforms Samsung 850 EVO, which is known as one of the fastest 3D NAND MLC SSDs.
Its maximum sequential read/write speeds go up to 560/530 MB/s and it comes in capacities from 250GB to 2TB. The 250GB version can be found for less than $100, which is more than compelling and can be called the best budget SSD for gaming. Design of the product, along with the package itself, is very modest, which can prove to be its downside, because it may not be that appealing to gamers who like to show off with their hardware.
The interesting fact about the WD Blue 3D NAND is that it is almost the same as the Sandisk’s Ultra 3D SSD. They have different branding and Ultra is known to be a bit more expensive, but it can be found for the same money if you are persistent. Besides that, there are no bigger differences. It’s good to know this before making the purchase.
- Available both in M.2 and 2.5” version
- Good price per gigabyte ratio
- Speeds don’t decrease with the saturation of the cash, which is common for TLC flash
- 3-year warranty
- Spartan package and cheap design
SanDisk Ultra 3D NAND SSD
A More Handsome Twin Brother of WD Blue 3D NAND
Most of the things said about the WD Blue 3D NAND also stand for SanDisk Ultra 3D NAND SSD. They both use the old Marvell 88SS1074 controller that works great with their 3D NAND TLC flash memory, which makes them very competitive even with the MLC NAND drives. Also, they do not suffer from speed decrease when their cash is oversaturated like the competition, and all that thanks to the technique of multi-tiered caching that manages TLC just like SLC and combine TLC.
Without any doubt, this is a good SSD, with a good value for money. It gives more than a decent performance in games. Also, under heavier workloads, it will outperform Crucial MX300, which is in the same class and its direct competitor, although better power efficiency and mobile use are in Crucial SSD’s hands.
- Better performance than its non-3D NAND predecessor
- Not impressive testing results
- Only 3 years of warranty
An SSD Made for Gaming
This is just an amazing drive, maybe the best gaming SSD you can buy for your money. For a long time, 850 EVO was the prime target for all those gaming enthusiasts, and although its successor 860 EVO is a great SSD and a bit faster than the Crucial MX500, it looks like the Crucial’s “horse” is going to take the number one spot. Especially the 1TB version (it comes in versions from 256GB to 2TB), that offers the perfect combination of price, performance and reliability, which is the most important for any gamer.
When we talk about its speed, MX500 ranks on top of SSD charts, behind 860 PRO, 860 EVO and 850 PRO, and in front of 850 EVO, which is more than a good result. The reason this drive is so competitive, especially in the price department, is the fact that Crucial makes its own NAND flash (64-layer 3D TLC NAND, with 256Gb per package), which drastically decreases its price tag.
Also, another one of its advantages is the more-than-decent warranty of 5 years or 360TBW (Terabytes Written). This means you can write 200GB every day for five years in a row, which is hard for anyone to reach. If you are looking for the best 1TB SSD for gaming, look no further.
- Great price per gigabyte ratio
- Top-class performance
- Slower than M.2 and NVMe SSD’s
- When there are prolonged write loads it speeds, it could decline
An Entry Level SSD for Gaming
If you have an older PC or just want to get to know the whole SSD experience without investing too much money, PNY CS900 is made for you. This is not a top-shelf SSD and don’t expect miracles and performance of an 860 EVO, but if you are used to using gaming hard drives, this will surely drastically increase your system and game loading times, as well as performance.
This is a drive that offers durability and modest performance, with sequential read/write speed of 515/490MB/s and it comes in capacities from 120GB to 960GB – more than enough for most users. Its package contains an Acronis True Image HD 2017 data migration software that will help you transfer the data from the old HDD, therefore there is no reason to be scared of losing the important data.
All in all, PNY CS900 is not a masterpiece, but it does a good job. Thanks to its excellent balance of price and performance, this is more than a good choice for the best cheap SSD for gaming.
- Modest speed and overall performance
Silicon Power 256GB SSD 3D NAND A55
A Trustworthy SSD for Budget Users
Silicon Power A55 is one of the best cost-effective SSDs on the market right now. It doesn’t represent the top of the class, but for upgrades from hard drives or medium gaming this “little fellow” is a great choice.
A55 has a lot of aces up its sleeve: it integrates SLC and TLC flash blocks so that writing is first made to the SLC section, and after that, sequentially copied to TLC part, providing for a much better peak writing efficiency. Although this solution has its downside – the transfer rate significantly drops when there is a transfer of large files (that most today’s games are), it is still a great improvement over the regular TLC drives.
Also, A55 uses ECC technology and S.M.A.R.T. monitoring system in order to provide a safe data transmission, and it is one of the lightest and thinnest SSDs on the market right now – all welcome additions to an SSD that’s more than decent. Its sequential read/write speeds of 460/370MB/s are not even near the top, but its other features establish it as a reasonable solution for people who want a proper price vs performance ratio.
If you are wondering if this is the best cheap SSD for gaming, the answer is: maybe not the best, but surely among the top three.
- Very thin and light
- Sequential read/write speeds could be faster
The Best M.2 SSDs
Samsung 970 EVO
The Best Value for Money NVMe SSD
It’s simple: Samsung 970 EVO is the best NVMe SSD you can buy. Its endurance, warranty and software package are simply the best on the market. Thanks to Samsung’s 64-layer MLC V-NAND flash that is also used with the 970 PRO, newly designed Phoenix controller and Intelligent TurboWrite technology that generates buffer that can be up to 78GB, its performance is staggering. When paired with some serious gaming CPU, such as Intel Core i9-7900X and a dedicated gaming motherboard, for instance, ASUS Maximus IX Formula, you will get a real “monster machine”.
The majority of gamers don’t really need the 970 EVO, especially because of its high price tag and the fact that there are a lot of other competitive drives that will do an excellent job for much less money. 970 EVO is an excellent drive, but the advantage of the Samsung SSDs over the competitors, that was once huge, has drastically decreased over time. That is best shown when sequential read/write speeds are observed. EVO 970’s 3,500/2,500 MB/s are drastically faster than the 960 EVO’s 3,200/1500MB/s, but compared to its prime competitor WD Black NVMe SSD’s 3,400/2,800MB/s, things are no longer that black and white.
That doesn’t change the fact that 970 EVO is still the best M.2 SSD for gaming, it just shows that either Samsung will have to make an additional effort and make its already great SSDs drastically better, or become more realistic to adapt their price tag to be more competitive.
- Much faster sequential reads
- File transfer time is almost 50% shorter
- Smaller capacities could be a bit less expensive
WD Black Gen3
An SSD That Breaks the Rules
Heavy gaming demands for great hardware and WD Black Gen3 SSD definitely is. Its performance is almost the same as the “lord of the charts” Samsung 960 PRO, thanks to WD’s new NVMe controller, but for significantly less money, especially in the 1TB capacity, where you can get it for the similar price as the 960 PRO’s “little brother” 960 EVO, that offers performance that is a lot of behind the previously mentioned duo. Samsung’s advantage over the competition has deteriorated with time and WD Black Gen3 is one of the reasons.
Although WD Black Gen3 has similar performance as the 960 PRO, testing shows that advantage is still on the side of the Samsung’s boy. There is still a gap, but if you can buy a high-performance SSD for slightly more money than an entry-level one, and save enough money to buy, for example, additional 16GB of RAM for gaming, it is obvious for what most of the people will decide. Because of that, WD Black Gen3 is the prime candidate for the number one spot in the best SSD for gaming chart.
- Excellent performance
- Five-year warranty
- A price tag closer to a budget that a premium NVMe SSD
- Its design could be more appealing
Toshiba OCZ RD400
A Senior SSD That Still Knows How to Shine
When Toshiba purchased the OCZ, they decided to convert it to a brand that is dedicated to the enthusiasts. RD400 is a prime example of such a policy.
This is, without a question or a doubt, a high-end SSD that offers great performance without any major weaknesses, and when it was made, it was intended for the battle with the Samsung 950 PRO. Even then, it was one step behind it, and now that new models have arrived, testing shows that its position has deteriorated even further. Nevertheless, this is a drive that has its qualities, and when bought for a reasonable price, it can be a great solution for work or gaming.
This is the first PCIe 3 SSD and a first RevoDrive with a native PCIe SSD controller that OCZ ever made. It is similar to the Toshiba XG3 M.2 SSD, but it is equipped with a different firmware. It comes in capacities from 128GB to 1TB and has sequential read/write speeds of 2,600/1,600 MB/s that are far behind Samsung PRO 970’s 3,500/2,700 MB/s. Although not that competitive anymore, RD400 is still a decent solution for most users. This is not the best gaming SSD you will find, but if you want a premium product that is trustworthy and affordable, and can be used both in PCIe and M.2, this one is what you should pay your attention to.
- 5-year warranty
- It can be used in the PCIe slot with an adapter
- Performance gets affected when it becomes too heated
- Too pricey
- It requires UEFI BIOS and NVMe motherboard to be bootable
Samsung 970 PRO
The King among SSDs
This is the fastest NVMe SSD ever and the only consumer NVMe that still uses MLC. 970 PRO is a great choice for gamers and professionals who are only looking for a maximum performance, regardless of the price tag.
This SSD delivers up to 1,200 TBW and can reach sequential read/write speeds of 3,500/2,700 MB/s. It comes only in 512GB and 1TB version, which can be taken as one of its rare downsides. Tests show that it beats the competition in almost any category. This is simply the fastest NVMe for heavy gaming, audio, video and image editing you can find. Its only competition is Intel Optane 900p that handles random workloads better, while sequential workloads are 970 PROs “area of expertise”.
When you look at the price vs. performance perspective, 970 PRO doesn’t stand that well. In this area, 970 EVO is a better choice. Although 970 PRO has a better performance, its advantage over the 970 EVO is not that big as the price may suggest. If you want the maximum, no matter the price, 970 PRO is your only choice, but if you are among the majority of users who are very interested in the price vs. performance ratio, you should take a look at other models, such as 970 EVO or WD Black Gen3.
- MLC flash
- The best performance in the class
- Excellent endurance
- Disk encryption
- Ridiculously expensive
Crucial MX500 M.2 SSD
An SSD Made for Small Spaces
Don’t get confused, Crucial MX500 M.2 is basically the same SSD as the regular 2,5” MX500, with the difference that it uses M.2 slot instead of SATA slot. They both use SATA interface and not NVMe, which is the reason their sequential read/write speeds are limited to 560/510 MB/s. Basically, the M.2 version is made for small form factor PCs, where every inch is important, or for people who just want to get rid of cable problems.
MX500s performance can be compared to the best SSD SATA drives and represents a very good option for gaming. Against NVMe SSDs, MX500 losses significantly when large files are copied, but in other categories, it keeps up the pace. Compared to its 2,5” version, there is no bigger difference, except for the size and the fact that M.2 gets heated much faster, which might affect its performance, but only when it continuously writes large files. If this is a common scenario for you, 2,5” version is definitely a better choice.
It’s also important to know that its write speeds don’t deteriorate that quickly due to an SLC cache overflow. While its competition’s speeds fall to 200 MB/s, its speed stays at around 400 MB/s. Drops happen after 32GB of written data, which is more than a good result. This is not the best gaming SSD according to performance, but for gamers who have a limited budget and are looking for good value for their bucks, this is a very good solution until you get enough money to buy top of the class NVMe drives.
- Very good price vs. GB ratio
- 5-year warranty
- Power-loss protection
- Compact form
- It uses a SATA interface
- TLC instead of MLC
- It heats too much
An Outsider Who Ended up among the “Big Boys”
MyDigitalSSD BPX is a good SSD, a real entry-level NVMe drive, and more than a decent contender for being the best budget SSD for gaming. Not that good for notebooks because it has a tendency to drain the battery, but with very good general performance. It is cool, doesn’t heat like many other NVMe SSDs, and it comes in capacities from 120GB to 480GB. It has sequential read/write speeds of 2,600/1600 MB/s and it comes with a 5 Years/698 TBW limited warranty.
BPX basically competes with all the other SSDs on the market and stands in a very good position, especially because of the price that is more than competitive. When it was presented, many people believed that it might even challenge the Samsung’s 960 EVO, but that just didn’t happen.
No matter what, BPX still offers a great balance between features, price and overall gaming performance, that positions it well on the market and makes it a good choice for all the mainstream gamers who are looking for a bit more from their hardware.
- 5-year warranty
- Great performance per dollar
- Top endurance
- Above mainstream performance
- It drains the notebook battery very fast
- Potential supply issues
We all know that technology is ever-advancing and that things are only getting faster, stronger and better with time. Yesterday – we were all about hard drives. Today is the time of SSD. Only time will show what the next technology we’ll all want and need, will be. Until then, enjoy all the pleasures of the fast SSDs and use our guide to find the best one for your gaming needs. Happy hunting!