Solid-state drives, or SSDs, 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. 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 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. 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.
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.
- 3D NAND technology
- Rapid mode
- Excellent encryption
- Range of storage options (up to 2 TB)
- 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 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 dominates with its SATA SSDs in performance. Even Samsung microSD cards rank 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.
- 250 GB to 2 TB storage options
- Beat out Samsung 960 Pro in certain benchmarks
- TLC NAND
- Thermal management features like power-efficient controller
- 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)
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.
- Great read/write performance
- Massive heatsink protects against thermal throttling
- Add-in card form factor
- MLC NAND
- Good pricing
- 128 GB to 1 TB
- 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 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. When picking out an SSD, familiarize yourself with these terms 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?
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