In our series of Solid State Drive guides, here’s the latest update to our list of recommended SSDs. All numbers in the text are updated to reflect pricing at the time of writing.

Best SSDs: Q1 2019

A solid state drive is often the most important component for making a PC feel fast and responsive; any PC still using a mechanical hard drive as its primary storage is long overdue for an upgrade. After months of price drops, now is also a great time to upgrade an older SSD with a newer model offering higher capacity or a faster NVMe interface.

Last year saw massive SSD price drops across the entire market. Prices are still declining, but not as quickly as they were several months ago. Overall, the market has settled down quite a bit, but there are some important changes underway.

The first products using 96-layer 3D NAND started shipping last year, but with NAND prices (and margins) so low, manufacturers aren't eager to burn capital ramping up 96L production. The transition away from 64L will take most of the year, but that's not a problem: so far, the 96L products offer only minimal improvements to performance or power efficiency. Not much is changing with SSD controllers at the moment, either, and even in the high-end NVMe market segment we're seeing many new products re-using familiar old controllers. We don't expect any significant changes in the controller landscape until the Phison E16 brings PCIe 4.0 support to consumer SSDs in the second half of 2019.

February 2019 SSD Recommendations
Market Segment Recommendations
Mainstream 2.5" SATA WD Blue 3D NAND 1TB $125.99 (13¢/GB)
Entry-level NVMe Intel SSD 660p 2TB $244.99 (12¢/GB)
High-end NVMe HP EX920 1TB $159.99 (16¢/GB)
M.2 SATA WD Blue 3D NAND 1TB $125.99 (13¢/GB)

Above are some recommendations of good deals in each market segment. Some 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.

February 2019 SSD Recommendations: Price to Beat, ¢/GB
Market Segment 128GB 256GB 512GB 1TB 2TB
Budget 2.5" SATA 19 ¢/GB 12 ¢/GB 10 ¢/GB 11 ¢/GB  
Mainstream 2.5" SATA   20 ¢/GB 14 ¢/GB 13 ¢/GB 14 ¢/GB
Entry-level NVMe 27 ¢/GB 20 ¢/GB 14 ¢/GB 13 ¢/GB 12 ¢/GB
High-end NVMe   23 ¢/GB 20 ¢/GB 20 ¢/GB 20 ¢/GB
M.2 SATA   20 ¢/GB 14 ¢/GB 13 ¢/GB 14 ¢/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: WD Blue 3D NAND, Crucial MX500

Entry-level SATA SSDs with DRAMless controllers are the cheapest drives on the market, with 120GB models now around $20. However, for general-purpose consumer usage we recommend getting a mainstream SATA SSD with a DRAM cache and drive capacity of at least 240GB. The combination of better performance, higher write endurance and longer warranty is usually worth the upgrade. The entry-level drives from the most reputable large brands (eg. Crucial BX500) tend to be slightly more expensive and thus come too close to the pricing of the mainstream drives.

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, and the per-GB pricing is significantly higher than for 480GB and larger drives.

  240-256GB 480-525GB 1TB 2TB
Samsung 860 EVO $57.99 (23¢/GB) $79.99 (16¢/GB) $147.99 (15¢/GB) $297.99 (15¢/GB)
WD Blue 3D NAND $49.30 (20¢/GB) $67.99 (14¢/GB) $125.99 (13¢/GB) $289.99 (14¢/GB)
SanDisk Ultra 3D $49.99 (20¢/GB) $67.99 (14¢/GB) $129.99 (13¢/GB) $279.99 (14¢/GB)
Crucial MX500 $49.95 (20¢/GB) $67.95 (14¢/GB) $134.95 (13¢/GB) $289.95 (14¢/GB)
ADATA SU800 $42.99 (17¢/GB) $62.99 (12¢/GB) $118.99 (12¢/GB) $239.99 (12¢/GB)

Among current-generation mainstream SATA drives with 64-layer TLC NAND and a full-size DRAM cache, the differences in performance and power consumption are slight, so the best pick is usually whichever one is cheapest. The ADATA SU800 is an older generation drive with slower Micron 32-layer 3D TLC, but its 2TB model is significantly cheaper than the newer competitors.

NVMe SSDs

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. The entry-level NVMe segment is also where four bit per cell (QLC) NAND has had the most impact so far.

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: HP EX920

Most brands have introduced new high-end NVMe models for 2019, but in many cases they change very little compared to last year's products. The new WD Black SN750 adds the 2TB option (not yet in stock) that was missing from the last generation, but otherwise it is just a minor firmware update. Silicon Motion's SM2262EN controller replaces the SM2262 and makes more significant firmware changes, but for most use cases the improvements are slight and in some cases it's a serious step backward. Samsung has at least provided a real hardware upgrade with the 970 EVO Plus by switching to 96L TLC, but the lack of an accompanying controller update means it is functionally almost identical to the original 970 EVO.

Overall, these product refreshes seem to primarily be an excuse to bump prices back up to MSRP for a short while until the novelty wears off. That means that last year's high-end NVMe drives are the better deal until supplies dry up. The HP EX920 is still readily available for much lower prices than most of its competition, so it sticks around as our top recommendation in this segment.

  240-280GB 480-512GB 960GB-1TB 2TB
ADATA XPG SX8200 $59.99 (25¢/GB) $141.69 (30¢/GB) $189.99 (20¢/GB)  
ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro $69.99 (27¢/GB) $99.99
(20¢/GB)
$179.99 (18¢/GB)  
HP EX920 $57.99 (23¢/GB) $78.99
(15¢/GB)
$159.99 (16¢/GB)  
HP EX950   $109.99 (21¢/GB) $209.99 (21¢/GB) $399.99
(20¢/GB)
Mushkin Pilot $53.99 (22¢/GB) $94.99
(19¢/GB)
$184.99 (18¢/GB) $389.99
(19¢/GB)
MyDigitalSSD BPX Pro $54.99 (23¢/GB) $99.99
(21¢/GB)
   
Corsair Force MP510 $74.19 (31¢/GB) $113.99 (24¢/GB) $219.99 (23¢/GB) $437.39
(23¢/GB)
WD Black (2018) $69.99 (28¢/GB) $104.99 (21¢/GB) $229.99 (23¢/GB)  
WD Black SN750 $79.99 (32¢/GB) $129.99 (26¢/GB) $269.99 (27¢/GB)  
Samsung 970 EVO $77.99 (31¢/GB) $119.99 (24¢/GB) $249.99 (25¢/GB) $549.99
(27¢/GB)
Samsung 970 EVO Plus $89.99 (36¢/GB) $129.99 (26¢/GB) $249.99 (25¢/GB)  
Samsung 970 PRO   $167.99 (33¢/GB) $347.77 (34¢/GB)  
Intel Optane SSD 900P/905P $269.99 (96¢/GB) $513.86 (107¢/GB) $1259.00 (131¢/GB) $2132.99 (142¢/GB)

 

Entry-level NVMe: Intel SSD 660p

Low-end NVMe SSDs have always struggled to carve out a niche between mainstream SATA and high-end NVMe pricing. Drives that use TLC NAND with cheaper entry-level NVMe controllers (some of them DRAMless) are still too close in price to the most affordable high-end NVMe SSDs. The Intel 660p obtains further cost savings by using QLC NAND instead of TLC, enabling it to be the first NVMe SSD to truly match the pricing of mainstream SATA SSDs. The downside of using QLC NAND is that decent performance requires using a lot of NAND, so the 660p only makes sense in the 1TB and 2TB capacities.

  120-128GB 240-256GB 480-512GB 1TB 2TB
Kingston A1000   $49.99 (21¢/GB) $85.99 (18¢/GB) $164.99 (17¢/GB)  
MyDigitalSSD SBX   $49.99 (20¢/GB) $94.99 (19¢/GB) $219.99 (21¢/GB)  
HP EX900 $32.49 (27¢/GB) $46.99 (19¢/GB) $79.95 (16¢/GB)    
Crucial P1     $79.99 (16¢/GB) $154.99 (15¢/GB)  
Intel 660p     $79.99 (16¢/GB) $134.99 (13¢/GB) $244.99 (12¢/GB)

 

M.2 SATA: Crucial MX500 and WD Blue 3D

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.

  250GB 500GB 1TB 2TB
Samsung 860 EVO M.2 $67.99 (27¢/GB) $95.74 (19¢/GB) $167.99 (17¢/GB) $347.99 (17¢/GB)
Crucial MX500 M.2 $49.95 (20¢/GB) $67.95 (14¢/GB) $134.95 (13¢/GB)  
WD Blue 3D M.2 $49.99 (20¢/GB) $67.99 (14¢/GB) $125.99 (13¢/GB) $289.99 (14¢/GB)

Now that the holiday sales season is over, the Samsung 860 EVO M.2 is not competing as strongly, leaving the Crucial MX500 and WD Blue 3D NAND as the best choices in this segment. The WD Blue is currently a bit cheaper at 1TB and it offers the 2TB M.2 option that that the Crucial MX500 lacks.

POST A COMMENT

24 Comments

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  • Billy Tallis - Friday, February 22, 2019 - link

    In the future I'll try to call out any recommendations that have atypical warranty periods. I'm never going to include MTBF numbers because they are too misleading and definitely not comparable between brands. Reply
  • pilgrimshoes - Thursday, April 04, 2019 - link

    Actually, what I think would be useful are the TBW numbers and the warranty. They also show some key differences between the popular drives by the big makers. Reply
  • Dug - Thursday, February 21, 2019 - link

    "The heatsinks on many of the add-in cards tend to increase the price while making no meaningful difference to real-world performance"

    You mean like the one's without heatsinks that throttle and you get slower speeds than sata ssd?
    Reply
  • Billy Tallis - Friday, February 22, 2019 - link

    When throttling doesn't happen during real-world usage, I'm not going to make it a factor in my buying recommendations.

    I can make any SSD look bad by carefully choosing the wrong benchmark.
    Reply
  • keg504 - Friday, February 22, 2019 - link

    Where are there 10 ¢/GB SSDs? Reply
  • Billy Tallis - Friday, February 22, 2019 - link

    DRAMless SATA drives are now down to $99 for 960GB and $49 for 480GB as everyday pricing, and I've seen a few sales that go a few dollars below those prices. Reply
  • magreen - Friday, February 22, 2019 - link

    Like many, My desktop machines have a small mainstream SSD as a boot drive and a larger HDD as a storage drive. I’m considering an inexpensive large SSD to replace the HDD. Are DRAMless SSDs at the point that they are consistently, and in almost all cases, faster than a 7200 rpm HDD? Reply
  • Billy Tallis - Friday, February 22, 2019 - link

    A large (eg 1TB) DRAMless SATA drive should be able to provide better sequential write speeds than a hard drive, especially for shorter transfers of just a few GB that don't fill the SLC cache. On every other metric, even smaller DRAMless SATA SSDs are much faster. Reply
  • magreen - Friday, February 22, 2019 - link

    Thanks! I don't see recommendations above. Any models you'd recommend? Reply
  • artifex - Monday, February 25, 2019 - link

    Started looking at the HP EX920 on the linked Newegg page, to put in my gaming laptop; saw about a 20% 1-star rating, with complaints that they fail after a month or two, and HP gives no support. Gaming laptops were specifically mentioned, so I might end up just waiting and going with another Samsung when the prices drop (it came with a PM981).

    P.S. Only 2 reviews of the HP EX950 at your Newegg link, but one of them is 1-star, too.
    Reply

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