Best SSD for gaming 2018

What is the best SSD for gaming? We’ve tested the best solid state drives around today to help you find the right SSD

Best SSD for gaming

The best SSD for gaming can transform your PC experience, getting you into the game faster than any old spinning platter and, more importantly, faster than your gaming buddies. It will also make your general computer use a slicker, more instantaneous experience too.

And solid state drives are no longer just the preserve of the PC gaming elite – even the best SSDs are now more affordable than they’ve ever been. And faster too… way, way faster. The top of the tech tree is still dominated by Samsung SSDs, but Crucial, SanDisk, Intel, and HyperX have all still got something to add to the storage conversation too, whether it’s about capacity or price.

Our SSD benchmarking gauntlet is ruthless, and only the best gaming drives make it through the tests alive. We’ve beasted the top SATA and NVMe drives around to find the best SSDs around. It is, however, easy to spend more than you need to on the priciest of NAND Flash drives, but you don’t necessarily need to break open your piggy bank for seriously speedy storage anymore.

There are though so many different SSD technologies, interfaces, form factors, and protocols that picking the best solid state drive for your PC can be tricky. So we’ve selected the top drives around right now to help find the best SSD for you.

The best SSDs are:

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Best SSD for gaming - Samsung 970 EVO

Winner: Best SSD for gaming

Samsung 970 EVO 500GB

Approx. $140 | £133

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The next evolution of Samsung's NVMe drives sees more speed and greater endurance. The perfect package, right?

  • ControllerSamsung Phoenix
  • MemorySamsung 3-bit MLC
  • SocketM.2 (NVMe)

The latest PCIe-based Samsung SSD, the 970 EVO, is the evolution of the Korean giant’s excellent 960 EVO drive, and improves on both the performance and endurance of the previous best SSD. It’s not vastly faster, but considering the old drive was one of the quickest around that’s still a pretty impressive feat.

But the fact Samsung is offering a full 5 year warranty on the EVO range is testament to how strong it feels the latest batch of 3-bit MLC (TLC) memory is. Traditionally it’s been seen as the poor relation, offering slower throughput and shorter lifespans, but Samsung is backing the endurance of its second-tier NAND storage.

Which is great news for us gamers, because this super-quick, surprisingly affordable NVMe SSD is great for gaming. It does get a little hotter than its progenitor, but not really enough to worry us.

And the really good news is that Samsung isn’t charging any more for this latest SSD, in fact it’s actually cheaper than you’ll find the 960 EVO for at the moment.

Read our full Samsung 970 EVO review.

Best SSD for gaming runner-up - Intel SSD 600p

Runner-up: Best SSD for gaming

Intel SSD 600p 512GB

Approx. $156 | £172

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Speed, affordable, and a great stepping stone between the slower SATA drives and the pricey big-boy NVMe SSDs.

  • ControllerSilicon Motion SM2260
  • MemoryIntel 3D TLC
  • SocketM.2 (NVMe)

Intel’s SSD 600p is a rather un-Intel kind of drive. Where they usually aim to produce high-spec, high-price and high-performance parts the SSD 600p is taking aim at the more mainstream market. It’s kitted out with a cheaper controller and stacked TLC memory to make it one of the most affordable PCIe drives around today.

The design of the 600p shows Intel at its canny best, something it desperately needs to show in its CPU division. Maybe it should get some of its SSD brains to have a word…

It may not be the fastest, but it’s got equivalently-priced SATA drives licked and with far greater technological longevity too. The Intel 600p is a great little entry-level NVMe SSD.

Read our full Intel SSD 600p 512GB review.

Best SSD for gaming runner-up - Samsung 860 EVO

Runner-up: Best SSD for gaming

Samsung 860 EVO 500GB

Approx. $119 | £85

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SATA drives might not have the pace of their NVMe cousins, but the 860 EVOs are a quick and affordable way of getting decent SSD capacity.

  • ControllerSamsung MJX
  • MemorySamsung 3-bit MLC
  • SocketSATA (AHCI)

The latest Samsung SATA SSD shows the current thinking from the storage kingpin is that even if you can’t massively boost performance you can beef up the endurance and warranty levels thanks to mature NAND memory tech.

The 860 EVO’s 3-bit MLC is at the stage where Samsung can offer a full 5 year warranty on this SATA SSD. It’s also one of the fastest SATA drives on the market, but not much more so than the old 850 EVO. The only concern is Crucial’s latest drive…

Read our full Samsung 860 EVO review.

Best SSD for gaming runner-up - Crucial MX500

Runner-up: Best SSD for gaming

Crucial MX500 500GB

Approx. $85 | £77

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It's not all about Samsung in the SSD world, Crucial, and its parent company Micron, are big players and the MX500 is an excellent-value SSD.

  • ControllerSilicon Motion SM2258
  • MemoryMicron TLC
  • SocketSATA (AHCI)

Samsung might rule the roost at the top of the solid state tech tree, but Crucial is able to give it a bit of a headache at the more affordable SATA SSD level. Because of its Micron parent company, Crucial is able to offer SSDs using its own high-quality memory for a great price. The MX500 seriously undercuts the competing 860 EVO, and is able to offer almost identical SSD performance – that’s not surprising given the speed limit imposed by the old SATA interface. The only reason the 860 EVO gets the nod is because of that improved endurance – the MX500 still only has a 3 year warranty to give you peace of mind.

Read our full Crucial MX500 review.

Best high-end SSD for gaming - Samsung 970 Pro 1TB

Winner: Best high-end SSD

Samsung 970 Pro 1TB

Approx. $398 £351

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The EVO drive might be the go-to SSD for most people, but if you need a serious drive, with serious speed, then the Pro is where it's at.

  • ControllerSamsung Phoenix
  • MemorySamsung 2-bit MLC
  • SocketM.2 (NVMe)

If the Samsung 970 EVO is able to post almost the same synthetic benchmarks as the 970 Pro why should you spend the extra cash? For most users there’s little need for a pro-level SSD, but if you want the absolute fastest solid state drive around then the 970 Pro is the one to go for. Sure, the EVO is nearly as quick in synthetic testing, but it uses some tricks to get there while the more powerful MLC memory in the Pro is pacey in its raw state without any extra software magic.

But where its professional-level specs really come into their own might not be seen until a few years down the line. The difference is getting slimmer now, but while they have identical 5 year warranties, the Pro has an endurance rating of 1,200TB while the 1TB EVO has 600TB and the 500GB version only 300TB. If you’re running a serious workhorse of a machine, one that’s churning through large amounts of data continuously, you’re going to want to opt for the locked-in reliability of the 970 Pro.

For most PC gamers the high-end Samsung SSD is going to be overkill for their needs right now, but if you absolutely have to be in the game a good few seconds earlier than your opponents or team mates, and hang the expense, then the 970 Pro is the drive for you.

Best high-end SSD runner-up - Intel Optane 905P

Runner-up: Best high-end SSD

Intel Optane SSD 905P 480GB

Approx. $515 | £525

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That's a lot of money for a 480GB SSD, but its NVMe connection makes it quick and the advanced 3D XPoint memory means it will last longer than your next three PCs.

  • ControllerIntel proprietary
  • MemoryIntel/Micron 3D XPoint
  • SocketU.2 with M.2 adapter (NVMe)

The Intel Optane SSD 905P features the latest iteration of the 3D XPoint memory, a new kind of NAND flash that delivers genuine high-end sequential performance. It’s not quite up at the same level as the Samsung NVMe SSDs, but that’s not the last word in SSD-land.

The Optane SSD’s 3D XPoint memory also delivers hands-down the quickest random 4k read/write performance we’ve ever seen in a consumer drive. That means it delivers an incredibly slick experience in Windows during general use as well as in gaming terms.

But it’s the level of endurance the drive offers which is totally unprecedented. Where most drives’ lifespans are measured in terabytes the Optane SSD 905P is measured in petabytes, 8.76 of them. The 970 Pro, by contrast has an endurance rating of 1.2PB.

Read our full Intel Optane SSD 905P review.

Best high-end SSD runner-up - SanDisk Extreme Pro 480GB

Runner-up: Best high-end SSD

SanDisk Extreme Pro 480GB

Approx. $230

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Sure, this is just a SATA drive, but if you need a drive that will just keep going and going, no matter what intensive data-crunching you throw at it, this is it.

  • ControllerMarvell 9187
  • MemorySanDisk MLC
  • SocketSATA (AHCI)

This might seem a little bit leftfield as a ‘high-end’ recommendation, but despite its relative age the SanDisk Extreme Pro is one of the mightiest SATA-based SSDs you’ll find. It’s got decent levels of general storage performance, sitting a little lower than Samsung’s 850 Pro, but it’s hands down the most consistent SATA drive around. Even when you’re seriously hammering the drive with as much data as you can it will still keep on trucking at the same speed, making it the best SATA drive for heavy workloads. Ever noticed how your system slows to a crawl when Steam’s downloading stuff onto your boot drive? Not if you’re running an Extreme Pro. And it’s not a bad price for such a reliable SSD either.

Best cheap SSD - Samsung 860 EVO

Winner: Best cheap SSD

Samsung 860 EVO 250GB

Approx. $56 | £53

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The 250GB capacity is about as small as you want to go for a boot drive, but the 860 EVO is just about the best.

  • ControllerSamsung MJX
  • MemorySamsung 3-bit MLC
  • SocketSATA (AHCI)

Because the entirety of its SSDs are made in-house – from memory to cache to software to controller – Samsung is able to be incredibly aggressive on price. And that in turn means its lower-capacity drives are among the cheapest, as well as the fastest, solid state drives around. Samsung really does cater for all budgets, up and down the specs list which makes its 860 EVO easily the best budget SSD.

The 250GB EVO can’t quite match up to the speeds of its larger-capacity siblings, sitting below the 500MB/s mark for reads and below 400MB/s on the writes, but it still remains strong when it comes to the 4k random read/write performance of the drive. That means it’s still a nicely responsive SSD when it comes to general use, even if it is a little slower shunting larger files around.

The 250GB mark is probably around as small as you want to get for a SSD designed to hold your OS and the games you’re playing the most right now. With that limited capacity you are going to have to do a bit more storage management than you might with a 500GB SSD or a large HDD, for example, but the trade-off against a painfully slow mechanical hard drive with a heap of space is absolutely worth it.

Best cheap SSD runner-up - HyperX Savage 240GB

Runner-up: Best cheap SSD

HyperX Savage 240GB

Approx. $116 £85

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A great-valuable SSD, that still manages to deliver some decent SATA-level performance too.

  • ControllerPhison S10
  • MemoryToshiba MLC
  • SocketSATA (AHCI)

The HyperX Savage is a great-value drive at this end of the market too, with a just-over-$100 price tag delivering impressive performance in both sequential and 4k random testing. Because of the over-provisioning of the Phison controller you are losing a little more storage space from the base spec 256GB NAND memory inside, but what’s 10GB between Samsung and Kingston SSD friends? A couple of indie classics on your Steam account probably.

Install an SSD

There has never been a better time to make the move to an SSD for your main rig. We’re getting to the stage where it no longer has to be a tiny drive that can only fit the barest of OS essentials either, genuinely capacious drives are available for decent money now.

Hell, you can even buy the fastest 500GB NVMe SSDs for less than $150 now, which is why Samsung is simply the undisputed kings of solid state storage. It’s been at the game long enough to know how to match a quality own-brand controller with its own-brand NAND flash memory, and make it for an affordable price. That’s why the 970 EVO is our SSD pick, and has been since launch.

But Micron also have something to say. Like Samsung it can mix its own memory with refined memory controllers, and ship complete drives for a great price. They don’t quite have the Samsung performance, but they’re not far off.

Intel is also making great strides with its 3DXPoint memory, though it delivers unprecedented 4k random performance, it is still mighty expensive… a potential future tech then. As is QLC memory, which could offer both value and capacity, and could spell the end for having an spinning platters in our PCs. But those drives are a little while off yet.