All of that can be had with a simple and affordable SATA SSD. But, some drives push it even further by tapping into the PCIe interface. These SSDs offer incredible speeds, with some new PCIe 4.0 SSDs pushing 15,000MB/s. While that may seem faster than you could ever need, the recently announced Nvidia GeForce 30-Series will actually be able to load compressed game data directly from SSDs, skipping the CPU and taking advantage of the incredible bandwidth of the PCIe interface.
As a bonus, switching to an SSD as your primary drive will let you repurpose your old hard drive. You can make it into a dedicate game library and actually see improved performance from it as well, since it can focus entirely on serving up game data.
So, if you're ready to make the upgrade or just stock up your computer with even more capable drives, we've picked out some excellent options. If you're browsing in the UK, click here to find out where you can find the best solid-state drive.
TL;DR – These are the Best SSDs:
- Samsung 860 EVO
- Crucial MX500
- Crucial P2
- WD Black SN750
- Adata XPG SX8200 Pro
- Samsung 970 Evo Plus
- Corsair Force Series MP510
- Samsung 980 Pro
- Samsung 870 QVO
- Samsung X5 Portable SSD
1. Samsung 860 EVO
2. Crucial MX500
Best Budget SSD
3. Crucial P2
Best Budget NVMe SSD
The 2,300MB/s sequential read speeds may not be the fastest on the block when it comes to NVMe SSDs, but it'll be more than enough to turn your game load times into momentary blips. The low profile of this drive will also make it a good fit in Micro ATX builds, in case you're trying to built a compact gaming PC to live next to your TV. Given the low price and compact size, you could even see about installing a pair of these drives to get a terabyte of fast and affordable PCIe storage.
4. WD Black SN750
Best Gaming SSD
Aside from being one of the first truly affordable NVMe SSDs, the WD Black SN750 delivers some of the fastest data transfer speeds on par with Samsung’s flagship solid-state drives, the 970 Pro.
5. Adata XPG SX8200 Pro
Best SSD Boot Drive
As if saving all that dough wasn’t great already, you’ll also be able to enjoy up to 3,500MB/s sequential read and 3,000MB/s sequential write speeds. It's nearly as fast as the best drives on the market but at a much lower price.
6. Samsung 970 Evo Plus
Best NVMe SSD
7. Corsair Force Series MP510
Best M.2 SSDSamsung 970 Evo would cost significantly more. This huge Corsair NVMe drive also offers screaming fast speeds – albeit, not the fastest – up to 3,480MB/s sequential reads and 2,700MB/s sequential write speeds.
8. Samsung 980 Pro
Best PCIe 4.0 SSD
The best part? The Samsung 980 Pro is offering all that at just a bit over $200. It's not the cheapest price per GB, but cheaper drives aren't going to be nearly as fast. This'll be the drive you want for future PC games that can take advantage of Microsoft's DirectStorage API for super-fast transfers of game assets directly over to your graphic card's memory or as additional storage for your PS5.
9. Samsung 870 QVO
Best SATA SSD
Samsung's 4TB 870 QVO costs a tidy $499. While it's usually true that the more you get of something the less you pay for each one, that hasn't held true for capacious SSDs, but this time Samsung is making it economical to go for the bigger option. That means you can readily fit a massive amount of fast storage in a tiny space without breaking a budget. Samsung also has a 1TB and 2TB version available, and an 8TB model is coming soon. The specs vary slightly between models, with different warranties and DRAM cache sizes being most notable. In any case, there are few more compelling options for switching away from SATA hard drives than these SSDs.
10. Samsung X5 Portable SSD
Best External SSD
Where to Get the Best SSD in the UK
What to Look in for an SSD?Whereas $500 used to buy you a 128GB or 120GB SSD with you can now buy a 4TB Samsung 860 QVO for roughly the same amount of money and kiss hard drives goodbye forever. What's more SSDs are insanely fast with sequential read and write speeds that start at 500MB/s and peak at 5,000MB/s if you're looking at the latest NVMe PCIe 4.0 drives.
Alternatively, cheap and fast SSDs like the WD Blue SN550 and Adata XPG SX6000Pro allow anyone building a new PC to use an NVMe SSD as their main drive
Before you buy a solid-state drive though, you need to know what kind of SSD you want. Newer motherboards have sockets for M.2 drives, which are long, flat sticks of storage that lie flat against the motherboard. If you don’t have that in your system, you can buy a 2.5-inch drive that uses power and data cables just like an HDD.
Now things get a bit more varied once we start talking about connectors. For starters, M.2 drives might utilize a PCI Express- or Serial ATA (SATA)-based interface. The former delivers incredibly high transfer speeds up to 4,000MB/s, meanwhile, SATA is limited to a maximum 600MB/s speed. 2.5-inch drives are the other form of solid-state storage you’ll find and they mostly utilize a SATA connection.
SSDs have only gotten cheaper and faster in recent yearsThe next major thing you should know about is ‘NVMe’ and it stands for the Non-Volatile Memory Express technology. That’s a mouthful, but it’s basically a communications standard, which allows SSDs connected over PCI Express to operate more like fast memory than storage. If you're shopping around for a solid-state drive from this category you'll want something that achieves at least a 2,000MB/s sequential read/write speed.
M.2 drives aren’t the only type of drives that can tap into this wickedly fast PCIe NVMe connection. For example, there are solid-state drives like the Intel Optane 905P that connect directly into the PCIe slot on motherboards. Alternatively, you may also find some 2.5-inch drives that utilize a U.2 connection and operate just as fast as the best NVMe SSDs, though, these are becoming increasingly rare.
NAND TypesAlmost all SSDs are made up of NAND flash memory, but they don't necessarily use the same type. in fact, the market is currently made up of four types of NAND memory—with SLC, MLC TLC, and QLC variants—and the big thing that separates them all is how their underlying cells store the 1's and 0's that make up your data. Let's take a quick look at what makes each type of NAND memory tick
- SLC: short for single-level cells, this is the original form of NAND memory and arguably the best. SLC is designed to only accept one bit per memory cell, which makes them the fastest, most durable and reliable, and often also the most expensive.
- MLC: Multi-Layer Cell store one more bit to every cell, bringing the number to two. It's a bit slower than SLC, because two bits are being written to every cell, which in turn makes this type of NAND slower and less reliable. The shortcomings of MLC aren't too bad though and that's why you see a lot of flagship SSDs utilize this type of NAND memory.
- TLC: Now we're starting to get into the budget spectrum with Triple-Layer Cell. As its name might suggest, TLC has three bits written to every cell and all its detriments.
- QLC: You guessed it, QLC is short for Quad-Level Cell and you probably also surmised that it writes four bits to each cell. At this point, speed isn't a concern and storage space becomes the priority here. That said, reliability and endurance become a concern here, but at least SSDs of this type are usually very cheap.
- PLC: Penta-Level Cell SSDs, which write five bits to every cell, are still on the horizon but it'll be interesting to see how low it will make the prices of SSDs go.
Kevin Lee is IGN's Hardware and Roundups Editor. Follow him on Twitter @baggingspam
Mark Knapp is a regular contributor to IGN and an irregular Tweeter on Twitter @Techn0Mark
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