Did you know that with one simple upgrade you can significantly cut down your load times on PC and even Console? We are talking about shaving 15-30 seconds or more off of every loading screen, every system startup, every Alt-Tab. In open world games like Fallout 4, those seconds can literally save you hours over the lifespan of the game. If your load times feel sluggish, upgrading that old hard drive might be the kick your system needs to feel fast and agile.
The short answer is that you run into limited storage space and you won’t be able to install new games without deleting your old ones. The gaming answer though is that hard disk speed plays a huge factor in loading games up as well as boot times.
An SSD will make a marginal difference in frames per second for most games (Although games that load a lot of information may have a faster FPS and less dramatic pop-ups). Yet, as a faster alternative to a hard drive, it will dramatically decrease load times. Until you upgrade to a fast hard drive (or SSD), it’s hard to understand how much time is spent between areas on a loading screen just waiting.
Note that having multiple hard drives is always recommended for both security and quality of gaming reasons. We recommend a traditional HDD for large-scale cheap storage solutions and then pairing that with an SSD to store the games and files that you use most. With those two working together, you’ll be gaming at super quick speeds and a never worry about running out of room.
With the speed of an SSD and PCIe Gen 4.0, Samsung’s 980 PRO will get you the fastest possible load times out there!
Samsung is the king of SSDs. The 980 PRO dethrones the previously reigning champ, the 970 EVO. That’s because this NVMe drive has the fastest speeds, best software, and fulfills every function a gamer could dream of. We love the speed of the 980 PRO. It’s just one of the the fastest SSD drives. Ever. We can’t emphasize enough how much switching to this will improve load times while editing video or playing some old school Skyrim.
Clocking in at an impressive 7,000MB/s, this is an insanely fast SSD. Practically speaking you may not notice the speed difference over a slower SSD unless you are putting some heavy strain on your machine (Multi-tasking such as photography work) but this drive will run at full throttle under even the heaviest consumer level loads.
Another perk is the warranty. SSD last a long time but they are finite like all storage solutions. Eventually an SSD will run out of writing room. Add to this that a few random occurrences can cause an SSD to stop functioning (Power Surge, rare manufacturing defects) and you’ll want to have some sort of insurance that your card will last. Five years is a very reasonable time for an SSD to last without any defects and still be covered by the manufacturer. You probably won’t need the warranty though because the endurance of Samsung drives like the 980 PRO is impressive. This NVMe drive is obviously designed to bear a heavy load and kept cool and stable without any overheating.
Despite the price, this is the best SSD money can buy and it does come with a 1TB option. That means enthusiast gamers can buy an SSD that replaces the traditional HDD as well. We say despite the price because if there is one flaw with the 980 PRO, it’s that it breaks the bank. It is expensive. But you pay the highest prices when you only want the best. Also, Unfortunately SSD are more of a utilitarian item these days so fancy LED lighting and unique looks are rare. The 980 PRO manages to look classy with a simple black layout and burnt orange writing, but it does lack RGB lighting for case enthusiasts.
Finally Samsung always offers a free trial and even full version of the Samsung developed SSD software Samsung Magician. While using unique software on your SSD might seem random, Samsung is able to deliver solid driver updates as well as make the hardest part about upgrading hard drives far easier. Moving your OS to a different disk drive is challenging but with Samsung Magician, a few simple button presses get you started on cloning your old HDD and moving over. This process is quick and easy with Samsung but a pain with some other SSD providers.
If you don’t have an M2 slot or need something a bit cheaper, the 860 pro will give you much better performance than an HDD and will fit all standard motherboards.
Once again, Samsung has gone to the bank with SSD technology and offers a premier line of traditional solid-state drives as well. Getting away from the M.2 format may keep you confined to SATA speeds but they are more than enough for anything a normal gamer will encounter. The most recent champion of the Samsung SSD production line is the 860 Pro.
Even though NMVe models run circles around traditional SSDs, SATA is still incredible technology. The difference can be felt immediately when booting up your OS or playing storage intensive games like GTA V. A normal SSD easily buffs the speed of everything your desktop computer needs to do. Clocking in at 560mbs, the 860 is quick. Games load REALLY fast and Windows 10 tends to boot up in under ten seconds. In fact with this SSD, you can restart your computer, load up steam, and boot up CS:GO all in the time it takes a normal person to boot-up. In short, this SSD is fast, reliable, and improves your quality of life as a gamer quite a bit.
Endurance is a huge factor as well in selecting this model. This SSD will last quite a while if maintained well since the 860 Pro comes with a 4800 TBW guarantee or 5-year limited warranty (Whichever comes first). You know you have a pretty good investment when they’ll guarantee the item for half a decade! What does guaranteed for 4800 TBW actually mean? 4800 TBW is an INSANE amount of reading and writing. That means installing 192,000 25GB games worth of data. That’s not even the point where this SSD will fail, it’s just the point at which the warranty is no longer enforced.
Like most Samsung disk drives it comes with proprietary software Samsung Magician. This is a must if you want to clone your OS and migrate Windows to a new computer (You can’t just click and drag, and without special software, you’ll need to buy a new version). Samsung Magician also helps you monitor SSD health and update your firmware with a few button clicks, it’s powerful software and great and helping your SSD run at top speed. All in all one of the best SSDs on the market.
If you aren’t a fan of Samsung, Sandisk creates a rival SSD that has very similar performance and cost characteristics.
Sandisk is known more for portable camera memory. When it comes to flash drives, SD cards, other forms of instant data storage, they’re top tier in the industry. Since solid-state drives work in a similar manner to flash memory, Sandisk was positioned to become a natural provider of durable, high-quality, solid-state technology. The Ultra 3D is Sandisks answer to the 860 series from Samsung.
This SSD comes in four different sizes so that you can use it as a simple upgrade for hosting important files and your OS or even buy a larger model for a mainline storage drive. Like all SSD, it is limited to the same speed as SATA because it isn’t using an M.2 port, but the speed increase is still intense compared to a traditional HDD. In fact GTA V cuts almost half a minute off of loading times with the Ultra 3D.
The Ultra 3D fits into a very small frame like most SSD and you won’t need to worry about finding room for it. You’ll just want to make sure your case has a place for an SSD or purchase an external cage. As far as durability goes, Sandisk touts actual shock resistance. This is especially useful if you decide to put this in a laptop or don’t secure your SSD properly. Sometimes people install an SSD in cases that lack brackets, shock resistance helps keep that from being an issue.
Sandisk has also developed a proprietary technology called nCache that helps buffer information faster than a traditional SSD. This gives the Ultra 3D an edge over most other SSD providers and makes sure that it’ll be near if not the fastest SSD available without changing to an NVMe format. All in all, the Ultra 3D is a solid choice for faster load times and storing data.
If you don’t have the budget to separate out your SSD and HDD, check out the combo SSHD from Seagate.
Seagate is another premium manufacturer of HDDs and other storage solutions. They created the FireCuda specifically to focus on budget-minded gamers. Using an 8GB NAND Flash memory portion, this SSHD runs up to five times faster than a traditional HDD but doesn’t sacrifice space for that trade-off.
By transferring information to the Flash memory, loading times are drastically increased, meaning less time waiting to explore your favorite open-world games. What makes this drive exceptional is the large capacity of the FireCuda series. In addition to running faster than a slow 7200 RPM drive, this SSHD can hold up to +80 25GB games. SSD cost a lot of money for a smaller amount of space so SSHD are the perfect compromise.
As a main drive, this can be connected to consoles but you would need to buy a special dock as the 3.5-inch size and design lean toward a desktop computer storage solution. One of the downsides to SSHDs and HDD is that they are prone to breakage if moved too often while running. So as a console solution, a traditional SSD might feel a bit safer, but you can’t beat the added space and this will make even Xbox games load up faster (A common problem on consoles is the lack of speedy load times). We have an upgrade kit shown below in our console section if that is something you are looking for. Whether you need extra space for video or just want to have all your games accessible, this makes an incredible storage drive.
Slightly smaller form factor with the same great performance, the WD Slim is great for that combo SSD/HDD in a single drive.
The design of the Solid-State Hybrid Drive has been pushed just a little bit further with this slim Western Digital model. Not only does this SSHD have an insanely small footprint, it gives all the benefits of an SSHD at this still tiny size. We love the small design because it can fit into a Macbook, Laptop, and reportedly even the PS4. Performance wise this little device will net you speeds up to five times faster than a traditional HDD.
That’s a huge improvement over what most people have in the machine at home. Imagine booting up in seconds rather than minutes, loading up photos without waiting forever, editing video far faster than usual. With the small footprint though, you can boot this up on a console and actually shave some wait times off of PS4 and Xbox One games. This is great because they can take a notoriously long time to load some games. We are big fans of solid-state hybrid drives because they are large enough to be used as main disk drives but also have the added benefit of being a lot less expensive per Gb. For the performance increase that you’ll net over a traditional HDD, it’s just a no-brainer decision. This drive will solve any storage problems you have, run quick, and is affordable.
Beyond that, they’re small enough to put several into your rig and even attempt an SSHD Raid configuration. It is tiny so admittedly we are a bit suspicious about the durability when it is running (You never want to move an HDD or SSHD in action). Everything we’ve seen has shown it to be durable, fast, and inexpensive though. If you can deal with the drawbacks of the abnormal size, you might walk away with an incredible SSHD
NVMe is going to give you the best performance and Samsung is the best manufacturer of the current generation. If you need the best of the best, this is your drive.
This drive was the fastest, most reliable, and best value overall for the traditional gamer. You can find it right here at the beginning of our article.
With a slightly better price tag and similar performance, the NVMe drive from WD black is an OK alternative to the Samsung.
Western Digital is known as one of the best providers of hard disks in the industry so don’t be fooled by the barebones design of the WD Black NVMe SSD. Similar to the 970 EVO, WD has positioned themselves as a major competitor in the hard disk space and competes with the more well-known providers like Samsung. This SSD offers some of the fastest speeds on the market and like Samsung also offers great quality of service with a 5-year limited warranty.
The WD NVMe has been inspected by WD F.I.T. labs and certified to work on a wide range of devices. This with all the various M.2 configurations, that is a really important factor to be aware of. On top of generally being the most compatible NVMe we’ve reviewed, the WD Black is insanely power efficient. Taking up only 2.5mW, this card uses barely any electricity. That’s a good thing if you’re already running a large GPU and trying to balance your power supply. It’s also great for mobile gaming setups using unique configurations like a Mini-ATX board. Those setups often have stricter power requirements just due to size.
WD like most SSD providers also offer software that allows you to monitor, update, and use your SSD to the best of its ability. One of the highlights of Acronis True Image, besides being free, is that it easily allows the cloning of a hard drive. Once again, this is a necessary SSD feature that shouldn’t be overlooked as cloning a hard drive is incredibly important for any OS switches. With a few button presses you can copy your OS to the new hard disk. Without good cloning software you can lose data and at worst be required to purchase another copy of windows. So don’t undervalue SSD software! All in all, this is the best competitor to the 970 EVO you’ll find.
We have to note that a general HDD is great but you won’t notice a large performance difference or unique features over any other everyday HDD. They are by far the cheapest options for large-scale storage though. Our best HDDs are a great value for space and fantastic for expanding your storage room but we recommend throwing an SSD into the mix if you want to cut down on load times.
Western Digital is our go-to for HDDs. You want to use a big drive for all your data files and use an SSD or NVMe drive for your OS and gaming files.
Western Digital is known more for traditional HDD and one of the name brand HDD providers throughout the world. The WD Blue is a classic model. Top of the line HDD specs, 7,200rpm, as big a cache as you need, and a large variety of different sizes. The HDD hasn’t changed much in over a decade because the technology is about as good as it’ll get without changing form factors.
Where Western Digital really starts to cater to the consumer in new and unique ways is through several different forms of software that they use to do everything from minimize noise to monitoring the health of your HDD. Intelliseek is great because it can help cut down that noisy whirring that hard drives are known for, and as an added bonus it helps lower power consumption. NoTouch Ramp Load Technology is a bit technical but basically it helps keep your HDD from breaking with minor bumps and hits (Trust us that spinning a magnetic disk at 7,200rpm can be a bit dangerous if you desktop shifts or falls over).
At 3.5-inches, the WD Blue clocks in at standard size and comes with a modest 2-year warranty. Really HDD start to become prone to failure after five years so a 2-year warranty is more than enough to make sure you have a decent operating product. We recommend at this price point shooting for 2TB because traditional HDD are by far the cheapest option and allow a large amount of long-term storage for cheap. If you are deleting stuff to make room on a regular basis, just stop and pick one of these up. Complimenting your WD Blue with an SSD will help you make huge performance improvements as well.
If you aren’t going with the WD drives at #1, the Seagate drives have similar characteristics at a slightly better price point.
Seagate much like Western Digital produces some of the most well-known 7200rpm, 64MB cache, traditional HDDs. What makes this HDD really stand out from the pack though is the sheer variety in capacity options. Anything above 4TB is almost unimaginable for an everyday gamer but for those who do heavy video projects or need RAID protection, the BarraCuda is the best option.
You will probably never fill a 12TB hard drive up in the next decade purely gaming, but as a media enthusiast, that’s actually quite possible. Seagate even offers a 3-year warranty which is pretty generous for a traditional HDD. RAID is one of the most effective methods for keeping information secure and lossless, but it halves the amount of space you have. That’s why large-scale HDDs are some of the best options for RAID.
So why the BarraCuda? Several reasons, for instance one of the best perks of the BarraCuda is SED or the Self-Encrypting Drive technology. SED allows you to protect your data with top quality encryption. These days security is often prioritized more on the software side (Passwords) but a break-in or misplaced laptop can expose you to terrible security problems. With SED you can prevent that and even lock your HDD with a code. Another great feature is Instant Secure Erase.
If you have an Enterprise business, that makes retiring old drives simple and secure. Most users fail to realize that HDDs have recoverable information without a secure erase (Whereby the drive is cleared and then the information is rewritten). Using algorithms to sift through erased data, someone can still find information you thought you erased.
We recommend picking up a larger storage HDD and complimenting it with an additional SSD for your OS and some speedy quick load times. The 2TB drive BarraCuda should be more than enough for most gaming related tasks and is relatively affordable as well.
Since recent console updates have allowed PS4 and Xbox to use external drives, an internal hard disk drive isn’t necessarily the easiest solution. Still you can’t beat the price and speed if you can get any of these non-NVMe storage solutions connected up to your console. We recommend the 2TB FireCuda SSHD if you are serious about storage solutions, but several manufacturers make proprietary solutions as well!
Larger sizes than the default and easy portable design is great if you need to upgrade your Xbox One storage.
One huge drawback to modern consoles is that they usually ship with a rather limited HDD. In fact, it’s not uncommon to fill up the storage space on your console quite faster than you plan to. This is primarily because games have gotten massive and console save files, profiles, and settings can take up a ton of space. Seagate swoops in with an elegant long-term storage solution that best of all works with just a USB connection. With this drive, you can literally download up to hundreds of Xbox One games and never worry about switching back and forth with your library again. Add to this the incredible fact that you can visit a friends house and load up save files and games on the go. It’s a win-win for gamers.
Unfortunately adding a traditional USB based HDD to your console setup won’t make your games load faster. In fact USB is slower than SATA. On the bright side though, some gamers can’t install a full game and end up running off of a gaming disk which is inevitably slower than using the onboard Xbox storage space or an alternate storage solution. Also this runs at 5400rpm, another concession for the vast amount of information you can store at this price.
Overall though, if you are having trouble fitting everything you want onto your Xbox One, this is a solid choice and you might notice a large speed improvement by virtue of running off an HDD instead of Game Disk!
Upgrade your PS4 to an SSHD to get superior performance from the extra NAND flash inside.
Having a PS4 can be a bit frustrating, especially for PC gamers who are used to upgrading their rig whenever they want. The PS4 has come along way since first being released with OS improvements that now make using a hard drive quite a bit easier (USB connectivity and all). For those who want a permanent solution that will make your games run and load a lot faster though, the Fantom Drives Upgrade Kit is exactly what you are looking for. Whether you want a new SSD or as we recommend, the FireCuda, upgrading is quick, easy, and effective!
We are big fans of the 5-year warranty, especially because the recent announcements from Sony show they plan to phase the PS4 out around two years from now. A purchase of this SSHD can be retrofitted to a new console, a desktop computer, or for long-term storage, so that warranty will really be useful even after the PS4 has come and gone. SSHD also run up to five times faster than traditional HDD so unlike a simple USB solution, a full-on SSHD installation might make a noticeable gaming speed improvement. This is one of the best options you’ll have and this drive will still be useful for years to come!
When you’re shopping for a new SSD or hard drive, there are some things you’ll want to be careful about. Making the right purchasing decision can be a dealbreaker, so let’s see what the key things are.
Form factor is the first thing you’ll need to know. You can either go 2.5″, which is the older standard and is slowly being phased out, or you can go M.2, which is what most manufacturers do at the moment. Your motherboard will dictate this, though, so make sure you check before you buy. If you can, by all means go for M.2.
The form factor will dictate the speeds, to some extent. For example, with a 2.5″ drive, you won’t be able to reach over 550MB/s because that’s the limit of the SATA port that’s used to connect to your motherboard. On the other hand, an M.2 drive can still be SATA, or it can be NVMe – which is a lot faster. The fastest NVMe drives that take advantage of PCIe 4.0 will go up to 7,000MB/s, which is incredibly fast.
If you’re going for M.2, make sure you can cool it somehow. Even though there are no moving parts, some heat is generated by the electronics. Go for either a drive with a heatsink, or make sure your motherboard has a heatsink for it.
Next up, consider the size. While a couple of years ago even a 250GB drive would’ve been enough, nowadays that’s only good for a game or two, and then you’ll need more storage. Get at least a 500GB drive, but if you can afford it, by all means go for a larger drive.
Last but not least, you should consider what kind of warranty you’re getting, and whether or not that covers your data somehow. Most reputable manufacturers will get you at least 5 years of warranty, but some might go up to 10 with higher end drives.
This is, quite frankly, a question that should’ve been forgotten a long time ago. The answer is yes, you absolutely need an SSD, because it’s one of the easiest ways to make your games load up quicker, and it will significantly increase the overall responsiveness of your system.
To add to this, a mechanical hard drive is not only slower, but it also has moving parts. Moving parts mean more things that could fail, and more noise from your system.
And last but not least, the prices for good, high-quality SSDs have gone down quite a bit in the past couple of years. There is no better time to upgrade to an SSD than now.
Of course, hard drives are far from dead. At these prices, you can absolutely get a hard drive for files you don’t really need accessed quickly, like your media files for example. But they’re nothing more than a cheap way to add a lot of storage to your computer.
You also have SSHD, which are hybrids that offer plenty of storage, some of which, usually a very small amount, is actually as fast as SSD storage. They’re a good option in some situations.
With that in mind, if you need more storage, by all means go for an SSD. Unless you really need a lot of storage on the cheap, in which case, a hard drive or an SSHD is your best bet.
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