In our series of Solid State Drive guides, here’s the latest update to our list of recommended SSDs. All numbers in the text are updated to reflect pricing at the time of writing.
Best SSDs: Holiday 2019
A solid state drive is often the most important component for making a PC feel fast and responsive; any PC still using a mechanical hard drive as its primary storage is long overdue for an upgrade. The SSD market is broader than ever, with a wide range prices, performance and form factors.
SSD prices have started to creep up a bit in some corners of the market, but the upcoming holiday sales should reverse that and bring new price per GB records. The industry is still slowly migrating from 64-layer to 96-layer 3D NAND, but that doesn't have much impact on end-user price, performance or endurance. At the very high end, PCIe 4.0 SSDs have arrived but are still far more expensive than PCIe 3.0-based high-end drives, without offering much in the way of real-world performance improvements. The sweet spot for pricing is usually with 1TB models, but anything from 480GB up to 2TB can come close on a $/GB basis. There are now several 4TB consumer SSDs to choose from, but they're all more than twice the price of their 2TB counterparts.
|November 2019 SSD Recommendations|
|Entry-level NVMe||Intel SSD 660p 1TB||$97.99 (10¢/GB)|
|High-end NVMe||Team MP34 1TB||$104.99 (10¢/GB)|
|Mainstream 2.5" SATA||SanDisk Ultra 3D 2TB||$179.99 (9¢/GB)|
|M.2 SATA||Crucial MX500 1TB||$107.99 (11¢/GB)|
Above are some recommendations of good deals in each market segment. Some of these aren't the cheapest option in their segment and instead are quality products worth paying a little extra for.
The next table is a rough summary of what constitutes a good deal on a current model in today's market. Sales that don't beat these prices are only worth a second glance if the drive is nicer than average for its product segment.
|November 2019 SSD Recommendations: Price to Beat, ¢/GB|
|Market Segment||256GB||512GB||1TB||2TB||4 TB|
|Budget 2.5" SATA||12 ¢/GB||10 ¢/GB||9 ¢/GB||10 ¢/GB||11 ¢/GB|
|Mainstream 2.5" SATA||19 ¢/GB||13 ¢/GB||11 ¢/GB||11 ¢/GB||12 ¢/GB|
|Entry-level NVMe||15 ¢/GB||11 ¢/GB||10 ¢/GB||10 ¢/GB|
|High-end NVMe||16 ¢/GB||12 ¢/GB||11 ¢/GB||12 ¢/GB||16 ¢/GB|
|M.2 SATA||15 ¢/GB||13 ¢/GB||11 ¢/GB||11 ¢/GB|
As always, the prices shown are merely a snapshot at the time of writing. We make no attempt to predict when or where the best discounts will be. Instead, this guide should be treated as a baseline against which deals can be compared. Most of the drives recommended here are models we have tested in at least one capacity or form factor, but in many cases we have not tested every capacity and form factor, or have tested just one of the several brands selling the same turnkey solution. For older drives not mentioned in this guide, our SSD Bench database can provide performance information and comparisons.
The price gap between mainstream SATA SSDs and the more affordable NVMe options has all but disappeared, so going with NVMe should now be the default choice for almost everyone. As usual, most of the NVMe SSDs that were designed to be cheaper entry-level models are barely cheaper than many last-generation high-end models, so we only recommend getting an entry-level model when a system with no SATA support needs the cheapest possible capacity upgrade.
High-end NVMe: Sabrent Rocket and other Phison E12 drives
The consumer SSDs that are capable of using PCIe 4.0 speeds are so far all based on the Phison E16 controller. Only a few of Phison's partners have started shipping their E16-based drives, and more competitors are on the way. These PCIe 4.0-capable drives still carry a steep premium, but they are starting to get down to the price levels of the fastest PCIe 3.0-based drives like the WD Black SN750 and Samsung 970 EVO Plus. For most consumers, the cheaper high-end drives that only support PCIe 3.0 speeds are still a far better deal. The cheapest options in this product segment are mostly drives based on the earlier Phison E12 controller. Depending on the capacity and daily price fluctuations, the best buy might be from Addlink, Sabrent, Silicon Power, Team, or one of several other vendors.
One recent arrival deserves a special mention: the Sabrent Rocket is now available in a 4TB model for $649.99 (16¢/GB). That's much more than twice the price of the 2TB model, but it's the only consumer 4TB M.2 SSD currently available.
Entry-level NVMe: Intel SSD 660p
Silicon Motion's SM2263 is currently the most successful entry-level NVMe controller. Intel uses it with 64L QLC NAND for the 660p, one of the only QLC-based SSDs we can currently recommend (except for the 500GB model). Kingston pairs it with 96L TLC NAND for their A2000, which offers some of the best performance and endurance currently available from entry-level NVMe drives. There are a few even cheaper drives using the DRAMless SM2263XT controller variant; these drives make more considerable performance sacrifices but still outperform SATA SSDs. However, everything in this segment is still liable to be undercut by good sales on high-end NVMe drives.
SATA drives haven't started to disappear from the market yet, but there's not much reason left for consumers to be buying them. They are still useful for upgrading older systems that don't support NVMe, or to add more capacity to a system that doesn't have room for another NVMe drive. Entry-level SATA SSDs using DRAMless controllers still generally offer the cheapest price per GB, but we recommend spending a little bit extra to get a mainstream drive with a DRAM cache and higher endurance rating.
Mainstream 2.5" SATA: SanDisk Ultra 3D, Crucial MX500
The big vertically-integrated NAND manufacturers still set the standard for price and performance in this product segment. Western Digital and Micron are the most competitive with their respective consumer brands (WD, SanDisk, Crucial) while Samsung still charges a bit of a premium. Third-party drive manufacturers offer some cheaper options by using older or lower-grade flash memory, and are still able to hit the performance limits of the SATA interface. Some current-generation models are starting to drop below 10¢/GB on sale, and that kind of pricing should be widespread during holiday sales.
M.2 SATA: Crucial MX500 and WD Blue 3D
There are far fewer options for M.2 SATA drives than for 2.5" SATA drives, but the best models come in both form factors and with similar pricing for either. M.2 SATA SSDs should only be used in M.2 slots that don't also support PCIe NVMe SSDs, because NVMe drives are faster and plenty of them aren't any more expensive. The older ADATA SU800 is a bit cheaper at low capacities, but most consumers looking to buy a M.2 SATA drive are probably in need of a capacity upgrade. At 1TB or 2TB, the Crucial and WD drives are usually the best choices.