Storage solutions like hard drives can only get gamers so far when looking to play the next generation of games. The most popular video games on the market often clarify they should be installed on an SSD as opposed to an HDD for the best experience. The reason behind it boils down to access speed and asset-dependent loading.
This is no fault of the hard drive's design but a testament to how games are built regarding the need for responsive storage speed to load assets.
Besides being a requirement for some games, SSDs improve performance through faster load times. Games that require SSDs and are put on hard drives see significant performance decreases due to improper utilization of the CPU and RAM caused from slower than anticipated speeds.
This article goes into whether PC games run better on SSD or if there is little-to-no noticeable difference.
How Much Does an SSD Improve Game Performance?
SDDs improve the loading times for all video games. Performance issues like micro stutters occur when the game needs to load assets faster than it can display, causing the texture to blur and large increases in frame render times by multiple milliseconds. Loading a game from an SSD reduces the occurrence of micro stutters due to the faster load times.
In worst-case scenarios, some games will make impromptu load screens to take the time to load textures before proceeding.
In addition to quicker loading times, some games like Star Citizen or Microsoft Flight Simulator base their open-world features on quick asset loading due to their map size. This makes performance drops more noticeable and the potential for crashes.
Traditional hard drives often don't offer performance improvements. SSDs, on the other hand, improve asset-load and load times in general, giving you a faster, more reliable gaming experience.
In-Game Performance Improvements from SSDs
SSDs & Frame Rate (FPS)
SSDs contribute to the render time between talking to the CPU and GPU and their respective DRAM and VRAM, meaning games may see improved frame rates thanks to the quicker load times. The relation where an SSD can affect FPS is the render time designated between the GPU and CPU. The render time between frames is measured in milliseconds and typically is between 4-8ms depending on the GPU and monitor. When assets aren't drawn fast enough from storage, CPU bottlenecking occurs which introduces stuttering in your game.
SSDs & Graphics
Much like the relation to FPS, the graphics settings also affect what objects from far away look like and what they are supposed to look like when they get closer. In games, it's common to hear this be called “draw distance” or “render distance,” which controls when assets “pop in” into view.
Since SSD can improve asset-load time, you may see an improvement in graphic quality since the required assets get loaded quicker. That said, SSDs don't directly improve graphic quality since that primarily relies on your GPU and in-game settings.
For most games, you may notice entities popping in and out of frame on the corner of your screen. This is how actively games load and unload assets on your screen.
SSDs & CPU
This area is the least impactful for PC gaming due to the low utilization of CPU cores while gaming; this can be emphasized if the CPU is dramatically outclassed by the game's requirements or storage solution performance. While behavior like lower quality textures, artifacting, and render time attributed to the GPU, micro stutters or full-on freezes regarding storage solutions due to CPUs are also typical if the assets are not pulled from the storage fast enough.
When accompanied by a significant change in texture quality; then the cause is waiting for the storage to load the assets.
Benefits of Running Games on SSDs
Faster Boot Times
When loading Windows or your operating system of choice, SSDs load significantly faster than conventional hard drives. Since the late 2000s to early 2010s, manufacturers have focused on SSDs or NVMe as the preferred storage device for any OS.
Speed differences range from five to ten times faster than conventional hard drives are standard and are sometimes necessary to load this newest generation of games and operating systems like Windows 11.
Faster Load Times
It’s no secret that SSD speeds triumph over conventional hard drives in performance. These primary speed differences contribute to loading times often experienced by many games.
Asset-dependent games like Minecraft, Fallout 4, Skyrim, and others can all see benefits when on an SSD compared to an HDD. You may have heard of read and write speeds regarding SSD or hard drives; the read speeds directly affect loading times dependent on the storage efficiency.
As stated above, smoother gameplay is expected when you have storage that can keep up with the CPU and GPU. Micro stutters directly relate to how information to the SSD gets delayed, affecting the gameplay experience.
While you can induce this with hard drives, if a game stored on an SSD or NVME experiences hitches and micro stutters, then some investigation may be warranted into the health of the storage itself or the in-game settings about higher quality textures.
FAQ For Games Running Better on SSDs
Do Games Lag Less on SSDs?
Games will lag less on SSDs than hard drives due to their responsive reading difference. Here is the following hierarchy according to read speed; 1st is Gen. 5/4/3 NVMes, 2nd place is SATA SSDs, and last is SATA HDDs.
Which Games Should Go on an SSD?
Developers will state if a game needs to be on an SSD to become playable. Regardless of the requirement, games in your “rotation” of most playtime should be on an SSD. This is especially useful for genres like open-world, multiplayer games, and games with more storage requirements for more assets.
Summary of Running Games on SSDs
Running video games on SSDs is an excellent choice if you can afford the storage requirements. Some developers recommend putting their games on SSDs in their requirements but not always. Depending on how responsive you want your storage, you can mix SSDs, NVMes, and hard drives to best suit your needs.
At Apex Gaming PCs, we are committed to offering an extensive range of hard drives, SSDs, and NVMes for you to upgrade to when you choose one of our custom gaming PCs. Alternatively, you can spec even more storage options in our build your own PC option capable of offering cases and components with Terabytes worth of support. Whatever your storage needs, we hope to be of service at Apex!
Written By William Wilson
Pictures: Pavan Bhakta, Plazmataz Plays