Best SSDs: Q2 2016by Billy Tallis on June 24, 2016 1:15 PM EST
Since the February edition of this guide, SSD prices haven't moved much. The changes in our recommendations are mostly a result of new drives hitting the market and waning supply of outgoing models.
There has been almost no tangible progress in the transition to new 3D NAND. The Crucial MX300 launched this week with a single model carrying 750GB of Micron's 3D TLC, but the retail prices aren't low enough to be competitive yet and availability is limited. The other big market shift of the year - to NVMe SSDs - is only a little further along. For the moment, Samsung retains a commanding lead on both fronts. These factors make this round of recommendations fairly boring as industry giants Samsung and SanDisk together dominate almost every corner of the market save for the very cheapest and slowest SSDs.
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. 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
Other than minor price fluctuations, nothing is changing in this segment. Two years on the market haven't tarnished the record of either the SanDisk Extreme Pro or the Samsung 850 Pro. These drives use high quality MLC NAND to push the limits of the SATA interface, and they're backed by 10-year warranties. They're also twice as expensive per GB as budget-oriented TLC drives, which means the speed they offer needs to be balanced against the possibility of getting a slower drive with double the capacity.
The SanDisk Extreme Pro is the slower and cheaper of the two, and there are several other MLC drives plus the 3D TLC-based Samsung 850 EVO that are close to the Extreme Pro in terms of performance, but not warranty period. The SanDisk Extreme Pro does not provide drive encryption capability, which all of Samsung's SATA drives offer.
The Samsung 850 Pro remains the fastest consumer SATA SSD. Surpassing the Samsung 850 Pro will almost certainly require 3D MLC NAND, but other SSD manufacturers will probably be using all the 3D MLC they can get their hands on to compete first in the PCIe SSD space. Thus, the 850 Pro could easily remain unchallenged for the rest of the year. The Crucial MX300 with 3D TLC hints that any new premium SATA competitor may be more about decreasing power usage than marginally increasing performance, but nothing like that has been announced yet.
|Samsung 850 Pro||$125.99 (49¢/GB)||$216.89 (42¢/GB)||$410.11 (40¢/GB)||$919.99 (45¢/GB)|
|SanDisk Extreme Pro||$104.99 (44¢/GB)||$187.75 (39¢/GB)||$337.97 (35¢/GB)|
Value & Mainstream: SanDisk X400, 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 Crucial BX100 has finally dropped off the list as it is no longer available for a reasonable price. The similar Mushkin Reactor has usually been the cheapest decent MLC drive on the market, but it appears the price of the 1TB model has gone up a bit. 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.
|SanDisk X400||$79.99 (31¢/GB)||$124.99 (24¢/GB)||$229.49 (22¢/GB)|
|Mushkin Reactor||$79.99 (31¢/GB)||$149.99 (29¢/GB)||$249.99 (25¢/GB)|
|PNY CS2211||$69.99 (29¢/GB)||$129.99 (27¢/GB)||$289.99 (30¢/GB)|
|Samsung 850 EVO||$87.69 (35¢/GB)||$153.69 (31¢/GB)||$306.76 (31¢/GB)||$697.99 (35¢/GB)|
Standard & M.2 PCIe: Samsung 950 Pro and Toshiba OCZ RD400
NVMe PCIe SSDs using controllers from Phison and Marvell are starting to hit the market, and Silicon Motion's NVMe controller is not far behind, but Samsung is still king here. The Toshiba OCZ RD400 can't 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 Samsung SM961 1TB is due to hit the market very soon, with lower capacities to follow. As with the SM951, this is an OEM product not a retail product, so it doesn't have a specific launch date and we don't get advance review samples, it won't be supported by Samsung's Magician utility or their custom NVMe driver, and the warranty will come from the distributor rather than Samsung. But with expectations of higher performance and lower prices, it should be taken into account when making purchasing decisions. The 1TB SM961 in particular will probably eliminate the 1TB RD400 from consideration given the huge price difference. The prices listed are RamCity's estimates for initial USD prices, but are highly subject to change.
|Samsung 950 Pro||$180.89 (71¢/GB)||$319.99 (63¢/GB)|
|Samsung SM951 (AHCI)||$107.59 (84¢/GB)||$167.99 (66¢/GB)||$289.60 (57¢/GB)|
|Toshiba OCZ RD400A||$139.99 (109¢/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)|
|Samsung SM961 (predicted)||$159.00 (62¢/GB)||$280.00 (55¢/GB)||$521.00 (51¢/GB)|
mSATA and M.2 SATA: SanDisk X400 and Samsung 850 EVO and Crucial MX200
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 vers small form factors. The SanDisk X400 now joins the Samsung 850 EVO and Crucial MX200, owing to decent overall performance and great pricing. The X400 is also the first 1TB single-sided M.2, so it presents a new capacity option for some systems.
|Crucial MX200 mSATA||$88.99 (36¢/GB)||$148.99 (30¢/GB)|
|Samsung 850 EVO mSATA||$94.99 (38¢/GB)||$172.11 (34¢/GB)||$329.99 (33¢/GB)|
|Crucial MX200 M.2||$89.46 (36¢/GB)||$148.98 (30¢/GB)|
|Samsung 850 EVO M.2||$94.99 (38¢/GB)||$170.44 (34¢/GB)|
|SanDisk X400 M.2||$78.99 (31¢/GB)||$124.99 (24¢/GB)||$259.99 (25¢/GB)|