The best SSD for gaming is what your PC deserves. Not only will it keep your machine ticking along nicely, but it’ll also ensure that your load times are as low as possible. We’re still waiting on Microsoft DirectStorage to take advantage of these drives, but in the meantime, you can enjoy super speedy file transfers in Windows, and rest assured that your storage isn’t holding you back.
There’s no denying how fast current SSDs are, especially compared to old spinning hard drives. The same with SATA drives and PCIe 4.0 SSDs. Games that used to take minutes to boot years ago, like Skyrim and GTA 5, load in a matter of seconds. Once you experience this, you’ll never return to HDDs. And the future only looks better and better on this front, with the soon-to-be-released Forspoken taking just a second to load.
Every SSD here has gone through our intensive benchmarking suite: A combination of real-world game loading tests and synthetic speed tests to find the best SSD for gaming. I’ve used each SSD as the primary drive on a new install of Windows 11 to check its performance.
You’ll notice that our picks for the best SSDs are just 1TB 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 much faster than you think. Anything bigger is too expensive to be a practical choice unless you find a good 2TB or 4TB SSD on sale. It might be tempting to pick a large 8TB HDD on sale, but SSDs are the way to go.
Best SSD for gaming
1. WD Black SN850
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 (opens in new tab) 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.
If your motherboard doesn’t have a bundled heatsink, then you may need to look at the $20-more expensive version of the drive—it uses the shipping container aesthetic of Western Digitals external drives. Which, personally speaking, looks good, although whether you can spot it in your case is a different matter. If you can aim some active cooling at the drive, then that’ll be even better. We didn’t notice any throttling in testing, although it’s something to be aware of.
The Samsung 980 Pro, which had the edge for a few months, is left out in the cold, especially as it costs the same as the SN850, but loses out to the newer drive in every metric (apart from operating temperatures). Neither is a bad drive, obviously, but if we had to recommend a next-gen SSD right now, there’s only one clear option, and that’s the WD SN850. It’s simply the best drive you can buy today.
2. WD Black SN770
We’ve seen some incredible NVMe SSD releases recently, but they’ve tended to focus on top-end performance and come with prices to match. The WD_Black SN770 bucks this trend and like its predecessor, the SN750, is aimed at offering better value for money than outright performance.
The main way it achieves this is by being a DRAM-less SSD drive. This saves a big chunk of the manufacturer’s bill of materials, and thanks to advances in the latest controllers, it can be surprising how little impact this has on performance. Such drives are slower, don’t get me wrong, but this new SN770 still quotes read and writes of 5,150MB/s and 4,900MB/s respectively. Not bad.
The drive itself is a low-profile affair, with this 1TB model boasting a single NAND flash module at the back (actually a rebranded Kioxia BiCS5 112-Layer TLC chip) and the SanDisk controller towards the connector. Western Digital rarely reveals much about its controllers, and that’s the case once again here.
The SN770 is available in four sizes—250GB, 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB, although there’s no 4TB option, which is a bit of a shame. If you want a seriously capacious drive, you’re going to want to track down the Sabrent Rocket offerings, which go all the way up to 8TB.
The synthetic performance shows the SN770 trails more expensive drives in terms of reads, although the writes are much closer. The 4K performance is relatively impressive and shows that the SN770 has something to offer in this crowded marketplace. It’s not too surprising that this drive outperforms Samsung’s DRAM-less offering, as that is a PCIe 3.0 drive, after all, but the extent to which it does is impressive.
It’s worth noting that this drive can get hot when pushed, just like the SN850 in fact. It hit 76°C after a long day of testing, although that was without any direct cooling on it at all, not even a heatsink. It should be fine in most systems, especially if your motherboard does come with some cooling solution.
It’s in the real-world tests where the SN770 really struts its stuff. Basically, you’d be hard pushed to tell the difference between this drive and much faster offerings in most day-to-day operations. Given this is the cheaper drive right now, that counts for a lot. If you need better performance, then the SN850 is clearly the better drive, but you will pay considerably more for it.
The only problem issue for this drive is that we don’t know for sure how fast a drive needs to be for Microsoft’s DirectStorage. We know some developers have been targeting 5,000MB/s, which is where the SN770 sits in our testing. So it should be good, and for the money, it’s very tempting. If you’re a serious gamer though, we’d recommend going a little bit higher up the product stack, and grabbing that WD_Black SN850.
3. Seagate Firecuda 530
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.
The 2TB FireCuda 530’s rated sequential read and write speed is 7300/6900 MB/s, and that’s pushing the limits of a PCIe 4.0 x4 interface. For users looking at the other capacities, the 4TB drive has the same rating while the smaller 1TB and 500GB drives are rated for 7300/6000 MB/s and 7000/3000 MB/s respectively.
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.
Apart from the PCMark 10 storage tests, the FireCuda 530 either matches or beats the big bois 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.
And in terms of performance the FireCuda 530 either matches or beats the big bois 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.
4. Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus
The Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus was the first SSD to hit our lab using the new Phison E18 controller, which is the follow-up to the immensely popular Phison E16 controller found in basically every first-gen PCIe 4.0 drive. Offering peak reads of 7,100MB/s and writes of 6,600MB/s, it wasn’t only a major step up from the first generation of PCIe 4.0 drives but a notable improvement over the Samsung 980 Pro, especially in terms of write performance.
In testing, this performance was born out too, with the faster write performance dominating Samsung’s drive in the write tests. Real-world performance didn’t always tell the same story, although the differences between these top drives can be slight. Even so, you’re looking at AS SSD hitting 5,868MB/s for reads and 5,630MB/s for writes. Impressive stuff.
Sabrent has recently updated this drive to use faster NAND flash and also new firmware for the Phison E18 controller. The quoted performance doesn’t change with this update, but some performance metrics have improved, and it’s that bit closer to the competition while still offering solid value for money.
One thing worth noting is that the SSD market is in a state of flux at the moment, with pricing shifting almost daily. On release, this was the cheapest second-gen PCIe 4.0 you could lay your hands on, but there’s often nothing between this and our top pick, the WD_Black SN850, which is why this is in the second spot.
This drive does run Cooler than the SN850 though, which may be a factor if you’re looking for a drive for a cramped case. Also, this is a drive worth keeping an eye on in the sales season as it’s often keenly discounted, more so than the other drives here.
The new version of the Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus is a welcome release, even if it doesn’t dramatically alter the drive’s place in the market. We’ve had faster drives released recently, like the Kingston Fury Renegade, along with more budget-focused offerings like the WD Black SN770, leaving the new Rocket 4 Plus in pretty much the same place as the original—not the fastest, nor the cheapest, but a happy middle ground of the two.
5. Crucial MX500
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.
6. Kingston Fury Renegade
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.
The value for money proposition is a lot less appealing. This is currently one of the most expensive PCIe Gen 4 drives out there right now, rolling in at $425 at the time of review. The Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus, WD Black SN850, and Samsung 980 Pro can all be had for considerably less money. So, as undeniably good as this is, we find the Kingston Fury Renegade a little tough to justify at this lofty price point.
Best SSD for gaming FAQ
What’s the difference between SATA and NVMe PCIe-based SSDs?
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?
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?
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.