These are the best M.2 SSDs you can buy this Holiday season

These are the best M.2 SSDs you can buy this Holiday season

Installing a new SSD for the first time, or replacing an older one, is the single most effective upgrade you can make to a PC. An SSD upgrade won’t cost you too much, doesn’t take long to install, and significantly improves your computing experience. It’s a tried-and-tested method to breathe new life into a computer.

Picking the right SSD however, can be a little complicated. Without getting into too many details, let’s stick to the M.2 form factor and stay relevant to this collection. M.2 drives are widely available on the market with capacities ranging from 250GB to 8TB. They’ve become a standard for laptops nowadays, but they’re also gaining popularity in the desktop space. Many high-end motherboards now have two or more M.2 slots. M.2 Type-2280 is the most commonly used size in both laptops as well as desktop boards.

While SATA-based SSDs are perfectly serviceable for basic workloads, we recommend you go with a PCIe-based M.2 SSD with NVMe support. NVMe (non-Volatile Memory Express) is a protocol for implementing PCIe. These SSDs are faster than the others because they tend to speak with your computer faster. These are the drives you should be looking for if your day-to-day workloads involve gaming, large file transfers, videos, high-end photo editing, transcoding, etc. When it comes to capacity, we also recommend you go as big as you can afford. The idea is to have enough storage for a fresh copy of Windows 11 and a couple of your most-used apps or most played video games.

We’ve included both PCIe Gen 3 and Gen 4 NVMe SSDs in this collection. While PCIe Gen 5 peripherals including the new SSDs are expected to launch soon, they’ll be available in limited quantities. Not to mention, the PCIe Gen 5 drives will also be very expensive at least until they go mainstream with other PCIe 5.0 peripherals. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the best M.2 SSDs you can buy on the market right now.

Note: You’ll need a PCIe 4.0 platform to take full advantage of the PCIe 4.0 SSDs. Your options are AMD’s Ryzen 3000 or Ryzen 5000 series processors in X570 and B550 motherboards. On the Intel side of things, you’ll need 500 series motherboards with Rocket Lake CPUs.

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Best overall PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSD – Western Digital Black SN850

An SSD with black colored heatsink installed on a motherboard

SpecificationWestern Digital Black SN850
Capacities250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
Form FactorM.2 2280 Single-sided
Transfer InterfacePCIe 4.0 x4 / NVMe 1.4
Sequential Reads/Writes7,000 MBps / 5,300 MBps
Warranty5 Years
EnduranceUp to 1,200 TBW

The Western Digital Black SN850 drive is our pick for the best SSD you can buy on the market right now. The SN850 builds on the merits of the last-gen SN750 to become the best performance drive. It uses the PCIe 4.0 interface to take advantage of double the theoretical bandwidth limit of other PCIe 3.0 drives. The SN850 can hit 7,000MB/s reads and 5,300MB/s writes in sequential transfers to stand out from the crowd.

The SN850 drive is available in 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB capacities with or without heatsinks. We recommend using some sort of a heatsink, if not the stock one, to keep your drive temperature in check. The drive comes in an M.2 2280 single-side form-factor with an NVMe controller, a DRAM chip, and two flash packages. The SN850 is powered by a proprietary Arm-based multi-core eight-channel PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe SSD controller, which WD likes to call WD_BLACK_G2. It’s built on TSMC’s 16nm FinFET technology.

WD’s Black SN850 also features a revamped SLC caching implementation called nCache 4.0. It supports hybrid SLC caching, which is similar to Samsung’s TurboWrite but in a larger capacity. The WD Black SN850 also features many safety mechanisms like multi-gear Low-Density Parity-Check (LDPC) ECC engine, internal SRAM ECC, and end-to-end data path protection in its ECC scheme, and more. All these features ensure the data on the drive is safe at all times.

The drive is also rated to endure up to 300TB of writes per 500GB of capacity, or up to 1,200TBW on the 2TB variant. The company also backs the Black SN850 with a five-year warranty. As we mentioned earlier, it’s recommended you outfit the SN850 with a heatsink, even inside a well-ventilated case. The drive is known to run hotter than other SSDs on the market, hitting upwards of 75°C under load.

Despite being late to the PCIe Gen 4 party, Western Digital’s Black SN850 has managed to top the list of best next-gen SSDs by spearheading the performance charts. This is also a great option for those looking to add more storage to their PS5 now that Sony has enabled the M.2 storage expansion on the console. The Black SN850 dethroned the Samsung 980 Pro by beating it in perhaps every other metric. PCIe 4.0 is all about speeds and the Western Digital Black SN850 is great in that regard. This is arguably the best M.2 SSD to buy right now, and we expect it to stay on top of the list at least until next-gen PCIe 5.0 drives arrive.

    Western Digital Black SN850
    The Western Digital Black SN850 is the best performing PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2 SSD on the market right now with impressive sequential read/write speeds.

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Second-Best PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSD – Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus

A peach colored SSD sitting in front of a white cabinet fan

SpecificationSabrent Rocket 4 Plus
Capacities1TB, 2TB, 4TB
Form FactorM.2 2280 Double-sided
Transfer InterfacePCIe 4.0 x4 / NVMe 1.4
Sequential Reads/Writes7,200 MBps / 6,900 MBps
Warranty5 Years (registration needed)
EnduranceUp to 2,800 TBW

The Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus M.2 SSD is just as good as the leader of the pack, if not better. It locks horns with the WD Black SN850 while saving you some money for other core components of the build. With peak reads of 7,100MB/s and writes of 6,600MB/s, the Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus performs better than the SN850 in synthetic benchmarks. It trails behind the SN850 in real-world tests, though.

The Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus uses the new Phison E18 controller. It’s a follow-up to the popular Phison E16 controller that’s running the show on first-gen PCIe 4.0 drives. It’s available in 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB capacities, with a five year warranty that’s good for 700TBW, 1,400TBW, and 3000 TBW endurance respectively. The drive also has Micron NAND flash and SK Hynix RAM for the cache.

Sabrent will also give you a copy of Acronis True Image to help transfer your current installation across. The company’s Rocket control panel is also decent to keep a tab on your drive’s operating conditions. Sabrent has been pushing the boundaries of storage drives lately. Besides the Rocket 4 Plus, Sabrent’s other drives like Rocket 4, Rocket Q, etc. are equally popular on the market.

The Rocket 4 Plus also runs cooler than the WD Black SN850. This makes it perfect for installing in Mini-ITX builds where the operating temperatures are usually higher. Sabrent is using a custom heatsink for the drive, which is perfect for an over-the-top PC build. There’s also a separate thinner heatsink for those who want to install it in their PS5.

The Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus may not be the fastest PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSD on the market. However, it comes close to the Black SN850 and even topples the Samsung 980 Pro with its impressive write speeds. We recommend going with the Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus over the WD Black SN850 if you don’t mind your drive being second to best in the performance sheets. It’s a sensible choice for most people since it’s essentially the cheapest second-generation PCIe 4.0 drive on market.

We also recommend checking out the Sabrent Rocket 4 drive. Even though we didn’t it to our collection to avoid too many options, it’s a reasonably priced PCIe 4.0 drive that’ll allow you to stay within the realm of PCIe 4.0 drives. It also comes in a 500GB capacity, something which Rocket 4 Plus doesn’t cover.

    Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus
    The Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus is a viable alternative to WD Black SN850 SSD.

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Best Value PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSD – Corsair Force Series MP600

A Corsair SSD with black colored heatsink instealled on a black motherboard with other components

SpecificationCorsair Force Series MP600
Capacities500GB, 1TB, 2TB
Form FactorM.2 2280 Double-sided
Transfer InterfacePCIe Gen 4.0 x4
Sequential Reads/Writes4,950 MBps / 4,250 MBps
Warranty5 Years
EnduranceUp to 3,600 TBW

Early adopters of the AMD Zen 2 processors got their first taste of PCIe 4.0 drives in the form of Corsair Force Series MP600 SSD. The MP600 was making rounds on the internet for being faster than even the best PCIe 3.0 drives at the time. Even though there are better, faster second-gen PCIe 4.0 drives on the market now, we think the Corsair Force Series MP600 is still a great option to consider.

With reads of 4,196MB/s and writes of 3,773 MB/s for incompressible data, the MP600 drive is still indistinguishable from many first-gen PCIe 4.0 offerings. It’s available in 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB capacities. The pricing is on par with the Samsung 970 EVO Plus PCIe 3.0 drive, which is why we think the Corsair Force Series MP600 is perfect for many users eyeing the PCIe 4.0 drives.

The Corsair Force Series MP600 drives have a higher endurance rating too — up to 850TBW for the 500GB drive, up to 1,800TBW for the 1TB drive, and up to 3,600TBW for the 2TB drive. These numbers are higher than some of our top contenders in the collection. The MP600 drive also features hardware-accelerated AES 256-bit encryption support for data safety. It also comes with the standard support for TRIM, S.M.A.R.T. data reporting, and secure erase via the Format NVM command.

The Corsair Force Series MP600 has its own heatsink and it’s included in the price, unlike most other performance-based SSDs. It’s an M.2 2280 form factor SSD, however, the massive 15mm thick heatsink prevents it from sitting next to the GPU. Corsair says the operating temps can be as high as 70°C, but it’s nothing that the massive heatsink can’t handle, even in an SFF build. The MP600 is powered by the Phison’s E16 PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe controller and Kioxia’s BiCS4 96L TLC flash.

If your budget doesn’t allow you to stretch your wings too much, then the Corsair Force Series MP600 is a solid recommendation. It may not trade blows with, say, the Black SN850, but the price-to-performance ratio makes it well worth considering. As good as the PCIe 3.0-based drives are, the MP600 will earn your PC some brownie points for staying up-to-date with the current generation. You’ll truly appreciate the performance uptick in real-world instances like gaming.

    Corsair Force Series MP600 SSD
    The Corsair Force Series MP600 is one of the first PCIe 4.0 SSDs on the market.

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Second-Best Value PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSD – Crucial P5 Plus

A black colored SSD installed on a motherboard

SpecificationCrucial P5 Plus
Capacities500GB, 1TB, and 2TB
Form FactorM.2 2280 Single-sided
Transfer InterfacePCIe 4.0 x4 / NVMe 1.4
Sequential Reads/WritesUp to 6,600 MBps / 5,000 MBps
Warranty5 Years
EnduranceUp to 1,200 TBW

The Crucial P5 Plus is one of those products that banks on the promise of value than flat-out performance. The drive is optimized for specific workloads and reliability than trying to excel at everything at once. Crucial is using the in-house Crucial NVMe Architecture controller for these sticks. It has an eight channel design that leverages LPDDR4 DRAM to accelerate FTL management. While the 500GB and the 1TB model uses 1GB of DRAM, the 2TB model uses 2GB.

The Crucial P5 Plus is rated for sequential reads and write speeds of 6,600MB/s and 4,000MB/s respectively. It’s not in the same ballpark as some other drives on the list, but it’s going to be useful to power high-end gaming systems. The P5 Plus sticks come with five years of warranty and a decent endurance of up to 1,200 TBW for the 2TB variant. The endurance halves for the lower capacity sticks.

One of the highlights of the P5 Plus drive is it supports TRIM, S.M.A.R.T. data reporting, AES 256-bit full-disk encryption based on the TCG OPAL 2.0 specification. The encryption will keep the data safe, and the drive is Windows BitLocker compliant too. Crucial provides the company’s own SSD toolbox and some cloning software to help transfer from an existing drive.

The Crucial P5 Plus sits in between the best of PCIe Gen3 and newer PCIe Gen4 drives. It may not have the fastest read/write speeds, but it competes with the best for optimized workloads like the one you’ll find in PCMark 10. Crucial is also banking on the use of Micron’s replacement gate architecture which combines both charge traps with the company’s CMOunder array technology. The new replacement gate suffers from reduced cell-to-cell capacitive coupling issues, lowered resistance levels, and more. All these work in favor of the P5 Plus for improved reliability and endurance over time.

We still think some of the newer PCIe 4.0 drives like the Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus are superior in terms of raw performance. But Crucial’s emphasis on longevity makes it a compelling option over the high-end drives on the market. Overall, we think the Crucial P5 Plus has earned a spot in our collection as a reliable option for those who want a PCIe 4.0 drive without spending top dollars. It undercuts most of the high-end performance drives by up to $40 depending on the variant you go for.

    Crucial P5 Plus SSD
    The Crucial P5 Plus is not the fastest PCIe 4.0 SSD on the market, but it's priced well for the performance & features it brings to the table.

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Best RGB M.2 SSD – XPG SPECTRIX S20G

SSD with an RGB jacket sitting on a table next to a keyboard

SpecificationXPG SPECTRIX S20G
Capacities500GB, 1TB
Form FactorM.2 2280 Single-sided
Transfer InterfacePCIe 3.0 x4 / NVMe 1.3
Sequential Reads/WritesUp to 2,500 MBps / 1,800 MBps
Warranty5 Years
EnduranceUp to 600 TBW

We believe any list involving storage devices is incomplete without the inclusion of ADATA, which is why we’ve decided to add this M.2 RGB SSD to the mix. The XPG Spectrix is not competing to be the fastest drive on the collection. Instead, it’s here to bring the RGB lights. It’s the only SSD in our collection to have RGB lights, making it perfect for gaming builds that are already dripping with RGB.

The XPG SPECTRIX S20G is also one of the better-looking drives on the list. It features a two-tone design that blends brushed aluminum with frosted plastic. The plastic portion lights up when the system is turned on. It’s not just RGB though. There’s a heatsink under the housing to keep the drive’s temperatures in check

The S20G is available in 500GB and 1TB configurations, with sequential read and write speeds of 2,500MB/s and 1,800MB/s respectively. The S20G is based on the PCIe 3.0 interface, which is why the read/write speeds are rather underwhelming. The drive supports both SLC Caching and Host Memory Buffer, with which it achieves random read/write speeds of 160K/190K IOPS. The S20G stick also benefits from LDPC (Low-Density Parity-Check) error correcting code technology to detect and fix a wider range of data errors.

Similar to the Crucial P5 Plus SSD, the XPG S20G also features AES 256 encryption to ensure the security and integrity of the data. ADATA says the drives come with a five year warranty and are rated at 600TBW. The operating temperature of the drive is usually by the lighting effects in RGB SSDs. XPG says the drive will operate anywhere between 0°C to 70°C, which is more in line with the other offerings.

The fact that XPG S20G M.2 PCIe 3.0 SSD is designed for gaming is clearly reflected in its style. We wish ADATA had released an updated variant with a PCIe 4.0 interface to keep up with the growing needs in this space. That being said, your options are fairly limited when it comes to RGB-enabled SSD sticks. The underlying issue here appears to be the effect of lighting settings on the overall performance.

The XPG SPECTRIX S20G is one of the few RGB-enabled SSDs on the market with another option being the Patriot Viper VPR100. Both are PCIe 3.0-based drives with a very similar set of specifications. We couldn’t find any other reliable RGB-enabled M.2 SSDs on the market to match our top contenders. Hopefully, this will change with the upcoming launch of the PCIe 5.0 drives that are expected to accompany Intel’s Alder Lake processors.

    XPG SPECTRIX S20G
    The XPG SPECTRIX S20G is the only SSD in this collection to have RGB lights.

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Best PCIe 3.0 M.2 SSD – Samsung 970 EVO Plus

A black colored SSD unit with a label

SpecificationSamsung 970 EVO Plus
Capacities250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
Form FactorM.2 2280 Single-sided
Transfer InterfacePCIe 3.0 x4 / NVMe 1.3
Sequential Reads/Writes3,500 MBps / 3,200 MBps
Warranty5 Years
EnduranceUp to 1,200 TBW

While the last-gen PCIe 3.0 M.2 SSDs are no match against the newer PCIe 4 drives, we think they’re still worth picking up if you’re not too worried about chasing the cutting-edge performance. The Samsung 970 EVO Plus is our pick in that regard. The 970 EVO Plus replaced the highly popular 970 EVO drive as the mainstream PCIe 3.0 SSD before the new-gen drives arrived. It’s equipped with a V5 flash that provided a nice speed bump to 3.5GB/s of sequential reads.

Thanks to the TurboWrite cache, the 970 EVO Plus SSD has varied sequential write speeds. It’s based on how much data lands in the hands of the cache memory. The Samsung 970 EVO Plus is available in 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB capacities with an endurance rating of 150 TBW, 300 TBW, 600 TBW, and 1,200 TBW respectively. They come in an M.2 2280 single-sided form factor and feature Samsung’s Phoenix controller.

Samsung added a nickel coating on the Phoenix controller and a thin copper film on the back of the PCB to help dissipate heat. The Samsung 970 EVO Plus model comes with the company’s advanced Dynamic Thermal Guard implementation. It forces the drive to transfer more data during the sequential writes before throttling kicks in.

There’s a lot to like about the Samsung 970 EVO Plus drive. Thanks to Samsung’s superior SSD technology, the 970 EVO Plus is a desirable SSD even in today’s world of PCIe 4.0 drives. They’re not as efficient as the newer SSDs on the market, but they’re great for somebody who’s upgrading an older machine with a slower storage solution. The Samsung 970 EVO Plus is also a great option for those building a new PC on a budget.

The Samsung 970 EVO Plus was popular for its write performance at the time. It’s still considered to be among the best to handle tough workloads which is why we think it’s one of the best PCIe 3.0 M.2 SSD on the market right now. As a last-generation product, the Samsung 970 EVO Plus is also not as expensive as it once used to be. You can pick up a 250GB variant of this drive for as low as $65, which is a fantastic deal for the kind of performance it brings to the table. You might want to keep an eye on the stocks since Samsung is not making as many units of this drive as it once used to.

    Samsung 970 EVO Plus SSD
    The Samsung 970 EVO Plus is still a fantastic PCIe 3.0 SSD for those who're not chasing the cutting-edge SSD technology.

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Second-Best PCIe 3.0 M.2 SSD – Western Digital Blue SN550

A blue colored SSD with its components and a label

SpecificationWestern Digital Blue SN550
Capacities250GB, 500GB, 1TB
Form FactorM.2 2280 Single-sided
Transfer InterfacePCIe 3.1 x4 / NVMe 1.3
Sequential Reads/Writes2,400 MBps / 1,750 MBps
Warranty5 Years
EnduranceUp to 600 TBW

The Western Digital Blue SN550 has its fair share of compromises, but we’ve decided to add it to our collection mainly because it delivers reliable performance at rock-bottom prices. As WD’s mainstream NVMe SSDs, the Blue SN550 offers incredible value for economical shoppers. It’s available in 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB capacities.

The Blue SN550 drives are rated to deliver sequential read and write speeds of up to 2,400 MB/s and 1,750 MB/s respectively. One thing to keep in mind is the 250GB capacity drive can only hit 950MB/s on the write side of things. The SSD supports Trim, S.M.A.R.T. data reporting, a multi-gear ECC scheme as well as various other standard flash management technologies. All these things help retain the NAND flash’s longevity. WD says the Blue SN550 drives come with a five year warranty and are rated to endure up to 600TB of writes at the largest capacity.

Western Digital has also cleverly separated the components on the SSD to distribute and dissipate heat more efficiently. It prevents the heat transfer from one component to the other to ensure the smooth function of the drive. WD’s Blue SN550 beats the QLC NAND drives like Intel’s SSD 665p and Crucial’s P1. It even dominates the Corsair Group MP33, another DRAMless SSD that suffers greatly when pushed beyond its cache. We’d rather have a slow yet reliable performer than something that comes down to its knees when you hammer it with heavy loads.

Overall, the WD Blue SN550 is one of the most consistent M.2 SSDs the market has seen in many years. It may not be the fastest SSD out there, but it’s perfectly serviceable to be used as the primary storage on a budget PC build. The Blue SN550 is also proven to respond faster than the more premium WD Black SN750 in some cases. It’s a fantastic SSD to work as your boot drive, or it can be used to dump less frequently used data. You can also pair the Blue SN550 with an external NVMe adaptor to carry the data when you are on the go.

    Western Digital Blue SN550
    The Western Digital Blue SN550 SSD offers a great value for money. We think it's perfect for budget gaming builds.

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Best High-Capacity M.2 SSD – Sabrent Rocket Q

An SSD unit with white colored label sitting on a motherboard waiting to be installed

SpecificationSabrent Rocket Q
Capacities500GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, 8TB
Form FactorM.2 2280 Double-sided
Transfer InterfacePCIe 3.0 x4 / NVMe 1.3
Sequential Reads/Writes3,300 MBps / 2,900 MBps
Warranty5 Years
EnduranceUp to 1,800 TBW

What’s the maximum capacity of an M.2 SSD? Sabrent added a shocking answer to that question with the launch of its Rocket Q series drives. Rocket Q is the world’s first 8TB SSD in an M.2 form-factor. Yes, you can buy a Rocket Q M.2 SSD with 8TB of storage right now and never worry about the growing size of Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare. It’ll be an expensive installation, though.

Before the Sabrent Rocket Q’s arrival, a 2.5 inch SATA SSD was the only option to add more storage beyond 2TB. Even those drives were limited to about 4TB capacity and were no match to the speed of NVMe SSDs. None of the manufacturers were ready to push the boundaries by pairing QLC NAND with an 8-channel NVMe controller to deliver a high-performance and high-capacity QLC M.2 NVMe drive.

Sabrent changed by pairing a Phison E12S NVMe controller and Micron’s 96L QLC NAND flash to come up with the Rocket Q — a high-performance and high-capacity monster for all the data hoarders. The Sabrent Rocket Q comes in 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, and 8TB capacities. Sabrent says the Rocket Q drives can hit a maximum sequential read and write speeds of up to 3.2GB/s and 3.0GB/s respectively. The write speeds however, depend on the dynamic write cache.

The write performance starts degrading as the SLC write cache is depleted during large transfers. This is one of the biggest tradeoffs of QLC flash. Speaking of tradeoffs, the Rocket Q also has low endurance compared to TLC SSDs. Sabrent is offering a five year warranty for the drives though.

The only real drawback is the associated price tag. An 8TB Sabrent Rocket Q will cost you a hefty $1,500 — the average price of a gaming laptop. Intel’s Optane SSD 905P is the only drive carrying such a high price tag, but it doesn’t come close to the 8TB capacity. The Rocket Q demands top dollars for being the only M.2 NVMe SSD of its kind. As long as the workload is within the cache limits, the Sabrent Rocket Q will perform as advertised and nothing else comes close.

    Sabrent Rocket Q SSD
    The Sabrent Rocket Q is the industry's highest capacity NVMe SSD with up to 8TB storage

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Final Thoughts

That concludes our collection of the best M.2 SSDs on the market. The Western Digital Black SN850 remains our best pick on this list for being the fastest PCIe 4.0 SSD around. It’s the M.2 SSD we think should go into your next high-end gaming PC. The Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus comes close to become our second-best pick. Both are fantastic options if you want the fastest drives around.

If you’re leaning towards a budget build, then you might want to consider buying the WD Blue SN550 or the Samsung 970 EVO Plus SSDs. As last-gen products, they’re not as expensive as the top contenders in our collection and are also compatible with a variety of platforms. They’ll either serve as perfect boot drive options on a budget build or they can be used to store the less-frequently files in your system.

Building a new PC doesn’t have to be a daunting task. You can make it easier by tackling one component at a time. Just make sure you’re not spending all the time only on the core components like the CPU, GPU, and motherboard. Even the peripherals like keyboards, monitors, webcams, etc. play a vital role in making your computing experience better.

About author

Karthik Iyer
Karthik Iyer

Karthik covers PC hardware for XDA Computing. When not at work, you will find him yelling at his monitors while playing video games.