SSD Storage Shopping Guide: Best Bang For Your Bits

2018 SSD Storage Shopping Guide

The solid state storage market is highly competitive, and it is also one that changes rapidly as the technology continues to evolve and prices fluctuate due to various factors. There are dozens of companies with multiple product lines that vie for dominance in the SSD space, which can make selecting a drive for a system a rather daunting task for the uninitiated.

In this piece, we'll endeavor to make the task of buying an SSD a little easier for everyone by shining the spotlight on what we consider to be some of the better SSD deals currently available in a wide range of prices and capacities. Before we dig into the list, however, let's take a brief moment to review a few fundamentals for the less savvy users out there, which will be crucial to ensure the right SSD is chosen for a particular system.

M.2 And 2.5" SATA Solid State Drives

Before you purchase an SSD, you obviously need to make sure it will be compatible with your system and that you've got a free port to connect it. The most common and most affordable type of SSDs available today are 2.5" SATA-based drives. These drives use the now ubiquitous legacy SATA ports available on virtually every motherboard and typically top out at around 560MB/s, due to limitations of the interface. Though no longer considered high-end, SATA SSDs are still significantly faster than hard drives, both in terms of transfer rates and access latency, and they remain an excellent upgrade option for those still stuck with spinning, magnetic media.

M.2 SSDs are less common than their 2.5" SATA counterparts, but this is quickly changing. M.2 ports have been available on the last few generations of motherboards and offer not only a sleeker more diminutive form factor, but potentially better performance as well. M.2 SSD drives predominantly come in one of two types. First there are M.2 drives which use SATA-III transfer protocols and have a max speed that is on par with 2.5" SSDs. The other common variant of M.2 SSDs leverage the newer NVMe interface and connect to a system through PCI Express. Current NVMe drives can offer multi-gigabyte per second transfers, with even better latency characteristics than SATA. As long as your system supports it and you've got the budget, it is typically a better option to get an M.2 NVMe drive instead of a SATA drive.

With those basics out of the way, lets dive into the some of our recommendations... 

Adata SU800 128GB ($22.39)

ADATA SU800 128GB SATA3

Adata's SU800 is a particularly fast 128GB SSD that is also fairly inexpensive. It is capable of reading data at speeds up to 560MB/s, and it can write data almost as fast at 520MB/s, which makes it one of the faster, low-capacity SATA-III SSDs on the market. If you have enough cash, you'll probably want a drive with a higher capacity, but if you are shopping for something affordable to use as a boot volume that will be paired to other higher-capacity storage options, Adata's SU800 128GB SSD can serve as an excellent upgrade over a hard drive or slower SSD.

Samsung PM961 128GB ($48.99)

Samsung Polaris 128GB

Samsung's low-cost PM961 is one of the least expensive SSDs that we recommend for people that want NVMe, but are on a tight budget. 128GB isn't a ton of space, but this drive can read data at 2,800MB/s, which is several times faster than a SATA-III SSD. Its write performance is much lower at just 600MB/s, but it's still faster than what you can expect to see from a SATA-III SSD.

Samsung 860 Evo 250GB ($52.00)

Samsung 860 EVO 250GB SATA3

Samsung's 860 Evo 250GB SATA SSD offers read and write speeds of 550MB/s and 520MB/s, respectively, and at an affordable price point. This drive uses Samsung's latest V-NAND technology, has a good endurance rating, and is backed by one of the biggest, most respected names in solid state storage.

Samsung 860 Evo 500GB ($71.00)

Samsung 860 EVO 500GB SATA3

Samsung's higher capacity 860 Evo 500GB is also an excellent SSD solution. It's not the least expensive 500GB SSD on the market, but its strong read/write performance of 550MB/s / 520MB/s paired with its $72 price tag make it a good option in this segment of the market.

Adata XPG SX8200 480GB ($109.99)

Adata XPG SX8200 480GB NVMe

Adata's XPG SX8200 features 64-layer 3D NAND and is capable of reading data at speeds up to 3200MB/s with 1700MB/s writes. It also comes with a five year warranty, and has a relatively high 640TBW endurance rating. Adata also includes an optional heat spreader that you can attach to the drive to help keep it cool. For more information on Adata's XPG SX8200 480GB, check out our review.

Samsung 970 Evo 500GB ($129.97)

Samsung 970 EVO 500GB NVMe

Adata's 480GB XPG SX8200 is a strong contender, but if you can spare the extra $15 or so for Samsung's 970 Evo 500GB drive it is well worth the extra cost. In addition to the small  increase in capacity, Samsung's 970 Evo 500GB drive is also able to read data at 3,500MB/s and write data at 2,500MB/s, making it substantially faster than the 480GB XPG SX8200. It also has a higher 1,200TBW endurance rating.

Crucial MX500 1TB ($134.99)

Crucial MX500 1TB SATA3

Crucial's 1TB MX500 SSD is one of the least expensive 1TB 2.5" SSDs currently on the market. It uses 3D NAND technology and is able write data at 510MB/s and read data at 560MB/s. Random Read/Write IOPS performance is rated at 95K and 90K, respectively. The drive is a good choice if you need the additional storage space and have to connect it though the SATA interface.

Crucial P1 1TB ($169.99)

Crucial P1 1TB NVMe

This drive isn't the fastest M.2 NVMe SSD, but it's 1TB capacity and reasonable price tag make it more attractive. Performance tops out at 2,000MB/s (reads) and 1,750MB/s (writes), it offers a 5 year warranty and has an endurance rating of 200TBW.

Western Digital Black 1TB ($199.99)

WD Black 1TB NVMe

If you have an extra $30 or so in your budget and do lots of sequential transfers, WD's Black 1TB drive is s great option. The WD Black NVMe SSD offers reads speed of up to 3,400MB/s, with 2,800 MB/s writes. It is also has a good 600TBW endurance rating.

Adata XPG SX8200 Pro 1TB ($214.99)

Adata XPG SX8200 Pro 1TB NVMe

This 1TB SSD is in the same product line as the Adata XPG SX8200 480GB drive we listed above. Similar to that drive, it boasts an good durability rating of 640TBW, and it is has even faster read / write speeds than WD's Black 1TB model, at 3500MB/s reads and 3000MB/s writes. This drive will set you back an extra $15 though.

Samsung T5 500GB Portable SSD ($94.99)

Samsung T5 Portable 500GB USB3 1

Thanks to its support for USB 3.0 and its USB Type-C interface, this small, attractive, and durable portable SSD is able to transfer data at speeds of up to 540MB/s. If you're in need of some fast, portable, solid state the storage, the Samsung Portable SSD T5 is worth a look.

SilverStone SST-ECM20 M.2 To PCI-E Adapter ($18.95)
SilverSTone SST ECM20 Adapater

If you are still running a PC from a few years ago that doesn't have an M.2 port, this simple adapter will allow you to take advantage of the ultra-fast M.2 NVMe storage devices listed above -- though you may not be able to boot from one. It has multiple ports that are keyed for all of the different types of M.2 drives on the market and it's currently available for under 20 bucks.

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