Set the load time in rear view with our options for the best NVMe SSDs.
With the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 shipped with NVMe SSDs, it’s definitely time to think about upgrading yourself. The best NVMe SSDs have made a big difference on PCs and it will only become an even more important weapon in your gaming arsenal if developers start to release games that make the most of this speed storage media.
Running on the same basic interface as your graphics card, the NVMe SSD offers more raw bandwidth and performance than any SATA-based SSD ever had. They’re also a lot smaller than any other hard drive or SSD, which means that the best NVMe SSDs are perfect for the small form structure you’ve always wanted or a terrible high-end gaming PC structure.
NVMe drive prices have also dropped dramatically in recent years, meaning you can now get a high-speed 1TB drive for less than $150.
M.2 sockets have been included on motherboard types for years now, so you’ll most likely have a backup slot inside your current gaming computer. Check your motherboard’s specifications page online before activating the NVMe SSD purchase though just to be sure. If your board is several years old, first make sure that it supports booting from an NVMe drive. Not all older motherboards do, especially if you use multiple generations of CPUs.
AMD’s latest gaming motherboards offer even higher potential NVMe SSD performance because the X570 and B550 boards support pcie 4.0 interfaces and compatible drives with much larger raw bandwidth. Intel is expected to soon have its first PCIE 4.0 platform, with Intel Rocket Lake coming early next year.
The NVMe protocol is specifically designed for solid-state technology, where SATA still has to support spinning hard drives and that makes THE NVMe SSD the perfect storage technology for gaming. We’ve selected our favorites, and each section will also have a variety of storage. Although it should be remembered that performance often increases with larger drives because many controller channels are used with high capacity.
Best NVMe SSD
- Samsung 970 Evo Plus
The best NVMe SSD for PCIe 3.0 speeds
It’s hard to beat Samsung’s SSDs in the high-performance M.2 NVMe space, which is the first company to release such drives and always keeps the pressure on with regular product updates. The latest 970 Evo Plus became one of the fastest M.2 drives today, with only a few SSDs (e.g. Intel’s Optane 905p) capable of beating it. Samsung’s own 970 Pro sometimes launches, but honestly, it’s not worth the 50% price increase.
Like the 970 Pro, the new 970 Evo Plus is well rated for its durability, signaling good for its longevity. The 1TB model is rated for 600TB recorded in five years or a whopping 329GB recorded per day. You need to fill and then delete the drive every three days to manage multiple recordings, which are not the workloads of consumers or even professional users. For reference, the SSD that I use the most is still only 40TB recorded after four years.
The 500GB and 2TB models are definitely worth considering, if you want lower prices or more capacity, respectively. But for most users, 1TB drives score well between performance and capacity, although Samsung’s drives still cost quite a bit.
- Sabrent Rocket Q 4TB
Sabrent Rocket Q 4TB is one of the most impressive NVMe SSDs you can buy right now. The frightening price of $700 may leave some people, but its performance alone is worth recommending. 4TB is more than enough memory to completely remove your old hard drive to cram all your games and vehicles. There’s even an 8TB option available for sale if you’d never think of hosting again (or at least for a few years).
Rocket Q doesn’t sneak up when we run our synthetic benchmarks. While the Samsung 970 Evo Plus is still the king of the hill, Rocket Q can keep that pretty good. It’s the right choice if you’re looking for a large amount of storage as some of our favorite NVMe SSDs don’t have any 4TB options.
- Addlink S70 512GB
NVMe SSDs have the best value for gaming
The beauty of SSDs is that high-performance SSD memory controllers are now available, basically, anyone who has a production base and has access to high-speed NAND flash memory can build an excellent SSD. Addlink proved that by pairing the extensive Phison controller with Toshiba’s 3D TLC memory and creating an impressive S70 drive.
It is also managing to sell this performance SSD at an impressively low price. It may not be as fast as the Samsung 970 EVO, but it’s not too far away and also a little cheaper.
1TB drives are also great value, but if you only love a relatively small 512GB SSD for fast boot drives and are home to your best games, then the Addlink S70 is a great one.
4. Corsair Force MP600 1TB
The best PCIe 4.0 SSD currently
Honestly, if you are looking for the best NVMe SSD you are looking for because of the potential speed that the interface can provide. And now that AMD has opened up the PCIe 4.0 era with its premium X570 motherboard chipset, and soon the genuine B550, this standard has been raised.
But compatible motherboards are now very expensive and are limited to the AMD Ryzen series of processors. That means if you’re running an existing Intel processor or plan to upgrade to Comet Lake, you won’t see the full performance of your PCIe 4.0 drive. That would waste the potential speed offered with these drives and the Corsair MP600 is a great example of their capabilities.
It’s expensive for a 1TB drive, but also faster than any surrounding PCIe 3.0 SSD. However, there are more affordable versions on their way and are likely to be faster when Samsung officially launches the 980 series. But for now, the MP600 is a great PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD and it’s available today.
5. WD Black SN750
A great NVMe SSD at an attractive price
Western Digital has been a solid company in the world of HDD hard drives for many years now, and its entry into the SSD market has shown the inherent capacity in providing reasonable, consumer-friendly storage. While not without errors, this M.2-type NVMe drive is a speed demon, made faster thanks to Gaming Mode that you can turn on or off in the company’s built-in SSD Dashboard software.
Of course, pedaling it into overload also means increasing heat, according to Western Digital, which requires the use of a radiator. Sold separately, the radiator model is priced premium, but the company claims its “passive cooling features” support with the opening of “optimal performance levels.”
When used regularly, it’s practically as fast as the 970 Evo Plus. For the most intense workloads, Samsung will win, but gamers are unlikely to fall into that type of user. There are also several other drives that use the same SM2262EN controller, which usually means similar performance (e.g. Mushkin Pilot-E).
6. Important P1
Stable performance, price and capacity
Crucial P1 is more efficient and delivers value that is said to be better than most SATA SSDs, but among its NVMe competitors, the use of QLC memory means it is a bit lacking. Ration speeds are not always maintained when loading or when the drive is almost full. When we filled the P1 to about half of its rationing capacity, we encountered a decrease in transfer speed, almost identical to your regular SATA SATA SSDs.
However, for gaming workloads, it is at least on par with the fastest SATA drives and there is no reason to make it part of your next low-cost version, if you have a backup M.2 slot and a very limited budget. Crucial P1’s low price and compact, reliable design make it difficult to build a low-cost gaming PC.
How we check
Our SSD test includes a Gigabyte X470 Aorus Gaming 7 Wi-Fi motherboard (in addition to pcie 4.0 Corsair SSD), Ryzen 7 2700X processor, 2x8GB G.Skill DDR4-3200 CL14 memory and a 64-bit Windows 10 Pro. We re-examined all SSDs that installed the latest Windows 10 May 2019 update and found that random IO on Intel systems was affected by Meltdown and Spectre exploit patches. The good news is that with a dedicated PCIe x4 connection for the M.2 NVMe drive, in most cases our new results match or exceed our previous Z370 test results.
Our test set for SSDs includes synthetic benchmarks, real-world file operations, and various tracking tests that give play back disks as quick access as possible. We evaluate drives by reviewing performance in all tests, although we tend to place more weight on real-world performance (e.g. file copy tests), as that’s more likely to show what ordinary users will do.
The new PCIe 4.0 SSDs make a bold statement of performance, but that’s not the only factor when buying an SSD. We took into account the current market price and in combination with the capacity of the drive, we tend to prioritize today’s type 1TB SSD, but the 500GB NVMe boot drive can be a worthwhile companion with cheaper SATA-based storage for secondary storage and games.
Cheap NVMe drives have become a lot more interesting by the end of the year, especially with intel 660p and Crucial P1, pushing prices down to SATA levels. If your PC supports NVMe memory, there needs to be a solid case for removing SATA, at least for your boot drive.
What’s so special about NVMe?
The old storage model was built on the idea of spinning disks. When SSDs entered the general consumer market, back in 2007, they re-established our expectations for memory. Moving from the mechanical world of hard drives to the silicon world of SSDs has brought rapid improvements in performance, technology, capacity and reliability. However, SSDs quickly saturate different SATA connections and so need faster alternatives, but the interface is only part of the problem.
The AHCI command protocol (Enhanced Server Console) is designed for much slower media (i.e. spinning word disks). AHCI is ineffective with modern SSDs, so a new standard has been developed: NVMHCI (Non-Volatile Memory Server Interface). Combine NVMHCI with a fast PCIe interface, and you have NVMe, Fast Memory doesn’t change. It’s a much improved interface developed based on the needs of flash memory instead of spinning discs.
But how is NVMe in the real world? If you’re copying games from one drive to another or authenticated game files in Steam, faster NVMe drives make a difference. They can also drop by a second or two when a game level is needed, but the more significant difference is that compared to hard drives, where even slower SATA SSDs are also much faster. Beyond certain points and all SSDs begin to feel the same.
In other words, while I like speed then love what NVMe brings, I realize that in reality, it is often not noticeable. If you’re looking to make the most of your money as needed to build a gaming PC, then a good SATA SSD is still a great choice, with prices now falling below 10 cents/GB.
NVMe drives are becoming increasingly popular and prices continue to fall. Over the past year, I’ve tested more NVMe drives than SATA drives, mainly because SATA drives are starting to look the same. Most reach the same ~550MB/s limit of the SATA interface for IO in a sythymous way, although random IO can still have a bit of a problem on some models. With the current budget NVMe price suitable for SATA drives, most new builds should seriously consider whether additional sources and data cables of SATA are needed.