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The 5 best gaming SSDs: Faster storage drives for hardcore gaming
What is the best gaming SSD? ZDNet's expert pick for the best SSD for gaming is the WD Black SN850 with its multiple capacity options, affordable price, and fast read and write speeds. A solid-state drive gives you faster access to your files, quicker launching of games, and shorter boot times for your PC or laptop.
Solid state drives are a great choice for gamers, since they use flash memory chips rather than physical platters and needle arms to read and write data. This eliminates moving parts, which can be damaged and cause file corruption, and greatly speeds up program launches, file loading, and even how long it takes to boot up your computer. For console gaming, an SSD is a fast and reliable way to back up your game library or upgrade your console's stock storage drive, especially as game downloads continue to hit, and exceed, the 100GB mark. Gaming computers can use USB or SATA cables or M.2 NVMe connections for solid state drives, giving you plenty of options for configurations as well as budgets.
Consoles, on the other hand, will have more limited options: the PlayStation 5 exclusively uses M.2 NVMe drives while the Xbox Series X|S family of consoles use USB connections for external drives. To help you decide which SSD is the best upgrade for your gaming rig or console, I've rounded up a list of the five best gaming SSDs that you can buy. I've broken down their storage capacities, read and write speeds, connectivity options, and price points to help you find the best fit for your needs and budget.
The WD Black SN850 is a well-rounded and affordable gaming SSD for PCs, laptops, and even PS5 consoles. It uses an NVMe M.2 connection to give you read and write speeds up to 7000 MB/s and 5300 MB/s, respectively. You can choose capacities from as low as 250GB to as much as 4TB, though higher capacities tend to be on the pricey side. It's thin and compact design is perfect for mini PC builds as well as laptops without sacrificing capacity and performance.
You can choose between models that include or exclude a heatsink to suit your gaming rig; and the model with the heatsink also supports RGB lighting effects. The WD_BLACK Dashboard app allows you to monitor your new SSD's performance as well as operating temperatures to help stop issues before they can ruin your gaming session. It's also backed by a five-year warranty that covers defects, dead units, and file corruption.
While the Xbox Series X comes equipped with a 1TB SSD, the Series S only has a 512GB SSD. And with the large download sizes of modern games, you may want to consider picking up the Seagate Game Drive to ensure that you have plenty of storage space for your library. It gives you an extra 1TB of storage and connects to your console via USB for both power and data transfer; you won't have to worry about keeping a wall plug or surge protector outlet free to power your external SSD or needing to know how to build a computer to install your new hard drive.
The drive features a slim, compact, and minimalist design that complements the Xbox Series X|S well and an LED light strip that shows the signature Xbox green when powered on. Since it uses a USB connection rather than an SATA cable or an NVMe pin connector, it has much lower read and write speeds than other gaming-specific SSDs, just 130.9 MB/s and 75.8 MB/s, respectively. However, this is still plenty of speed to run even graphically demanding games and games with large files smoothly and seamlessly. You can also take advantage of Seagate's three-year Rescue Data Recovery service, which restores lost and corrupted game files if your Game Drive becomes damaged or has a manufacturing defect.
Both the PS5 digital and disc-drive consoles come equipped with a 1TB internal SSD, but if you have a large library of games, it's a good idea to upgrade your storage with the Seagate FireCuda 530. You can choose capacities from 500GB to as much as 4TB in order to accommodate games with large download files as well as extensive libraries and entertainment apps. The FireCuda 530 has read and write speeds up to 7300 MB/s and 6900 MB/s, respectively, for blazing-fast access to your favorite games, apps, and media files.
An integrated heatsink helps dissipate waste heat for more efficient power consumption and to keep your new SSD running at optimal speeds and temperatures. Like the Game Drive for the Xbox, the FireCuda 530 is backed by Seagate's three-year data recovery service to help you salvage lost game files if your SSD ever becomes corrupted or stops working. It also is easy to install, needing just a standard Phillips-head screwdriver, so you don't have to be a PC-building or electrical expert to upgrade your PS5 console's storage capacity.
Capacity: 8TB | Connectivity: SATA III | Read speed: 560 MB/s | Write speed: 530 MB/s
For PC gamers who have a truly massive library, the Samsung 870 QVO is the perfect choice for an SSD. With its 8TB capacity, you'll never have to worry about running out of space for large game files or needing to uninstall your favorites to make room for new games. It uses a SATA III cable for both power and data transfers, so it has slower read and write speeds than M.2 NVMe solid state drives: 560 MB/s and 530 MB/s, respectively. But that's still plenty of speed to run your games smoothly from the drive and quickly boot programs like StreamLabs OBS and other live streaming apps for content creators. This is one of the more expensive high-capacity SSDs on the market, but it's a worthwhile investment to keep your game library organized all in one place with plenty of room to grow. And while it has a higher price tag, it's still more affordable than high-capacity NVMe SSDs, which can retail well over $1,000 for half the capacity.
Solid state drives tend to be on the more expensive side, but the Crucial X8 is a budget-friendly option for both console and PC gamers. The 1TB external hard drive retails for about $100, making it an affordable upgrade for your gaming desktop, laptop, or console setup. It connects to your computer or console via USB or USB-C for both power and data transfer with read and write speeds up to 1050 MB/s and 1000 MB/s, respectively.
The anodized aluminum chassis is designed to protect the internal components from bumps, shocks, and drops from heights of up to 7.5 feet; that means you can take your games and saved files with you and not have to worry about your data getting corrupted or lost due to corruption or damage to the SSD. The Crucial X8 is compact, so you can tuck it away in a desk drawer or laptop bag when you don't need it or when you want to game on the go. It's even compatible with macOS, iOS, Android, and Linux so you can use it with your Apple devices while you play mobile games or Ubuntu-based computers.
My pick for the best gaming SSD is the WD Black SN850. Its NVMe M.2 form factor makes it incredibly compact as well as compatible with both computers and PS5 consoles. It gives you read and write speeds up to 7000 and 5300 MB/s, respectively, and you can choose capacities up to 4TB to suit game libraries of almost any size and still have plenty of room to download more. The heatsink supports RGB lighting effects, and a five-year warranty protects your data and SSD from file corruption and manufacturing defects.
WD Black SN850
Up to 4TB
Seagate Game Drive
Seagate FireCuda 530
Samsung 870 QVO
Which is the right gaming SSD for you?
When shopping for a gaming-specific solid state drive, it's important to know exactly what you'll be using it with and what for since not all SSDs are going to work with every gaming platform. For example, the PlayStation 5 will only support M.2 NVMe solid state drives while Xbox Series X|S consoles use USB connectivity for external SSDs. Gaming desktops and laptops can use USB, M.2 NVMe, or SATA connections for installing and upgrading storage drives, but make sure your motherboard has proper connection ports before buying a new SSD. You'll also want to make sure your new solid state drive has enough storage capacity to handle your current game library as well as provide you with enough room to download new and new-to-you titles; you'll want at least 500GB to handle large download files.
Choose this gaming SSD…
If you need…
WD Black SN850
A fast and reliable SSD for your gaming PC
Seagate Game Drive
Extra storage for your Xbox Series X|S console
Seagate FireCuda 530
Faster or extra storage for your PS5 console
Samsung 870 QVO
A high-capacity SSD for large game libraries
An affordable SSD for your gaming PC or console
How did we choose these gaming SSDs?
I selected a wide variety of solid state drives that are either designed specifically for gaming or will work very will with gaming rigs and consoles. I also chose SSDs at different price points to suit a variety of budgets as well as different storage capacities for both casual and hardcore gamers.
What's the difference between SSD and HDD?
A hard-disk drive (HDD) and solid state drive (SSD) work in the same way in that they can be used to store computer files and programs or be used as your computer's boot drive. Their differences lie in how they work. An HDD uses physical platters and a needle arm, similar to how a record player works, to read and write data to the drive. It's older technology that has been around for decades, which makes HDDs much more affordable than their solid state counterparts, even at higher capacities. Their downside is that since they use moving parts, there is a higher chance for damage and file corruption.
Solid state drives use flash memory chips, similar to your RAM sticks, to store and access files and programs. This eliminates moving parts, which also greatly reduces the risk of internal damage. It also makes accessing those files and programs much faster, since it doesn't have to physically "read" a platter to find the particular document, image, song, etc., that you want. The downside to SSDs is that the technology is newer, so they're going to be on the pricey side, especially if you need more than 2TB of storage space.
What size SSD do I need for gaming?
If you're building a gaming PC or just want extra storage for your games, size does matter when choosing an SSD. If you want something to dedicate entirely to storing games and save files, you'll need at least 500GB (but I'll go further and recommend 1TB as a bare minimum) to accommodate large downloads like Red Dead Redemption II's 150GB file.
What is a good SSD speed for gaming?
An SSD's read and write speed depends on a lot of factors like connection type, power efficiency, and the type of memory it supports. And contrary to popular belief, running games from an SSD doesn't affect framerate or lag in any way, just how quickly your game loads assets. Read and write speeds will have some affect on your game's loading time, but said effects will be difficult to notice without a very accurate stopwatch and specialized benchmarking software. Solid state drives that use USB or SATA cables to connect to PCs and consoles will have slightly slower read and write speeds than their M.2 NVMe counterparts, but as long as your SSD has at least 400 MB/s read and write speed, it will be just fine for gaming.
Are there alternative gaming SSDs worth considering?
There are plenty of options out there if you're in the market for a gaming-specific SSD. Here's a short list of alternative products that I think are were great choices: