Best SATA Internal SSDs, M.2 NVMe 2021: Which Model to Choose?

If the positive contribution of SSDs for our computers and video game consoles is undeniable, their exorbitant prices were a brake on their adoption. But you no longer have an excuse, the prices have not stopped falling for several years. What are the best SSDs available in 2021? Follow the guide to find out which model best suits your needs and especially your budget.

Our selection of the best internal SSDs

You have finally resolved to switch to SSD to give a boost to your machine embedding a nonchalant HDD. Or are you just looking for a new, better performing SSD. Because it can be difficult to navigate the myriad of options and interfaces available, we help you to choose the right SSD for your needs. Compared to HDDs, the advantages in terms of speed and power consumption are well worth the price differential between the two types of drives.

Best 2.5 ″ SATA SSDs

The 2.5 SATA format is still very popular in 2020. If you are using an old laptop or desktop PC with a hard drive and you want to replace it, the choice of a 2.5 inch SSD may be necessary. This type of disc offers performance far superior to traditional HDDs and will give you a much more ergonomic user experience: accelerated system startup, faster loading of applications and an better data transfer speed.

Samsung Internal SSD 860 PRO SATA

Samsung 860 pro

Samsung’s EVO SSD series has been the most popular for several years. The 860 EVO Pro is an excellent choice for those looking for a solid SSD in all compartments: speed, reliability, warranty, management software, all at a reasonable price. Powered by V-NAND MLC flash technology, this SSD offers a maximum write speed of 530MB / s and a throughput of 560MB / s read.

Whether you’re a gamer, content creator or average user looking for more responsiveness, the Evo 860 Pro SSD delivers top performance and longevity through the use of MLC memory. The TBW index is 1200 TB for each TB of capacity. In other words, for a 1TB Samsung 860 Pro, the lifespan theoretical amounts to more than 3 decades (33 years) at a rate of 100 GB of data written per day. The manufacturer’s warranty is 5 years. This SSD is offered at a price of 118 € in 512 GB version or 225 € in 1 TB capacity.

SanDisk Ultra 3D SSD

ssd sandisk ultra 3d

Western Digital and its subsidiary SanDisk are among the most credible players in the SSD market. The SanDisk Ultra 3D, as its name suggests, uses 3D NAND TLC technology supported by an nCache 2.0 which is similar to an SLC cache system. This system offers exemplary performance and endurance. Its durable design allows it to withstand not only shock and vibration, but also temperatures up to 70 ° C.

Sequential read and write speeds can reach 560 and 530MB / s respectively. The manufacturer’s warranty is 3 years, but the TBW for the 500GB version is 200TB, or 100GB of data written per day for about 5 years. This SSD is available in capacities of 500 GB to 4 TB with prices ranging from 61 to 434 €.

Crucial BX 500 SSD

Crucial SSD BX500

Looking for a cheap 2.5 ″ SSD with decent performance? The Crucial BX 500 is a great alternative to the Samsung EVO 860 and the SanDisk Ultra 3D. Its maximum sequential read and write speeds are 540 and 500 MB / s, enough to benefit from a system 3 to 4 times faster than with a conventional hard drive.

This SSD uses 3D NAND TLC memory. Its lifespan is 120 TBW for the 480 GB version, which provides 65 GB write margin to the disk every day for 5 years. However, the manufacturer offers a 3-year warranty. The available storage capacities range from 480 GB to 2 TB. Prices range between € 30 and € 200.

Samsung 870 QVO

Cheap Samsung 870 QVO 1TB Internal SSD

The Samsung 870 QVO model offers top flight performance. It fits in any laptop or desktop computer with a 2.5 ″ bay. Additionally, Samsung’s 870 QVO comes in the standard 2.5-inch SATA format. This makes the SSD extremely easy to install on a desktop PC or laptop.

The user will only have to put the SSD in its slot and the integrated migration software will take care of importing all the data. Performance level, the SSD in question achieves sequential speeds of 560 MB / s in reading and 530 MB / s in writing.

The best M.2 NVMe SSDs

Most recent PCs offer an M.2 format. It comes in the form of a card similar to that of RAM memories, but the connector is 22 mm wide. M.2 format SSDs use a SATA or PCIe interface with NVMe protocol. The NVMe SSDs are the fastest. So this is the choice to make if you want uncompromising performance. They are not limited to the speed limit between 500 and 600 MB / s for SATA. Most common NVMe SSDs use the PCIe 3.0 interface with speeds of around 3000MB / s.

PCIe 4.0 on the other hand offers speeds of up to 5000 MB / s but compatible motherboards are still very rare. It is still possible to use a PCIe 4.0 SSD on a PCIe 3.0 slot thanks to the backward compatibility, but it’s like driving a car on a highway where the speed limit is 80 km / h. You are not using the medium to its full potential. Here is our pick of the best NVMe SSDs around.

PNY CS3030

pny-ssd-internal-cs3030-500go-m-2-nvme

This PNY CS3030 internal SSD offers transfer speeds of 3500MB / s read and 3000MB / s write. It is also compatible with PCs equipped with an M.2 2280 bay running Linux, Apple MacOS X, Ubuntu 14, Microsoft Windows XP / Vista / 7/8/10 operating systems.

This PNY CS3030 internal SSD also benefits from an advanced design based on NAND flash technology. As a result, it consumes less energy and can operate at a lower temperature.

In addition, it is extremely quiet and operating noise is almost inaudible. Finally, your computer benefits from faster startup and shutdown as well as increased responsiveness when launching even the heaviest programs.

Samsung 970 PRO Internal SSD

Samsung 970 pro

Samsung’s SSD 970 Pro is a benchmark in the M.2 NVMe SSD market. Specifically, it uses an M.2 2280 format (22 millimeters wide, 80 mm long), the most common, and operates through the PCIe 3.0 interface with up to 4 row connectors. Samsung V-NAND technology added to the type of MLC memory used in this SSD guarantees an impressive performance.

You get a read speed of up to 3500MB / s and 2700MB / s sequential write. In addition, with up to 1200 TBW, this SSD offers a comfortable lifespan. It is covered by a 5 year warranty. The 512 GB and 1 TB versions are available at the respective prices of 153 and 245 €.

Gigabyte AORUS NVMe SSD (PCIe 4.0)

Gigabyte Aorus SSD PCIe 4

This M.2 2280 SSD is compatible with the 4th generation PCIe interface, which allows it to offer sequential speeds of 5000MB / s for reading and 4.400M0 / s for writing. It uses TLC technology on a 96-layer 3D NAND memory. You get optimal performance thanks to a 1 GB DDR4 cade for the version with 1 TB of storage which is available for € 204.99 on Amazon.

Its TBW is 1800 TB and the manufacturer’s warranty is 5 years. Finally, to take advantage of it, you will need a motherboard with the X570 chipset from AMD which is currently the only one to be compatible with PCIe 4.0. Otherwise, you are limited to the PCIe 3.0 cap of around 3,500MB / s.

Western Digital Black SN750

Western Digital SSD Sn750

The WD Black SN 750 offers decent performance and represents a good alternative to the Samsung 970 Pro with speeds 6 times faster than a conventional SATA SSD. The read speed goes up to 3100MB / s and 1600MB / s write thanks to TLC technology and the use of an SLC cache. The format is M.2 2280 NVMe (PCIe x 4). Whether you are looking to improve your overall system speed or load your video games faster, this SSD delivers a smooth experience.

It is available in a capacity of 256 GB to 2 TB. Its TBW is 300 TB for the 512 GB version. From this capacity, this SSD benefits from a heat sink which ensures optimal operation for longer. The manufacturer’s warranty is 4 years.

Intel SSD 660p series

Intel SSD 660p

The Intel 660p is an entry-level M.2 NVMe SSD using QLC technology which allows it to be offered at a more affordable price for comfortable capacities. However, you benefit from very good performance with read and write speeds of 1800 MB / s in both cases. Intel achieves this through the use of dynamic SLC cache and static DRAM.

The value for money is its main argument: 89 € for 1 TB of storage. Intel here offers satisfactory reliability and longevity with a 5-year warranty. The TBW index is 100 TB for the 512 TB version and goes up to 400 TB for the 2 TB capacity.

Best M.2 SATA SSDs

SSDs in M.2 format can also connect to a SATA interface. Despite their similarities to PCIe / NVMe SSDs in form, they are limited to the maximum speed of 500-600MB / s imposed by this type of interface, but allow you to enjoy speed of execution and a satisfactory comfort compared to traditional HDDs.

Crucial MX 500 SSD

crucial mx500 SATA

With Crucial’s MX500 SSD in M.2 2280 format, boost your computer’s performance with 3D NAND technology in TLC. 560MB / s read and 510MB / s write speeds ensure a smooth run-time experience. The TBW is 360 TB for the 1 TB version. The manufacturer is confident enough to offer a 5-year warranty. Available from € 49 on Amazon.

Samsung 860 EVO M.2 SATA

Samsung SSD 860 M2

This is the M.2 equivalent of the Samsung EVO 860 in 2.5 ″ format. This MLC-type SSD offers a sequential read and write speed of 520 and 550MB / s. The performance and life are optimal thanks to the use of the MJX controller based on a solid algorithm. The TBW of the Samsung 860 EVO M2 ranges from 150 TB for the 250 GB version to 2400 for the 4 TB version. You benefit from a 5-year warranty. As for the price, it is 73 € for the 500 GB version, 118 € for the 1 TB version or 239 € for the 2 TB version.

“What is an SSD?

SSD (Solid State Drive) is a non-volatile storage drive that records and retrieves data using only electronic circuitry and not moving mechanical parts unlike HDD which writes and reads data from rotating disks also called platters. SSDs are based on flash memory technology, the same as found in USB drives and SD cards.

Every bit of data stored on a cell is via an electrical charge. SSDs keep stored data permanently accessible, even without a power supply, since these are non-volatile flash memories. In addition, the absence of trays allows SSDs to be less bulky and therefore more compact. But that’s not their only advantage.

👌 The advantages of SSD over traditional HDD

SSDs are more reliable because they do not have a moving mechanical part, which makes them less prone to physical wear over time. They are indeed more impact resistant, falls and other accidents while being completely silent. But their biggest advantage is in terms of performance.

First, in terms of latency. The data access time of a typical hard drive is 5-10 ms while an SSD takes between 0.35 to 0.1 ms (10 microseconds), up to 100 times less time. The hard drive read speed is around 150MB / s at best, but it can go up to 560MB / s for SATA SSDs, or a flow rate 3 to 4 times higher. Combined with the reduced access time to data, PCs come out much better: fast system startup, faster application launch, better data transfer speed, less slowdowns, but also lower power consumption.

With NVMe SSDs, sequential read and write speeds are even faster. The best performing drives like the Samsung SSD 970 Pro reach up to 3500MB / s read and 2700MB / s write, ensuring a smooth experience in all circumstances.

💽 What are the different types of SSD?

The types of SSD can be classified into two broad categories: the type of NAND memory used and the format of the SSD. Regarding the type of memory, there are four main families:

  • SLC (Single Level Cell) or cell with only one level: allows you to store a data bit on each memory cell
  • MLC (Multi Level Cell) or multilevel cell: 2 data bits on each cell
  • TLC (Tri Level Cell) or three-level cell: 3 data bits are stored on each cell
  • QLC (Quad Level Cell) or four-level cell: 4 bits on each cell

The higher the density per cell, the more manufacturers are able to offer high capacity SSDs at a reduced price. But performance and longevity take a hit. This is because the read and write speed decreases as the amount of bits stored per cell increases. Ditto for the lifetime (number of writing cycles on a cell before it wears out).

The most popular types of memory for the general public are MLC and TLC which offer a good compromise between performance, storage capacity, longevity and price. The very recent QLC offers even greater capacities at a lower cost, but performance and life are reduced further. In order to guarantee optimal performance, manufacturers use an SLC or DRAM type cache. This is a small amount of non-volatile memory that will be reserved for caching data for much faster processing speeds.

The limits on the storage capacity of SSDs are non-existent today. Indeed, great progress makes it possible to ensure an effortless density and to further lower production costs. 3D NANDs have made it possible to multiply the number of usable cell layers.

Indeed, unlike standard 2D NANDs whose cells are aligned horizontally in a single layer, 3D allows multiple layers to be stacked vertically, resulting in an incredibly greater storage density while improving lifespan.

Samsung’s V-NAND flash memories, for example, can stack up to 96 layers of cells in a single SSD.

SSDs by format

SSDs are offered in different formats / interfaces, as we have seen above:

  • 2.5-inch SATA format: these SSDs are embedded in a 2.5-inch case and are satisfied via the SATA interface like traditional HDDs. Their maximum read and write speeds are between 500 and 600MB / s.
  • M.2 SATA format: M.2 format uses two types of interfaces including SATA with the same speed limits as 2.5 inch SSDs
  • M.2 PCIe Format (NVMe): These SSDs use the NVMe protocol on the PCIe bus. This protocol achieves the best sequential read and write speeds (up to 5000MB / s with PCIe 4.0).

Finally, the M.2 format is offered in different sizes expressed in “width x length”. The standard width is 22 mm. As for the length, the most common are those of 42, 60 and 80 mm (M.2 2242, M.2 2260 or M.2 2280). The 2280 is the format found in over 90% of cases. Before making your choice, check your PC’s specifications to find out what type of SSD goes with its slots.

⏲ ​​What is the lifespan of an SSD?

While the reliability of SSDs is due to their resistance due to the absence of mechanical parts, their lifespan is still limited by the constraints associated with write cycles. In other words, each cell in a NAND memory can only support a limited number of writes due to the wear and tear caused by electrical charges.

The number of cycles varies according to the type of memory used (SLC, MLC, TLC or even QLC). An SLC chip supports 50,000 to 100,000 write cycles compared to 3000 to 10,000 for MLC and 500 to 2000 for TLC type (1000 on average). Newer QLC memories that store 4 bits of data in a single cell have an even more limited life expectancy, although in practice tests have shown that the write cycle is similar to that of TLC memories.

To simplify estimating the lifespan of an SSD in order to make it more understandable to the general public, manufacturers express it in TBW (Terabytes Written). This is the amount of data that is theoretically possible to write to a disk before it fails. For a 100 TB TBW, it will be possible to write approximately 280 GB of data per day for 1 year or 56 GB of data daily for 5 years.

Considering that a normal PC user writes between 10 and 35 GB of data per day or so, they can theoretically be able to use the SSD for at least 8 years. And the more the storage capacity increases, the more the TBW evolves in a proportional way, which offers an even greater margin. The best SSDs like the Samsung Evo 860 Pro offer a TBW of up to 300TB for a capacity of 256GB or 1200TB for each TB of capacity.

This equates to 100 GB of data per day for 33 years! This is a comfortable margin, even for heavy users such as gamers and content creators. In other words, you will most likely have changed PCs or upgraded your entire setup before your SSD hit its limits.

Finally, the manufacturers offer a guarantee of 5 years on average. That is to say that one can actually expect a real lifespan going well beyond the warranty period, but it all depends on the TBW index and the usage of each user as explained above. To avoid any surprises, the brands offer software to optimize your SSD, but also to monitor its state of health thanks to S.M.A.R.T data which monitors your disk usage statistics. This is the case with Samsung’s Magician tool.

💰What is the price of SSDs in 2021?

For a long time, the capacity / price ratio of SSDs remained largely unfavorable compared to HDDs, but the gap is narrowing more and more thanks to technological advances made by manufacturers, both in terms of cell levels and the number of layers that can be stacked vertically (3D / V-NAND). With the popularization of 4-bit-per-cell QLC technology, the price of SSDs is falling further.

This is the choice if you want a cheap SSD with comfortable storage space. The Intel 660p costs for example 89 € for 1 TB of storage. A 1TB Samsung 870 QVO (QLC) is available between 90 and 110 €. But beware of performance. While using SLC cache write speed can increase to 520MB / s, it drops to 80MB / s without cache.

A Samsung 870 EVO using TLC + V-NAND technology costs around € 90 in 2021 for a capacity of 1TB or € 190 in the 2TB version. The EVO 860 Pro that use faster and more durable MLC technology cost more. Count a little less than 120 € for a capacity of 512 GB in SATA and between 200 and 225 € for 1 TB. In the PCIe NVMe version, SSDs cost a few dozen euros more. Of course, the prices vary depending on the merchant.

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