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PlayStation 5 SSD Performance May be More Forgiving Than Expected

PlayStation 5
(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

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.

  • VforV
    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
    It's all great and dandy until people buy these out of spec cheaper SSDs that work NOW, with the games that PS5 has NOW, only to find out 1 or 2 years from now, that those newer games push the PS5 SSD+IO even more and that their aftermarket SDD fails miserably to work with them...

    Let's see how many get fooled by this erroneous messaging and live up to regret their decision.
    Reply
  • hotaru.hino
    The poster child for this "you need a super fast SSD!", Ratchet and Clank, didn't seem to actually need it anyway. That's not to say that this whole SSD thing was a gimmick, but I reckon most first-year and maybe second-year titles won't actually be designed around the PS5 or XBSX first.
    Reply
  • helper800
    VforV said:
    It's all great and dandy until people buy these out of spec cheaper SSDs that work NOW, with the games that PS5 has NOW, only to find out 1 or 2 years from now, that those newer games push the PS5 SSD+IO even more and that their aftermarket SDD fails miserably to work with them...

    Let's see how many get fooled by this erroneous messaging and live up to regret their decision.
    I'm no oracle, however, I doubt there will exist a game that uses a storage subsystem more than Ratchet and Clank even into the future on the PS5. Even if that does happen you can always get another faster drive and sell the old one or reuse it in a PC. Flash storage in the NVMe variety will, in my opinion, always be needed and welcomed in excess.
    Reply
  • Soaptrail
    VforV said:
    It's all great and dandy until people buy these out of spec cheaper SSDs that work NOW, with the games that PS5 has NOW, only to find out 1 or 2 years from now, that those newer games push the PS5 SSD+IO even more and that their aftermarket SDD fails miserably to work with them...

    Let's see how many get fooled by this erroneous messaging and live up to regret their decision.

    Even if that were to happen it still is better than running out of storage for those people who cannot afford the top of the line SSD's.
    Reply
  • salgado18
    helper800 said:
    I'm no oracle, however, I doubt there will exist a game that uses a storage subsystem more than Ratchet and Clank even into the future on the PS5. Even if that does happen you can always get another faster drive and sell the old one or reuse it in a PC. Flash storage in the NVMe variety will, in my opinion, always be needed and welcomed in excess.
    A fast point-to-point race (like a rally game), where the scenes are loaded in real time from disk. No reused assets, all fresh, new and detailed. You would need a drive not only fast, but with sustainable performance.

    There may never be a game that pushes it hard, but it still is a technical possibility.
    Reply
  • hotaru.hino
    Besides that, I suspect game developers won't even design around an NVMe SSD for a long time anyway unless they're doing a console exclusive. While higher range laptops are finally getting there in using a relatively spacious NVMe SSD, I don't really think the same could be said about a given desktop. At best I would only expect SATA SSD levels of performance.

    Well, give it a few more years and maybe we'll have something that actually requires an NVMe SSD. As in, it literally requires more than 500MB/sec reads constantly.
    Reply
  • helper800
    salgado18 said:
    A fast point-to-point race (like a rally game), where the scenes are loaded in real time from disk. No reused assets, all fresh, new and detailed. You would need a drive not only fast, but with sustainable performance.

    There may never be a game that pushes it hard, but it still is a technical possibility.
    Yeah, I was not trying to discount the technical possibilities of making a game that requires more from a storage device than Ratchet and Clank, but rather that the odds someone is going to do so are very low. Improbable != Impossible.
    Reply
  • Mandark
    can it take a Crucial P5 Plus? because that's what I would put in it

    I have several Crucial P5 nvme in usb enclosure. use two of them as external SSD game storage for my consoles and they are perfect
    Reply
  • VforV
    I guess you all forgot about the PS5 + UE5 show Lumen and Land of Nanite, that's exactly the kind of scenario where the SSD+IO is used even more than R&C RA, especially the last section of high speed flying and streaming of high rez assets (billions of polys), but not only.

    Of course I'm talking about 1st party exclusives here when I say, there will be games on PS5 that push the SSD+IO to it's limit, this is PS5 we're talking about here. This is what they do, like they amazed us with those games on PS4 era, the best of Sony studios will do it again with PS5, it's just a matter of time... and the SSD+IO will be part of that.

    If you thought R&C RA or HFW or GoW2 is all they can do, you're naive, this gen is only getting started and we all know based on the past that the best of them come after the 2nd half of the console generation. The minimum official specs of that SDD will come into play then.

    But hey let's bury our head into sand and not look into the future at all, because ignorance is a bliss.

    I remain by my 1st statement: this article and others and YT videos are spreading ill advised buying recommendations regarding SSDs for PS5.
    Reply
  • helper800
    VforV said:
    I guess you all forgot about the PS5 + UE5 show Lumen and Land of Nanite, that's exactly the kind of scenario where the SSD+IO is used even more than R&C RA, especially the last section of high speed flying and streaming of high rez assets (billions of polys), but not only.

    Of course I'm talking about 1st party exclusives here when I say, there will be games on PS5 that push the SSD+IO to it's limit, this is PS5 we're talking about here. This is what they do, like they amazed us with those games on PS4 era, the best of Sony studios will do it again with PS5, it's just a matter of time... and the SSD+IO will be part of that.

    If you thought R&C RA or HFW or GoW2 is all they can do, you're naive, this gen is only getting started and we all know based on the past that the best of them come after the 2nd half of the console generation. The minimum official specs of that SDD will come into play then.

    But hey let's bury our head into sand and not look into the future at all, because ignorance is a bliss.

    I remain by my 1st statement: this article and others and YT videos are spreading ill advised buying recommendations regarding SSDs for PS5.
    You do not understand how this hardware is actually utilized by the games being played on them. This is not bad advice just because you disagree with it. I want to know how you are so qualified to say this article is wrong.
    Reply