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Solid-state drives, or SSDs How Do Solid-State Drives Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] How Do Solid-State Drives Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] Over the past few decades, there has been a considerable amount of work in the field of computer hardware. While computer technology is constantly improving and evolving, rarely do we experience moments where we simply... Read More , improve performance over mechanical hard drives (HDD). However, if you want the fastest SSD around, you need to know two things: the connector and protocol.

There are three different connectors. The most common is SATA, common to desktops and laptops. Then there’s M.2, a smaller form factor common to laptops and Ultrabooks What Is An Ultrabook & Can It Succeed? [Technology Explained] What Is An Ultrabook & Can It Succeed? [Technology Explained] Remember when the word laptop described virtually every mobile computer on the market? The choices were certainly easier back then (because there was simply less choice available), but today there’s a far wider variety including... Read More . Finally, there’s PCIe, which is a desktop-exclusive connector.

On the other hand, protocols are split between the older AHCI and the lightning-fast NVMe. M.2 includes NVMe and SATA, whereas SATA is AHCI only. More or less, all desktops support SATA and PCIe SSDs, whereas most older laptops only support SATA.

Check out the fastest SSDs among SATA, M.2, and PCIe.

The Fastest SATA SSD

SATA remains the most common hard drive connection port. It uses the AHCI command protocol which was originally developed for spinning hard disks. SATA ports are found in desktops and most desktops. For the average user, a SATA SSD should be fine.

Samsung 850 Pro 256 GB SSD ($138/£88)

samsung 850 evo
Image Credit: Amazon

Samsung continues to master the SSD space. Its SSDs sport premium features and performance. The Samsung 850 Pro SSD stands as the best SATA SSD available. Onboard you’ll find 3D NAND technology. If you’re confused about NAND, here’s a quick primer on flash memory NAND and eMMC: All You Need to Know About Flash Memory NAND and eMMC: All You Need to Know About Flash Memory The world would be a sad place without flash memory. But how much about flash memory do you really understand? Here are the essentials you should know to make informed buys! Read More . 3D NAND, or V-NAND, offers incredible speed and stability. AnandTech benchmarks found the Samsung 850 Pro SSD clocking in sequential read speeds around 550 MB/s and maximum sequential write speeds around 520 MB/s. Additionally, the 850 Pro comes in a variety of storage capacities, from 128 GB all the way to 2 TB.

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In their review, CNET praised the Samsung 850’s storage arrays, reliability, and features like the performance-enhancing Rapid Mode and strong encryption. However, Samsung’s Magician SSD toolkit software is Windows only. It’s not available on other operating systems like macOS or Linux. Moreover, the 850 Pro does not come cheap. The 256 GB iteration is $137. The 2 TB SSD is a whopping $874. You can snag a pretty capable PC for that price. There are definitely cheaper options with similar performance. The Samsung 850 EVO SSD offers similar performance at a lower price. The 250 GB 850 EVO is about $94. Nevertheless, the Samsung 850 Pro is the fastest SSD available, especially coupled with its Rapid mode. But if you can’t utilize its Rapid Mode (it only works on Windows), consider the more affordable 850 EVO.

Pros

  • 3D NAND technology
  • Rapid mode
  • Excellent encryption
  • Range of storage options (up to 2 TB)

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Samsung Magician software only for use on Windows

The Fastest M.2 SSD

M.2 is a small form factor SSD. This form factor is substantially smaller than traditional SATA drives. Within the realm of M.2 there are M.2 SATA drives, as well as NVMe M.2 drives. NVMe M.2 SSDs use non-volatile memory which is. PCIe and SATA SSDs PCIe vs. SATA: Which Type of SSD Is Best for You? PCIe vs. SATA: Which Type of SSD Is Best for You? When buying a new SSD, you have a choice between SATA and PCIe. But what's the difference? Just because one is "better" doesn't mean it's the right one for you. Read More have their pros and cons, and several factors including device type determine which is best for you. M.2 come in two sizes: 2280 and 2240.

Samsung 960 EVO ($130)

Samsung-960-Evo
Image Credit: Amazon

Samsung dominates with its SATA SSDs in performance. Even Samsung microSD cards rank The Fastest and Best microSD Cards of 2016 The Fastest and Best microSD Cards of 2016 We've rounded up the fastest and best microSD cards for use with security cameras, DSLRs, smartphones, tablets, and more! They range in price from the ultra affordable to the premium. Read More among the best performing storage available. The Samsung 960 EVO M.2 SSD is an M.2 2280 SSD. Ranging from  250 GB to 2 TB, you’ve got plenty of storage options. This SSD is an M.2 PCIe SSD which utilizes TLC NAND. Like the 960 Pro, the EVO features the same thermal management aspects like copper-backed heat spreading labels and an incredibly power-efficient controller. Measures are also taken to reduce thermal throttling.

Yet in opting for TLC NAND over MLC NAND, there’s a slight theoretical propensity toward thermal throttling as AnandTech points out. Nevertheless, Storage Review benchmarks found the 960 EVO beating out the 960 Pro iteration in 2 MB sequential transfer read/write, 2 MB random read/write, and 4K random transfer read/write notably. With its plentiful storage options and superb benchmarks, the Samsung 960 EVO is an incredibly fast M.2 SSD. You may also consider the MyDigitalSSD BPX or Intel SSD 600p. Although AnandTech found the 600P to be the slowest SSD in their tests, it’s one of the most affordable M.2 SSDs. The MyDigitalSSD BPX clocks in at a low price, and even performs better than the average mainstream M.2 SSD.

Pros

  • 250 GB to 2 TB storage options
  • Beat out Samsung 960 Pro in certain benchmarks
  • TLC NAND
  • Thermal management features like power-efficient controller

Cons

  • Potential thermal throttling from TLC NAND

The Fastest PCIe SSD

PCIe is another connection type. Certain M.2 SSDs do come with PCIe connections. However for this category, we’ll focus on PCIe as a form factor. Often dubbed add in cards (AIC), these SSDs are suited to desktop use. While many desktops might not fit an M.2 form factor, AIC cards allow users to slap an SSD into an open PCIe port. There are adapter cards for M.2 SSDs for those choosing to opt for a do-it-yourself (DIY) route.

Plextor M8Pe Add-In Card ($120)

Plextor-M8Pe-AIC
Image Credit: Amazon

The Plextor M8Pe comes in a variety of configurations and storage options. The M8Pe(Y) arrives in an Add-In Card (AIC) complete with a heatsink that maintains cooling for the controller and half the board. For storage, the Plextor M8Pe boasts a range from 128 GB to 1 TB. In its review, Tom’s Hardware dubbed the M8Pe an excellent NVMe SSD for enthusiasts. Tom’s Hardware notes that its MLC flash fosters a long lifespan, and even calls this SSD Plextor’s best performing offering to date. The AIC sports a massive heatsink, one of the largest and also best performing.

The M8Pe boasts a 16 GB data transfer rate, with sequential data reads for 70 seconds at 2.4 MB/s. Sequential data write speeds clock in at 1.3 MB/s for 40 seconds which equates 52 GB. However, at the 1 TB NVMe level, data was decidedly dicey under a light load. The Samsung 960 Pro and OCZ RD400 both beat the Plextor. Granted, neither of these drives are AIC SSDs. You can snag an adapter, but insofar as per-configured PCIe SSDs, the Plextor M8Pe is the best available. Still, you might consider the Intel 750 Series AIC which yields similar performance in an add-in card form factor.

Pros

  • Great read/write performance
  • Massive heatsink protects against thermal throttling
  • Add-in card form factor
  • MLC NAND
  • Good pricing
  • 128 GB to 1 TB

Cons

  • Better performing NVMe SSDs available but not as AIC

These Fastest SSDs Are Solid Upgrades

It’s a great time to upgrade your storage to an SSD. A NAND crisis SSDs Are About to Skyrocket in Cost: Should You Upgrade in 2017? SSDs Are About to Skyrocket in Cost: Should You Upgrade in 2017? Solid state drives (SSDs) are about to skyrocket in price! Should you buy a new drive in 2017? We've covered several examples of SSD that are worth upgrading to, provided you need a new SSD. Read More may eventually cause the price of SSDs to skyrocket, but SSDs deliver unrivaled speed improvements over traditional spinning hard drives. Once I upgraded from my old laptop to an HP Omen outfitted with a 128 GB SATA SSD and 1 TB HDD for storage, I immediately noticed a difference. My laptop went from off to usable in mere seconds rather than minutes. Even a SATA SSD with its maximum 600 MB/s transfer rate is a major improvement over a spinning hard drive. Loads of applications benefit from SSDs, including web hosting 3 Benefits of SSD Web Hosting 3 Benefits of SSD Web Hosting Solid state drives have dropped in price and the performance benefits to desktop users are immediately obvious to anyone who owns one: your computer will fly. But does this translate into benefits to a website... Read More . When picking out an SSD, familiarize yourself with these terms 7 Terms You Need to Know When Buying a New SSD 7 Terms You Need to Know When Buying a New SSD While SSD specifications may seem overly daunting at first, the truth is that these terms are quite simple to understand. Read More that you need to know.

Note: Intel’s XPoint consumer SSDs use an entirely different kind of flash memory technology. Unfortunately, as of this writing, the consumer version hasn’t reached markets yet. Its projected form factor will be M.2, with the NVMe protocol.

Which fast SSDs do you recommend?

Image Credit: RikoBest and Sashkin via Shutterstock.com

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  1. Jason
    April 18, 2017 at 10:22 am

    Pretty goog article, one subject that's too often neglected when discussing SSD's is endurance. What are the Total Bytes Written (TBW) estimates from the factory, what's the factory warranty? These factors must be consigned when buying an SSD.

  2. Jeremy
    April 17, 2017 at 11:41 pm

    Anyone familiar with storage today knows Samsung has SATA and M.2 locked down. The problem is, there's certainly a premium to buy-in.

    Is it possible to put together the "best performance-per-dollar" list? I know there a few NVMe SSDs out there that come reasonably close to Samsung on performance, while substantially lower in price (MyDigitalSSD BPX comes to mind).