When addressing a matter like building/upgrading a gaming computer, or even optimizing a regular computer for gaming, the issue of the best storage subsystem to employ for this purpose blatantly arises to engage a large portion of user’s concern.
Solid State Drive (SSD) is one of the three available options users may consider beside Hard Disk Drive (HDD) and Solid State Hybrid Drive (SSHD), and from performance perspective, any computer savvy knows that SSD is the best of all when it comes to building a high-end system that runs blazingly fast, and if you are serious about building a top-notch gaming rig, or you want the utmost power a computer can provide, then leveraging an SSD in your system is inevitable.
The fact cannot be denied that SSD is the drive that real enthusiast gamers seek to take their gaming experience to the next level. But the unreasonable steep price of SSDs when put in comparison with HDDs may repel many budget-aware users from adopting this solution, and they would either go with a combination of SSD and HDD in hybrid mode, or just settle for a high-end mechanical hard drive that offers an adequate speed. (Please check our gaming hard drive guide for more details).
The Best SSDs We Recommend for Gaming
The SATA-III interface is still deployed in most modern computers despite the emergence of new smaller form factor SSDs that employ either mSATA or M.2 interface and are found in the most sophisticated high-end systems.
In this article though we’ll exclusively spot the light on SSDs with SATA III interface because they are the most popular and current SSDs nowadays.
Our Criteria for Selecting the Best SSDs
There are many SSD brands dispensed on the market and each brand claims high-end performance with amazing features.
While we believe that the slowest SSD is still much faster than the fastest laptop hard drive, we’ll follow a strict method though for choosing the top-notch SSDs for our roundup below. This method is mainly based on the verdicts of IT professionals such as Tom’s Hardware, Anand Tech, Storage Review, Tweak Town and others who reviewed the chosen drives and published their reports on their websites. You can view some testimonials of these experts once you click the view more details button below each particular drive you focus on.
Moreover, we have only authorized three SSD manufacturers that are some of the highly-reputed and the most prominent in the industry, that’s to make sure you’ll just get the top-notch and highest quality SSDs on the market.
Additionally, we have classified the SSDs below into two categories:
1. ENTHUSIAST— where the highest-end SSDs designed for power users are placed. These SSDs come with a so long warranty (between 5 to 10 years) and most solid endurance that entitle them to handle the toughest data workload without degradation in performance. These SSDs are good for addict gamers who only play highly-sophisticated resource-demanding games so often, professional video editors who work on huge high-definition movies, and webmasters who manage small network servers.
2. MAINSTREAM—where the SSDs designed for the overwhelming majority of users placed. These SSDs are good for those who consider themselves non-enthusiasts but want, at the same time, to increase their computer’s speed and have a quickly-responsive system for their personal preferences. These SSDs usually come with a warranty between 3 to 5 years limited.
What’s in Our List
We have chosen 10 SSD drives, half of them are for enthusiasts and the other half are for regular users (mainstream).
Below is a table that manifests a quick overview of the certain drives we have selected.
|Manufacturer||Brand Name||Class||Available Capacities||Price Range|
|Samsung||Samsung 850 Pro||Enthusiast||128gb, 256gb, 512gb, 1tb, 2tb||$80 to $700|
|Samsung 850 EVO||Mainstream||128gb, 256gb, 512gb, 1tb, 2tb||$80 to $700|
|SanDisk||SanDisk Extreme Pro||Enthusiast||240gb, 480gb, 960gb||$80 to $700|
|SanDisk Ultra II||Mainstream||240gb, 480gb, 960gb||$80 to $700|
|OCZ||OCZ Vector 180||Enthusiast||240gb, 480gb, 960gb||$80 to $700|
|OCZ ARC 100||Mainstream||240gb, 480gb, 960gb||$54.78 to $700|
About the Top Two Selections
We have placed Samsung 850 Pro on the top of our list because it’s the fastest SATA III SSD ever made. The SanDisk Extreme Pro though is its bitter rival and it outranks it on some benchmark tests.
Being the fastest doesn’t necessarily mean the strongest. In heavy workload environments SanDisk Extreme Pro beats Samsung 850 Pro, but as a personal computer user this issue should not be of your concern, it concerns only network server managers.
Here are two quotes from two renowned SSD experts and reviewers who testified the above fact:
The goal of the Extreme Pro was to be the fastest client SATA drive on the market, and it succeeded in that (before the 850 Pro came out, although the two are very close).
[“Anand Tech” on September 16, 2014]
The SanDisk Extreme Pro SSD currently sits at the top of every High-Performance SATA slot in our Best SSDs of 2015 ranking. The drive is an amazing performer that retains its high performance even under extreme load. Because of that, we’ve chosen it over Samsung’s 850 Pro that can lose performance after heavy use. The Extreme Pro has everything you would expect to find in a workstation SSD, so seeing them at mid-level prices gets us excited.
[“Tom’s Hardware” on November 27, 2015]
Other experts though may disagree with Tom’s Hardware like bit-tech who considers Samsung 850 Pro the best SSD in all aspects:
The SSD 850 PRO is still the best drive on the market – no other manufacturer can yet compete with what its 3D V-NAND offers in terms of performance and endurance.
[“bit-tech” on March 24, 2015]
If you ask about my personal opinion, I would adopt Tom’s Hardware‘s opinion because they conduct robust testing in different environment for each SSD they review which highly raises the credibility of their verdicts.
About the Third Selection (OCZ Vector 180)
This drive is a better fit for desktop computer than laptops due to the relatively higher power consumption compared to other high-end SSDs. This drive though is the best ever in terms of reliability (it has the lowest failure rate an SSD could have) and warranty (an outstanding warranty plan that is not found in any other brand).
Our Gaming SSD Roundup
Samsung owns 50% of the solid-states storage market share. When it comes to client-oriented drives, that percentage increases, and in some countries goes as high as 80%. Samsung manufactures roughly 50% of the world’s NAND memory supply, too. Not all of the flash goes into SSDs; much of it goes into cell phones, tablets, children’s toys, SD cards and even automobiles.
|The Samsung SSD 850 PRO is a 2.5” form factor SSD for enthusiasts that is the first drive to be powered by 3D virtual NAND technology. It comes in capacities ranging from 128GB up to 1TB. Not only does it boasts some pretty impressive speeds, it has a high endurance, secure encryption, RAPID mode to enhance user experience, and a 10-year warranty. It also claims to be one of the most energy efficient drives on the market, which the real-world testings conducted by many IT professionals proved to be mostly true with its very low idle power usage. This makes it undoubtedly the most suitable SSD for portable computers.|
SanDisk Corporation is a company that designs, develops and manufactures flash memory storage devices and software. SanDisk is the third-largest manufacturer of flash memory in the world. In October 2015, Western Digital agreed to buy SanDisk Corp in a $19 billion deal. [Wikipedia]
|The SanDisk Extreme PRO SSD is designed specifically for gamers, PC enthusiasts, and media professionals who require consistent, top-in-class real-world performance out of their storage. With its quoted sequential read speed of 550MB/s and write speed up to 520MB/s, the SanDisk’s new Extreme PRO certainly is specced to deliver the performance needed for graphics-intensive applications in addition to speedy gaming load times. The Extreme PRO also boasts an industry first a 10-year warranty to assuage any concerns about the drive’s expected longevity and SanDisk’s commitment to the drive.|
OCZ Storage Solutions – a Toshiba Group Company is a leading provider of high performance client and enterprise solid-state storage products and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Toshiba Corporation. Offering a complete spectrum of solid-state drives (SSDs), OCZ Storage Solutions leverages proprietary technology to provide SSDs in a variety of form factors and interfaces to address a wide range of applications.
|The Vector 180 SSD (currently available in 120GB, 240GB, 480GB and 960GB capacities) is based on the latest Barefoot 3 NAND flash controller by OCZ (runs at 397MHz as opposed to the 352MHz of the one found in the ARC 100) paired with A19nm MLC NAND flash modules by Toshiba—a combo which produces excellent read/write performance numbers (550MB/s & 530MB/s respectively), superior endurance (has a MTBF rating of 2.3 million hours and an write endurance rate of up to 50GB per day) and finally offers SMART/NCQ support and AES-256bit encryption. Of course OCZ fully covers their flagship model with their 5-year ShieldPlus warranty.|
MORE GAMING SSD OPTIONS
There are still powerful SATA III SSD in the market that we did not lay out in our list above because they have their own disadvantages compared with the above items, but the brilliant name and glowing reputation they own allures us to list them here as additional options for our readers.
Why SSD is Superior to HDD in Gaming Environment
When it comes to gaming, using a powerful storage subsystem is essential to handle the heavy workload caused by high-end, sophisticated video games. These games come in a tremendous installation file size (can be up to 50 GB) and need an extremely responsive system to run them seamlessly and flawlessly, and the storage subsystem is a critical part of a performance structure that also includes CPU, Graphics Card, and RAM. If just any of these parts is slow, the overall system performance (thus the gaming experience) will be negatively effected and will slow down consequently.
Solid State Drive (SSD) has become very common nowadays in high-end systems that are designed with extreme performance in mind as a top priority.
Now you can hardly find any modern top-notch gaming computer without an SSD incorporated inside. That’s because the fact cannot be denied that current SSDs are magnitudes faster and way more reliable than HDDs. Even though they have their own drawbacks, they are still inevitable and imperative for every performance rig that cares only for performance, nothing else!
The Major Benefits of Using SSD for Gaming
There are several remarkable benefits you’ll gain one you configure your gaming computer with an SSD. We’ll briefly list below the most significant ones:
- The game files will load exponentially faster than HDD. This is the biggest advantage of SSDs over HDDs. This helps cut down on the time of game launch and moving to a newer stage of the game.
- Complex resource-demanding high-end games will run seamlessly with an SSD. That’s because the strength of multitasking an SSD boast which enables it to handle multiple tasks at a time without any noticeable performance hit.
- An SSD will take online gaming to the next level. Because an SSD boasts a very fast write speed, it will write the online game’s data much faster than an HDD which will enhance your online gaming experience. This features will only avail users with very fast internet connection.
- The game installation process will become way faster. Modern High-end games come in huge file size (an AAA game-file can reach 50GB in size), and when you use an SSD during the installation process, the component files will be extracted and written so quickly that will notably decrease the installation time.
So what justifies using a mechanical hard drive after all? Well, there are some strong points that leads to that trend.
Why Choose a Mechanical Hard Drive for Gaming?
You might already ask yourself the question that since SSD is much better than HDD, then why the HDD manufacturers still develop it? In a nutshell, the answer is: because it’s much cheaper while providing an adequate performance compared to SSD.
Just few months back, one of the major drawbacks of SSD was the limited capacity that couldn’t exceed 2TB even in the enterprise space. But now, since Samsung released its first 16TB enterprise-grade SSD, SSD has the superiority over HDD in this regard. But that too-large SSD is also too expensive for an individual to buy (Samsung didn’t make that drive available yet, but it will be within few months from now, and the price is expected to be between $5000 to $7000 according to BackBlaze).
Now if you conduct a simple price comparison between SSD and HDD, you’ll see the blatant difference. A 8TB enterprise hard drive from Seagate costs around $450, while a 2TB of Samsung 850 Evo, which is a mainstream drive, costs around $650 as of the time of writing.
Primarily for that reason I can say undoubtedly that a modern high-end hard drive is still a very appealing option for gamers due to the huge storage capacity it provides with an adequate price.
Performance Comparison Between HDD and SSD
Here we’ll compare WD Performance Black 6TB Hard Drive, which is the fatsest consumer-grade high-end 6TB HDD available, and Samsung 850 Evo 2TB, which is currently the fastest mainstream SSD on the market.
We’ve deliberately chosen a mainstream SSD in this comparison to manifest how a low-end SSD can easily beat a high-end HDD in terms of performance.
|Test||WD Black HDD||Samsung 850 EVO SSD|
|2MB Seq. Read||214.53 MB/s||493.54 MB/s|
|2MB Seq. Write||214.91 MB/s||468.10 MB/s|
|2MB Ran. Read||78.34 MB/s||483.45 MB/s|
|2MB Ran. Write||107.05 MB/s||467.22 MB/s|
|4k Ran. Read [MB/s]||0.325 MB/s||40.18 MB/s|
|4k Ran. Write [MB/s]||0.811 MB/s||116.20 MB/s|
|4k Ran. Read [IOps]||83.21 IOps||10,287.13 IOps|
|4k Ran. Write [IOps]||207.61 IOps||29,748.15 IOps|
|4k Write Latency [Avg]||4.8 ms||0.0333 ms|
|4k Write [max]||1,248.19 ms||3.94 ms|
As can be already observed, a mainstream SSD can easily beat the most powerful mechanical hard drive in all performance tests.
Ok, so SSD is great enough to attract every serious gamer, but how can we work around the high price issue of SSD while take the full advantage of the huge capacity of HDD?
Solution: SSD-HDD Combination (SSHD)
The best option we always suggest to everyone who looks for a large capacity and a high performance is to combine SSD and HDD together in hybrid mode. That way you will leverage the power of both drives.
We strongly suggest that you don’t go below 250/256GB SSD capacity, and not less than 2TB hard drive capacity.
You can read more about this method in detail on this article.
How to Pick The Right SSD for Gaming
In the pursuit of picking an SSD that well matches your gaming requirements, you need to bear in mind a few factors that will determine the best fit for your gaming computer:
- Make sure that the SSD manufacturer is prominent and highly-reputable in the market. We authorize the following SSD manufacturers Samsung, SanDisk, Crucial, Corsair, OCZ, Intel and Plextor as the are renowned to produce the most reliable and fastest solid state drives. There are other manufacturers though that produce good SSDs, such as Mushkin and MydigitalSSD but we prefer to stay away from them when our main concern is the highest quality.
- Determine your needs and title yourself. Once you find out what you need an SSD for after gauging your needs according to the class of users you belong to (i.e. regular/mainstream or enthusiast) then you can pick the right SSD brand that suits you best. It’s not only about brand, but also about capacity. Don’t go for a capacity larger than 256gb if you are just a regular user who only carry out lightweight tasks such as web-browsing, basic photo editing, watching movies, playing small games and so on. Always bear in mind that you can always store your extra data externally via an external hard drive or an external SSD.
- Investigate the SATA version of your computer. It’s just not worth going for a high-end SSD while your motherboard is old enough to not support SATA III. If you don’t know how to find out about it, simply just know the year of manufacturing, if it’s before 2012 then most probably it’s SATA II.
- For laptop users: Find out whether your laptop has another room for an additional hard drive. If this is the case, then you are lucky. You’ll be able to combine an SSD with the old hard drive in a hybrid mode where they will work together as a single drive where an SSD is made to cache the most frequently used files/applications and keep other files on the hard drive. All of that is after using a special software for this purpose. That way you’ll not have to pay for a large capacity of an SSD, and a 128gb or 256gb SSD capacity is pretty sufficient.
- For Desktop Users: You better combine SSD with HDD in hybrid mode. This point has been already discussed above. That way you’ll save more money when buying an SSD because then you’ll not be stressed by the capacity limitation of SSD.
- For Enthusiast Gamers: Check the term of warranty. If you are an intense gamer (i.e. enthusiast) that download and play lots of high-end games, one of your top concerns must be the warranty term. Don’t go with an SSD that has less than 5-year limited warranty. Samsung and SanDisk offer 10-year warranty for their flagship SSD.
- Specify your budget. Finally, if you have found the most suitable SSD for you, see how much you can pay for it. I strongly suggest not going for less than 256gb if you only have one room in your laptop unless you are a very basic computer user then it will be enough for you.
FAQs about Gaming SSD
Here, in this section, we’ll be answering some of the most common questions asked about using SSD for gaming.
How can SSD improve gaming experience?
Modern games continuously stream data to the system and there is a persistent need to have a good storage to properly hold these data. Since most of modern games are too large to be fully cached on a graphics card, thus having enough main memory is a critical factor for any game lover.
As you play a game, the game is continuously making guesses as to what you will navigate next. If playing a racing game, it has information like the maps, and your possible next turn on the race course. This is what enables it stream asserts like model data, sound files, textures and level-of-detail information.
If the game makes a wrong guess, it has to reload new data and that is why you need an SSD because it guarantees quick communication. This can be said to be an engine cache miss, only that it must continuously go back to the storage device to load the ideal data. This is the game engine’s “valley of despair” in that it doesn’t have the data, but needs to fetch them, and the result of this is the game to come to an abrupt stop. An SSD enables the game to access the needed data faster and thus keep the game going. Otherwise, if the data loads slowly, the players will not have a good experience.
By using a sturdy gaming SSD you will renew your gaming PC and greatly improve user experience, which includes improved responsiveness, better visual-graphic effects and elimination of lagging. A lag-free system with reduced loading time enables you to spend less time waiting and more time in playing.
Does SSD only improve offline, single-user gaming?
Definitely not. SSD does improve all forms of gaming, whether it’s offline or online, single-player or multiplayer.
If you are playing multiplayer games such as Starcraft2, battlefield, and League of Legends, SSD will load all the files stored on your computer faster than an ordinary HDD. You will also need a stable internet connection for enhanced experience.
If playing a single-player game, SSD will greatly boost your experience because it will allow you fast access to information requested to render what you would like to see. For instance, if you’re watching a game that has higher graphical demands, an SSD will quickly provide your graphics card with all the information it needs, thereby, enabling it to provide you the best experience ever.
Is it advisable to use SSD for PlayStation 4?
Honestly I don’t recommend at all using an SSD for PS4. We’have already published on our website a somewhat detailed report on configuring PS4 with SSD and we presented our logical reasons for dissuading users from getting an SSD for their PS4 gaming console. You can read more about that HERE.
SSD is a strong addition to your PC if you are serious about taking your gaming experience to the next level. Your games will install much faster than before when using a traditional hard drive, and they will load lightning fast to make your time with gaming so enjoyable.
SSD is worth its relatively high price just if you really feel the need of blazing speed drive.