When it comes to different types of SSD (Solid-State Drive), the majority of PC users aren’t particularly bothered about which SSD type they are using, just that it works quickly. In any case, picking up a good SSD is key these days and one of the best ways to give your PC a snappy-responsive feel. Hard drives still serve a purpose but for optimal PC performance, an SSD is crucial.
Of course, we aren’t here to talk about the various differences between an SSD and HDD but rather to assist you in getting to grips with the different types of SSD, which size would be best for you, and ultimately help you when buying.
You may still be rocking a hard drive or are looking to build your first gaming PC and wonder, do I even need an SSD? Well, the short answer is almost always yes.
- Instant Boot Times – SSDs are the fastest type of storage and are great for booting your operating system, applications, and favorite games, while also speeding up data transfers
- Gaming Performance – Some SSDs have shown to give some games a boost in performance when compared to slower HDDs
- Noise Free – SSDs don’t have any moving parts, giving you a quieter system
- Future Proof – Your PC, whether it’s a gaming one or otherwise, can only benefit from a fast SSD. Not only does it enhance your quality of life but it keeps your computer feeling that way for longer
Every modern PC build these days will feature an SSD, it just makes sense. But what are the differences? There are many different types of SSD, lets run through the SSD types and what they are designed for.
There are essentially three different types of SSD that you can purchase but really the main differences boil down to form factor and speed.
- 2.5” SATA SSD: 2.5-inch Serial ATA (SATA) is by far the most common type of SSD drive out there. These affordable SSDs require two cables, one for power and one for data. This type of SSD is much faster than HDDs and is excellent for the common user. This type of SSD looks similar, whether it’s an SSD for a laptop or a desktop, and has been around for a long time now. SATA 3 had a limit of around 500MB/s, meaning SSDs of this form factor produce read and write speeds around that. These are now considered a more budget option when buying an SSD and we recommend going for an M.2 if you can afford it and your motherboard supports it. 2.5” SSDs can typically fit in any HDD drive bay but most modern cases now have several mounting options for your drives.
- M.2 SSD: Types of M.2 SSD are the smaller form models that plug directly into your motherboards M.2 slot. They come in two different classes, SATA M.2 and NVME M.2.SATA M.2 drives feature similar performance to standard 2.5” SSDs we described above and are ideal for gamers, whereas NVMe SSDs are even faster and very advantageous for users who transfer large files or require faster speeds in applications.M.2 Drives can come at different lengths: 2280 (80mm) is the most common but this type of SSD is also available in 2242 (40mm), and 22110 (110mm). One thing to note is that NVMe was relatively new a few years ago and works on the same PCIe lanes the GPU uses when working with the CPU. These types of drives tend to have speeds typically faster than 500MB/s. M.2 also requires zero cables and really are the most clean-looking, efficient methods of storage.
- PCIe SSD Add-in Card: This type of SSD looks more like a GPU or sound card rather than a storage device and plugs directly into the PCIe slot on your motherboard. These SSDs usually rely on the NVMe protocol unless they are older-spec and feature similar blistering speeds to NVMe M.2 drives. These drives won’t require any cables but will need an empty PCIe x4 or x16 slot on the motherboard.
When we are talking about SSD Sizes, we are referring to the capacity. You can pick up SSDs with as low as 128GB capacity but these are only going to be good when used as a boot drive. Some low capacity SSDs can feature slower performance, due to having a fewer number of memory modules and aren’t really going to be holding much.
The sizes of an SSD are much like other storage devices and start to climb from 128GB to 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, and some models can be as large as 4TB. While a 4TB SSD sounds like a win/win, they bring a price premium that makes them more suited to specific users who store and transfer large amounts of data.
The minimum we would recommend going for is 500GB. This could be considered a sweet spot when you factor in price but with modern games breaking the 100GB mark, a 1TB drive is probably going to be the better option.
A 1TB SSD can handle your OS, applications, and games without breaking a sweat and many PC builders will opt for this with a secondary HDD to store media files or applications that don’t benefit from a snappy boot time.
What SSD do I need? Well, personally I prefer going for two 500GB SSDs over a 1TB just in case anything breaks, I can still use my PC. The reality is that this will cost the same though and if going down the M.2 route, you need to make sure your motherboard has enough slots for your desired configuration.
Which you go for largely depends on your budget, so if you are in the market for spending over $1500/ $2000 on a gaming PC, then you are more than capable of fitting a 2TB SSD into that build. When we get down to budget territory it becomes much harder but any builds between $500 and $1000 can easily fit a 480GB/500GB SSD. When we are talking about sub-$500 gaming PCs, beware of the cheapest 2.5” SSD drives, as they can sometimes offer minimal performance gains over an HDD.
As already mentioned, the main differences between SSDs and HDDs are size, acoustics, and speed. With those differences comes the most obvious; price! SSD’s superior speed makes them the best types of storage for general use and gaming. If you are in a position where it is one or the other, save a few extra dollars and grab an SSD. It is not uncommon to have a dual configuration of both, with the SSD taking care of your OS and games, and your HDD holding on to your precious memes.
There aren’t that many different types of SSD to get your head around but now you know the various form factors, options, and capacities. Now that you understand the importance of an SSD and the intricate details that separate them, you can make an informed choice when building a PC or upgrading your current setup.
The bottom line is unless you are in need of a super-fast, high capacity storage device, the more affordable 2.5” SATA SSDs are going to be more than enough. If you are one of the few still running everything on HDD, you are going to notice a huge difference if you choose to upgrade.