The Best Hard Drive For Gaming

The Ultimate Hard Drive

Updated: July 31, 2018

The best hard drive for gaming is the Samsung 860 EVO, which is the fastest and most advanced SSD currently available. That’s the simple version. If you are going to buy a single hard drive and want the best you can get, buy that hard drive.

The Samsung 860 EVO is the fastest, most durable, and most advanced solid state drive available. We aren’t even going to discuss other hard drives at the moment because nothing else comes close to it when you compare everything. Let me explain.

Requirements To Be The Best

To be the best hard drive for gaming, it has to have very high read/write speeds, a large cache, and excellent dependability. It also has to be able to work under heavy load for long periods of time with no degradation in performance.

Why These Requirements For Gaming?

  • Read/Write Speed – This is how fast the hard drive is capable of transferring data in a sustained way. A lot of hard drives can write 10 megabytes at a very high rate of speed because of the onboard cache. But, if the drive is writing 2 gigabytes, the data transfer rate will plummet because the cache is saturated and the actual hard drive has a now write speed.
  • Cache – A hard drive’s cache is like the memory inside your computer. It’s super fast but fairly expensive, and you have a relatively small amount of it. It’s also not capable of storing anything when the power has been turned off. In hard drives, whether SSD or traditional, the onboard cache is used to boost performance. You always want a hard drive with the largest cache possible. The reason for this is that, when you write a file, data fills the cache almost instantly. Once the cache is full, write speed is limited to the true write speed of the hard drive.
  • Dependability Under Heavy Load – Gaming is resource intensive for every component on a computer. Hard drives can get hammered with rapid read or write requests. The smaller these requests are, and the more rapid, the more you can expect performance to decline. At least, that is, with lower-end hard drives. Ideally, you want no decline in performance in these situations.

Hard Drive Compatibility

Real World Cache Example

Let’s discuss an example of how a hard drive’s cache can effect speed. If my hard drive is really slow, but it has a 1 gigabyte cache, and I am writing a 500 megabyte file, the file will be saved almost instantaneously. However, if the file is 2 Gigabytes, the first 500 megabytes will appear to copy very quickly, then the transfer will slow to a crawl as the write speed becomes limited by the hard drive.

The effect is most noticeable on slow hard drives, but even the best hard drives benefit from a large cache. In fact, with the best hard drives for gaming, a large cache can make write speed appear to never slow down at all. This is what you want for gaming.

V-NAND for Best Performance

The Samsung 860 EVO hard drive uses V-NAND technology, which Samsung developed in-house. This was a major accomplishment at the time and somewhat of a breakthrough as it allowed more storage capacity per square inch, and also resulted in a huge jump in performance.

You see, normally when you buy a bigger hard drive the performance declines because the footprint gets bigger. Basically, the storage area takes up more physical space, and the data has to travel further, cutting response time.

An extra inch of travel may not sound like much distance, but in computer terms that is an incredibly long commute. This is because you are not traveling the inch one time if you are reading or writing a 1 gigabyte file you are traveling it 1 billion times.

If you do the math on 1 gigabyte of data transfer, that’s equivalent to your data traveling across over 15 thousand miles of circuitry. Now you understand the problem.

Likewise, if you can reduce the distance traveled, you can increase performance with no other changes to your hard drive. So if you reduce that 1 inch of travel to 1/2 inch, the data only has to travel 7 thousand miles. That single change has doubled performance.

HDD Gaming Performance

This is what V-NAND did. Instead of building out like urban sprawl, Samsung figured out how to build up.

Impressively, Samsung did this in their own research facilities and proceeded to produce a groundbreaking high-performance SSD hard drive. Truly the best hard drive for gaming.

Samsung 860 EVO Track Record

I bought a Samsung 850, the predecessor to the Samsung 860, shortly after V-NAND technology went into production. I wanted the best for my personal gaming rig and spent almost $1,000 on the Samsung 850 SSD. It was supposed to be the fastest and most reliable SSD every produced. At the time, it was the best gaming hard drive in production.

I was shocked by my boot time, and game load times. The sheer speed of the hard drive had me copying multi-gigabyte video files back and forth just so I could keep it busy long enough to measure performance.

Samsung had me convinced with performance, but I still had my hesitations when it came to durability.

Traditional hard drives have a spotty record when it comes to durability and longevity, but this was due to having moving parts. SSD’s have no moving parts, but it was a newer technology and this SSD was cutting edge.

That was years ago. Since that time, I have hammered the drive for years on end and have never had a single error or any degradation.

Samsung’s Best Hard Drive for Gaming

The EVO has seen a consistent and rapid upgrade path as Samsung’s flagship SSD for gaming. Most of the best hard drives will make a claim for the mean time between failure, or how long the average drive will work before it fails. With SSD’s, this is measured by how much data can be written before failure.

Unlike other high-end hard drive manufacturers, Samsung has a warranty that backs up their endurance claims.

Gaming Hard Drive
Samsung 860 EVO
Read Speed 550 Megabytes per Second
Write Speed 520 Megabytes per Second
Capacity 250 GB to 4 TB
Cache Size 512 Megabytes to 4 Gigabytes
Random Read 98,000 IOPS
Random Write 90,000 IOPS
Endurance 150 to 2,400 Terabytes Written
Warranty 5 Years
Compatibility Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux
We update our recommendations as new hardware is released.
As of August 1, 2018, the EVO is the best gaming hard drive.