With the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 shipping with NVMe SSDs, it’s definitely time to think about making the upgrade yourself. The best NVMe SSD already makes a huge difference on PC, and it’s only going to become an even more vital weapon in your gaming arsenal if developers start releasing games that take full advantage of this speedy storage medium.
In this guide, we’re going to take a look at 16 of the best SSDs for gaming and other uses in 2020. While an SSD won’t give you a significant performance boost over traditional hard drives in gaming (if any at all), in some instances, especially in loading levels, an SSD can offer a small performance boost.
And, in terms of your overall system performance (outside of gaming), an SSD will make your computer feel much faster. Tech IT Guided is supported by its readers. If you purchase products after clicking on links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
So, if you’re either looking for a way to boost the performance and storage capacity of your current system, or you’re looking for a speedy storage option that you can use in an upcoming build, the SSDs listed below should work for you.
Which NVMe SSD is Right for You?
No, a solid state drive isn’t going to help you get a higher framerate and it won’t improve your crappy laptop to the point to where you can actually start playing a game you weren’t able to play previously.
However, an SSD can significantly improve your system’s performance (outside of gaming), dramatically reduce your boot and load times, and just make your computer feel faster in general.
And, seeing as how prices have come down quite a bit, it has never been more affordable to add an SSD to your new gaming computer. So, if you’re in the market for a new SSD, you can use the 20 different options listed above as a guide to help you make your decision.
5 Best NVMe SSD of 2021:
|Samsung 970 Evo Plus||0.87 x 0.90 x 3.15 in||1.92 ounces|
|Toshiba OCZ RD400||3.15 x 0.87 x 0.09 in||0.30 ounces|
|WD Black NVMe SSD||0.87 x 3.15 x 0.09 in||0.27 ounces|
|Addlink S70 512GB||3.15 x 0.86 x 0.11 in||1.58 ounces|
|Intel 750 Series||9.3 x 6.7 x 0.3 in||6.9 ounces|
It’s hard to beat Samsung SSDs in the high-performance M.2 NVMe (More for M.2 SSD) space, it was the first company to release such a drive and has kept the pressure on with routine product updates. The latest 970 Evo Plus ends up being one of the fastest M.2 drives around, with only a few SSDs (e.g., Intel’s Optane 905p) potentially beating it. Samsung’s own 970 Pro also comes out ahead at times, but frankly, it’s not worth the 50 percent increase in price.
Like the 970 Pro, the new 970 Evo Plus rates well for endurance, which bodes well for its longevity. The 1TB model is rated for 600TB of writes over five years or a whopping 329GB of writes per day. You’d need to fill up and then wipe the drive every three days to manage that many writes, which isn’t a consumer or even prosumer workload. For reference, the SSD I’ve used the most still only has 40TB of writes after four years.
The 500GB and 2TB models are certainly worth a look, if you want a lower price or more capacity, respectively. But for most users, the 1TB drive strikes the sweet spot between performance, capacity, though Samsung’s drive is still pretty price.
Standard SATA III solid state drives (SSDs) already bring performance benefits over traditional hard drives, so when a drive comes along that promises 4.5x the speed of an SSD, as the Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB does, you sit up and take notice.
Unlike standard SSDs and modern HDDs that plug into the SATA III ports of your motherboard, the Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB can plug into a PCIe or M.2 port of your motherboard. Most modern motherboards in desktop and laptop PCs will have these ports, so unless you’re using very antiquated hardware, you should be able to install the Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB without a problem.
The SATA III ports of a motherboard were really designed for traditional hard drives, so although SSDs bring performance increases, their performance is being bottlenecked by the connection – and this is why most modern SSDs peak at around 520MB/s write, 560MB/s read, speeds. To put this in perspective, the Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB, which avoids the SATA ports, can get up to speeds of 2,600MB/s read, 1,600 MB/s write. That’s a huge difference.
Whether you are running high-end programs or loading even the most intensive AAA titles, Western Digital’s WD Black NVMe SSD is always clutch.
The best aspect of this storage drive is certainly the many choices you have with regards to size options. The drive’s high capacity is more than enough to store your favorite games, files, drivers, and your Windows OS as well.
When it comes to quick boot speeds and responsiveness, the WD Black NVMe SSD is a game changer. Being the fastest NVMe on this list, its sheer performance, abundant storage options, and reasonable price make this SSD one of the best on the market.
The beauty of SSDs, is that now there are high-performance SSD memory controllers available, basically anyone with the manufacturing facilities and access to high-speed NAND flash memory can build a great SSD. Addlink has proved that by pairing the widely available Phison controller with Toshiba’s 3D TLC memory and creating the impressive S70 drive.
It’s also managing to sell this performant SSD for an impressively low price too. It may not be quite as quick as the Samsung 970 EVO, but it’s not far off, and a good bit cheaper too.
The 1TB drive is great value too, but if you’re only after a relatively small 512GB SSD for a speedy boot drive, and as the home for your most oft-played games, the Addlink S70 is a great shout.
Since the first consumer SSDs started hitting our PCs they’ve all been piggy-backing old school, high-latency mechanical drive technology in terms of their interfaces and protocols.
In the beginning of the SSD revolution running across the 600MB/s limit of the SATA 6Gbps interface wasn’t much of a problem. Quickly our SSDs became more trustworthy and more capable, and suddenly they were bumping their heads against the limits of the suddenly geriatric-looking connection.
Along came PCIe-based drives, though they were mostly still just groups of smaller SATA drives connected to a PCIe RAID controller.
Then recently came actual, proper, honest-to-goodness PCIe interfaces specifically designed for SSDs, and the new wave of Flash storage had begun. The M.2 socket and the still mostly unused SATA Express arrived with the Intel Z97 and X99 chipsets.
What Is an M.2 SSD?
M.2 drives are as utilitarian as upgrades come: They look like sticks of gum studded with NAND modules and a controller chip. (“NAND” is the generic term for the flash-memory chips that make up the actual storage on the SSD; the term refers, technically, to the type of logic gates used in the underlying memory structure. See our primer Buying an SSD: 20 Terms You Need to Know for more SSD lingo explained.)
The key thing to remember about M.2 is that it is a form factor, a shape. The bus—the data pathway over which the data travels to and from an M.2 drive—is distinct from M.2 itself and can vary. And it can make all the difference.
What’s so special about NVMe SSD?
The old storage paradigm was built on the idea of spinning disks. When SSDs hit the mainstream consumer market, back in 2007, they reset our expectations for storage. Moving from the mechanical world of hard drives to the silicon world of SSDs brought rapid improvements in performance, technology, capacities, and reliability. SSDs, however, quickly saturated the various SATA connections and so faster alternatives were needed, but the interface was only part of the problem.
The AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface) command protocol was designed for much slower media (i.e., spinning magnetic disks). AHCI is inefficient with modern SSDs, so a new standard was developed: NVMHCI (Non-Volatile Memory Host Controller Interface). Combine NVMHCI with a fast PCIe interface, and you have NVMe, Non-Volatile Memory Express. It’s a much-improved interface developed around the needs of flash memory rather than spinning disks.
But what’s NVMe like in the real world? If you’re copying a game from one drive to another, or validating game files in Steam, faster NVMe drives make a difference. They can also shave off a second or two when it comes time to load a game level, but the more significant difference is against hard drives where even a slower SATA SSD is much faster. Go beyond a certain point, and all SSDs start to feel similar.
In other words, while the speed freak in me loves what NVMe brings to the table, I recognize that in practice, it’s usually not that noticeable. If you’re looking to get the most from your money when it comes time to build a gaming PC, good SATA SSDs remain an excellent option, with prices now falling below 10 cents per GB.
We understand that searching for the best SSD for your PC can be quite daunting, to say the least. Whether you are an aspiring or experienced PC builder. the search for the perfect SSD isn’t always easy.