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Best external SSD for gaming 2023: The easiest to upgrade
If you’re out of space on your gaming laptop, or you just want an easy way to make your game library portable, an external SSD for gaming 2023 offers a way to expand storage without the hassles involved in installing a drive.
But choosing an external SSD involves a dizzying headache of choices, and making a bad choice will make you want to. Lucky for you, we’ve done the testing and can offer some solid recommendations that are sure to help, not hinder, your gaming setup.
Updated 02/28/2023 Including the Samsung T7 Shield as your pick for the best high-capacity option. Read more about the new pick below.
1. WD Black P50 Game Drive SSD (1TB) – Best overall external SSD for gaming
- Up to 2Gbps with SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps
- typical military style
- Expensive compared to SuperSpeed 10Gbps drives
- Full performance requires the extremely rare SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps port
No, we didn’t make this choice just because the drive is named “Game Drive SSD”. This WD drive hits the performance benchmarks you want and has lust-worthy USB 3.2 SuperSpeed 20Gbps support. Although USB 3.2 SuperSpeed 20Gbps has been rare, many new motherboards today support it. If your PC doesn’t support it, the good news is that it will support the far more common USB 3.2 SuperSpeed 10Gbps, which is the next best thing. This still gives you good performance, and future-proofs you for your next mobo upgrade. Unlike a typical portable SSD, which might have a plastic or rubber shell to absorb the hit, the WD Black P50 is metal, which helps dissipate and dissipate heat from the smokin’ SSD inside. If you want ultimate performance, WD’s P50 Game Drive is worth every penny of its premium price.
2. Seagate Firecuda Gaming SSD (1TB) – Best premium external SSD for gaming
- very beautiful
- 2GBps transfers via SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps
- SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps ports are few and far between
Seagate’s FireCuda Gaming SSD is a worthy alternative, but it costs a lot more for the same performance as the WD Black P50. However, the FireCuda has an absolutely stunning external SSD and deserves a place on any desktop. It’s not just a pretty facade though – it’s compatible with SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps ports, which means it can achieve transfer rates of up to 2Gbps. It’s definitely the best-looking external SSD on this list, and it probably would’ve been our top pick if it weren’t for the premium price.
Read our full Seagate FireCuda Gaming SSD (1TB) review
3. Crucial X6 Portable SSD (2TB) – Best budget external SSD for gaming
- ergonomic design
- good daily performance
- very affordable for external ssd
- performance tanks when cache runs out
The Crucial X6 Portable SSD is a typical square-shaped SSD that can easily be kept in your hip pocket. In a sea of portable SSDs whose size makes them a literal pain when pocketed, the slim, rounded-edged X6 is a sigh of relief. Not only is it small and easy to carry, but it also packs some decent performance, and you won’t find much cheaper. While it’s not cutting-edge fast, it’s fast enough for most users and the affordable price makes it a great value SSD.
Read our full Crucial X6 Portable SSD (2TB) review
4. Adata Elite SE880 SSD – The most portable external SSD for gaming
- Very fast, over 20 Gbps USB connections
- ultra small form factor
- 5 year warranty
- slows down significantly during long contiguous writes
- Somewhat low TBW rating
The Crucial X6 may be smaller, but it still can’t match Adata’s Elite SE880 for portability. Measuring just 2.55 inches tall, 1.38 inches wide, and 0.48 inches thick, it looks more like a USB thumb drive than a standard external SSD. It also weighs 1.1 ounces—making it easy to forget it’s even in your pocket.
In terms of performance, the Elite SE880 handles everyday tasks swiftly but slows down during long periods of writing. In a real-world 48GB transfer test, the drive came through with flying colors, but it lost a lot in longer contiguous write tests. This means that photo and video professionals may want to consider other options for transferring large files.
Read our full Adata Elite SE880 SSD review
5. Samsung T7 Shield (4TB) – Best High Capacity Alternative
- Fast 1GBps Continuous Transfers
- excellent real world performance
- Huge 4TB Capacity
- curvy and beautiful
- not cheap
- Small 4K performance glitch writing 4K files under CrystalDiskMark 8
If you need serious storage and you’re willing to pay for it, the Samsung T7 Shield is the way to go. The latest version has been upgraded to a 4TB option, so you can easily store all your favorite games—as well as everything else—on a single SSD. It’s also quite portable, fitting easily in your pocket, and comes with decently fast USB 3.2 10Gbps. In our speed tests, we saw the drive handle impressive 1Gbps sustained transfer speeds and proved to be the fastest 10Gbps SSD we’ve ever tested.
It also comes in a secure silicone protective sleeve and has an IP65 rating in case you want to adventure with the drive in addition to gaming. The T7 Shield has always been one of our favorite drives and the upgrade to 4TB capacity makes it even better.
Read our full review of the Samsung T7 4TB
How we test external SSD game performance
The biggest question you’ll want to know is how much using an external drive affects game performance. We used UL’s new 3DMark Storage benchmark to get an idea of how much this matters. To create benchmarks, UL essentially records drive access patterns during a number of typical gaming tasks to create “traces”. These drive-access traces are run multiple times on the tested storage device to duplicate the pattern without actually loading the game.
To test this, 3DMark reproduces what loads in the Start menu battlefield v, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4And overwatch, 3DMark also tests using OBS, or Open Broadcast System, to record to storage overwatch Playing at 1080p resolution at 60fps, installed outer world From Epic Launcher, and saving games outer world, For the final test, 3DMark copies the Steam folder to the storage test counter Strike Global Offensive From external SSD to target drive.
We used a 12th-gen Intel Core i9-12900K on an Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero motherboard running Windows 11. There are native Thunderbolt 4 and USB 3.2 10Gbps ports on board. We’ve added a SilverStone ECU06 for USB 3.2 SuperSpeed 20Gbps support. Then we used the Vantec M.2 NVMe SSD for USB 3.2 Gen2x2 20G Type C Enclosure along with the Western Digital SN700 NVMe SSD to test the performance of USB 3.2 20Gbps and 10Gbps. We also installed the same SN700 in a PCIe 3.0 riser card to test its core performance. This gives you an idea of how much of a loss you get with it installed inside a laptop or PC compared to using a USB port. For added contrast, we also ran 3DMark Storage on an older Plextor PX-512M7VG SATA SSD inside a SilverStone MS09 SATA enclosure, plugged into a USB 3.2 10Gbps port. And because you want to know how slow a hard drive will be, we also ran the same test on a Western Digital 14TB EasyStore hard drive, plugged into a USB 3.2 10Gbps port. EasyStore is actually limited to USB 3.2 SuperSpeed 5Gbps.
What should you make of the above results? Well, clearly if you can install an SSD inside your PC, you will get the most performance out of it. But you should consider some context. If you’re just looking at the big long red bar at the top of the chart, consider that the particular test is measuring what would happen if you copied a large folder of files to an SSD. For most people, this is done only once.
The more common scenario is waiting for a game to launch. Running an internal NVMe drive will still be faster, but the difference narrows slightly. Among the three popular USB interfaces: USB 20Gbps, USB 10Gbps, and SATA at USB 10Gbps, the fastest is USB 3.2 20Gbps. With a USB 3.2 20Gbps SSD, you can watch battlefield v Shave 25 percent of load time compared to USB 3.2 10Gbps drives. Of course, the performance is also dependent on the game. For example, both Duty And Battle field See 45 percent or more bandwidth on an internal SSD, but with less graphical sharpness overwatchIt is close to 30 percent.
The second surprise is the performance of the SATA SSD vs NVMe SSD when the NVMe SSD is in a USB 3.2 10Gbps port. In the game load, save, and install scenarios, they’re pretty close. NVMe external SSDs open up to a huge edge over the slower SATA once you move to a task where you’re copying large amounts of files – such as cs:go Result. But then again, how often do you do that?
Of course we can’t leave it without mentioning that hard drives are just awful. Will it improve further with a faster hard drive? impossible. If storing games on an external drive is a SATA SSD, that’s the minimum you should be using, so don’t run games from your external hard drive unless you want to wait for everything.
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