HDD vs. SSD in a game comparison – the ideal storage for gamers

What effects does the use of an SSD have on computer games and does an NVMe SSD have any advantages at all? The answer.

HDDs still offer the best euro-per-gigabyte ratio, even though SSD prices have fallen sharply recently. You currently only pay a good 16 euros per terabyte of storage for the cheapest HDD, with an SSD the best ratio is just under 62 euros per terabyte. In terms of transfer rates, access time and reliability, however, magnetic storage media have the disadvantage of semiconductor drives. With the SSDs there are big differences with regard to the form factor – 2.5 inches or M.2 – and with regard to the storage connection – SATA, PCIe 3.0 or PCIe 4.0. In this article, we show what effects the different storage media have on the loading times in computer games.

The technology behind an HDD and an SSD

The first

Hard Disk Drive (HDD) (for price comparison)

saw the light of day in 1956. While the size of the first hard disk drives was given in megabytes, hard disks with several terabytes are now available. The data storage of an HDD takes place mechanically via read and write heads and rotating magnetic disks. The zeros and ones of the binary code correspond to a positive or negative magnetization. Due to the mechanical components, the access time is relatively high, as the read or write head first has to jump to the right place in order to read or change data.

Due to its mechanical design, an HDD clearly lags behind an SSD in terms of access times and failure rate. On the other hand, the euro-per-gigabyte ratio is significantly better.


Due to its mechanical design, an HDD clearly lags behind an SSD in terms of access times and failure rate. On the other hand, the euro-per-gigabyte ratio is significantly better.

© Seagate

Solid State Drives (SSDs) have actually been around since 1978, but they have only become more widespread in the consumer sector since around 2010. In contrast to an HDD, a semiconductor drive does not use any mechanics. Instead, the binary code is stored by charged or discharged energy cells. As a result, not only are the access times significantly lower, but also the risk of failure.

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The form factor determines the size of the SSD and whether additional cables are required for the installation. One

M.2 SSD (for price comparison)

you can insert it directly into a free M.2 slot on your motherboard or an expansion card, provided you have a corresponding mainboard. One

2.5-inch SSD (for price comparison)

instead, you have to supply your power supply unit with a SATA power cable and establish the data connection to the mainboard using a SATA cable. The speed of an SSD does not necessarily depend on its form factor, but rather on the transmission protocol supported. Both SATA SSDs and NVMe SSDs are available for the M.2 interface.

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The transfer protocol of a SATA-SSD is already hidden in the name, namely “ATA” or pronounced “AT Attachement”. Thanks to the ATAPI protocol, you can not only connect HDDs and SSDs to the SATA port on your mainboard, but also DVD drives or memory card readers. The third version of the SATA protocol – Serial ATA 6.0 Gbit / s – limits the physical transfer rate to 750 MB / s. In reality, the fastest SATA SSDs are well below this limit (560 MB / s reading and 535 MB / s writing). The NVMe protocol, in turn, can directly access the PCIe lanes on the mainboard, which are either connected to the CPU or the chipset. The theoretical maximum transfer rate depends on the PCIe standard. In the following table you can find the theoretically possible transfer rates as well as the maximum values ​​achieved in reality:



PCIe 2.0 x4

PCIe 3.0 x4

PCIe 4.0 x4

Theoretical transmission speed

6 GBit / s 750 MB / s

6 GBits / s 750 MB / s

20 GBit / s 2500 MB / s

32 GBit / s 4000 MB / s

64 GBit / s 8000 MB / s

Read rate achieved

280 MB / s

560 MB / s

1500 MB / s

3500 MB / s

7400 MB / s

Write rate achieved

280 MB / s

535 MB / s

1000 MB / s

3300 MB / s

7000 MB / s

Effects in computer games

The fact that an SSD can have a positive effect on the startup process of Windows, the loading times of programs or the opening of a large video project should be known to most. However, the rumor circulates time and again on the Internet that an SSD also influences the FPS numbers. We cannot generally confirm this, even if there are a few exceptions that can be traced back to level streaming. Level streaming describes the effect that occurs when you move around in the game world and the game has to reload the textures. This affects games with a high variety of textures such as GTA V or The Witcher 3. When switching from an HDD to an SDD, you should definitely not expect a large FPS jump.

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On the other hand, an SSD offers a real advantage when it comes to the loading times of a game, on average you only have to wait a good 40 percent that long. In extreme cases such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider or Kingdom Come Deliverance, the loading time can even be reduced to 10 seconds over a minute ago. Of course, the loading times not only include the start of the game, but also calling up savegames or changing levels in the game. These shorter loading times also benefit you in competitive games. So you either have a little longer time to warm up or your teammates don’t have to wait that long for you. Especially if the game or the whole PC should crash, there are often very tight time limits that you have to adhere to in order to be able to continue the game. In this case, shorter loading times help immensely when booting or starting the game.

Average loading time in ten games: HDD vs SATA SSD vs PCIe 3.0 SSD vs PCIe 4.0 SSD


Average loading time in ten games: HDD vs SATA SSD vs PCIe 3.0 SSD vs PCIe 4.0 SSD

Ultimately, the question that remains to be clarified is whether it makes sense to invest in a more expensive NVMe SSD or whether a normal SATA SSD is sufficient. In our experience, the difference between a SATA SSD and a PCIe 3.0 SSD is measurable but rarely noticeable. The average loading time in 10 games with an HDD is around 38 seconds. A SATA-SSD needs an average of 16.3 seconds to load the same games.

The NVMe SSD has an average of 14.7 seconds that is required, in purely arithmetical terms, ten percent ahead, in practice, however, very few people will notice if you have to wait one or two seconds longer. A difference between an NVMe SSD with PCIe 3.0 standard and one with PCIe 4.0 can no longer even really be measured. The PCIe 4.0 SSD does a good tenth of a second better on average, but this can also be attributed to measurement tolerances.

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