From budget SATA to fast NVMe
By Jean Jacques Maleval
Finding the best SSD or solid-state drive for your specific system and needs is key if you want the best gaming PC or laptop, or even if you just want a snappy productivity machine. A slow storage drive often leads to a big bottleneck, forcing your processor (even if it’s one of the best CPUs for Gaming) to waste clock cycles, waiting for data to crunch. To speed up your writes and reads, you need a speedy SSD. To figure out which is the best SSD, we test dozens of drives each year and highlight the best drives here.
Picking the Best SSD for You
Drives like Adata’s Falcon M.2 and the Intel 665p undercut mainstream drives on the slower SATA interface (which was originally designed for hard drives), but we shouldn’t expect to see the end of SATA drives in the near future. Companies are still doing new things with SATA, like Team Group’s cavernous 15.3 TB drive. Existing SATA drives will have to continue to get more affordable in order to at least compete on price, but they can’t hope to keep up with newer NVMe drives on performance.
Blazing-fast PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSDs have become common, and will likely become more mainstream now that Intel has finally joined the PCIe 4.0 support party with Z590 and 11th Gen Rocket Lake CPUs. These drives increase sequential speeds dramatically (thanks to a doubling of the PCIe bus bandwidth), making them the best SSDs for those who need the fastest speed possible. For example, the Samsung 980 PRO can read and write at 7,000 and 5,000 MBps respectively and drives based on Phison’s second-gen controller promise up to 7,400 / 7000 MBps sequential speeds.
But to make use of that speed today, you’ll need either an X570 motherboard or B550 board on the AMD side, or a new Z590 motherboard from Intel.
All that said, keep in mind that in many ways, beyond the obvious bump in sequential performance, users might not see much in the way of real-world benefits from these faster drives in typical applications like gaming or light desktop work. Naturally, file transfers and other workloads, like video editing or more heavy workloads, will benefit. It really depends on how heavily you use your drive.
Quick Shopping Tips
When choosing an SSD, consider the following:
- Pick a compatible interface (M.2 PCIe, SATA, Add-in Card): Look at your user manual or a database like the Crucial Memory Finder to determine what types of SSD your computer supports.
- 512GB to 1TB: Don’t bother getting an SSD smaller than 256GB. 512GB provides a good balance between price and capacity if you’re on a tight budget. But 1TB drives are getting significantly cheaper and 2TB drives are now more affordable than ever.
- SATA is slowest: SATA isn’t as fast as M.2 PCIe or a PCIe add-in card, but the majority of desktops and many laptops can take 2.5-inch SATA drives and many doing typical mainstream tasks users won’t notice the difference between a good recent SATA drive and a faster PCIe model anyway.
For even more information, check out our SSD Buyer’s Guide. Or if you’re looking for an external SSD, you can check out our Best External Hard Drives and SSD page, or learn how to save some money by building your own external SSD. Below, you’ll find our recommendations for drives with all three major interfaces.
To read this article from Tom’s Hardware, click on:
Best SSDs 2021: From Budget SATA to Blazing-Fast NVMe
Based on extensive tests, these are best SSDs for every need and budget:
1. Samsung 980 Pro
2. Kingston KC3000
3. WD Black SN850
4. Crucial P5 Plus
5. Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus
6. SK hynix Gold P31
7. Samsung 970 EVO Plus
8. Crucial P5 M.2 NVMe SSD
9. Patriot Viper VPR100
10. Sabrent Rocket Q
11. Samsung 980
12. WD Blue SN570
13. Samsung 870 EVO
14. Crucial MX500
15. Samsung 860 PRO
16. Intel Optane SSD DC P5800X
17. Seagate FireCuda 530
18. Corsair MP600 Pro XT
19. WD Black AN1500