The world of loading screens may, apparently, be over with the imminent arrival of next-gen games, according to Epic’s Unreal Engine 5 demo, but with game install sizes continuing to balloon each month, having one of today’s best SSDs for gaming inside your PC is still absolutely essential. Not only are they much faster at opening and saving files on your PC than a traditional hard disk drive (HDD), allowing Windows and games to load in a flash, but they’re also cheaper than ever before, meaning you don’t have to break the bank to get some decent storage. Whether you’re in the middle of upgrading your PC or about to build a new PC, you need one of our best SSD for gaming picks.
Best gaming SSD 2020
To help you get the best SSD for gaming for your PC, I’ve rounded up all of the best SSDs I’ve tested here at RPS. I’ve covered a range of prices, form factors and size capacities, too, helping you get the best SSD for your budget. Whether you’re looking for the best cheap SSD, or the fastest NVMe SSD money can buy, I’ve got you covered, and you can find out more about them below. However, if all you want is a quick simple answer about what’s the absolute bestest best SSD for gaming, then you should get the WD Blue SN550.
The WD Blue SN550 is, quite simply, the best value SSD for gaming you can buy right now. It doesn’t cost much more than the best SATA SSDs, and it’s much, much faster when it comes to reading and writing your files. However, if your motherboard isn’t compatible with NVMe SSDs, or you just prefer a good old-fashioned SATA SSD, then your next best bet is the Samsung 860 Evo.
Meanwhile, those of you looking for an external SSD to take with you on the go should get a Samsung T5. We all know the pain of having to re-install everything when we move between different systems, so having an external SSD can really help speed up that process. The T5 is one of the fastest portable SSDs around, too, beating other models from WD that I’ve tested, and in my eyes it’s better value than Samsung’s newer, more expensive T7 Touch.
To read more about my top three picks, carry on reading or click the links below. You’ll also find more information about what the differences are between SATA and NVMe SSDs, what kind of size SSD you should go for, as well as how to install your SSD inside your PC. Remember, you can keep track of all the best prices for today’s top SSDs by checking out our regularly updated SSD deals page, and if you’re in need of some other PC components, then be sure to check out our best graphics card guide, our best gaming monitor recommendations and our best gaming CPU picks as well.
WD Blue SN550 – the best SSD for gaming
SATA SSDs like the Samsung 860 Evo are great, but if you’ve got a motherboard with an M.2 slot then you should absolutely go for the WD Blue SN550 as your primary SSD drive.
It’s the successor to the excellent WD Blue SN500, and now comes in a larger 1TB size as well, making it a great option no matter what kind of size you’re looking for. Simply put, the WD Blue SN550 is fantastic value for money. It’s got great random read and write speeds – better than almost every other budget NVMe SSD out there – and doesn’t cost that much more than the best budget SATA SSDs, either. Its random write times are particularly nippy, beating Samsung’s more expensive 970 Evo Plus and coming second only to WD’s flagship Black SN750.
The 970 Evo Plus and Black SN750 have mildly better random read speeds, but they’re also a lot more expensive than the WD Blue SN550, often costing another £20 / $20 across all the different size capacities. As a result, I think most people would be perfectly happy saving themselves a bit of cash and opting for the SN550 instead. It’s also brilliant at handling larger workloads, making this a brilliant all-round SSD for your gaming PC. If you’ve got a motherboard that supports it, this SSD should definitely be at the top of your list.
Samsung 860 Evo – the best SATA SSD for gaming
When it comes to buying an SSD for gaming, a lot people still opt for a 2.5in SATA drive rather than a super fast NVMe SSD, if only because the latter tend to be quite expensive and you need a motherboard that supports them. For SATA SSD hunters, then, the Samsung 860 Evo is hands down the best SSD for gaming you can buy today. Its random read speeds are faster than any other SATA SSD that’s crossed my testing bench, and its warranty and endurance rating are also top of their respective classes.
The only other SSD I’ve tested with a faster random write speed is Samsung’s 860 Qvo. However, the Qvo’s smallest size is 1TB, so it can be quite expensive to have as your main drive. That said, the 860 Qvo is a lot cheaper than the 860 Evo once you start pushing into the 1TB and 2TB categories, so it arguably makes more sense if you’re looking for a 1TB+ SSD and have enough cash.
For those looking to keep SSD costs down to under £100 / $100, though, the 500GB Samsung 860 Evo is definitely the way to go. Crucial’s MX500 is another good budget option for SATA buyers, but the 860 Evo is much faster overall, particularly when it comes to random write speeds. The 860 Evo also comes with a much higher endurance rating, too: 300 terabytes written (TBW) for the 500GB model as opposed to just 180TBW on the 500GB MX500. It’s fast, durable and I’ve yet to see another SATA SSD beat it when it comes to overall value.
Samsung T5 – the best external gaming SSD
When it comes to the best external SSDs for gaming, there’s really nothing like the Samsung T5. Samsung may be about to replace it with the Samsung T7 Touch (and its non-touch sibling, the regular Samsung T7) this year, but unless you’ve got a bang-up-to-date laptop or PC that supports the USB 3.2 Gen 2 standard, then you’ll be just as happy with the USB 3.1 Gen 2-supporting T5.
It’s much faster than the WD My Passport SSD, for example, and it’s also a fraction cheaper and an infinitely nicer looking thing to boot. Plus, the fact it’s an SSD also means it’s far less likely to break than an external HDD. Yes, the Samsung T5 is expensive compared to a standard SSD (and especially expensive compared to external HDDs such as the WD Black P10), but if you’re the type of person who travels a lot and doesn’t have enough room for all your games on your laptop, the T5 is a worthwhile investment – although if you really want to future-proof your external SSD purchase, then you’re probably better off spending a bit more on the equally excellent Crucial X8 instead, as this supports the same USB standards as the newer Samsung T7 Touch and is faster overall.
For those that want to keep costs down, however, the Samsung T5 is a tough act to beat. It comes with both USB3 and USB-C connectors for super fast transfer speeds, and its random read and write speeds are pretty good too. It’s not as nippy as Samsung’s 860 Evo, but in terms of overall convenience, nothing else comes close.
SATA SSD vs NVMe: what’s the difference?
2.5in SATA SSDs: The easiest drop-in replacement for a standard hard disk is a 2.5in SATA model. These are the same size and shape as a standard 2.5in hard disk, and plug into a normal SATA port on your motherboard. Most modern PC cases have mounting points for 2.5in hard disks, often on the back of the motherboard tray. If yours doesn’t, you can use a cheap adaptor (really just a 3.5in-wide metal plate with screw holes) to fit the SSD in a normal 3.5in hard disk bay.
To avoid crippling the SSD’s performance, make sure you plug the SSD into a SATA 3 port on your motherboard, rather than use SATA 2. SATA 3 SSDs will work in SATA 2 ports, but you’ll likely lose around half the SSD’s performance. That said, SATA 3 is an interface that’s been around since 2009, and one that isn’t quick enough to cope with the fastest modern SSDs. For most users, a SATA 3 SSD will be fine, and still several times faster than a mechanical hard disk, but if you’ve got a motherboard with an M.2 slot that supports NVMe SSDs, you should definitely consider opting for an NVMe SSD instead.
NVMe SSDs: If you’re in the market for a super-fast SSD that won’t be encumbered by its interface, you need to move beyond SATA to NVMe (also called PCI Express, PCIe NVMe, or just NVMe). Most NVMe SSDs are mounted directly to the motherboard in an M.2 slot. If your motherboard doesn’t have such a slot, there’s only one way to unleash the speed: a PCIe add-in card (AIC). These add-in cards will fit in a spare PCIe x4 or x16 slot and are monstrously quick, as well as monstrously expensive.
If you have a newer motherboard with an M.2 slot, an NVMe SSD is a neater way to add super-fast PCIe storage. Most NVMe SSDs are just 22mm wide and 80mm long (so about a third shorter than a stick of RAM) and screw straight into the motherboard – no more having to route SATA and power cables around your case.
However, the M.2 standard is a little complicated, chiefly due to its versatility. For starters, there are several sizes of M.2 card, such as 2280 and 22110: the first two digits denote the card’s width in mm, and the remaining numbers are the card’s length. Fortunately, the majority of consumer NVMe SSDs are the 2280 size. What’s more, as well as PCIe storage, the M.2 slot can also support SATA SSDs. These don’t have the performance advantage of NVMe drives, but score for neatness, and are about the same price as 2.5in SSDs. Check what standards your motherboard supports, as PCIe SSDs will not work in SATA-only slots and vice versa.
The good news is that many motherboards support both NVMe and SATA M.2 SSDs, giving you the versatility to choose between fast-but-expensive NVMe and slower (but still fast) and cheaper SATA. Bear in mind that the claimed speeds are for sequential transfers, rather than random reads and writes, so should be considered a best-case scenario. It’s also worth looking at a drive’s IOPS, or input/output operations per second, rating. This isn’t always listed in an SSD’s specifications, but it can make a big difference to an SSD’s real-world performance. A drive with a high IOPS rating can perform many more data reads and writes per second than a lower-rated model, which can make a huge difference in the complex data transfer tasks required by a modern operating system.
What size SSD should I buy?
The minimum SSD size I’d recommend these days is 250GB, as this will give you enough room for your Windows installation (around 20GB), a couple of big games, plus all your music, photos and any other programmes you might need. However, if you have a particularly large photo and music collection, or just like having lots of games installed at the same time, then I’d recommend bumping it up to the 500GB mark.
If you like having most of your games installed at the same time, though, consider finding the cash for a 1TB SSD, or two 500GB SSDs. If you need installing more than one SSD, then have a read of our How to install an SSD / HDD guide.