NVme SSDs for gaming: Yay or nay?

daveyd

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I'm planning to get a new gaming PC in the near future. I'm pretty much set on most of the components I want, but still unsure on the type of storage. For the main drive (Windows+ my favorite games) I'm not sure if I should just get a SATA3 SSD like I have now or if I should go for a NVME drive. Anyone have one in their gaming PC now / have any thoughts on it?

I've been reading mixed things about NVMEs. There are some who say it will really have very little if any benefit on gaming (i.e., loading times) and you mostly see the difference if you are transferring very large files between drives. And of course others who say that it's absolutely a big difference and worth the extra money.

At this point the price difference between an NVME and a 2.5" SSD isn't huge, so I guess I'm more concerned about reliability / longevity. From what I gather these drives can get pretty damn hot and while most motherboards now come with a heatsink for their M.2 slot, they aren't necessarily great at keeping the temps down... so the drives can still overheat which means their lifespan might be cut short and also it will throttle & essentially any extra read / write speed will be lost anyway.

TL: DR; is an NVME drive worth getting for a PC mainly used for gaming and everyday use?
 

Shagnak

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Yes. I have two (one for a Windows install and one for a Linux install). Loading times are awesome for the OS installed on it and stuff that I have installed alongside the OS. I found them noticeably better than an SSD, but maybe it depends on the type of game or something.
 

daveyd

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Yes. I have two (one for a Windows install and one for a Linux install). Loading times are awesome for the OS installed on it and stuff that I have installed alongside the OS. I found them noticeably better than an SSD, but maybe it depends on the type of game or something.

Did you happen to have a (SATA) SSD in the same computer previously?

Reason I ask is I figure if someone builds a new computer with a NVME and finds it has better performance, it's hard to say whether that has to do with the drive or if it's because of the presumably better CPU, better GPU, more / faster RAM, etc. Though I would assume if you get faster loading times for the same games you could attribute that mostly to the faster drive.
 

Stingray

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I deal with a huge variety of servers/desktops/laptops as part of my job and I can usually tell which computers have SATA SSDs and which one have NVMe SSDs just by the bootup time, app startup time, general responsiveness, and definitely by the OS install time. There's a large difference. The latest PCIe 4 NVMe SSDs have 10X the throughput of the best SATA SSDs, and I think an even bigger gap when it comes to latency.

I would never use a SATA SSD as your system/OS disk if you have a choice. If you need a large secondary disk (maybe to store archives, music, videos, whatever), then you could go SATA there to save some money. (You could also go HDD, but I wouldn't for my desktop, because I don't want the extra noise)

Also, I've used dozens or maybe hundreds of NVMe SSDs at this point, since they first came out, and never seen a single one fail yet. I usually stick to Samsung, though, and most of the OEMs seem to use Hynix. So most of my experience is with those brands.
 

Redglyph

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TL: DR; is an NVME drive worth getting for a PC mainly used for gaming and everyday use?

In short, it depends on what games.

I see a huge difference with NVMe when running games that require that kind of transfer speed. Games with a lot of textures and world meshes to load constantly. A typical improvement I saw was with flight simulators, which are very demanding. And of course, it makes a big difference for any daily task that is processing files: booting (even though that is often done from a cache these days), transferring big or numerous files, and so on.

I saw a little improvement with Unity games, when they have to load a new area. But it's not as striking and it remains slow, because there are usually other limiting factors for those.

For other games and files, I keep a hard disk, which is much cheaper. Old games like BG, or puzzle games don't need to load a lot, so that wouldn't make a noticeable difference if you were using a HD, a "classic" SSD or an NVMe.

I've also seen more reliability problems with solid-state memories than HD in general, so I'm usually not keen on using them for critical files like personal documents or source files. But maybe they've improved the process enough so that it's not a concern anymore. The disadvantage is disk fragmentation, which costs time on a HD. I wouldn't use that for the OS anymore, for example.
 

Stingray

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I've also seen more reliability problems with solid-state memories than HD in general, so I'm usually not keen on using them for critical files like personal documents or source files. But maybe they've improved the process enough so that it's not a concern anymore. The disadvantage is disk fragmentation, which costs time on a HD. I wouldn't use that for the OS anymore, for example.
100% opposite experience here. Over the last, let's say 10 years, I've been responsible for systems containing hundreds of HDDs and hundreds of SSDs and in that time, as far as I recall I've seen one SSD fail while I've seen dozens of HDDs fail. Could depend on the brand of SSDs you use. As I mentioned in my previous post, when given a choice I always use Samsung. Don't believe I've ever seen a Samsung SSD fail.

The above comments pertain to the type of HDD/SSDs you'd use in a desktop/laptop, but I also deal with a lot of "enterprise" storage - SAS HDDs and SAS SSDs in storage systems. Those HDDs fail quite regularly (just got one replaced last week), while so far I've never seen a SAS SSD fail ever.

Granted, SSDs are guaranteed to "fail" once they hit their write limit, but I've never seen an SSD that hit its limit yet personally. And if you have things configured well, you should get warning of that before it happens.

In the end, you need to have your data backed up either way so the reliability shouldn't be a big factor anyway. Main factors as I see it should be price, capacity, speed, and noise.
 

daveyd

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I had an SSD die in my current PC after a few years. But it was a Toshiba brand which is, you know, not usually a brand people speak highly of.
 

notdart

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From a price perspective - esp at the 512GB to 2TB size you can find pretty good deals in NVME ssd so the real question you have to ask is why not NVME - here are a few reasons to skip them:
Your mb has the nvme slot on the back (some boards do this - and it requires the mb be removed to replace the nvme).
You can't find a reliable durable ssd in nvme format. Sales come and go and prices constantly change - for windows life can be painful if your drive dies esp if you don't have a recent backup. For linux things are a bit better if the nvme is not your data drive as you can reinstall it - add your data drive to the system and things resume as before.
You want a raid and your mb doens't have enough nvme slots. Depending on the type of raid you might be rate limited by the slowest drive so why bother with nvme.
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At the company where i work where the savings from reduce power is the primary goal a ton of pcie ssd are purchased and stuff n a bunch of slots and raided. But as a corporate initiviate they are purchased by the 10,000s. Sadly they do not give spares out to employees; we have to buy our own :(
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When picking your NVME drive a few things you have to consider:
heat - these can get quite toasty and if too warm - well they can self destruct. Make sure that extra heat sink is installed correctly. Some drives run hotter than others.
burst rate vs sustained rate - some of these drives play the benchmark game. They have caches that might not match real world usage and their true sustained speed is quite slow - research your drive carefully if you are purchasing nvme for added performance.
durability - some drives will last a lot longer than others. Make the company show the money to back their claim. If they claim 5 years of near continous writes expect a 5 year warranty and a wear rate that matches that claim (most warranty have a maximum number of writes clause).
Hum. There was something else important but i'm too tired to remember.
 

bjon045

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I think the difference will become more pronounced over the next 3-5 years. I've seen benchmarks in UE5 with DirectStorage where the SATA SSD vs NVMe difference is more than a second. From what I remember it was normal disk 27 seconds, SATA SSD 2 seconds, and NVMe 1 second. With DirectStorage the more bandwidth the better.
 

sakichop

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I had both in many systems. Sata SSD @500MB and nvme at 3500MB and I have never been able to tell a difference in games. I’m not saying there isn’t a rouge game here or there that will show an actually visible difference ( I haven't played it if there is) but overall it isn’t noticeable to me.

This is further backed up by doing a quick google search and watching a number of video comparisons showing a 1/2 to 1 second difference in game load times.

I watched a Linus tech tip video in which he had 3 guys blindly compare 3 systems. A sata SSD, nvme on pcie 3.0 and one on pcie 4.0. None of the 3 guys was able to guess which was which. All 3 of them actually picked the sata SSD one as feeling the fastest. Which not coincidentally imo was the first one they all tried.

Now if you go beyond gaming and transfer large files or video edit or something like that I’d guess you’d notice a difference. Also I’d guess eventually newer game will take advantage of the higher speeds and we will start seeing some real world difference.

So I’d say buy the biggest and fastest you can reasonably afford SSD or nvme. I personally finally went all nvme because I like having them on my MB vs in HD bays.
 

Redglyph

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As I mentioned in my previous post, when given a choice I always use Samsung. Don't believe I've ever seen a Samsung SSD fail.

That's more or less my conclusion too, so I'm trying to get that brand when I can (the defects were with other brands).

At least we know they're making them themselves and the quality remains consistent; I'm not sure other brands always stick to the same manufacturer. Perhaps, but it's hard to know for sure.
 

notdart

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I've had samsung ssd fail a few times. Some apps like chrome and thunderbird will sit there nonsensically writing updates 24/7. As for reliable brand crucial, wd, intel and samsung all have fairly high endurance models that will last a long time. However I dislike intel and wd because their low end models can be pretty shoddy and whlie all companies have done this from time to time it seems that wd is esp prone to release models that are benchmarked and then under the same model number change the design (size of cache, type of components used et all) so the actual drive you buy is totally unrelated to what your friend purchased last month. I will say that some of the off brands or less common brands have had really bad firmware that cause serious issues as the drive age (I've not seen this with samsung and i don't feel comfortable naming the vendors that have had issue - though it was publcally announced that hp had a drive that would fail on a certain date. Btw toshiba enterprise hardware is actually pretty decent no clue about their consumer stuff.
 

Shagnak

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I've had quite a few SSDs in various and the only failures I've had are with Apacer (twice!), a brand that's more common in Asia, I think.
My first SSD was a 120GB Samsung EVO and that's still going strong. The rest are mostly Kingston.

I haven't had a big enough sample to haven't opinion on nvme reliability yet. My current ones are fairly recent from Kingston and Crucial, and the only ones I've owned.
 
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