Analysis & Conclusion
In our product reviews, we group similar storage media together, but that only shows a portion of the overall picture. With a unified platform, we gain the ability to see a larger picture and find patterns that were not visible before.
There are several key points to take away from these results. The first is that not all SSDs will increase your notebook battery life compared with the manufacturer's chosen storage. On the other hand, many users upgrade older systems, taking advantage of technology advances that weren't available when the manufacturer put the system together.
Assuming that solid-state drives are better for battery life is a myth. Many of the SSDs we tested deliver better battery life, but some products cannot deliver on those expectations.
We can say the same about newer NVMe SSDs. The L1.2 PCIe power state does not automatically provide more battery time than older SATA SSDs using DEVSLP.
The system responsiveness test on battery power also identified interesting patterns. The most notable is that PCIe devices running over a restricted bus slows storage performance. The latency increase came through in our test, and many users have noticed the same in their own systems. PCIe storage devices are more sensitive to low power states.
Regaining NVMe performance on battery power is as simple as installing a custom NVMe driver. However, not every company offers one. Performance comes at a cost, and in this case it’s battery life. If your drive doesn’t offer a custom NVMe driver, you can tune the BIOS in many systems, but you will also see increase power consumption.
SATA SSDs still offer the best balance between battery life and performance under reduced bus speed conditions. The Samsung 850 EVO 1TB with 48-layer 3D V-NAND offers a great mix of long battery life and performance, and it enjoys wide availability. The 850 EVO has been our go-to, general-use SSD for many reasons, and now "a well balanced user experience in a notebook" joins that list.
Newer notebooks will ship with PCIe-based drives, and most will come with the NVMe protocol. You can manually adjust the PCIe power bus through the control panel's power options, but most users aren't aware of these switches. Ideally, notebook manufacturers will bring back easy-to-use GUI software. Most of those applications disappeared with Windows 8 and aren't supported with newer versions of the operating system. With the large SSD manufacturers taking so much control over of the system with custom NVMe drivers, we'd like to see some of the control given back to users. Ultra-low NVMe latency is great, but there are times when you require long battery life, like that flight to Tokyo.
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