SSD prices continue to decline, even as DRAM prices are on the rise. Most of the industry has now completed the transition to 64-layer 3D TLC NAND flash memory, but supplies of many older generation models are still plentiful. In most market segments our top recommendations are current-generation drives because 64L 3D NAND brought significant improvements to performance and power efficiency, but some older models are cheap enough to be very compelling deals.
|July 2018 SSD Recommendations|
|Mainstream 2.5″ SATA||Crucial MX500 1TB||$198.00 (20¢/GB)|
|Entry-level NVMe||MyDigitalSSD SBX 512GB||$139.99 (27¢/GB)|
|High-end NVMe||HP EX920 1TB||$289.99 (28¢/GB)|
|M.2 SATA||Crucial MX500 M.2 1TB||$199.99 (20¢/GB)|
Above are some recommendations of good deals in each market segment. Several 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.
|July 2018 SSD Recommendations: Price to Beat, ¢/GB|
|Mainstream 2.5″ SATA||36 ¢/GB||28 ¢/GB||21 ¢/GB||20 ¢/GB||22 ¢/GB|
|Entry-level NVMe||35 ¢/GB||28 ¢/GB||27 ¢/GB||27 ¢/GB|
|High-end NVMe||39 ¢/GB||39 ¢/GB||39 ¢/GB|
|M.2 SATA||38 ¢/GB||28 ¢/GB||22 ¢/GB||20 ¢/GB||22 ¢/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. All 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. For drives not mentioned in this guide, our SSD Bench database can provide performance information and comparisons.
Mainstream 2.5″ SATA: Crucial MX500, WD Blue 3D/SanDisk Ultra 3D
The largest segment of the consumer SSD market is 2.5″ SATA drives intended for use as either the only storage device in the system, or as the primary drive holding the OS and most programs and data. This market segment has by far the widest range of choices, and virtually every SSD brand has at least one model for this segment.
These days, the best options for a mainstream SATA drive are all at least 240GB. This is large enough for the operating system and all your everyday applications and data, but not necessarily enough for a large library of games, movies or photos. Drives in the 240–256GB range tend to be significantly slower than larger models. There are several options for MLC-based SATA SSDs, but the only one we’re interested in is the Crucial BX300, and only for its lower capacities where TLC-based drives are especially disadvantaged. Otherwise, modern 64-layer 3D TLC offers more than enough performance and endurance for this segment.
The Crucial MX500 is consistently one of the cheapest mainstream SATA SSDs, but there are plenty of alternatives depending on the capacity and daily price fluctuations. For 120GB and 250GB, the Crucial BX300 with its MLC NAND is a good way to get solid performance that won’t drop too badly when the drive fills up. The Micron 1100 is an unusual entry here. It’s the OEM counterpart to the Crucial MX300 and is a generation behind most of the other drives, but the remaining stock of 2TB models has been dumped on the retail market. This is by far the cheapest 2TB SSD, but be warned that these drives do not come with a manufacturer warranty.
The market for consumer NVMe SSDs has broadened enough to be split into entry-level and high-end segments. There are now several low-cost NVMe SSD controllers that feature only four NAND channels instead of eight, and most of these controllers also have just two PCIe lanes instead of the four used by high-end drives.
Almost all consumer NVMe SSDs use the M.2 2280 form factor, but a handful are PCIe add-in cards. The heatsinks on many of the add-in cards tend to increase the price while making no meaningful difference to real-world performance, so our recommendation for NVMe SSDs are all M.2 form factor SSDs.
High-end NVMe: ADATA XPG SX8200 and HP EX920
The new Silicon Motion SM2262EN and Phison E12 SSD controllers will be arriving soon to shake up the high-end NVMe segment, but for now the rankings are fairly predictable. Intel’s Optane SSDs and the Samsung 970 PRO are the most premium NVMe SSDs, followed by the more affordable Samsung 970 EVO and Western Digital WD Black in a tie for the fastest TLC-based SSD. However, SSDs based on Silicon Motion’s SM2262 controller come pretty close in performance and are quite a bit cheaper, giving them our top recommendation. The HP EX920 and ADATA XPG SX8200 are nearly identical between them there’s a great deal at all the important capacity points.
Samsung is for the moment the only 2TB option in this market segment, but as prices continue to fall this will likely change: WD and the vendors using Silicon Motion controllers are ready to introduce 2TB versions at a moment’s notice.
Entry-level NVMe: MyDigitalSSD SBX
The Phison E8 controller seems to be dominating the entry-level NVMe segment, with drives like the MyDigitalSSD SBX and Kingston A1000 offering the lowest prices we’ve seen so far for NVMe SSDs. Other low-end NVMe drives like the Toshiba RC100 and HP EX900 use DRAMless controllers and can take advantage of the NVMe Host Memory Buffer feature to avoid the worst performance problems that DRAMless SSDs usually suffer from, but at the moment those DRAMless drives aren’t any cheaper than the Phison E8 drives that have full-size DRAM buffers. The older MyDigitalSSD BPX based on the Phison E7 controller and planar MLC NAND is still available in this same general price range.
Unfortunately, all of these drives are currently overshadowed by the SM2262 drives listed above in the high-end NVMe segment. Upgrading to one of those drives is too cheap to pass up, especially the 240GB SX8200 for $2 more than the low-end Phison E8 drives. Some of this situation is due to short-term sale prices, but ultimately these low-end drives need to push further into SATA price territory to stay relevant.
M.2 SATA: Crucial MX500
Consumers looking to remove cable clutter from their desktops should generally prefer M.2 NVMe drives over M.2 SATA drives now that there are several very affordable options offering a significant performance boost over SATA. Notebook users who have no choice of form factor can rejoice that M.2 SATA SSDs now usually carry little or no premium over their 2.5″ counterparts, which was not often the case when mSATA was the dominant small form factor for SSDs. These M.2 SATA SSDs will also generally still offer better battery life than M.2 NVMe SSDs, though a few NVMe SSDs are starting to match SATA drives for power efficiency.
|Samsung 860 EVO M.2||$83.99 (34¢/GB)||$132.99 (27¢/GB)||$237.99 (24¢/GB)||$544.99 (27¢/GB)|
|Crucial MX500 M.2||$69.99 (28¢/GB)||$109.99 (22¢/GB)||$199.99 (20¢/GB)|
|WD Blue 3D M.2||$74.99 (30¢/GB)||$109.99 (22¢/GB)||$209.99 (21¢/GB)||$429.99 (21¢/GB)|
The Crucial MX500 and Western Digital WD Blue 3D are in tight competition, while the Samsung 860 EVO currently carries a price premium that it cannot justify based on performance or power efficiency.