As CPU performance hits new and unforeseen heights, processors increasingly spend time waiting on data from hard drives. This is what makes storage today's most glaring bottleneck, and overcoming it requires an SSD. At the end of the day, the real-world differences between SSDs in a desktop environment aren't altogether large. The most noticeable performance increase occurs when you go from a hard disk to just about any solid-state drive.
With that said, there are measurable attributes separating one SSD from another. But you'll need to approach a purchasing decision as the sum of many parts. Within individual apps, you'll hardly notice the difference between most SATA 3Gb/s and faster SATA 6Gb/s drives. It's the more taxing workloads that make a faster device worth owning.
So, if you don’t have the time to read the benchmarks, or if you don’t feel confident enough in your ability to pick the right drive, fear not. Every month, we publish a simple list of the best SSDs for the money across the full spectrum of capacities.
March 2015 Updates
March is an important month for client storage. The products introduced at CES in January are hitting our lab, and the CeBIT announcements should start rolling out soon. From here, we look forward to Computex in June, when PCIe-based products will flood the premium performance market with NVMe in tow.
Last month we reviewed Samsung's SM951 PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD, the first high-performance m.2-based SSD offered in 2015. It's the fastest consumer drive available. But it's still rare. Enthusiasts looking to tap the PCIe bus for high-speed storage can turn to the XP941 in 128, 256 and 512GB capacities for around $1/GB or less. However, waiting for the SM951 in those capacities is worthwhile, we think.
Crucial made a lot of noise at CES with the introduction of two new client families: BX100 and MX200. The BX100 utilizes Silicon Motion's SM2246EN controller, which took the market by storm a year ago. Crucial and SanDisk are the first NAND flash fabs to adopt the controller, giving Silicon Motion a big win.
The MX200 sounds like an MX100 replacement, but Crucial tells us that both products will coexist for the time being. Like the MX100, the MX200 uses a Marvell controller. Its big change involves the flash on its PCB. Crucial moved to Micron 16nm NAND and brought in a new SLC cache layer to buffer data writes. This increases performance in many workloads and also helps endurance.
Phison also has several new design wins with its new S10 controller (Corsair's Neutron XT, Patriot's Ignite and Mushkin's Striker are all selling online). Kingston will have a 2.5" model soon as well. The S10 uses advanced ECC technology to increase endurance with three-bit-per-cell (TLC) flash, though early products based on the drive are using two-bit-per-cell memory. The S10 is still missing some advanced features that Phison plans to introduce later at the firmware level.
Along with new editors comes new testing methodologies. Check out How We Test HDDs And SSDs for more information about how the latest storage devices are evaluated at Tom's Hardware.
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About Our Recommendations
- We only recommend SSDs we've actually tested.
- There are several criteria we use to rank SSDs. We try to evenly weigh performance per dollar at each capacity tier and recommend what we believe to the best drive based on our own experiences and information garnered from other sources.
- The list is based on U.S. prices from online retailers. In other countries or at retail stores, your mileage will most certainly vary.
- These are new SSD prices. No used or open-box offers are in the list.
- Our picks should be valid throughout the month of publication, but SSD pricing is especially competitive, and a $15 difference can be the reason why one SSD makes the list, while another does not.
- Prices and availability change on a daily basis, but the embedded green links provide real-time pricing
256GB SSD Recommendations
512GB SSD Recommendations
1TB SSD Recommendations