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The best SSDs can make almost any PC feel much faster.
You don’t need one of the best SSDs to have a fast gaming PC, but it certainly helps. As much as any SSD will give you a snappy PC that boots fast and loads games quickly, you can get greater performance, improved reliability and larger capacities with some of the best drives available.
Thanks to reductions in NAND flash memory prices in recent years, SSDs aren’t even that expensive any more. The fastest and most cutting edge units are still charged at a premium, but you don’t need to spend a fortune if you need a big SSD that will be able to handle your whole game library or store files for your creative work process.
The type of SSD you buy will depend on what you’re buying it for and your overall purpose. If you have a newer computer and you want the fastest speeds available, chances are you’ll want an M.2 NVMe SSD. If you’re on an older computer or you’re looking for a substantial boost over your mechanical hard drive, but don’t need to eke out every drop of speed possible, you can still get by with a SATA SSD. Then there are special cases like the Xbox Series X and Series S, which require a proprietary SSD that’s pricier than the typical PC upgrade. No matter your need and creed, here are the best SSDs you can buy.
Building atop the strong legacy of the Samsung 970 Pro, the 970 Evo is the best SSD you can buy today. It runs exceedingly fast, with high sequential read/write speeds of 3,500 MBps and 2,500 MBps respectively. It also enjoys fast random write speeds and excellent overall performance. It isn’t quite the fastest drive out there, but at its discounted price, it offers a perfect middle ground of fast operation and affordability.
Available in capacities from 512GB up to 2TB, the 1TB model offers much improved random read and write performance over the smaller option, and is much cheaper than its 2TB counterpart, making it the most attractive of the lineup. With a 600 terabytes written (TBW) rating, you’ll be able to fill this drive over and over and over, with no concern of it failing on you.
It comes with a robust software suite that actually improves performance over the stock Windows NVMe driver, as well as giving you an easy way to migrate data to and from the drive and monitor its long term performance with a handy benchmark. The Samsung 970 Evo Plus is the best SSD you can buy in 2021, offering an excellent blend of price, performance and features.
Adata might not be as strong a household name as some SSD manufacturers in Western markets, but it’s made a big splash nonetheless. Its XPG line of SSDs offers fantastic performance at a very competitive price, and with the SX8200’s great looks, DIY heat spreader and overall software package, it’s the best SSD for gamers right now.
Pushing the PCIExpress 3.0 interface to near its limits, this drive can deliver 3,500MBps sequential read and 3,000MBps sequential write speeds, as well as high random read and write operations for snappy real-world performance. Games load fast, Windows boots swiftly and your whole PC feels responsive.
The 1TB model offers the same performance as the 2TB, and with 640 TBW endurance, it should keep going for years without any issues. It includes a five year warranty, giving gamers complete peace of mind that their most important save files will be more than safe with the Adata SX8200.
If you want to expand the storage on your Xbox Series X or S console, then the best way is with the Seagate Storage Expansion card. It uses NVMe technology to offer read, write and random access times (almost) as fast as the console’s internal storage. This is the official partner drive of the Xbox Series X|S consoles, so no other external SSD will work in quite the same way.
With a 1TB capacity, the Seagate Expansion Card can double the storage space of the Xbox Series X, and quadruple that of the Series S, giving Xbox gamers heaps of additional space for more games. Although you can use an external hard drive for even more space, the huge difference in performance means that your games load far slower. With that in mind, the Seagate Storage Expansion Card is the best SSD for Xbox Series X and S consoles.
SSDs are cheaper now than they’ve ever been, but they can still be hard to fit into a tight budget at higher capacities. Fortunately, there are great SATA III SSDs that are both high-performing and exceedingly affordable.
The Crucial MX500 512GB is the best of the bunch there. At just north of $50 you get a fantastic SSD for Windows, a bunch of games and heaps of other files and folders besides. It doesn’t offer cutting edge performance, and there are faster and more durable SATA drives if you want the best SSD in the category, but for this price, you need to have a very good reason to not have an SSD in your PC.
NVMe SSDs are starting to hit price parity with traditional SATA SSDs, but if you have an older PC that doesn’t support the new M.2 stick drives, then finding the highest-quality and fastest SATA SSD for your money is a great way to keep your system feeling fast and fresh. The best SATA SSD is the Samsung 870 Evo, an evolution on a classic design that has remained relevant for years thanks to its high performance, excellent durability and strong warranty support.
The latest version pushes the SATA interface to its limit, with a 560 MBps sequential read speed and 530 MBps sequential write speed, as well as a near 100,000 IOPS random read/write rate for excellent real world performance. It might load games a couple of seconds slower than the best NVMe SSDs, but for a quality SATA drive that will last you for years to come, the Samsung 870 Evo is one of the best SSDs you can buy.
PCIExpress doesn’t offer much performance advantage for graphics cards just yet, but it has unlocked a new generation of stupendously fast NVMe SSDs. The WD Black SN850 is one such drive, with an eye watering sequential read/write rate of 7,000 MBps/5,300 MBps and up to 1,00,000 IOPS, it is the absolute fastest SSD ever made. You have to pay for that privilege, with the price tag almost double that of strong PCIexpress 3.0 SSDs, but when you’re on the bleeding edge, everything comes at a premium.
You will need a PCIExpress 4.0 supporting motherboard to take advantage of it, and a little direct airflow wouldn’t go amiss, as it can get hot even with its chunky heatsink. But if you need the fastest SSD money can buy, the WD Black SN850 is the best SSD for the job.
Professional needs are a little different than those of gamers. Performance needs to be strong, but durability and reliability are arguably more important. The Seagate FireCuda offers everything in one compact package. It offers some of the best speeds you can find in PCIexpress 3.0 NVMe SSDs, and random read and write speeds that are in excess of even the fastest gaming SSDs.
Where this drive really stands out though, is its endurance. The 1TB model is rated for 1,300 TBW, guaranteeing more than double the regular lifespan of a standard NVMe drive. As part of the price, you also get a lengthy five year warranty and a three year subscription to Seagate’s rescue data recovery service, so if something were to go awry and you lost something important, you could have your information recovered for free.
External SSDs need to be small, lightweight and fast, and the Samsung T7 ticks all those boxes with ease. It takes full advantage of its USB-C interface to offer fast data transfers at up to 1,000MBps, making it great for moving around large numbers of files, or for streaming movies and playing games right from the drive.
Weighing just 58 grams and measuring around the size of a credit card (and just 8mm thick) it is the perfect size for slipping into your pocket to take your high-speed storage on the go. The solid aluminum unibody construction gives it an extra level of durability over many of the alternative SSDs.
It’s not water or dust resistant, but it’s tough enough that you don’t need to be anywhere near as concerned as you would be with a traditional hard drive. If you need an affordable, compact and portable high-speed drive, the Samsung T7 is the best SSD for the job.
NVMe and SATA are the two most common interface technologies used in modern SSDs and they give you an idea of the maximum performance you can expect from those drives. SATA drives, whether in the 2.5-inch form factor or, occasionally, the M.2 (stick-like drive) form factor, will typically offer around 500MBps read and write speed at best. NVMe drives, whether in the M.2 or PCIexpress card form factor, can offer anything up to the maximum throughput of the PCIExpress generation they support. For PCIE 3.0, that’s anywhere up to 3,500MBps read and 3,000 MBps write speed. PCIExpress 4.0 NVMe drives can go further, operating at up to 7,000MBps and 5,000 read and MBps write speed.
NVMe drives are faster by the numbers and do typically offer slightly better real world performance too, although it’s nothing like the specifications would suggest. Just because they are capable of running more than 15 times faster than a SATA SSD, doesn’t mean you’re always benefiting from it fully in actual usage. They’re also typically more expensive.
Where there is a debate to be had about whether you need an NVMe drive over a SATA SSD, there is none about SSDs and hard drives. For a modern PC experience, you absolutely need your boot drive to be an SSD, and preferably have all your games loaded on one too. Everything will feel snappier and more responsive, and boot and game load times will be massively reduced.
It’s still a good idea to use a big hard drive for longer term storage of work documents, photos, music, and movies, as they don’t benefit from the same speed advantages of SSDs and big capacity HDDs are much cheaper. For anything performance focused, however, use SSDs.