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Best SSD for gaming 2022: our top SATA and NVMe drives

Our top solid state drive recommendations

Any reasons to avoid equipping your gaming PC with one of the best SSDs have long been disintegrating. Sticking with mechanical hard disks made sense back when SSDs were all about high prices and low capacities, but these days you can get genuinely impressive performance even from affordable solid state storage – and if you’re willing to spend, there are even better speeds and much greater capacities to be had as well.

An HDD can still make sense as a cost-efficient home for your lesser-used apps and files, though both games and Windows in general will benefit hugely from an SSD. They’re make your PC boot faster, transfer files quicker, install big games with less delay and, perhaps most noticeably, cut loading times right down. Together with one of the best graphics cards and the best CPUs for gaming, an SSD is one of the most dramatic performance upgrades you can give a PC.

This can be true even if you opt for a 2.5in SATA SSD, generally the most affordable form factor. I’d recommend going for an NVMe SSD if you can, mind – these are often a tad more expensive, but will be much faster than SATA SSDs (which themselves are much faster than hard drives), and are easier to install as they simply slot into a motherboard’s M.2 port without any extra cables. You’ll find our picks of both below, along with an external SSD for good measure. These are better than external hard drives for all the same reasons that internal SSDs are superior, with the added benefit of being more durable thanks to the lack of moving parts.

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I’ll be keeping this list updated with new SSDs once they’ve proved worthy in testing; for now, everything here is comfortably deserving of your cash. If you do decide to upgrade, be sure to check out our guide on how to install an SSD as well.

Best SSD for gaming 2022

WD Blue SN570

The best NVMe SSD for gaming

The WD Blue SN570 SSD installed in an M.2 slot.

You could also call this the best cheap NVMe SSD for gaming, as the WD Blue SN570 follows its predecessors – the SN500 and SN550 – in targeting a lower-than-average price. You wouldn’t know this was an affordable model from the performance, though: the 1TB model I tested easily lived up to its official maximum sequential speeds, and its random read speeds (the most important for gaming performance) could outpace high-end Samsung and WD SSDs too. That includes the flagship WD Black SN750.

Not that it’s the absolute fastest NVMe SSD we’ve ever tested, but that doesn’t change the fact that the SN570 is wonderfully agile by both budget-friendly and general PCIe 3.0 standards. Its write speeds hold up especially well in tough workloads, so it’s a great all-rounder too, and the single-sided design will help it fit into cramped laptops as well as desktop PCs.

What we like:
✔️ High speeds, both for reads and writes
✔️ Very affordable
✔️ Decent choice of capacities

Read more in our WD Blue SN570 review

WD Black SN850

The best PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD for gaming

A photo of the WD Black SN850 NVMe SSD.

PCIe 4.0 SSDs are still relatively new and rather expensive, but if you're looking for the best of the bunch, the WD Black SN850 is currently the one to beat. If you thought the speed jump from SATA to PCIe 3.0 NVMes was big, the Black SN850 offers a similar boost again over PCIe 3.0 drives, offering substantially faster read and write speeds across the board.

In truth, its random read times are much the same as the similarly nippy Samsung 980 Pro, but what sets the SN850 apart from other PCIe 4.0 drives is its exceptionally fast write times and transfer speeds. The SN850 is considerably faster than the 980 Pro in this regard, and it's cheaper, too (albeit only marginally), giving you a better value drive overall.

That said, we don't advise rushing out to buy a PCIe 4.0 SSD right this second unless you're absolutely desperate for the latest and greatest. Prices are still quite high at the moment, and until support for Microsoft DirectStorage picks up, we won't know the full extent of how having a PCIe 4.0 can improve load times over PCIe 3.0. The WD Black SN850 is definitely the fastest PCIe 4.0 SSD out there right now, but maybe hold off on buying one until they're a bit more affordable.

What we like:
✔️ Faster than its more expensive competition
✔️ Blisteringly quick transfer speeds
✔️ Cheaper than its main rivals

Read more in our WD Black SN850 review

WD Black SN750 SE

The best cheap PCIe 4.0 SSD for gaming

The WD Black SN750 SE SSD on a dark grey background.

The WD Black SN750 SE is a bit of an odd one. It’s branded as the “Special Edition” of 2019’s WD Black SN750, but is a completely different SSD with PCIe 4.0 support. Despite this, you can easily find it for less cash. What gives?

I’m not sure myself, but at least the result is a compelling entry-level PCIe 4.0 drive - an appealing concept in itself, considering how expensive compatible motherboards can be. While the SN750 SE is often only slightly faster than the best PCIe 3.0 drives, with the 1TB model posting a 1622MB/s read speed and 1565.MB/s write speed in our usual CrystalDiskMark 4K test, it comes much closer to PCie 4.0 averages on game load times. Even the mighty WD Black SN850 could only load Shadow of the Tomb Raider less than a second faster.

I’d still say the SN850 is the superior purchase, as its read and write speeds are much higher on average, so it takes better advantage of the PCIe 4.0 interface. But if your PC budget is already stretched, the SN750 SE will be a good alternative to last-gen drives.

What we like:
✔️ Faster than PCIe 3.0...
✔️ ..for hardly any extra money
✔️ Capacities up to 2TB

Samsung 870 Evo

The best SATA SSD for gaming

When it comes to buying an SSD for gaming, a lot people still opt for a 2.5in SATA drive rather than a super fast NVMe SSD, if only because the latter tend to be quite expensive and you need a motherboard that supports them. For SATA SSD hunters, then, the Samsung 870 Evo is hands down the best drive for the job right now. Its everyday speeds aren't that much faster than its predecessor, the 860 Evo, but with that drive becoming increasingly difficult to get hold of, the 870 Evo is now our SATA SSD of choice for those.

In fairness, Crucial's MX500 is another good budget option for SATA buyers, but when prices for the 870 Evo are only a fraction more these days, there's little point opting for the MX500 unless you can find it for a substantial discount. What's more, the 870 Evo also comes with a much higher endurance rating than the MX500: 300 terabytes written (TBW) for the 500GB model as opposed to just 180TBW on the 500GB MX500. It's fast, durable, and yet to be beaten on overall value.

What we like:
✔️ The fastest SATA drive you can buy today
✔️ Great endurance levels
✔️ Better value for money than the competition

Read more in our Samsung 870 Evo review

Samsung 870 Qvo

The best big SATA SSD for gaming

In fact, there is one SSD with faster write speeds than the Samsung 860 Evo, and that's Samsung's 870 Qvo. Made from 4-bit MLC V-NAND instead of 3-bit MLC like its Evo counterparts, the 870 Qvo is much better value than Samsung's equivalent Evo drives. Its performance is more or less identical, and it's a heck of a lot cheaper, too. As such, if you're looking to get an SSD that's at least 1TB in size but don't want to fork out loads of cash (either on an expensive NVMe SSD or a high capacity SATA drive), the 870 Qvo is the way to go.

Like the rest of Samsung's drives, the 870 Qvo has exceptional endurance ratings and warranties, and its random read and write times are up there with the very best. Plus, if you've got enough cash, you can buy one that's a whopping 8TB - which is practically unheard of in SATA circles. It's still not as cheap as buying a large hard disk drive, but it's the best you're going to get on an SSD.

What we like:
✔️ Excellent everyday performance
✔️ Brilliant value for money
✔️ Just as fast as Samsung's Evo SSDs

Read more in our Samsung 870 Qvo review

Crucial X8

The best external SSD for gaming

For a long time, Samsung's T5 Portable SSD reined supreme in the world of external SSDs, but with that drive slowly going end of life, the Crucial X8 is the next best external SSD to buy in its stead. The Crucial X8 not only supports the faster USB 3.2 Gen 2 standard compared to the T5's USB 3.1 support, but its transfer speeds are second to none, beating Samsung's newer T7 Portable SSD by quite some margin.

The T7 is still decent alternative to the Crucial X8 (especially since prices seem to be a bit lower at the moment), but for those after the very best external SSD around, the Crucial X8 is a tough act to beat. RPS chief Katharine used to use this very model for shifting game installations around various laptops and PC setups for testing, prior to escaping the hardware cupboard and pushing me into it before the door locked shut. It's a great drive, and a reliable everyday workhorse if you need to take your files with you on the go.

What we like:
✔️ Best in class transfer speeds
✔️ Supports the latest USB standards
✔️ A reliable everyday workhorse

Read more in our Crucial X8 review

Frequently asked questions

SATA SSD vs NVMe: what's the difference?

SSDs are split into two main types right now: SATA drives and NVMe drives. 2.5in SATA SSDs are the easiest drop-in replacement for a standard hard disk. These plug into a SATA 3 port on your motherboard, and most modern PC cases have mounting points for 2.5in SSDs on the back of the motherboard tray. If yours doesn't, you can use a cheap adaptor (really just a 3.5in-wide metal plate with screw holes) to fit the SSD in a normal 3.5in hard disk bay. The SATA 3 interface has been around since 2009. It's several times faster than a mechanical hard disk, but it's also not really quick enough to cope with the very fastest SSDs that are around today.

If you're in the market for a super-fast SSD that won't be encumbered by its interface, you need to move beyond SATA to NVMe (also called PCI Express, PCIe NVMe, or just NVMe). Most NVMe SSDs are are just 22mm wide and 80mm long (so about a third shorter than a stick of RAM) and are mounted directly to the motherboard in an M.2 slot, so no more having to route SATA and power cables around your case. If your motherboard doesn't have such a slot, there's only one way to unleash the speed: a PCIe add-in card (AIC). These add-in cards will fit in a spare PCIe x4 or x16 slot and are monstrously quick, as well as monstrously expensive.

NVMe SSDs require an M.2 slot (above) on your motherboard.

What's the difference between PCIe 3.0 and PCIe 4.0 SSDs?

Like many different kinds of technology, the PCI Express (PCIe for short) interface has had many different generations over the years. We're currently in the middle of PCIe Gen 3 moving over to PCIe Gen 4. The main difference between them is the amount of bandwidth they have to move data back and forth between different parts of your PC.

Bandwidth doubles every generation. PCIe 3.0 currently has a bandwidth of 32GB/s, as well as a bit or data rate of 8 gigatransfers per second (GT/s). However, PCIe 4.0 doubles that to a bandwidth of 64GB/s and a bit rate of 16 GT/s, making it much, much faster at moving large quantities of data around.

What size SSD should I buy?

The minimum SSD size I'd recommend these days is 250GB, as this will give you enough room for your Windows installation (around 20GB), a couple of big games, plus all your music, photos and any other programmes you might need. However, if you have a particularly large photo and music collection, or just like having lots of games installed at the same time, then I'd recommend bumping it up to the 500GB mark.

If you like having most of your games installed at the same time, though, consider finding the cash for a 1TB SSD, or two 500GB SSDs.

About the Author

James Archer avatar

James Archer

Hardware Editor

James retired from writing about Dota for RPS to write about hardware for RPS. His favourite watercooler radiator size is 280mm and he always takes advantage of RGB lighting by setting everything to a solid light blue.

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