Best SSD for Gaming 2021: The Top Solid State Drives of the Year

Best SSD for Gaming

Have you ever felt like you’ve had to give your computer some time to ‘warm up’ after turning it on? That is, your PC isn’t very responsive after you turn it on – it feels sluggish.

Well, it’s probably because you don’t have an SSD in your rig. Believe it or not, SSDs are a great way to quickly boost your system’s speed. They’re especially useful if you’re using an SSD for gaming.

When you have your OS on an SSD, your PC will boot in seconds. Seriously, they’re fast. Oh, and you’ll be first to load into your games too. With all of that being said, let’s take a look at our best SSD for gaming reviews of 2019!

How to Pick the Best SSD for Your Needs

Before I installed my first SSD, I had everything – my Windows OS, drivers, games, files, movies, you name it – installed on a 7200RPM, 1TB mass storage drive. My PC took ages to boot up, and once I had finally logged in, sometimes it would take a while before it was truly responsive.

Here’s the thing: Once I installed my SSD, the difference was night and day. I transferred my Windows OS, drivers, and my favorite games to my SSD and voila! My PC was much faster.

Oh and if you’re wondering what the best SSD brand is, you can’t go wrong with Western Digital or Samsung, although Adata– the only other brand we included on this list– is pretty good too.

SSDs on a Budget

Sure, they’re a bit pricier than traditional mechanical drives, but they’re also a lot faster, which makes them the best storage option for a gaming PC, in my opinion. From a price to performance standpoint, they’re well worth the money even if you are only getting a smaller one.

If you can’t afford a top SSD, then that’s fine; most people can’t. Instead, a lot of folks buy two drives: a mechanical hard drive with one or two terabytes of storage space and an SSD. Since SSDs cost more $/GB, buying a 1TB or 2TB SSD isn’t always an option. Instead, store all of your applications, movies, music, and other files on your mechanical mass storage drive.

How Much Space Do You Need?

I wouldn’t recommend buying an SSD for a gaming PC that’s any smaller than 500GB. Since the drive with Windows installed is your C: drive, you’ll end up having to install more files than you think on that drive. Some programs must be installed on your C: drive.

Also, keep in mind that if you install Steam on your C: drive, you have to install all of your games on that drive as well.

I can get by with my 240GB SSD, but only with a few games installed on it at a time. This isn’t an issue for me because I play a few games these days. But if you like to have all of your games installed and ready to go at a moment’s notice, you’ll need a larger SSD.

500GB should be plenty, and most people won’t need any more than 1TB of storage on their SSD. Anything more than that is probably overkill, especially for a budget or mid-tier gaming PC.

Why are SSDs Faster than HDDs?

Mechanical disc drives (HDDs) read data from a disc. The disc spins inside the drive at an incredibly fast speed. 5400 RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) for older HDDs and 7200 RPM for newer ones. A mechanical arm has to move around to read and write information on the disc.

You may think these drives are spinning pretty darn fast– and they are– but speed is relative. Enter SSDs, aka Solid State Drives.

So, what makes an SSD different? Well, as the name implies, SSDs don’t have any moving parts– they’re solid. Rather than storing information on a disc, SSDs store information in microchips. SSDs use flash storage. You can think of SSDs like an oversized flash drive.

As such, SSDs are more expensive per GB of storage than HDDs. Nevertheless, their prices have been dropping over the years, making them more affordable than ever.

SSD Types: SATA and M.2 Drives (and NVME, too)

Storage technology has come a long way since its humble beginnings. Believe it or not, a 4-megabyte storage drive was the size of nearly two refrigerators back in the 1950s.

Mechanical hard drives were all the rage when they first came out, able to store hundreds and eventually several thousand gigabytes on one drive. Nowadays, a 2.5-inch SSD can store several terabytes of information on a device only slightly larger than a credit card.

Mechanical hard drives and traditional SSDs connect to the motherboard via a SATA (Serial-ATA) cable. Over the years there have been different versions of SATA.

  1. SATA 1 launched in January of 2003 and could transfer around 150 MB/s.
  2. SATA 2 released in April of 2004 and could transfer up to 300 MB/s, double that of the first generation SATA cables.
  3. SATA 3 came along in July of 2008 and has remained the standard SATA cable since. It is commonly referred to as SATA 6 Gbit/s, but don’t let it confuse you. 6 Gigabites translates to 600 MB/s, not 6 gigabytes per second. There’s a huge difference.

Though impressive, even 2.5-inch SATA 3 SSDs have a bottleneck. The SATA cable and connectors themselves can only transfer around 550-600 MB per second.

Even though every new SATA generation effectively doubled transfer speed, SATA 3 (6 Gbit/s) (6 Gbit/s) is the limit for Serial ATA transfer speeds. 600 MB/s may seem fast – and it is – but flash storage is evolving so quickly, a new solution had to be created in order to keep up.

Enter SATA Express in 2013… except it was kind of cumbersome and was never largely adopted.

Enter M.2 solid state drives. The newest M.2 drives connect to your motherboard via a PCI Express 3.0 (x4) slot, which is the newest – and the fastest – PCI connector on the market.

A word of advice: Not all M.2 drives were created equal. Some may only be compatible with the PCI Express 2.0 standard, which will significantly reduce your expected performance boost. When you’re buying an M.2 drive, make sure it is compatible with a PCI Express 3.0 slot.

Moreover, be sure to purchase an M.2 drive that adheres to the new NVME standard for interacting with the rest of the system.

This quick YouTube video does a great job of explaining the newest M.2 drive technology: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opwON-7J_wI