Should I Use An NVME SSD For Gaming?
(We have a newer article about NVME SSDs in 2019)
If you're a gamer, you may have heard of something called NVME, and you might not be sure if it's a good idea for your PC.
NVME is a protocol of an M.2 SSD (or Solid State Drive) that is no bigger than a stick of gum. We'll go into further detail about the protocol, it's applications, and if it's a good idea below.
The NVME Protocol
Put simply, NVME stands for Non Volatile Memory Express. You say...Non Volatile Memory whaaaat…
So, in easier terms, the memory in your computer (DRAM) loses content when you turn off your computer. You know that bit about saving your work often because you don't want to lose it if your computer kicks the can? Yeah that part.
DRAM is volatile, which means any data that was on it goes away when the device loses power.
So the NVME protocol changes that.
It doesn't make your DRAM non-volatile, it just makes the flash chips in the NVME SSD not lose content when the device loses power.
What's The Big Deal?
But what's the big deal about not losing power on the NVME SSD? I'm glad you asked, as the main aspect of NVME SSDs is the significantly increased read and write speeds and lower latency.
Due to the physical design of the HDD, the latency is much higher (takes more time to access files). The SATA SSD has a much lower latency, and is still a very competitive product.
And then you have something like the Samsung 970 EVO 1TB M.2 NVME SSD (afl), with a mind-bending 3400/2500MB/s read/write.
Just to be fair, there are other form factors of NVME SSDs.
There are PCI and SATA variants, to complement the M.2 model that is widely used.
We'll get to the application of the M.2 option.
Applications for NVME SSDs
Due to updates to the protocol over the past few years, you can now boot from an NVME SSD! Yeah, that was an update (new tech...). And now to the part that you've all been waiting for.
The massive read/write speeds in that Samsung 970 EVO 1TB (afl) mentioned above are really only hit when transferring files to another NVME SSD (or a big SATA SSD RAID array).
If the target drive (HDD) has a lower read/write than the source drive (NVME SSD), then your content will only be moved as fast as the HDD can do it.
Why Are NVME SSDs All The Rage?
NVME SSDs such as the Samsung 970 EVO 1TB have a tremendous IOPS (input/output operations per second) rate, on the order of 500,000.
The IOPS rating is how many tiny little moves can the SSD do in a second.
This rating is key during the boot phase, and general computer operation. Now, we humans can only detect so much speed, so there's no point in going from a 960 EVO 1TB (afl) to a 970 EVO 1TB, you'll only gain a marginal boost in read/write and IOPS.
That being said, there's a fair boost from a Samsung 860 EVO to a Samsung 970 EVO, 100k->500k IOPS, and 550->3000MB/s.
But remember the part from above, if you boot from a 250GB NVME SSD, and store your games on a 500GB SATA SSD, you won't get the super-fast goodness of the NVME SSD in your games.
Is An NVME SSD a Good Idea for Gaming
If you buy a big enough SSD to fit your games on it, you'll see the speed boost in loading times (but not framerate).
That being said, a Samsung 970 EVO 1TB NVME SSD is about $380, where a Samsung 860 EVO 1TB SATA SSD is generally $250.
I just recently bought a Samsung 860 EVO 500GB SATA SSD (afl) for $130!
If you really want the best gear in your rig, go for it. But if you'd rather commit that extra $130 to a closed-loop liquid CPU cooler like a Corsair H115 (afl), you won't miss out on much by going with the SATA SSD.
And even so, having 1TB of high-quality SSD storage is great in whatever form factor you have.