All of that can be had with a simple and affordable SATA SSD. But, some drives push it even further by tapping into the PCIe interface. These SSDs offer incredible speeds, with some new PCIe 4.0 SSDs pushing 15,000MB/s. While that may seem faster than you could ever need, the recently announced Nvidia GeForce 30-Series will actually be able to load compressed game data directly from SSDs, skipping the CPU and taking advantage of the incredible bandwidth of the PCIe interface.
As a bonus, switching to an SSD as your primary drive will let you repurpose your old hard drive. You can make it into a dedicate game library and actually see improved performance from it as well, since it can focus entirely on serving up game data.
So, if you’re ready to make the upgrade or just stock up your computer with even more capable drives, we’ve picked out some excellent options. If you’re browsing in the UK, click here to find out where you can find the best solid-state drive.
TL;DR – These are the Best SSDs:
1. Samsung 860 EVO
The Samsung 860 EVO is the best SSD you can buy as it offers solid transfer speeds and reliability at an affordable price. It’s the perfect example of how cheap solid-state storage has become over the years as the 1TB version costs just $150. Better yet, the Samsung 860 EVO offers nearly the fastest transfer speeds (up to 550MB/s reads and 520MB/s writes) possible on a SATA III interface.
2. Crucial MX500
Best Budget SSD
Crucial gives you a lot of bang for the buck with the MX500. Don’t be fooled by other inexpensive drives with slightly faster transfer speeds – in real-world testing, the MX500 consistently outperforms other drives that cost considerably more. The Crucial MX500 is also well regarded in the SSD world as being one of the most reliable storage drives you can buy.
3. Crucial P2
Best Budget NVMe SSD
Crucial has just what you need to take your computer to a new level of speed affordably. The Crucial P2 offers up a respectable 500GB of storage, which is good enough to serve as a boot drive and keep a handful of your favorite games installed on. Thanks to its use of the PCIe 3.0 x 4 interface, it can offer high speeds that you won’t find on a SATA SSD, but it costs nearly the same price as comparable SATA drives.
The 2,300MB/s sequential read speeds may not be the fastest on the block when it comes to NVMe SSDs, but it’ll be more than enough to turn your game load times into momentary blips. The low profile of this drive will also make it a good fit in Micro ATX builds, in case you’re trying to built a compact gaming PC to live next to your TV. Given the low price and compact size, you could even see about installing a pair of these drives to get a terabyte of fast and affordable PCIe storage.
4. WD Black SN850
Best Gaming SSD
WD has stepped up its game with the WD Black SN850. This upgrade from the SN750 makes the leap from PCIe 3.0 to PCIe 4.0, and it comes with the speeds to match. Whereas the old drive could offer sequential reads of almost 3,500MB/s, the SN850 fully doubles that to 7,000MB/s. That comes alongside 5,300MB/s write speeds. These are speeds to rival Samsung’s new 980 Pro SSD.
The WD Black SN950 uses 96-layer, TLC 3D NAND, and it delivers a fairly reasonable price for a 1TB drive without making the sacrifice to longevity that comes from going for QLC NAND. With the incredible speeds of the WD Black SN850, you’ll be ready to dive into games in an instant. All the performance numbers are likely going to be all the more important going forward. The new consoles are taking advantage of faster storage, and that will likely mean more and more PC ports that rely on fast SSD performance. And, with Microsoft’s Direct Storage letting data move from SSDs directly to graphics cards, you’ll want to ensure your SSD doesn’t become a bottleneck. This could also make for a great upgrade to the internal storage of the PlayStation 5.
5. Adata XPG SX8200 Pro
Best SSD Boot Drive
Although the Adata XPG SX8200 Pro is an NVMe SSD, it’s nearly as affordable as a bargain SATA drive. Seriously, a 1TB Adata XPG SX6000Pro cost just a bit more than a 1TB Samsung 860 EVO at around $200.
As if saving all that dough wasn’t great already, you’ll also be able to enjoy up to 3,500MB/s sequential read and 3,000MB/s sequential write speeds. It’s nearly as fast as the best drives on the market but at a much lower price.
6. Samsung 970 Evo Plus
Best NVMe SSD
While the WD Black SN750 has earned the title of the best gaming SSD, Samsung has retained the crown for the best NVMe SSD with the Samsung 970 Evo Plus. You won’t find another storage drive faster than this and that’s even including the company’s own flagship Samsung 970 Pro. Beyond gaming, this drive is perfect for tasks that demand an uninterrupted stream of data like 4K video editing, working with the highest-resolution RAW images, and real-time 3D rendering.
7. Corsair Force Series MP510
Best M.2 SSD
Remember when I said that the WD Black SN750 was partially responsible for driving down the cost of NVMe SSDs? Well, the Corsair Force Series MP510 another equally affordable NVMe SSD option. Just look at this 2TB drive that costs only $319. Getting the same storage capacity with a Samsung 970 Evo would cost significantly more. This huge Corsair NVMe drive also offers screaming fast speeds – albeit, not the fastest – up to 3,480MB/s sequential reads and 2,700MB/s sequential write speeds.
8. Samsung 980 Pro
Best PCIe 4.0 SSD
The champ has finally done it. Samsung often leads the field when it comes to SSDs, particularly since it designs its own NAND flash and DRAM cache. And, now the Samsung 980 Pro is here to push things even further forward as Samsung’s big foray into the PCIe 4.0 space. This new PCIe SSD tops our previous pick by offering a drive that can offer a whopping 1TB of storage and deliver read speed up to 7,000MB/s and write speeds up to 5,000MB/s.
The best part? The Samsung 980 Pro is offering all that at just a bit over $200. It’s not the cheapest price per GB, but cheaper drives aren’t going to be nearly as fast. This’ll be the drive you want for future PC games that can take advantage of Microsoft’s DirectStorage API for super-fast transfers of game assets directly over to your graphic card’s memory or as additional storage for your PS5.
9. Samsung 870 QVO
Best SATA SSD
Samsung already had a strong value proposition for SATA SSDs with its 860 QVO, which offered up fairly substantial storage at a lower price thanks to its use of QLC flash storage. Now, Samsung is continuing that offering with the 870 QVO. These SSDs muster a little bit of extra speed, reaching for the maximum throughput SATA can even handle. While speeds are definitely not as impressive as those found on even budget PCIe NVMe SSDs, the price-per-gigabyte of the Samsung 870 QVO is compelling. If you want a lot of storage on an SSD, this is the way to go.
Samsung’s 4TB 870 QVO costs a tidy $499. While it’s usually true that the more you get of something the less you pay for each one, that hasn’t held true for capacious SSDs, but this time Samsung is making it economical to go for the bigger option. That means you can readily fit a massive amount of fast storage in a tiny space without breaking a budget. Samsung also has a 1TB and 2TB version available, and an 8TB model is coming soon. The specs vary slightly between models, with different warranties and DRAM cache sizes being most notable. In any case, there are few more compelling options for switching away from SATA hard drives than these SSDs.
10. Samsung X5 Portable SSD
Best External SSD
The best SSDs aren’t just the ones that go in your PC anymore, there is also a growing segment of portable drives that offer just as much speed and performance. Meet the Samsung X5 Portable SSD, it’s essentially a portable NVMe drive that connects over Thunderbolt 3 to give you 2,800MB/s sequential read and 2,300MB/s sequential write speeds. This is the perfect solution for giving content creation and gaming laptops an extra jolt of external storage that operates almost as quickly their internal SSD.
Where to Get the Best SSD in the UK
What to Look in for an SSD?
Whereas $500 used to buy you a 128GB or 120GB SSD with you can now buy a 4TB Samsung 860 QVO for roughly the same amount of money and kiss hard drives goodbye forever. What’s more SSDs are insanely fast with sequential read and write speeds that start at 500MB/s and peak at 5,000MB/s if you’re looking at the latest NVMe PCIe 4.0 drives.
Alternatively, cheap and fast SSDs like the WD Blue SN550 and Adata XPG SX6000Pro allow anyone building a new PC to use an NVMe SSD as their main drive
Before you buy a solid-state drive though, you need to know what kind of SSD you want. Newer motherboards have sockets for M.2 drives, which are long, flat sticks of storage that lie flat against the motherboard. If you don’t have that in your system, you can buy a 2.5-inch drive that uses power and data cables just like an HDD.
Now things get a bit more varied once we start talking about connectors. For starters, M.2 drives might utilize a PCI Express- or Serial ATA (SATA)-based interface. The former delivers incredibly high transfer speeds up to 4,000MB/s, meanwhile, SATA is limited to a maximum 600MB/s speed. 2.5-inch drives are the other form of solid-state storage you’ll find and they mostly utilize a SATA connection.
The next major thing you should know about is ‘NVMe’ and it stands for the Non-Volatile Memory Express technology. That’s a mouthful, but it’s basically a communications standard, which allows SSDs connected over PCI Express to operate more like fast memory than storage. If you’re shopping around for a solid-state drive from this category you’ll want something that achieves at least a 2,000MB/s sequential read/write speed.
M.2 drives aren’t the only type of drives that can tap into this wickedly fast PCIe NVMe connection. For example, there are solid-state drives like the Intel Optane 905P that connect directly into the PCIe slot on motherboards. Alternatively, you may also find some 2.5-inch drives that utilize a U.2 connection and operate just as fast as the best NVMe SSDs, though, these are becoming increasingly rare.
Almost all SSDs are made up of NAND flash memory, but they don’t necessarily use the same type. in fact, the market is currently made up of four types of NAND memory—with SLC, MLC TLC, and QLC variants—and the big thing that separates them all is how their underlying cells store the 1’s and 0’s that make up your data. Let’s take a quick look at what makes each type of NAND memory tick
- SLC: short for single-level cells, this is the original form of NAND memory and arguably the best. SLC is designed to only accept one bit per memory cell, which makes them the fastest, most durable and reliable, and often also the most expensive.
- MLC: Multi-Layer Cell store one more bit to every cell, bringing the number to two. It’s a bit slower than SLC, because two bits are being written to every cell, which in turn makes this type of NAND slower and less reliable. The shortcomings of MLC aren’t too bad though and that’s why you see a lot of flagship SSDs utilize this type of NAND memory.
- TLC: Now we’re starting to get into the budget spectrum with Triple-Layer Cell. As its name might suggest, TLC has three bits written to every cell and all its detriments.
- QLC: You guessed it, QLC is short for Quad-Level Cell and you probably also surmised that it writes four bits to each cell. At this point, speed isn’t a concern and storage space becomes the priority here. That said, reliability and endurance become a concern here, but at least SSDs of this type are usually very cheap.
- PLC: Penta-Level Cell SSDs, which write five bits to every cell, are still on the horizon but it’ll be interesting to see how low it will make the prices of SSDs go.
That’s everything you need to know about SSDs for now and there has never been a better time to ever buy one. The SSD market is so vibrant right now with manufacturers trying to top each other with increasingly faster and cheaper options
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Kevin Lee is IGN’s Hardware and Roundups Editor. Follow him on Twitter @baggingspam
Mark Knapp is a regular contributor to IGN and an irregular Tweeter on Twitter @Techn0Mark