Best SSDs: Q3 2016by Billy Tallis on September 13, 2016 9:00 PM EST
The SSD market is in a season of change, spurred primarily by Intel/Micron 3D NAND finally reaching widespread availability. For the June edition of this guide, the only consumer SSD with 3D NAND from someone other than Samsung was the Crucial MX300 750GB Limited Edition. Now the MX300 is available in a full range of capacities, Intel has released several models with 3D NAND, and other SSD manufacturers like ADATA are adopting 3D NAND as quickly as they can.
The end of planar TLC NAND flash is rapidly approaching as the Crucial MX300 with Micron 3D TLC has hit very competitive price points while offering better overall performance than any planar TLC SSD and much lower power consumption. It is likely that we will soon see some more budget-oriented models that come even closer to matching the cheapest TLC SSDs on price while maintaining a clear performance advantage, but at the time of writing no such alternatives are shipping yet. The impact of new 3D NAND hitting the market is not just being felt in the low-end SATA segment: Intel's new SSD 600p is the first retail PCIe SSD to use TLC flash and it is priced on par with high-end MLC SATA drives, far cheaper than most other PCIe SSDs. I may soon have to split the PCIe SSD category into two segments.
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.
Performance & Enthusiast SATA drives: Samsung 850 Pro and SanDisk Extreme Pro
There are not yet any retail SATA SSDs with Intel or Micron 3D MLC, so there's no new challenger to unseat the Samsung 850 Pro as the top SATA SSD. The 2TB Samsung 850 Pro no longer carries a price premium over the smaller capacities, but otherwise prices for the 850 Pro haven't changed much. The SanDisk Extreme Pro doesn't perform quite as well and lacks encryption support, but is usually a little cheaper than the 850 Pro and is one of the only other models to come with a 10-year warranty.
These are both premium products for users with demanding workloads. There are much cheaper SSDs that offer peak performance that is close to what these drives deliver, and now there is the Intel 600p to deliver significantly better peak performance at a similar price, but none of those alternatives will hold up as well under heavy sustained workloads.
|Samsung 850 Pro||$123.99 (48¢/GB)||$220.35 (43¢/GB)||$422.77 (41¢/GB)||$829.69 (41¢/GB)|
|SanDisk Extreme Pro||$110.78 (46¢/GB)||$195.99 (41¢/GB)||$353.21 (37¢/GB)|
Value & Mainstream: Crucial MX300, Mushkin Reactor, PNY CS2211
The value segment of the SSD market is where drives sacrifice performance and reliability to reach the lowest possible prices. Since SSD prices have tended to drop across the entire market, it is almost always possible to spend just a little more money to get a significant performance boost. The mid-range segment is a battleground between TLC drives with high enough performance, and any MLC drives that can get the price down without sacrificing their inherent performance advantage over TLC.
The poster child for high-performing TLC SSDs is the Samsung 850 EVO, which can match almost any MLC drive for performance but also carries a premium price to match. The Mushkin Reactor has usually been the cheapest decent MLC drive on the market, and the 1TB model is usually the the best deal. The PNY CS2211 is one of the current generation of Phison S10 MLC drives, which are solid performers and a good all around value.
The SanDisk X400 is the highest-performing planar TLC drive currently available, is backed by a 5-year warranty, and the 512GB and 1TB capacities are very affordable. The Crucial MX300 is now available in a full range of capacities and slightly outperforms the SanDisk X400 at a slightly lower price. The MX300 only offers a 3-year warranty but has partial power loss protection and much lower power consumption than its competitors.
|SanDisk X400||$81.99 (32¢/GB)||$135.19 (26¢/GB)||$238.88 (23¢/GB)|
|Mushkin Reactor||$79.99 (31¢/GB)||$149.99 (29¢/GB)||$227.95 (23¢/GB)|
|PNY CS2211||$79.99 (33¢/GB)||$139.99 (29¢/GB)||$279.99 (29¢/GB)|
|Samsung 850 EVO||$99.99 (40¢/GB)||$157.99 (32¢/GB)||$305.99 (31¢/GB)||$624.99 (31¢/GB)|
||$72.99 (27¢/GB)||$129.99 (25¢/GB)||$259.99 (25¢/GB)||$549.99 (27¢/GB)|
|$177.40 (24¢/GB) (750GB)|
Standard & M.2 PCIe: Samsung 950 Pro and Toshiba OCZ RD400
The Samsung 950 Pro is still the fastest consumer PCIe SSD, and since Micron cancelled the Ballistix TX3, Samsung will continue to dominate this segment for the foreseeable future. However, a successor model is likely to appear soon using the Polaris controller and 48-layer V-NAND from the OEM SM961.
The Toshiba OCZ RD400 can't quite keep pace with the Samsung 950 Pro, but it offers a wider range of capacities, and the RD400A SKU delivers the M.2 drive pre-installed in a PCIe x4 adapter card with some passive cooling for an extra $20. The Samsung SM951 AHCI variant is listed as an option for systems that do not support NVMe, but beware that it is an OEM product that does not have the same warranty and software support of the retail Samsung 950 Pro. The newer and faster Samsung SM961 is still very hard to obtain, with back-order waits so long that it is probably faster to wait for Samsung to announce a proper retail successor to the 950 Pro.
The Intel 600p is the first drive in this segment with TLC NAND. Since it uses Intel's 3D TLC NAND flash rather than planar TLC, the 600p is able to perform respectably, but it is not in the same league as the MLC-based competition. On light workloads the 600p is able to outperform any SATA SSD including the Samsung 850 Pro, but under pressure of a full drive or sustained writes it loses almost all of the advantage of using PCIe and NVMe and performs worse than the Samsung 850 EVO.
The Plextor M8Pe is also just becoming available and at prices below the Toshiba OCZ RD400, but we have not yet had the chance to test its performance. Given the similarity in hardware, we expect it to perform near the RD400, but Plextor is using their own firmware and that can make a big difference for better or for worse, so I'm not listing it yet.
|Samsung 950 Pro||$186.99 (73¢/GB)||$315.62 (62¢/GB)|
|Samsung SM951 (AHCI)||$105.99 (83¢/GB)||$179.99 (70¢/GB)||$309.99 (61¢/GB)|
|Toshiba OCZ RD400A||$149.99 (117¢/GB)||$194.99 (76¢/GB)||$329.99 (65¢/GB)||$789.99 (77¢/GB)|
|Toshiba OCZ RD400 M.2||$119.99 (94¢/GB)||$174.99 (68¢/GB)||$309.99 (61¢/GB)||$769.99 (75¢/GB)|
|Intel SSD 600p||$75.21 (59¢/GB)||$97.50 (38¢/GB)||$189.99 (37¢/GB)|
mSATA and M.2 SATA: Samsung 850 EVO and Crucial MX300
SSDs using the small mSATA and M.2 SATA form factors often carry a significant premium over their 2.5" equivalents, and the range of options is much narrower. There is little reason to choose mSATA or M.2 SATA over a 2.5" drive except for systems that absolutely cannot hold a 2.5" drive—primarily ultrabooks, NUCs and other very small form factors.
The Crucial MX200 is starting to disappear from the market and prices of the remaining stock are rising, but the MX300 M.2 is arriving as one of the cheapest M.2 SATA drives. There probably won't be any more major product releases including mSATA, so this may be the last edition of this guide to include that form factor.
The SanDisk X400 was new on our list in the previous edition, but it is now being suppanted by the Crucial MX300 that is generally slightly faster and cheaper. The smallest capacity of the MX300 may be at a performance disadvantage due to the low NAND die count limiting parallelism, but the 525GB and 1050GB models did well in our tests (the 2.5" versions were tested).
|Crucial MX200 mSATA||$87.97 (35¢/GB)|
|Samsung 850 EVO mSATA||$94.39 (38¢/GB)||$172.49 (35¢/GB)||$324.42 (32¢/GB)|
|Crucial MX200 M.2||$189.00 (38¢/GB)|
|Samsung 850 EVO M.2||$111.47 (45¢/GB)||$168.95 (34¢/GB)||$347.99 (35¢/GB)|
|SanDisk X400 M.2||$86.95 (34¢/GB)||$139.43 (27¢/GB)||$269.99 (26¢/GB)|
|Crucial MX300 M.2||$72.99 (27¢/GB)||$129.99 (25¢/GB)||$259.99 (25¢/GB)|