Games are getting bigger. And that means that storage is becoming a key element for tomorrow’s virtual worlds. Red Dead Redemption II has an absolutely stunning world to explore, but it rolls in at 116GB. DCS World meanwhile can max out at over 250GB, gulp, and there are plenty of other examples of games that suck up your storage like it’s going out of fashion—check out PC gaming’s biggest storage hogs for more. Don’t worry though, PC storage is more than keeping up with this demand, and along with SSDs getting bigger, they’ve gotten a lot faster and cheaper this year too.
Things actually kicked off towards the end of last year, when the Samsung 980 Pro was let loose on the world. This was a new breed of PCIe 4.0 drives that scoffed in the general direction of the first-gen SSDs and managed peak read speeds of 7,000MB/s and writes at up to 5,000MB/s. It was much, much quicker than anything else out there.
It didn’t hold that winning mantle for long though, and just before 2021 got going we saw the WD_Black SN850 launched, which instantly leapfrogged the performance gains of the Samsung drive and become our favourite gaming SSD pretty much instantly. As 2021 got started properly, we’ve seen plenty of speedy drives released that have kept the market competitive.
Importantly, this has helped drive prices down, and that means you can pick up a speedy next-gen drive in bigger capacities than you could previously. To the point where we see 1TB NVMe SSDs as the defacto entry-level size for any mainstream system and 2TB drives are no longer the reserve of the insanely well-heeled. 512GB SSDs aren’t a bad option for budget systems still, but you will find yourself running out of space very quickly.
Now you’ve got some background of how we got here, we can highlight the most exciting SSDs to be released over the last twelve months.
The best SSD of 2021: the nominees
The winner of the PC Gamer Hardware Award for the best SSD will be announced on New Year’s Eve. It’s all to play for, and any one of these three is completely deserving of the crown.