Detailed solid-state drive specifications and reviews are great—that is, if you have the time to do the research. However, at the end of the day, what an enthusiast needs is the best SSD within a certain budget.
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, then fear not. We at Tom’s Hardware have come to your aid with a simple list of the best SSD offered for the money.
July Updates: A Couple Of Big Names Resurface
This month, a few big names launched fast SSDs. The two most notable were Samsung's 850 Pro and SanDisk's Extreme Pro. As you might expect, developments in NAND manufacturing play a central role in both products.
The former employs 3D V-NAND. If you want to learn more about that (and what it means to performance), check out Samsung 850 Pro SSD Review: 3D Vertical NAND Hits Desktop Storage. Samsung has been working on this technology for years, and the Korean firm is gradually disclosing more information as it becomes relevant in new markets. While other vendors have designs not entirely dissimilar (from what information I've heard), it’s unlikely we’ll see a solid-state drive using 3D NAND from other companies until late next year.
SanDisk's Extreme Pro picks up where last year’s Extreme II left off. It wields the same Marvell 88SS9187 controller used to great effect across the industry, but packs revised firmware and a substantial overclock to squeeze out more performance. SanDisk’s 1Y flash makes its debut as well. It’s similar to Toshiba’s A19 NAND, which cleverly repackages memory cells to reduce die size, ideally enabling higher yields.
Both Pro-branded drives include incredibly long 10-year limited warranties, and we know that Samsung and SanDisk are sandbagging when it comes to endurance. Their official Total Bytes Written stats are kept artificially low. Because the 850 Pro and Extreme Pro have enterprise counterparts, limiting coverage based on writes helps "guide" IT professionals away from the more desktop-oriented offerings.
Samsung was originally set to introduce the 850 Pro with five years of warranty. However, SanDisk’s announcement that the Extreme Pro would include 10 years compelled action, and company reps informed us of the change just prior to launch. It's a trend that we hope continues, even if the guarantee is bound by time and a maximum write limit. You get 10 years or 150 TBW, whichever comes first. Will you even have a system with legacy SATA 6Gb/s in 10 years? More than likely, no.
Of course, by the time you read this Samsung's 850 Pro still probably won't be available, though units should show up through the end of July and beginning of August. Better still, the estimated prices are notable lower than list. The 128 GB model is projected to sell near $130. Newegg already has the 256 GB version for pre-order at $200, the 512 GB drive at $400, and a 1 TB repository tagged at $700.
Naturally, it's difficult to pin down prices without availability, but it's probable that early adopters will get taxed more severely. SanDisk’s Extreme Pro, already for sale, shipped at similar MSRPs, but has already come down quite a bit. A 960 GB drive goes for $600, slotting in at a class-competitive $0.63/GB. After Samsung's preemptive price cuts, the 1 TB 850 Pro lands around $0.68/GB.
SanDisk’s Pro family doesn’t include a 128 GB-class SSD. But both SanDisk and Samsung's quarter-terabyte models should bounce around the $200 mark, and that's where the 240 GB Extreme II sits now. Per-gigabyte parity on the half-terabyte drives is a safe bet, too. Samsung is still ramping up production of the 850 Pro's 32-layer V-NAND, while the 19 nm flash SanDisk employs is more prevalent. It's not clear how much that affects the bottom line in either case, though.
Elsewhere, IMFT’s L85A flash is responsible for incredibly low prices on mainstream and performance-oriented SSDs. Apparently, it's dirt cheap, despite Micron’s intent to drastically cut shipments to third parties. Crucial, as Micron’s consumer-facing brand, is the primary beneficiary.
The M550 equipped with L85A flash is matched by drives from Adata, PNY, and a few others utilizing that same family of IMFT memory. They might not boast the speed or endurance of the 850 Pro and Extreme Pro, but in some cases, those mainstream SSDs undercut the top-end products by nearly 50%. It’s hard to imagine much more meat to cut from prices on the desktop. However, we've been surprised before.
Some Notes About Our Recommendations
A few simple guidelines to keep in mind when reading this list:
- We only recommend SSDs we've actually used. Recommending SSDs we've never put hands on wouldn't be incredibly helpful.
- There are several criteria we use to rank SSDs. We try to evenly weigh performance and capacity at each price point and recommend what we believe to the best drive based on our own experiences, along with information garnered from other sites. Some people may only be concerned with performance, but that ignores the ever-present capacity issue that mobile users face ever-presently. Even on the desktop, other variables have to be considered.
- Prices and availability change on a daily basis. Our picks will be valid the month of publication, but we can't extend our choices very far beyond that time frame. SSD pricing is especially competitive, and a $15 difference can be the reason why one SSD makes the list, while another does not. As you shop, use our list as a guide, but always double-check for yourself.
- The list is based on some of the best 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; they might represent a good deal, but it’s outside the scope of what we’re trying to do.