With games becoming increasingly large and loading times being a frustration for many gamers, using a portable solid-state drive (SSD) is an appealing option to boost gaming performance. But are portable SSDs actually good for gaming? There are several factors to consider.
A major benefit of portable SSDs for gaming is their very fast data transfer speeds compared to traditional external hard disk drives (HDDs). Whereas external HDDs max out at around 130 MB/s, most portable SSDs today offer speeds of 500 MB/s or higher over a USB 3.2 gen 2 connection. Some SSDs even exceed speeds of 1,000 MB/s.
This means much faster load times for games and levels. For example, testing shows an average game loading in just 5-8 seconds from a SATA SSD compared to 30-40 seconds from an HDD. Portable SSDs bring this performance boost to your gaming rig or console.
Size and Portability
Thanks to the use of flash memory, portable SSDs are much smaller and lighter than portable HDDs. High-capacity portable SSDs with up to 4TB of storage are about the size of a smartphone today. And weights are typically 2-5 ounces.
This compact size and light weight means high portability. You can easily carry your game library in your pocket and connect your SSD to gaming PCs and laptops or consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S.
Durability and Reliability
With no moving parts, portable SSDs are far more durable and reliable than mechanical HDDs. They can better withstand drops, shocks, vibrations, extremes of temperature and more. This is useful considering gaming devices get transported often.
SSDs are also silent with no noise from spinning platters and moving heads. Reliability is improved as well. Portable SSDs today have failure rates of under 0.5% per year compared to over 3% for portable HDDs.
The downside to portable SSDs over HDDs has traditionally been higher costs per gigabyte of storage. However, SSD pricing has dropped dramatically in recent years, narrowing the gap versus HDDs. You can now find 1TB portable SSDs for under $100 and 2TB models around $170.
While still pricier than HDDs, the cost difference is justified for many by the performance benefits. And external SSD prices continue to fall over time.
Portable SSDs are broadly compatible with PCs and Macs. This includescompatibility with next-gen gaming consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S that utilize super fast NVMe SSDs internally. These new consoles even allow you to directly play next-gen games from external SSDs.
For older consoles like the PS4 and Xbox One, SSDs work but don’t boost game load times since they are bottlenecked by USB 3.0 speeds. On PCs, you can take advantage of the fastest SSD speeds over Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.2 gen 2×2.
Game Library Portability
With game install sizes ballooning over 100GB each for many AAA titles today, fitting your whole game library on one gaming PC or console is difficult. This is where a high-capacity portable SSD shines.
You can store a big collection of games on the SSD and plug it into any compatible gaming device. For example, have it work with your desktop PC, laptop, PlayStation and Xbox without needing to redownload games each time.
Overall, portable SSDs provide significant benefits for gaming primarily related to much faster load times. Other perks like durability, compact size and library portability are gravy on top.
The lower costs of higher-capacity SSDs (compared to the past) also make affording sizable portable SSDs more accessible to the average gamer. While not 100% necessary, integrating a portable SSD can take your gaming experience to the next level.
Frequently Asked Questions
What capacity portable SSD do I need for gaming?
A 1TB portable SSD is a good starting point to enhance your gaming experience. This provides space for around 10-20 average sized games. Get at least 2TB if you have a larger library or play many games over 100GB in size.
Are all portable SSDs fast for gaming?
No, you want an SSD with rated speeds of at least 500MB/s for good gaming performance. Models with speeds of 1,000MB/s+ are ideal. Lower speed SSDs around 400MB/s max won’t provide as dramatic load time improvements.
Can you play next-gen games directly from SSDs?
Yes both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S allow playing next-gen games directly from compatible external SSDs. An SSD connected via USB 3.2 or Thunderbolt 3 can work as extended storage.
What connection type should I look for in a gaming SSD?
Look for a gaming SSD with a USB 3.2 gen 2 or Thunderbolt 3 interface to ensure maximum performance. Many SSDs support both standards and backward compatibility with USB 3.0 ports as well.
Should I get an SSD with encryption for gaming?
Encryption is not necessary for gaming usage. It may slightly reduce SSD performance. Focus instead on drives with high sequential read/write speeds for the best gaming experience.
Example Portable SSDs for Gaming
|Samsung T7||1TB||1,050MB/s||USB 3.2||3 years|
|WD Black P50||2TB||2,000MB/s||USB 3.2||5 years|
|SanDisk Extreme Pro||4TB||2,000MB/s||USB 3.2||5 years|
|Seagate FireCuda||1TB||1,050MB/s||USB 3.2 & Thunderbolt 3||5 years|
Tips for Using a Portable SSD for Gaming
Keep Your Drivers Up to Date
Update to the latest drivers for your motherboard and external SSD to enable the fastest USB or Thunderbolt data transfer speeds possible.
Don’t Use up Entire SSD Capacity
Leave 10-20% free space on your SSD. Filling up the drive can slow performance. Games today easily take up over 50GB each.
Enable SSD TRIM Support
TRIM improves sustained write performance by clearing deleted data blocks. Make sure TRIM is enabled for your SSD in Windows.
Reduce the SSD’s Fragmentation
Defragment your SSD periodically to consolidate game files in contiguous blocks for faster reads. Use the Optimize Drives tool in Windows.
Manage Game Installs
Uninstall games you are not currently playing to free up SSD space. Reinstall them later when you want to play again.
Keep Your Anti-Virus Scans Limited
Extensive anti-virus scanning can slow game load times from your SSD. Schedule scans during downtimes when not gaming.
The Bottom Line
Investing in a spacious, high-speed portable SSD pays dividends for gaming. The combination of faster load times, expanded storage, durability and portability makes SSDs a worthwhile upgrade over standard external hard drives.
Just be sure to get an SSD with high sequential read/write speeds over fast USB or Thunderbolt connections. And take advantage of console and PC capabilities for direct external SSD game storage and playback.