Solid-state drives can be an excellent choice for gaming PCs. They provide a smoother gaming experience and allow for a much higher capacity.
However, knowing just how much storage you need can be tricky. This information is crucial when choosing an SSD and understanding which one will benefit you the most.
Let’s discuss the basics of solid-state drives and how the different types affect your gaming experience, so you feel more informed about how SSDs impact gaming and more prepared to choose an SSD for your computer.
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What Is a Solid State Drive?
What does a solid-state drive do? A solid-state drive is a storage device for a computer.
SSDs take the place of a typical hard drive and perform the same functions they would when running your computer. SSDs are faster than a traditional hard drive and will boot up quicker.
What’s more, programs load faster and can save faster. That makes them especially useful for a gaming computer.
Per TechTarget, “[A]n SSD has no moving parts to break or spin up or down. The two key components […] are the flash controller and NAND flash memory chips. This configuration is optimized to deliver high read/write performance for sequential and random data requests.”
Basically, because these drives are quieter, faster, more durable, and require less power, they are perfect for a gaming PC that’s constantly processing game data and saves while you’re playing.
Is an SSD Better for Gaming?
An SSD is much better for gaming. PC games will start up and load levels faster when you have an SSD card.
SSDs also provide a better gaming experience in terms of lag and require no moving parts. They can also have a much greater capacity, and you’ll need a lot of space on your PC to play games like Call of Duty.
Install sizes have skyrocketed over the years, with games alone taking up 200 gigabytes of data. Intel notes that “Given that Windows 10 requires 20GB of space, it’s easy to see that some smaller drives—such as a 256GB SSD — could be almost full after […] just one AAA game. No matter what storage solution you choose, if you want […] multiple new releases at once, you’ll likely want at least 500GB [on] your primary drive.”
If you’re a serious PC gamer, you’ve likely already learned that you need this type of drive. But which one is right for your needs and the types of games you play? Let’s look at the details of choosing an SSD for your PC gaming.
How to Choose an SSD for Your Gaming PC
Choosing an SSD is all about determining how much storage you need. If you download a large number of games, particularly AAA games, which usually take up more space, you can quickly fill up a standard drive.
While you can uninstall games when you are not playing them, you’ll have to go through the hassle of installing them again if you want to play them at a later date. Build Gaming Computers provides a great example of this:
“If you plan to install […] a dozen modern games, plus a bunch of other programs and taking into account Windows 10/11 (which takes up a chunk of space), you may very well want a 1TB drive. But 500GB can be fine […], and you can always buy a secondary drive later should you need more room, which is […] quick and easy to [install]. But unless you know for sure that your storage needs are lower than average, I generally recommend most gamers look at getting a 1TB drive from the get-go if […] possible.”
Which SSDs Are Best for Gaming?
There are two main choices regarding SSD size standards: M.2 and 2.5. There are also two main models for SSD cards: PCIe Gen3 vs Gen 4 (for NVMe SSDs).
NVMe SSDs are the fastest type, while the standard choice is the Gen3 and the newer version, the Gen4, which provides slightly higher read/write speeds. Gen4 drives are more expensive, so for most players, Gen3 can be the best SSD for gaming for the money since they still operate quickly.
“The speed differences between Gen3 and Gen4 are nice, but more a luxury, and generally speaking [isn’t] going to provide a discernable difference to most people, especially when it comes to game load times,” according to Build Gaming Computers.
The size standards will affect where you can install the disk itself. The M.2 installs into an M.2 slot. The M.2 SATA drives will also work there, but if you want the quickest SSD processing speeds, the M.2 SSD is the better choice.
The 2.5” SSDs also connect to your computer’s motherboard using a SATA data cable and a SATA power cable to draw from your PC’s power supply. These features can make the 2.5” options a bit unwieldy.
Build Gaming Computers also mentions, “The convenience of M.2 drives is handy, but what makes the M.2 form factor superior […] is that it allows for a PCIe connection to the motherboard using the blazing fast NVMe interface. [The] 2.5” SATA SSDs are still very fast, especially relative to HDDs, but NVMe drives are even faster still. Also, […] some cheaper M.2 SSDs still use a SATA connection, meaning they are a little slower than PCIe NVMe models. If on a budget, [an] M.2 SATA drive is absolutely fine, but if you want the fastest SSD you can get, [… get an] M.2 SSD that has ‘NVMe’ in the product listing/model name.”
So, are SSDs worth it for gaming? If you game a lot on your PC, absolutely they are. When you’re choosing an SSD for gaming, the best drive is the one that will make your game experience better and that won’t send you into debt.
Shop around for a top-quality option that offers the M.2 features you want at an affordable rate. I hope you benefited from this information on solid-state drives for gaming PCs. I’d love to hear your experiences and feedback in the comments section!