With the high prices of Nvidia’s RTX cards and spotty availability of more-affordable alternatives, plus the continuingly high price of RAM, falling solid-state drive (SSD) prices have been one of the few bright spots in the PC building world in 2018. As we predicted early this year, new technologies and increasing die sizes have led to lower prices. And in higher-capacity 1 and 2TB models, the falling price trend seems to be accelerating, according to data from PCPartPicker.
But with so many models new and old flooding the market, how do you tell a good deal from a bad gamble on unreliable outdated tech this holiday season? And what kinds of drives to we expect to see the best deals on during holiday sales? We’ll delve into both below, but first let’s tackle some helpful SSD-buying basics that will help you stay on a smart drive-buying course.
1. Track price history on potential drive deals.
Given varying capacities, ever-shifting prices, and the dozens of drive models on the market, it’s tough to make specific statements about what specifically constitutes a deal. But a good practice, just as we said with our graphics card holiday deal story, is to check a price-tracking tool like the one at PCPartPicker (see below) which charts the selling price for products over time. If you see a price there that’s well below what a drive has sold for in the past, you’ll know you’re getting a good deal.
2. Your data is important, so don’t gamble on a no-name brand to save a few bucks.
You can find lots SSDs in the 500GB capacity range for around $75 (and some on sale for even slightly less), but most are from brands you’ve probably never heard of, like Dogfish, Nemix, and Shark. But step up to $80-$85 and you’ll see options from SSD mainstays like Toshiba, WD, and Crucial. A bargain-basement option could fine, but many of these low-cost drives also have very poor buyer ratings on sites like Newegg and Amazon.
Also, in the event that something does happen to your drive while it’s under warranty, a company with a long track record and a large US presence is probably going to be easier to deal with. That said, any drive can fail unexpectedly. So don’t forget to backup your important data, whether that be in the cloud or on a local hard drive or drives.
3. Don’t bother with low-capacity drives.
Drives in the 128GB range and below are still readily available, and can be enticing at prices under $30. But you can get twice that capacity for as little as $10 more. And good 500GB drives hover around $80, while offering up the minimal amount of capacity you’ll want if you’re a gamer, as game installs are increasingly topping the 100GB mark.
4. Any SSD is better than a hard drive.
Even the worst SSD is at least three times as fast as a hard drive. Depending on the workload, the performance delta between good and mediocre SSDs can be subtle. That doesn’t mean you should buy the least-pricey drive you can find. But you probably don’t need to splurge for the best either--unless you have a specific need for a very speedy drive.
5. Know your computer before buying. 2.5-inch SSDs are still the most common.
But find out if you have slots for M.2 drives on your motherboard in your laptop. And if you do, check find out if those slots support SATA drives, NVMe drives, or both. For more on drive form factors and interfaces, see our SSD Buying Guide.
With those general concerns out of the way, what do we expect to see as far as SSD sales this holiday season? Let’s tackle most-common SATA drives first.
First off, the most interesting deals will probably be in higher-capacity drives. Plenty of drives in the 250GB range are already hovering in the $50 range or below, so you’re not likely to see huge discounts there. With most 500GB-class drives hovering between $80-$90, if a drive like Samsung’s SSD 860 EVO or WD Blue drops to the $70 range, it’s certainly worth considering.
But it’s the high-capacity drives -- 1 or 2TB models -- where there’s the most potential for sale excitement. The solid choices in the 1TB range currently start around $140. We wouldn’t be shocked to see a 1TB WD Blue 3D or Crucial MX500 (both drives that have been around for a year or more) drop as low as $99. And with budget-priced drives like the ADATA SU650 and Team Group L5 Lite already selling for below $130, we’re almost certain to see a 1TB dip below $100 this holiday season.
For our money, though, the 2TB drives are the most interesting. Not so long ago, these massive drives were out of reach in the several-hundred-dollar range. But as 2018 progressed, mainstream drives like the Crucial MX500 and WD Blue 3D have inched increasingly below $350. And Micron’s (the parent company of Crucial) 1100 Series drive often dipped well below $300.
If you’re in the in the market for a roomy drive, we wouldn’t be surprised to see that Micron drive dip as low as $250, or perhaps less. And Sandisk’s 2TB Ultra 3D drive may also dip into that range. Considering Samsung’s 2TB 860 EVO currently sells for about $350, paying $100 less for a massive amount of solid-state storage would be an excellent deal.
Just keep in mind that these are far from the fastest drives available. If you have a desktop or a laptop with a spare drive bay, you may want to use them as bulk storage for files and games, much like we’ve done with hard drives for decades, while opting for a smaller, faster SSD as your boot drive.
Speaking of faster drives, what should you be on the lookout for when it comes to speedy NVMe drives, which usually come in M.2 or PCIe add-in-card form factors? First off, we wouldn’t expect massive sales on Intel’s flagship Optane drives like the 905p. These drives are incredibly fast and expensive, and the phase-change 3D XPoint tech behind them is still very cutting edge.Those who need or seriously crave that level of speed and endurance seem quite willing to spend the high prices. Intel has little incentive to slash prices there.
But keep an eye on Western Digital’s WD Black, Intel’s 760p, and the various ADATA and MyDigitalSSD NVMe drives. These are all drives that are already priced pretty low for performance drives and / or have been on the market for quite a while and may soon be replaced with something newer and faster.
If you need more advice about what SSD is right for you, you can check our SSD Buying Guide and our Best SSDs page to narrow down your choices. And if you don’t see an SSD deal this year that entices you to click the buy button, don’t worry. SSD prices could continue to fall--by as much as 50 percent next year--due to mass production of 96-layer manufacturing and a shift to quad-level cell (QLC) technology.
These advancements should combine to deliver higher-capacity SSDs at lower manufacturing costs. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pick up a new drive this year if you find a sweet deal.