The 10 Best Solid State Drives
This wiki has been updated 33 times since it was first published in April of 2015. Solid-state drives offer huge advantages over traditional hard disks, such as durability, faster transfer rates, and ultra-low power usage. Now that their prices have entered a sensible, consumer-friendly range, SSDs are, finally, a popular means of increasing system storage as well as overall speed. You'll find a variety of connectors and bus types here to suit different computers. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 23, 2020:
The average PC will be sped up significantly and reasonably and future-proofed wit the Samsung 970 Evo Plus or Adata XPG SX8200 Pro, but if you want to take it to the next step, a PCIe 4.0 model like the Gigabyte Aorus or Sabrent Rocket Extreme is worth a look, although the latter uses an especially bulky heatsink that won't fit in all setups. The XPG Gammix S50 is in the same speed class, and also comes in a light version, but doesn't come with a heatsink, which you'll probably need to avoid throttling and potential damage.
On the external side of things, the Sabrent Rocket XTRM-Q leverages both the USB 3.2 standard and Thunderbolt 3, making it highly versatile, while the Sabrent Rocket Nano External is about as small as portable NVMe storage gets. The Samsung X5 is, of course, still a great choice, and promises top-of-the-line speeds, although at a similarly high price.
December 16, 2020:
The world of solid-state-drives continues to rapidly evolve and grow. As with most computer hardware, there are many specifications, different form-factors, and compatibility issues that can be very confusing. If you're looking to build a new system or upgrade, the one imperative thing to keep in mind is what type of connections your system will support.
Models such as the Samsung 860 QVO and the Crucial MX500 rely upon a Serial ATA, also known as a SATA connection. Some of the portable devices, such as the Samsung T5 and Sandisk Extreme are able to be plugged into a USB Type-C port, and can also function with an older USB ports as well. Most recent computer systems will have both of these kinds of connections.
Devices such as the Seagate Barracuda 510 and the Samsung 970 Evo Plus need a different kind of interface, known as PCI Express. They require a special slot on your motherboard, and aren't compatible with traditional SATA connectors.
When looking at the numbers and specifications, feel free to delve as deeply as you like, as that's certainly part of the fun when it comes to picking out new hardware. Any of these options will provide a noticeable increase in speed over traditional HDDs. We've attempted to pick out the best options and included varying models for different needs.
For this update, we've removed four items, the Samsung X5, the OWC Envoy Pro EX, My Passport, and the Adata SE730H. We've replaced with models we feel offer better value. We've also updated the listings for the Samsung T5, the Samsung 970 Evo Plus and the Crucial MX500. We also removed the previous listing for the Samsung 860 Evo due to availability issues. It has been replaced with the more popular SATA form-factor version, the Samsung 860 Evo Internal, and its description and details have been changed to match the new item.
The Sandisk Extreme is an excellent portable option and is built to sustain drops of up to two-meters. The Samsung 860 Evo Internal is one of the best 2.5 inch models available, and has a reliability that has been praised by critics and customers alike. The Samsung 980 Pro, the WD_Black SN750 Internal Gaming are both PCIe compatible drives that offer exceptional performance for gamers or professionals. Finally the Seagate Barracuda 510 is the company's NVMe style addition to its famed line up of traditional HDDs.
May 27, 2019:
There are a handful of different form factors, connectors, and bus speeds to be aware of here. The SATA bus tops out at 6 gigabits per second, which theoretically equates to 600 megabytes per second, although in the real world the ceiling is lower than that, usually around 450 megabytes per second. The PCIe bus can move considerably more data and is able to accommodate multiple gigabytes per second.
Most modern external drives connect using USB Type-A or Type-C connectors. USB 3.1 Gen 1 and Gen 2 will generally have SATA chipsets inside them, as they share a similar top end limit. Western Digital's My Passport, Adata SE730H, and Samsung's T5 are great examples. They're all highly shock-resistant and should hold up well over time, though the Samsung does have a somewhat more respected pedigree. The Samsung X5 and the OWC Envoy Pro EX, on the other hand, utilize the ultra-quick Thunderbolt 3 standard and make good use of the PCI NVMe drives inside of them. They are, however, conisderably more expensive than a more run-of-the-mill USB model.
When it comes to the stuff inside your PC, there are even more things to remember. The buses are the same but the connectors are very different. The most compact personal computers use M.2 drives such as the ultra-small Samsung Evo, which has a small form factor and uses the SATA III bus. It's about as fast in large file writing than any SATA drive, though for random read and power-up speeds, it can definitely excel.
If you're upgrading an older machine and moving on from the generally antiquated hard disk drive, the Crucial MX500 or Samsung QVO are worth a look. They work with a huge range of older motherboards -- in fact, they're basically plug-and-play swaps for the old clicking magnetic media of an HDD, they're just much smaller (though, interestingly, they consume about the same amount of electricity, despite having zero moving parts).
Anyone who is looking for speed, though, will want to look into the NVMe drives. Once again, Samsung comes out on top here. This is very common now and has been for a couple years, as Samsung has been on the cutting edge of NAND flash memory development and quality control. Their 970 Evo Plus is consistenly considered the fastest and most reliable. However, while it's the best, it's also very pricey. If you don't want to wait for resource-intensive games to load or files to copy, and you don't want to spend a ton, Consider one of Adata's high-speed offerings. They can't quite match the read speeds of Samsung's offerings, but in terms of affordability, they're quite superior.
Intel Optane Most consumers won't need this kind of performance, but Intel's most recent technology, co-developed with world memory leader Micron, offers next-level data processing and storage and is especially useful for workstations and data centers. The trade-offs are multiple; the drives are exorbitantly expensive in all their forms, and only certain motherboards and PCIe controllers will be able to take full advantage of them, but if you need top-of-the-line engineering and have the know-how to configure and utilize it, this may be the way to go. intel.com
Understanding How A Computer's Memory Works
The cache and RAM operate in nanoseconds, while the hard drive operates in milliseconds.
In the most basic sense, a computer's memory has three parts: cache, the memory, and the hard disk. Each one of these parts performs a specific function.
The cache, which is the innermost memory unit, performs the calculations and procedures of your computer as it operates. It is a component of the high-speed static RAM, also known as SRAM. The majority of programs a computer uses access the same data again and again, storing this data in the SRAM allows the computer to access this information as quickly as possible, without having to access the DRAM, which is slightly slower.
This makes a computer more efficient when running commonly used programs. The electrical pathways to the cache are shorter than the pathways to the memory or the hard disk, making data available nearly instantaneously.
The memory, most often referred to as RAM, is where a computer stores information that is related to processes and programs that are currently active. RAM storage is temporary and it is only stored while a computer is powered on. It helps a computer run memory-extensive programs more quickly by temporarily transferring that programs information from the hard disk to the RAM. RAM can achieve speeds exceeding 15,000mbps, making accessing information on it much faster than accessing memory on a standard hard drive, which can reach speeds somewhere in the area of 1,000mbps.
All other information on a computer is stored in the hard drive, including program data, files, images, settings, etc. In order to access this information, a computer must first load it from the hard drive to the RAM, which makes the process take longer. The cache and RAM operate in nanoseconds, while the hard drive operates in milliseconds.
With traditional hard disk drives, the computer has to wait for the hard drive to spin and its arm to locate the exact place on the disk to access the memory needed before it can be transferred to the RAM. A solid state drive has no moving parts and can access the necessary data 10 times quicker than a spinning hard disk drive.
Why Solid State Drives Are Faster Than Hard Disk Drives
Hard disk drives (HDD) store their data on a series of spinning magnetic disks. To access or add information onto one of these drives, an actuator arm has to move into position over the correct spot on the disk. It works in a very similar manner to a record player. This causes a significant wait time when accessing or writing data on a hard disk drive.
This allows a computer to work faster and access needed data quicker.
Not only must the computer wait for the disk to spin into the proper position, but sometimes data is stored in multiple locations, which takes even more time to access because the actuator has to move from place to place. If a drive is in sleep mode, it takes additional time for it to spin up to full speed. On average, it takes from 10 to 15 milliseconds for a traditional hard disk drive to find data and begin accessing it.
Solid state drives (SSD) have no moving parts, hence the name solid state. Data on solid state drives is saved to a pool of NAND flash memory, which is comprised of floating gate transistors. These are different than the transistors in DRAM, which need to be refreshed multiple times per second and only store memory when powered on.
NAND flash memory is non-volatile and can store data whether it is powered on or not as it always retains its charged state. Because solid state drives have no moving parts, there is no lag time while a computer waits for the disk to spin and the actuator arm to locate the data on the disc. This allows a computer to work faster and access needed data quicker. An SSD is still slower than cache and DRAM, but easily outpaces hard disk drives.
Drawbacks Of Solid State Drives
Solid state drives are able to access data faster than hard disk drives, and when new can also write data faster, but overtime SSDs will slow down. This is because of the processes an SSD must perform before it can write to a drive. In an HDD, data can be written to any location, at any time, even if there is already data there. SSDs aren't able to overwrite data directly. They can only write data to empty page blocks. If there is no empty page blocks, the SSD must create one by deleting data before it can write new data.
This is why SSDs start off being able to write data much faster than HDDs, but over time slow in performance.
SSDs read and write data at the page level, but can only erase data at the block level. This is because it requires too much voltage to erase data at the page level and it can stress the individual cells around the page cells being rewritten. For an SSD to write data onto a previously used page, it must copy all of a block's contents and save it to memory. Then it deletes the entire block, and rewrites the entire block data along with the updated page.
This is why SSDs start off being able to write data much faster than HDDs, but over time slow in performance. New SSDs are filled with empty, or mostly empty pages, but as they are used the pages and blocks begin to get filled up. Luckily there are steps you can take to increase the lifespan of your SSD's top speeds.