This month brings a long overdue update to our best SSD list. We say goodbye to older 128GB-class models, and pave the way for new m.2 PCIe SSDs that we start listing next month.
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. At the end of the day, 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.
However, there are measurable attributes separating one SSD from another. But you'll need to approach a purchasing decision as the sum of many parts. Within individual apps, you'll hardly notice the difference between most SATA 3Gb/s and faster SATA 6Gb/s drives. It's the more taxing workloads that make a faster device worth owning.
Updates – April 2016
In the March update we talked about the TLC Takeover. All new entry-level SSDs now ship with TLC but in the coming months we'll see an even higher adaption rate that will move up the ladder. This month, Micron held an enterprise-focused event but leaked details of Crucial's upcoming MX300 that will come to market by May 1st. The MX300 will feature IMFT's 3D flash that has a vertical structure with limited CMOS functions tucked under the stack. This is the first consumer SSD with the new flash and it will come with 384Gbit TLC die. The MX Series is Crucial's mainstream product and it has always shipped with MLC flash.
We currently have a plethora of TLC-based SSDs in our test lab. Currently, the Intel SSD 540s, Patriot Torch LE, Corsair Force LE and Mushkin Triactor are in our test systems working through the process. We just finished testing the Intel SSD 750 800GB, the gap filler of the flagship series that uses the NVMe protocol. It's very fast and more affordable than the large 1.2TB model Intel launched several months ago. We're also working on the new OWC Mercury Electra 2TB but it's more expensive than Samsung's 840 EVO and fails to achieve the same high performance.
Since the last update we published a review of the Zotac Sonix 480GB, the first product with Phison's PS5007-E7 NVMe controller. The drive didn't live up to our expectations but Phison is hard at work on a new firmware to increase low queue depth performance. We expect to have a reworked firmware in hand by this time next month. Be on the lookout for a technical deep dive that covers the new E7 and tests with the new performance-enhancing firmware.
There are no changes to the leaderboards this month but you should keep a look out for pop-up deals. It will be difficult for companies to displace Samsung in many of the key positions but with new IMFT 3D flash just around the corner that may soon change.
SSD Best Picks
About Our Recommendations
- We only recommend SSDs we've actually tested.
- There are several criteria we use to rank SSDs. We try to evenly weigh performance per dollar at each capacity tier and recommend what we believe to the best drive based on our own experiences and information garnered from other sources.
- The list is based on U.S. 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
256GB SATA Recommendations
512GB SATA Recommendations
1TB SATA Recommendations
2TB SATA Recommendations
256GB PCIe Recommendations
512GB PCIe Recommendations
1TB PCIe Recommendations