Every gamer knows just how easily latency can ruin a good time. In gaming, quality graphics delivered at high speeds are essential but not all memory solutions can support them equally, and a subpar option can result in a frustrating gaming experience.

What is latency?

Latency is how long an application has to wait to retrieve data, and high latency typically manifests as lag. Latency can impact both what the player is doing — like how quickly and accurately you can make moves with a gaming controller or keyboard — and the actual gameplay itself. For instance, if you are playing Fortnite Battle Royale and make a movement with the controller, but the on-screen action may not progress in time for that input to result in the game-winning move.

Latency can also affect how quickly a game loads. When you’re dealing with slower storage, such as a traditional hard disk drive (HDD), you may find yourself staring at a loading screen for a while or viewing a less detailed landscape than what your online competitors can see.

In short, games aren’t as fun if they have latency issues.

Changing the game with SSDs

Gamers spend hours talking about how to reduce latency. One way to improve performance is to use a solid state drive (SSD) instead of a traditional HDD.

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SSDs, unlike mechanical HDDs, use flash-based memory to store data. Because they have no moving parts, their read/write times are significantly faster, and those that use non-volatile memory express (NVMe) connections are even quicker because they link the drive directly to the computer’s PCIe lanes. This technology results in better throughput and even lower latency when gaming. These models are also smaller and, as prices have come down, affordable too.

How SSDs beat HDDs in gaming

The performance boost from an SSD is irrefutable, and that’s why many industry vendors and professional gamers are converting to NVMe SSDs.

Samsung’s NVMe SSDs are available in a variety of offerings, including the 980 Pro SSD, which has read/write speeds up to 7,000 MB/s and 5,100 MB/s. Samsung NVMe SSDs are so impressive that they have become the official drives for Riot Games’ League Championship Series computers specifically because they reduce latency and lag.

According to Donald Chan, system engineer at Riot Games, “After testing, we chose Samsung SSDs as our official LCS memory partner to give players the best performance and speed during crucial split-second reaction times and the reliability to keep performing through every game of the season.”

The superior reliability of SSDs also means you don’t have to worry about your game dying just as you’re about to conquer a level. One recent study published in PC Gamer found that failure rates for HDDs were significantly higher than those for SSDs. According to the study, SSDs had an annualized failure rate of 0.58%, compared to an annualized failure rate of 10.56% for HDDs.

Reliability and failure rates are tied to the actual form factors of the two types of drives. HDDs have spinning magnetic drives that store your data, and as you move into new terrain in-game, the program needs to pull more data to build that part of the world. A hard drive’s actuator arm has to move over the drive to find what you need to move forward, and eventually either the arm or the spinning disk is bound to fail. SSDs, on the other hand, have no moving parts, so it’s harder for components to break.

Ultimately, as the popular gaming publication IGN recently recommended, “If you’re still using a hard drive at the heart of your gaming PC, it’s absolutely time for you to make the upgrade to an SSD.”

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Karen Bannan

Karen J. Bannan is a veteran business, health, lifestyle and technology journalist with a wide range of publishing experience. Her tech and business work has appeared in Forbes, BusinessWeek Online, Adweek, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, MyBusiness Magazine, Government Computer News, Workforce Management, CFO, AdWeek, Crain's New York and Crain's BtoB.

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