As CPU performance hits new and unforeseen heights, processors increasingly spend time waiting on data from hard drives. This is what makes storage today's most glaring bottleneck, and overcoming it requires an SSD. Frankly, the real-world differences between SSDs in a desktop environment aren't altogether large. The most noticeable performance increase occurs when you go from a hard disk to just about any solid-state drive.
October 2016 Updates
A number of new NVMe SSDs have hit the market since our last update. Both the mainstream and premium NVMe categories have new contenders, and the industry is promising more to come. 3-bit per cell (TLC) NAND is barging into the NVMe market, and it's bringing lower prices with it. Entry-level NVMe products now challenge premium SATA SSDs on the price front, but the early models fail to surpass the best SATA-based products in every performance category.
The biggest buzz comes from Intel’s 600p, which is the first retail NVMe SSD to ship with 3D TLC NAND. The series ships in three capacities that span 128GB to 512GB. A large 1TB model should arrive in November. Intel chose its new 3D TLC NAND with a 384Gbit die and paired the advanced flash with a custom SMI SM2260 controller. The controller is capable of running eight channels to the flash, but the 600p only utilizes six channels due to the size constraints of the M.2 2280 form factor. The 600p series originally launched with the same 72TBW endurance rating for all capacities, which was equal to most other 128GB SSDs. Intel updated the endurance specifications after launch, and now the 600p’s endurance is competitive with other mainstream SSDs. The 600p series has a lower price tag than the other current NVMe products, but that will change next month when Phison delivers more PS5007-E7 designs to fabless SSD manufacturers.
Patriot’s Hellfire is the first M.2 2280 design with the Phison PS5007-E7 SSD controller. The drive uses premium Toshiba 15nm MLC flash, so it doesn’t compete directly with the 600p on price, but it does deliver higher performance and endurance at every capacity point. Like the 600p, this product may only appear on our charts for a short time because more products for the entry and mainstream market are coming.
The Samsung SM961 is still on backorder at most retailers. You will have to wait longer for the high-capacity models, but the series delivers the best performance. Samsung just announced the new 960 Pro and 960 EVO, and we expect both of the NVMe SSDs to make a big splash in October.
Over the next month, we will test NVMe SSDs from Samsung, Plextor (waiting on a firmware update) and MyDigitalSSD. The Patriot Hellfire 240GB and 480GB both received a new firmware update that increases performance. Marvell’s Eldora and Eldora Lite controllers should appear on the market in more than just the Plextor M8p, but pricing may be a problem.
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About Our Recommendations
- We only recommend SSDs we've actually tested.
- The list is based on US prices from online retailers. In other countries or at retail stores, your mileage will most certainly vary.
- These are new SSD prices. No used or open-box offers are in the list.
- Our picks should be valid throughout the month of publication, but SSD pricing is especially competitive, and a $15 difference can be the reason why one SSD makes the list, while another does not.
- Prices and availability change on a daily basis, but the embedded green links provide real-time pricing.
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