Every SSD here has gone through our intensive benchmarking suite. It’s a combination of real-world game loading tests and synthetic speed tests to find the best SSD for gaming. We’ve even used each SSD as the primary drive on a new install of Windows 10 to check its performance. We’ve only started using Windows 11 in our testing, so keep an eye out for that.
You’ll notice that our picks for the best SSDs are pretty much just 1TB and 500GB drives; anything smaller than that, while cheaper, suffers a drop in speed. And honestly, with games being so big nowadays, a 250GB SSD will fill up so much faster than you think. Anything bigger ends up being too expensive to be a practical choice unless you find a good 2TB or 4TB SSD on sale.
Best SSD for gaming
Our favorite WD Black SN850 config:
The Western Digital Black SN850 makes a fashionably late entrance to the PCIe 4.0 party. It can hit 7,000MB/s reads and 5,300MB/s writes in sequential transfers, which is well beyond most drives’ capabilities. That’s because it uses the latest PCIe 4.0 interface, which has double the theoretical bandwidth limit of other PCIe 3.0 drives.
Performance ultimately defines any SSD; the WD SN850 really stands out from the crowd. The synthetic benchmarks, spearheaded by ATTO and AS SSD, show that this is very much a second-generation PCIe 4.0 drive, with peak sequential read speeds knocking on 6,750MB/s and 5,920MB/s, respectively. Writes are lower than the Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus but still healthy, at either side of 5GB/s. The 4K write performance in AS SSD manages to flip this over, and the WD SN850 outpaces the Sabrent drive.
Out of the current PCIe 4.0 drives on the market, the SN850 is hands down the most impressive out of the gate with great real-world performance, although it does run a little hot. If you want the fastest next-gen drive, this is it, and it’s suddenly incredibly affordable too.
Read the full WD Black SN850 1TB review.
Our favorite Crucial P5 Plus config:
Crucial is one of the big names in affordable solid-state storage but has been notably slow at getting us a new PCIe 4.0 SSD. It’s been worth the wait, however, as the new P5 Plus is a fantastic entry-level Gen4 SSD. It may not have the peak speeds of the WD or Sabrent competition, but it can make a big splash in terms of those all-important price/performance metrics.
And, also importantly, it can easily outperform any PCIe 3.0 drive you can to mention, and for practically the same price. Even if you’re not running a motherboard with a PCIe 4.0 interface this will still work in an older PCIe 3.0 setup, and at the limits of that connection. Since the first Gen4 SSDs launched there has been a significant price premium as a barrier to entry, and with the P5 Plus that has come down a hell of a lot. Using parent company, Micron’s latest NAND flash memory, and its own in-house controller, Crucial has been able to keep costs down and performance up.
In the rarefied air of PCIe 4.0 speeds, it’s maybe a little lackluster in peak and random performance, but it’s rocking TLC memory, not QLC, is still pretty damned quick compared to older drives, and is fantastically affordable.
Read our full Crucial P5 Plus review.
Our favorite Seagate Firecuda 530 config:
Seagate may have taken a while to get into the solid-state game
And especially the PCIe 4.0 market, but it has arrived with a bang with the Firecuda 530. With or without the heatsink (something that’s necessary for its PlayStation 5 compatibility) the latest Seagate drive is a stunner. Of course, the rated sequential read/write speeds are fantastic, but it’s the endurance levels that really stand out compared to the competition. The 2TB drive we tested has an unprecedented 2,550 TBW rating when it comes to endurance, which is something you won’t see this side of an SSD made for Chia mining.
It combines brand-new Micron 176-Layer TLC NAND—the same memory Crucial is using to great effect with the new P5 Plus drives—with a Phison PS5018-E18 controller. Micron claims that its 176L TLC NAND is the best in the industry with a 30% smaller die size and a 35% improvement in read and write latency over its previous generation 96L NAND.
And in terms of performance the FireCuda 530 either matches or beats the big boys of the storage world, and when you add its leading sequential performance and endurance rating, the Seagate 530 is at least the equal of any consumer SSD on the market.
Read our full Seagate Firecuda 530 2TB review.
Our favorite Samsung 970 EVO Plus config:
The Samsung 970 EVO Plus offers a slight bump in write performance over the 970 EVO, all for the same price. There was a time when you could pick up the non-Plus version for slightly less, but those drives seem to have disappeared now. If you can find a straight 970 EVO for less, then go for it but they’re a rarity.
Both drives still use the same Samsung Phoenix controller, which means they can outperform this generation’s competition in real-world usage. If you want peak PCIe 3.0 performance, then the Samsung drives are hard to beat, but you have to pay for that little speed hike. Compared with the 512GB Add link, the Samsung is a little quicker in real-world testing but costs another $20.
That’s not a huge issue at this half-terabyte level, but when the 1TB version comes in at close to $110, it does make the higher capacity 970 EVO drives a bit more of a difficult recommendation. The 500GB 970 EVO is still a great drive, smartly specced, well-made, and with a more competitive price.
Our favorite Crucial MX500 config:
The Crucial MX500 is the only SATA drive left on our list of the best SSDs for gaming, but when the price delta between PCIe and SATA is so small, it’s difficult to make an argument for the far slower technology. But, as there is a hard limit on the number of M.2 slots on your motherboard, there is still a place for SATA SSDs as secondary storage.
And the Crucial MX500 is one of the best. With SATA’s maximum theoretical bandwidth limit of 600MB/s, it’s nearly as quick as you’ll get, and Crucial’s drives have long been among the best-value options available too. This is the most affordable 1TB SATA drive you can pick up and it makes a great second home for your Steam and Epic libraries.
It will happily function as a boot drive on systems with no M.2 sockets, or at least no bootable M.2 sockets anyway. You will still be missing out on the zippy response of your operating system running on the SSD-specific NVMe protocol, but if that’s not an option anyway, this drive will see you right.
Our favorite Kingston Fury Renegade config:
It would be easy to look at the Kingston Fury Renegade SSD as just another Phison E18-based drive with another stupid name, but that would mean missing out on one of the outright fastest PCIe 4.0 SSDs in the business. The Renegade certainly cranks out the numbers. It also runs cool, has excellent rated write endurance, and a long warranty. But all that good stuff comes at a painful price.
Phison’s PS5018-E18 is an eight-channel controller knocked out on none other than TSMC’s 12nm process. It’s loaded with five CPU cores in total, three based on generic ARM Cortex R5 IP and two cores with proprietary Phison designs. Phison claims the E18 can crank out 7.4GB/s read and 7GB/s write speeds, not to mention one million IOPS. We’ve previously seen the E18 classified as an NVMe 1.4 chip, but Kingston claims NVMe 2.0 support for the Fury Renegade.
We believe Kingston is using the same Micron 176-Layer 3D TLC chips as seen in the KC3000 sibling drive. All of which means you’re looking at a thoroughly up-to-date drive. Obviously, the PCIe 5.0 standard is notionally upon us with the arrival of Intel’s Alder Lake CPUs. But we’re some way from PCIe 5.0 drives and platforms being mainstream and compatible drives being available in volume. In terms of the subjective computing experience, we doubt you’d be able to pick it from the rest of the high-performance PCIe Gen 4 crop. This means the broader package and pricing are key differentiators. We feel good about this drive’s long-term reliability thanks to those cool running temps and epic write endurance rating.
Read our full Kingston Fury Renegade review.
Best SSD for gaming FAQ
What’s the difference between SATA and NVMe PCIe-based SSDs?
Many of the best SSDs for gaming still use the PCIe 3.0 interface, but we’re starting to see more PCIe 4.0 drives sliding into the market. Corsair was an early pacesetter here, and the newly launched 500GB Samsung 980 Pro SSD did well in testing, but the value proposition isn’t the greatest, unfortunately. Where SATA’s theoretical performance limit is 600MB/s, and PCIe 3.0’s is 4,000MB/s, the newer PCIe 4.0 SSDs can double that figure to a maximum of 8,000MB/s. The current top speed of available Gen4 drives is around 7,000MB/s, which is double that of the previous generation, top out at 3,500MB/s, in the real world.
How big an SSD should I buy?
We would traditionally say that an entry-level SSD should come in at least 512GB in order to pack in your operating system, for slick general system speed, and your most regularly played games. But such is the increasing size of modern games that a 1TB SSD is increasingly looking like the minimum recommendation. That’s also where the performance starts to go up too.
Is PCIe 4.0 worth it for SSDs?
Can you put a PCIe 4.0 SSD in a 3.0 slot?
How do we test SSDs?
When shopping for a good SSD for gaming, one of the most important factors is the price per gigabyte. How much will you have to spend to keep a robust library of Steam games installed, ready to be played at a moment’s notice? With many new games surpassing the 50GB and even 150GB mark, this becomes even more critical. To find the best gaming SSDs, we researched the SSD market, picked out the strongest contenders, and put them through their paces with various benchmarking tools. We also researched what makes a great SSD great, beyond the numbers—technical stuff like types of flash memory and controllers.
PCIe 4.0 SSDs are supported by 2nd and 3rd Gen AMD Ryzen CPUs and X570 and B550 motherboards as well as by Intel’s latest Rocket Lake platform. Sure, they’re mighty for bandwidth, but when it’s crunch-time in-game, there’s not a vast amount more it can deliver than a PCIe 3.0 drive, at least not until Microsoft delivers DirectStorage, which will be exclusive to Windows 11.