It's been only two months since the last update to this guide, but with the holiday sales starting it's time to check where SSD prices are at. There haven't been many new SSD product releases lately and the rollout of 64-layer 3D NAND is proceeding slowly. We don't expect any new releases of significance before the end of the year. Most brands are saving up their announcements for CES in early January. As a result, our recommendations have barely changed.

The most visible SSD product launch in recent months was obviously the Intel Optane SSD 900p. In almost every way it is the fastest SSD on the market and its pricing is far lower than the enterprise Optane SSD DC P4800X, but the 900p is still too expensive to be a reasonable choice for any kind of bargain hunter.

November 2017 SSD Recommendations
Market Segment Recommendations
Mainstream 2.5" SATA Samsung 850 EVO 500 GB @ $149.99 (30¢/GB)
WD Blue 3D / SanDisk Ultra 3D 1 TB @ $284.99 (28¢/GB)
Small and Cheap SATA Crucial BX300 120 GB @  $59.99 (50¢/GB)
Entry-level NVMe Plextor M8Pe 256GB @ $118.88 (46¢/GB)
WD Black 512GB @ $199.75 (39¢/GB)
Intel 600p 1TB @ $338.03 (33¢/GB)
High-end NVMe Samsung 960 EVO 1 TB @ $447.30 (45¢/GB)
Samsung 960 PRO 2 TB @ $1159.00 (57¢/GB)
M.2 SATA WD Blue 3D M.2 1 TB @ $304.99 (30¢/GB)

Above are some recommendations of good deals in each market segment. Several 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. Holiday sales that don't beat these prices aren't worth standing in line for.

November 2017 SSD Recommendations: Price to Beat, ¢/GB
Market Segment 128GB 256GB 512GB 1TB 2TB
Mainstream 2.5" SATA 50 ¢/GB 36 ¢/GB 29 ¢/GB 27 ¢/GB 27 ¢/GB
Small and Cheap SATA 41 ¢/GB 34 ¢/GB 29 ¢/GB    
Entry-level NVMe 58 ¢/GB 46 ¢/GB 39 ¢/GB 32 ¢/GB  
High-end NVMe     47 ¢/GB 45 ¢/GB 57 ¢/GB
M.2 SATA 47 ¢/GB 36 ¢/GB 29 ¢/GB 27 ¢/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: Samsung 850 EVO, WD Blue 3D/SanDisk Ultra 3D

The largest segment of the consumer SSD market is 2.5" SATA drives intended for use as either the only storage device in the system, or as the primary drive holding the OS and most programs and data. This market segment has by far the widest range of choices, and virtually every SSD brand has at least one model for this segment.

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. Our recommendations in this segment now all use 3D NAND flash. Older models using planar NAND tend to be much slower if they use TLC, and either more expensive or hard to find if they use MLC.

  240-256GB 480-525GB 1TB 2TB
Samsung 850 EVO $89.99 (36¢/GB) $149.99 (30¢/GB) $299.99 (30¢/GB) $677.66 (34¢/GB)
WD Blue 3D NAND $93.59 (37¢/GB) $151.53 (30¢/GB) $294.48 (29¢/GB) $584.75 (29¢/GB)
SanDisk Ultra 3D $99.99 (40¢/GB) $144.99 (29¢/GB) $284.99 (28¢/GB)  
Crucial MX300 $92.99 (34¢/GB) $149.99 (29¢/GB) $278.99 (27¢/GB) $549.00 (27¢/GB)
Crucial BX300 $87.99 (37¢/GB) $144.99 (30¢/GB)    
Intel 545s $99.99 (39¢/GB) $162.99 (32¢/GB)    

The Samsung 850 EVO is not quite the fastest SATA SSD possible, but it sets the standard for most of the SATA SSD market. The SanDisk Ultra 3D and its twin the WD Blue 3D NAND are almost as fast as the 850 EVO and are slightly cheaper. The Crucial MX300 is even cheaper but sacrifices some performance, especially at lower capacities.

Mainstream SATA - ATSB - Heavy (Data Rate)

The Intel 545s is still a bit more expensive than most drives in this segment, indicating that Intel and Micron haven't gotten production of their 64-layer 3D NAND up high enough. It's getting closer to competitive pricing, but we probably have another few months before Intel and Micron are ready to match the other 64L NAND prices.

Small and Cheap SATA: Crucial BX300

Some users are only interested in small SSDs, either because they know their storage needs are modest, or because they plan to keep the bulk of their data on a mechanical hard drive. Simply buying the cheapest SSDs that is large enough can be a bad idea: The smallest SSDs usually suffer from significantly worse pricing on a per-GB basis, and significantly lower performance due to having fewer flash chips to access in parallel.

This year, the 128GB capacity class is on its way out. 128GB is still enough space for an operating system and a reasonable number of applications and documents, but it fills up fast when used to store games, movies or photos. Our favorite SATA drives for the 240GB and up capacities are not manufactured in ~128GB versions, requiring a different recommendation. In this segment, we also assume that the drive is pretty likely to be used in a near-full state, which usually leads to reduced performance, but that effect is stronger for some drives than others.

  120GB 240-275GB 480-525GB
Crucial BX300 $59.99 (50¢/GB) $87.99 (37¢/GB) $144.99 (30¢/GB)
Crucial MX300   $92.99 (34¢/GB) $149.99 (29¢/GB)
ADATA SU800 $52.99 (41¢/GB) $87.99 (34¢/GB) $147.99 (29¢/GB)

The choice for this segment is very clear: the Crucial BX300 stands alone as a cheap but modern drive that doesn't compromise. With Micron 3D MLC NAND and a solid Silicon Motion SM2258 controller instead of a cheaper DRAMless controller, it doesn't fit the mold of a typical budget drive. It's only a few dollars more than the cheapest TLC SSDs, and is definitely worth paying extra for. At higher capacities, its price is less compelling.

NVMe SSDs

The market for consumer NVMe SSDs has broadened enough to be split into entry-level and high-end segments. This split will become clearer with the next generation of products as low-end PCIe 3 x2 SSD controllers make their debut, but even now there is a big difference between the Intel 600p and the Samsung 960 PRO.

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.

The latest generation 64-layer 3D NAND has not yet hit the retail NVMe SSD market. Samsung seems unlikely to deliver a replacement for their 960 PRO and 960 EVO before the end of the year. Toshiba's XG5 offers a tantalizing preview of what their 3D NAND can offer, but a retail version has not been announced. Western Digital/SanDisk have also not announced any consumer PCIe SSDs using 3D NAND yet. Intel's 64-layer 3D NAND available in one consumer SATA drive, but the rest of it is going to the enterprise SSD market for now.

Not much has changed recently with the controllers for NVMe SSDs, either. Marvell announced a minor update to their 88SS1093 controller earlier this year but it has not yet been used in any shipping products. Silicon Motion's new generation of NVMe controllers was previewed at Flash Memory Summit and it looks like they'll offer a much-needed performance improvement over the current SM2260 controller, but they're still months away from being ready for release. Drives using Phison's entry-level E8 controller will probably show up as soon as Toshiba's 64L 3D NAND is widely available, but no specific products have been announced. Their new high-end E12 controller is a bit further off.

High-end NVMe: Samsung 960 EVO and Samsung 960 PRO

The Intel Optane SSD 900p raises the bar for high-end SSD performance, but that speed comes at a steep cost. The price per GB of the 900p is more than twice that of the fastest flash-based SSD. Almost everyone would be better served by a much larger Samsung 960 drive that usually feels just as fast. The 960 PRO's performance advantage over a 960 EVO of the same capacity can look impressive in benchmark charts, but is not noticeable enough during real-world use to justify the price premium.

High-End NVMe - ATSB - The Destroyer (Data Rate)

This high-end level of performance is currently hard to obtain from a 256GB-class drive: the 250GB 960 EVO is much slower than its larger siblings, and there isn't a 256GB 960 PRO. The closest alternative would be the OEM SM961 256GB, available from some retailers but without the warranty and support that Samsung's official retail products get.

  250GB 500-512GB 1TB 2TB
Samsung 960 EVO $127.99 (51¢/GB) $247.99 (50¢/GB) $447.30 (45¢/GB)  
Samsung 960 Pro   $289.99 (57¢/GB) $586.99 (57¢/GB) $1159.00 (57¢/GB)
Intel Optane SSD 900p $389.99 (139¢/GB) $599.99 (125¢/GB)    

Entry-level NVMe: MyDigitalSSD BPX, Intel 600p

Drives using PCIe x2 controllers or the NVMe Host Memory Buffer feature have not yet hit the retail market, so the entry-level NVMe segment is mostly defined by the use of TLC NAND or planar MLC. These drives mostly fall into two categories: those using the Phison E7 controller with Toshiba 15nm MLC, or those using the Silicon Motion SM2260 controller with Intel/Micron 3D NAND. There are a few exceptions where drives using a Marvell controller are currently offering entry-level pricing.

  120-128GB 240-256GB 480-512GB 1TB
MyDigitalSSD BPX $69.99 (58¢/GB) $114.99 (48¢/GB) $209.99 (44¢/GB)  
Samsung 960 EVO   $127.99 (51¢/GB) $247.99 (50¢/GB) $447.30 (45¢/GB)
Intel SSD 600p $84.11 (66¢/GB) $139.00 (54¢/GB) $199.99 (39¢/GB) $338.03 (33¢/GB)

The MyDigitalSSD BPX is usually one of the cheapest Phison E7 drives, and the 2.1 firmware revision it ships with is the preferred choice for real-world performance. At the moment, the BPX is by far the cheapest 120GB-class NVMe drive.  At the top end of the capacity range, the 1TB Intel 600p is unbeatable. Yes, it's the slowest NVMe drive, but it's still faster than any SATA SSD on light workloads, and it's only slightly more expensive than top SATA SSDs like the Samsung 850 EVO. In the 256GB class, the Samsung 960 EVO is one of the cheapest and fastest options, but for heavier workloads a Phison drive with MLC may be a better choice.

Entry-Level NVMe - ATSB - Light (Data Rate)

(Note that the above performance data for the Patriot Hellfire should be representative of the MyDigitalSSD BPX and any other Phison E7 drive with 2.1 firmware.)

M.2 SATA: Crucial MX300 and WD Blue 3D

For notebooks, M.2 SATA has almost completely replaced mSATA. A few notebooks are using the shorter M.2 2242 or 2260 sizes, but most support up to the 80mm length. There are far fewer M.2 SATA options than 2.5" SATA options, but most of the current top SATA SSDs come in M.2 versions. There is currently little to no premium for the M.2 versions of these drives, so these recommendations are quite similar to the 2.5" drive recommendations: at larger capacities, the low price and low power consumption of the Crucial MX300 make it the top choice. At the smallest capacity, the higher performance of the WD Blue 3D is worth paying a little bit more for.

  250-275GB 500-525GB 1TB
Samsung 850 EVO M.2 $104.99 (42¢/GB) $168.00 (34¢/GB) $352.99 (35¢/GB)
Crucial MX300 M.2 $92.99 (34¢/GB) $149.99 (29¢/GB) $286.99 (27¢/GB)
WD Blue 3D M.2 $89.99 (36¢/GB) $154.99 (31¢/GB) $304.99 (30¢/GB)
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  • prime2515103 - Wednesday, November 22, 2017 - link

    Are two 256MB M.2 960 EVO's in RAID0 as good as a single 1TB model? Reply
  • LordanSS - Wednesday, November 22, 2017 - link

    RAID-0 improves sequential reads/writes, but lowers performance on random reads/writes due to overhead and other things. Reply
  • merikafyeah - Thursday, November 23, 2017 - link

    RAID0 with PCIe SSDs actually lowers latency. SSDs really thrive at lower queue depths and since RAID0 splits the data among multiple drives, each drive is actually getting hit at a much lower queue depth than you would normally get with just one drive.
    https://www.pcper.com/reviews/Storage/Triple-M2-Sa...

    Bottom line: Basically everything a user would care about is much faster with RAID0 and any losses would be FAR outweighed by the benefits (performance-wise). At least this is true with PCIe NVMe SSDs. Things will feel "snappier" with RAID0 and the reasons for this can be measured and quantified.
    Reply

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