For the last year, there's been one SSD that's completely ruled the roost in my best SSD for gaming rankings, and that's the WD Blue SN550. Few SSDs have come close to matching its fast read and write speeds and competitive pricing, and it remains one of the best value NVMe drives you can buy today. However, we might finally have a worthy alternative to the SN550, and that's Crucial's P2.
Available in 250GB, 500GB, 1TB and 2TB size capacities (the same as the SN550) with prices starting at a mere £39 / $45, the Crucial P2 matches the SN550 on price almost beat for beat. Indeed, the 500GB model I've got on test here currently costs an identical £48 / $58 to the 500GB SN550, and both drives come with the same five year warranty and the same kind of endurance ratings, too. Even their top sequential speeds are similar. Both drives are rated for up to 2400MB/s read, for example, and their sequential write speeds come in at a maximum of 1900MB/s for the P2 and 1950MB/s for the SN550.
On paper, they could practically be one and the same drive to unsuspecting eyes, making it hard to know which one to get if you're in the market for a new SSD. In practice, though, they're quite different, with the Crucial P2 beating the SN550 on random read speed in my benchmark tests (random speeds being a much better indicator of everyday performance than sequential ones), but falling behind on random write and transfer speeds. Overall, I'd probably still recommend going for the SN550 when they're both the same price, but the P2 is still worth considering if you can find it for less.
After all, it's read speeds that are important for gaming, and here the P2 excels. When I ran it through AS SSD's 1GB 4K random test, for example, which measures how long it takes for a drive to read and write 1GB's worth of tiny 4K files, the P2 finished with an impressive read speed of 54.4MB/s, putting it way out in front of the SN550's score of 44.5MB/s. The P2's score also beats Samsung's recently released and similarly budget-minded 980 SSD as well, which managed 51.8MB/s, and is practically neck and neck with Samsung's more expensive 970 Evo Plus, which finished the same test with 55.2MB/s.
That's pretty good going for such a cheap drive, and much faster than what you'd get from a similarly-priced SATA SSD, too. Indeed, the 500GB model of my current SATA recommendation, Samsung's 860 Evo, still goes for £60 / $65 at time of writing, and that will only get you a random read speed of 41.9MB/s, making the Crucial P2 30% faster in day to day use.
The Crucial P2's random write speeds are a lot better than what you'd get from its current SATA rivals as well, with its result of 117.3MB/s offering a similar 24% bump over the 860 Evo. However, while the P2 is a clear step up over SATA SSDs in this department, it still pales in comparison to other NVMe drives. The Samsung 980 SSD isn't far off, coming in at 121.0MB/s, but the WD Blue SN550 managed a whopping 157.3MB/s in this test, which is one of the best results I've ever recorded for a PCIe 3.0 NVMe drive.
The SN550 also performed better in AS SSD's copy benchmark as well. This test transfers three different file types from my OS drive to the SSD: an ISO folder consisting of two large files, a Program folder with lots of little files, and a Game folder that's made up of files both big and small. The Crucial P2 finished the ISO test with a speed of 738MB/s, the Program test with 767MB/s and the Game test with 697MB/s - all decent enough speeds compared to the best SATA SSDs (which often manage no more than 400-600MB/s in this test), but much like its random write speed performance, these results can't hold a candle to the 1000-2000MB/s scores I normally see on other NVMe drives. Indeed, the Blue SN550 came in with respective scores of 1370MB/s, 1009MB/s and 1628MB/s, the latter of which is more than twice as fast as the P2.
Together with the WD's superior write speed, these are pretty compelling reasons to go for the Blue SN550 if you're after a drive that's more of an all-round workhorse. If you're the type of person who regularly moves large files around their PC, then you'll spend a lot less time waiting around for things to finish with the SN550, making it more convenient for everyday use.
If all you want is a cheap drive that's going to be used for games, though, then the P2 is still worth considering if you can find it at a good price. Indeed, in my game loading time tests, the P2 was pretty much neck and neck with the SN550, often only differing by 1-3 seconds in my timed Shadow Of The Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy XV and Monster Hunter: World tests. That's practically nothing in the grand scheme of things, and very much in line with the kind of times I recorded for the Samsung 980 SSD, too. The P2's performance elsewhere may not be so hot, but when it comes to loading times, it's up there with the best.
As I said earlier, the WD Blue SN550 is still the best value NVMe drive overall in my eyes, but if you can find a Crucial P2 on the cheap (which has been known to happen on occasion), then it's still got everything it needs to offer comparable gaming performance where it counts. The P2 is definitely a better buy than rival SATA SSDs at this kind of price, but unless you find one on sale or going for considerably less than its WD rival, the Blue SN550 is still the NVMe drive to beat right now for those on a budget.