Best SSD for gaming – the top SSDs in 2021

We’ve tested the best solid state drives around today to help you find the right SSD

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The best SSD for gaming isn’t only great for loading into your match quickly, it’s also one of the best ways to improve your entire desktop experience. Drop it alongside one of the best graphics cards and best gaming CPUs and you’ll have a rig that’s about as snappy as you can get, especially if you install your operating system on the SSD. Not only will your boot times, Windows UI interactions, and app load times be significantly improved, but with games such as Microsoft Flight Simulator recommending an SSD, its becoming even more of an essential component of the best gaming PC.

And solid-state drives are no longer just the preserve of the PC gaming elite – even the best M.2 SSDs are now more affordable than they’ve ever been. And faster, too. Don’t worry about compatbility – any of the best gaming motherboards in 2021 have an M.2 slot – the days of searching for a motherboard with an M.2 slot are gone. The SSD vs. HDD war is pretty much over, at this point: NVMe SSDs are now so affordable that HDDs have become all but redundant. The top of the tech tree is still dominated by Samsung SSDs, but Crucial and ADATA have all still got something to add to the storage conversation too, whether it’s about capacity or price. And for price to performance, a lesser-known Addlink SSD comes in strong.

Our PC SSD benchmarking gauntlet is ruthless, and only the best gaming drives make it through the tests alive. We’ve tested the top SATA and NVMe drives around to find the best SSDs available. It can be easy to spend a phat wad of cash on NAND Flash drives, but you don’t necessarily need to break open your piggy bank for seriously speedy storage anymore.

Here are the best SSDs for gaming:

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wd black sn850 1tb

The best SSD for gaming is the WD Black SN850 1TB.

This PCIe 4.0-based NVMe drive offers some of the best speeds you can find on a consumer SSD right now, boasting sequential read and write speeds of 7,000MB/s and 5300MB/s respectively.

This helps to drastically reduce boot times when switching your PC on, and with more developers asking for an SSD in system requirements for games, it’s the perfect drive for storage-heavy titles such as Microsoft Flight Simulator. If your motherboard doesn’t have one, it’s also available with its own RGB heatsink to reduce any chance of thermal throttling.

What we like
Tick Near half the price of the competition
Tick Optional heatsink
Tick Super quick

WD Black SN850 1TB specs
Controller WD in-house
Memory 3D TLC
Socket M.2 (NVMe)
Capacity 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
Seq. read/write 7,000MB/s / 5,300MB/s
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Samsung 970 Pro 1TB

The best NVMe SSD is the Samsung 970 Pro 1TB.

At least one Samsung SSD was always going to make it onto this list. The question is: if the Samsung 970 EVO is able to post almost the same benchmarks as the 970 Pro why should you spend the extra cash? For most users there’s little need for a pro-level SSD, but if you want the absolute fastest solid-state drive around then the 970 Pro is the one to go for. It’s got slightly lower maximum sequential read/write speeds than the 970 EVO, but the 970 Pro will outlast its technically snappier sibling.

The Pro and EVO both have identical 5 year warranties, although the Pro has an endurance rating of 1,200TB, while the 1TB EVO has 600TB and the 500GB version only 300TB. If you’re running a serious workhorse of a machine, one that’s churning through large amounts of data continuously, you’re going to want to opt for the locked-in reliability of the 970 Pro.

What we like
Tick Continuous speed under load
Tick Best-in-class read/write performance
Tick Impressive endurance

Samsung 970 Pro 1TB specs
Controller Samsung Phoenix
Memory Samsung 2-bit MLC
Socket M.2 (NVMe)
Capacity 512GB, 1TB
Seq. read/write 3,500MBps/2,700MBps

WD Blue SN550 1TB

The best budget SSD is the WD Blue SN550 1TB.

WD is here to show that you can, in fact, have it all, as the Blue SN550 NVMe SSD boasts 1TB of storage, a solid 600TBW endurance, and respectable read and write speeds for the lowest price we’ve seen. Of course, it’s not the fastest drive out there, but it’s hands down the best you can get under $100 without sacrificing capacity, speed, or both. That makes it the perfect option for the best cheap gaming PC build.

Through clever engineering, it runs cooler than most at 59°C because the SanDisk 96L TLC NAND flash package has been moved further away from the in-house built controller, giving room for each component to flex their muscles without breaking a sweat. At just ten cents per gigabyte, you’d be hard pressed to find another NVMe SSD that can keep up at this price.

What we like
Tick Full x4 PCIe 3 interface
Tick Stunning price/performance
Tick 600TBW endurance

WD Blue SN550 1TB specs
Controller WD in-house
Memory SanDisk 96L TLC
Socket M.2 (NVMe)
Capacity 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
Seq. read/write 2,400MBps/1,950MBps

Read the PCGamesN WD Blue SN550 review for our full verdict and score.

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Crucial MX500 500GB

The cheapest SSD is the Crucial MX500 500GB.

Samsung and Addlink might currently rule the roost at the top of the solid-state tech tree, but Crucial is able to give them a bit of a headache at the more affordable SATA SSD level.

The MX500 is a fair amount cheaper than our pick for the best budget SSD, and should be your go-to if you’re wanting the cheapest SSD possible, without comrpomising on quality. Because of its Micron parent company, Crucial is able to offer SSDs using its own high-quality memory for a great price. The MX500 seriously undercuts the competing 860 EVO, and is able to offer almost identical SSD performance – that’s not surprising given the speed limit imposed by the old SATA interface. It’s not strictly the cheapest SSD, but it’s the cheapest one that we can recommend as a worthwhile, quality purchase.

What we like
Tick Competitive price
Tick Top read/write performance for SATA
Tick Good endurance

Crucial MX500 500GB specs
Controller SiliconMotion SM2258
Memory Micron 64-layer 3D TLC
Socket SATA (AHCI)
Capacity 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
Seq. read/write 560MBps/510MBps

Read the PCGamesN Crucial MX500 review for our full verdict and score.

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Samsung 970 EVO Plus 500GB

The best 500GB SSD is the Samsung 970 EVO Plus 500GB.

Here’s another Samsung SSD for you. The Samsung 970 EVO Plus marked the last PCIe 3.0 SSD before we all moved onto the higher-spec PCIe 4.0 drives introduced with AMD’s 3rd Gen Ryzen. The 970 EVO Plus launched at almost half the price of the original thanks to a drastic drop in memory pricing – a value the SSD has managed to maintain throughout its lifespan.

So you have an SSD which is generally faster, especially in the write performance enabled by that enhanced Phoenix controller, and one that is at least the same price as the drive that it is replacing. That’s how you do iterative hardware updates, people.

What we like
Tick Same price as 970 EVO
Tick Higher performance
Tick Improved endurance

Samsung 970 EVO Plus 500GB specs
Controller Samsung Phoenix
Memory Samsung 3-bit MLC
Socket M.2 (NVMe)
Capacity 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
Seq. read/write 3,500MBps/3,300MBps

Read the PCGamesN Samsung 970 EVO Plus review for our full verdict and score.

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Samsung 860 EVO 500GB

The best SATA SSD is the Samsung 860 EVO 500GB.

The latest Samsung SATA SSD shows the current thinking from the storage kingpin is that even if you can’t massively boost performance you can beef up the endurance and warranty levels thanks to mature NAND memory tech. And while SATA SSDs don’t hold up against an M.2 SSD using NVMe technology, they’re a heck of a lot cheaper – useful if you’re going for a big capacity SSD, to store some of the larger games like Cyberpunk 2077 or Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War without spending hundreds.

The 860 EVO’s 3-bit MLC is at the stage where Samsung can offer a full 5 year warranty on this SATA SSD. It’s also one of the fastest SATA drives on the market, but not much more so than the old 850 EVO. And while Crucial’s MX500 is cheaper, the Samsung 860 EVO has almost double the endurance of that drive.

What we like
Tick One of the fastest SATA drives
Tick Fantastic endurance
Tick Five year warranty

Samsung 860 EVO 500GB specs
Controller Samsung MJX
Memory Samsung 3-bit MLC
Socket SATA (AHCI)
Capacity 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB
Seq. read/write 550MBps/520MBps

Read the PCGamesN Samsung 860 EVO review for our full verdict and score.

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ADATA XPG Spectrix S40 RGB 1TB

The best RGB SSD is the ADATA XPG SPECTRIX S40 RGB 1TB.

SSDs usually aren’t the flashiest of components, often taking a back seat to RGB-clad items like graphics cards, the best CPU coolers, and the best gaming RAM. If you don’t want want to hide your M.2 drive under a shroud, however, the ADATA XPG SPECTRIX S40 RGB is the latest PC component to be RGB’d, with its strikingly bright and customisable heatsink.

Underneath the albeit pointless bling, you’re still getting superb speeds that mirror our top pick, AES-256-bit encryption to keep your data secure, and a five year warranty, all at a competitive price.

What we like
Tick Best looking SSD with RGB
Tick Five year warranty
Tick 640TBW endurance

ADATA XPG SPECTRIX S40 RGB 1TB specs
Controller Realtek RTS5762
Memory Micron 64-layer 30 TLC
Socket M.2 (NVMe)
Capacity 250GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB
Seq. read/write 3,500MBps/3,000MBps
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Samsung 980 Pro 1TB

The best PCIe 4.0 SSD is the Samsung 980 Pro 1TB.

It’s another offering from Samsung – its absolutely nailing the solid state game. The Samsung 980 Pro is the company’s first leap into PCIe 4.0 technology and its speeds don’t disappoint. It’s leaps and bounds above its competitors with staggering read and write speeds that come near to the bandwith limit of PCIe 4.0 – provided you’re have a PCIe 4.0 compatible rig.

This is all thanks to Samsung’s new Elpis controller, designed in-house alongside its V-NAND and DRAM to make full use of PCIe 4.0. However, this currently requires AMD’s Ryzen 3000 or 5000 series or Intel’s 11th gen CPUs for that fourth generation support.

What we like
Tick Fastest SSD on PCIe 4.0
Tick Quickest random 4k read/write
Tick 600TBW endurance

Samsung 980 Pro 1TB specs
Controller Samsung Elpis
Memory Samsung 3-bit MLC
Socket M.2 (NVMe)
Capacity 250GB, 500GB, 1TB
Seq. read/write 7,000MBps/5,000MBps

 

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best ssd deals

The Samsung 980 SSD is a solid PCIe 3.0 drive, offering sequential read and write speeds of up to 3,500MB/s and 3,000MB/s respectively – perfect for avoiding Naraka Bladepoint’s warning that mechanical hard drives can cause “serious stuttering and frame drops” Better yet, it’s even cheaper right now.

You can save $20 on the 1TB model in the US, bringing it down to $119.99, while Amazon UK takes 30% off the 500GB model for a price of £46.98.

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Are PCIe 4.0 SSDs important for gaming?

Here’s our take on whether next-gen PCIe 4.0 game load times are important for gaming. PCGamesN also has a full article discussing whether PCIe 4.0 SSDs are better for gaming.

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sata vs nvme ssds

SATA drives have been around for a while longer, and while they offer lower read and write speeds than you’ll find on an NVMe-based drive, the price per GB is much lower. This makes them the perfect choice if you want a high-capacity solid state drive for storing all of your Steam library on, or if you’re going for a budget PC build. Plus, the speeds are still significantly better than a conventional hard drive

NVMe drives are getting more and more affordable, however, with even the fastest 500GB NVMe SSDs available for less than $150.

which capacity should i go for?

Not all of the best PC games benefit from being installed on a solid state drive, so you don’t necessarily need a drive as big as your hard drive. If you just want an SSD to install Windows onto, then a 512GB capacity is suficient. 1TB is enough for installing a few games that benefit, too, although you can go even higher.

SSD price list

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$269.00
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$72.99
$68.99
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$59.99
$54.99
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$89.00
$79.99
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$118.83
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$149.99
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$269.00
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