The latest generation of consoles from Sony and Microsoft were designed with user-upgradable internal storage system in mind. Sony has launched upgrade SSDs for its PlayStation 5 console, and as game install sizes balloon, users are likely to need to either add to or upgrade their consoles' storage capacity. A new Digital Foundry performance analysis on different SSDs deployed in Sony's PS5 has shed some light on what users should expect in terms of how an SSD change may impact their experience.
Digital Foundry's analysis compares the cheapest available drive that conforms to Sony's specification requirements, a 250 GB Western Digital SN750 ($55) as well as one of the best SSDs currently in the market - Western Digital's SN850 ($149 MSRP for the 500 GB capacity) against the PS5's integrated SSD. The spec difference between these drives is not to be scoffed at - the 250 GB SN750 is rated at 3,200 MB/s reads; the PS5's internal SSD is rated at 5,500 MB/s speeds; and the WD SN850 forges ahead with 7,000 MB/s of high-speed SSD goodness. The results, however, are far from what one would expect from those seemingly immensely different performance ratings.
When it comes to actual gaming, there was virtually no difference in performance from any of the tested drives. Even while testing Ratchet & Clank: A Rift Apart, an extremely taxing game for the storage subsystem (on account of it loading up entirely different maps instantaneously, after entering reality-altering rifts), frame-rate didn't move a millimeter between the tested SSDs.
Differences start to appear when it comes to cold-booting games, with the faster drives offering a better, faster experience. In Digital Foundry's tests cold-booting A Rift Apart on the PS5's stock SSD took seven seconds from key press to game menu; the faster-on-paper SN850 took eight seconds; and the SN750 took ten seconds - a negligible difference in human terms.
The differences were far greater when transferring installed games between your PS5's internal storage and your choice of SSD expansion, however. In that regard, copying the 60 GB install of Ghost of Tsushima to the 250 GB SN750 took a long seven minutes to complete. Copying the same game to the SN850 took only 49 seconds. The PS5's internal SSD delivered performance around the same ballpark of the SN750 in this particular test.
How does this all translate to the real world, then? Well, it seems that for gaming purposes only, choosing a PS5-compatible SSD is easy: just go with the best price/performance option you have at the time (if you need help, our handy PS5 SSD Expansion guide will be invaluable to you). If you care about the best possible performance for game copying and really value those extra two to three seconds of playing time delivered by the SN850's faster cold-boot times, or if you plan to use your SSD expansion across your PS5 and eventually your own PC, choosing the fastest SSD available will definitely bring some manner of advantage - and our SSD guide can help you in choosing that as well.