In our series of Solid State Drive guides, here’s the latest update to our list of recommended SSDs. All numbers in the text are updated to reflect pricing at the time of writing.

Best SSDs: September 2020

A solid state drive is often the most important component for making a PC feel fast and responsive; any PC still using a mechanical hard drive as its primary storage is long overdue for an upgrade. The SSD market is broader than ever, with a wide range prices, performance and form factors.

Most of the SSD price changes we've noticed over the past month have been small price drops. The supply availability situation is also continuing to improve, with fewer models out of stock. Few important new SSDs have hit the market this month; the 8TB Samsung 870 QVO is now shipping, but the recently announced Samsung 980 PRO isn't due to ship until mid-October. There have been quite a few more product announcements in the past month or two, so we're expecting plenty of new SSD models to be hitting the shelves over the next two or three months. By the time the holiday sales begin, the high-end NVMe SSD market should look very different to what it was this summer.

September 2020 SSD Recommendations
Market Segment Recommendations
Entry-level NVMe Mushkin Helix-L 1TB $93.99 (9¢/GB)
High-end NVMe ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro 512GB $64.99 (13¢/GB)
Mainstream 2.5" SATA WD Blue 3D 1TB $99.99 (10¢/GB)
M.2 SATA WD Blue 3D M.2 2TB $229.99 (11¢/GB)
Maximum Capacity Samsung 870 QVO 8TB $899.99 (11¢/GB)

Above are some recommendations of good deals in each market segment. Some of these aren't the cheapest option in their segment and instead are quality products worth paying a little extra for.

The next table is a rough summary of what constitutes a good deal on a current model in today's market. Sales that don't beat these prices are only worth a second glance if the drive is nicer than average for its product segment.

September 2020 SSD Recommendations: Price to Beat, ¢/GB
Market Segment 256GB 512GB 1TB 2TB 4 TB
Budget 2.5" SATA 12 ¢/GB 10 ¢/GB 9 ¢/GB 10 ¢/GB 12 ¢/GB
Mainstream 2.5" SATA 18 ¢/GB 11 ¢/GB 10 ¢/GB 11 ¢/GB 12 ¢/GB
Entry-level NVMe 15 ¢/GB 12 ¢/GB 10 ¢/GB 11 ¢/GB 18 ¢/GB
High-end NVMe 18 ¢/GB 13 ¢/GB 13 ¢/GB 12 ¢/GB 18 ¢/GB
M.2 SATA 18 ¢/GB 12 ¢/GB 10 ¢/GB 11 ¢/GB  

As always, the prices and recommendations here are a mere snapshot of the market at the time of writing, based on major North American online retailers. The best deals in each market segment can change on a day to day basis, and availability of specific models and capacities can be unpredictable.

NVMe SSDs

Most of the interesting recent activity in the SSD market has been with NVMe drives. For the moment, all the drives supporting PCIe 4.0 are still based on the same Phison E16 controller from last year, but the Samsung 980 PRO has publicly launched, is available for pre-order and will be shipping in the next few weeks. However, we recommend that consumers with their hearts set on a PCIe 4.0 drive wait a bit, because it looks like the 980 PRO won't be the only new PCIe 4.0 SSD arriving this fall.

It's likely that we will soon need to start treating the NVMe SSD market as three separate market segments rather than just two. But at the moment, the PCIe 4.0 options are still rather slim, and the prices and real-world performance aren't all that compelling compared to the best PCIe 3.0 drives.

High-end NVMe: ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro

  240-280GB 480-512GB 960GB-1TB 2TB
SK hynix Gold P31   $74.99
(15¢/GB)
$134.99
(13¢/GB)
 
ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro $44.99
(18¢/GB)
$64.99
(13¢/GB)
$134.99
(13¢/GB)
$249.99
(12¢/GB)
Inland Premium $43.99
(17¢/GB)
$64.99
(13¢/GB)
$119.99
(12¢/GB)
$229.99
(11¢/GB)
Mushkin Pilot-E   $67.99
(14¢/GB)
$114.99
(11¢/GB)
$219.99
(11¢/GB)
WD Black SN750 $49.99
(20¢/GB)
$69.99
(14¢/GB)
$149.99
(15¢/GB)
$309.99
(15¢/GB)
Samsung 970 EVO Plus $69.99
(28¢/GB)
$89.99
(18¢/GB)
$179.99
(18¢/GB)
$349.99
(17¢/GB)
Samsung 970 PRO   $169.99
(33¢/GB)
$349.99
(34¢/GB)
 
Samsung 980 PRO $89.99
(36¢/GB)
$149.99
(30¢/GB)
$229.99
(23¢/GB)
 
Corsair Force MP600   $104.99
(21¢/GB)
$189.99
(19¢/GB)
$359.99
(18¢/GB)

The best prices in this market segment haven't quite fallen to $100 per TB, but they're getting close. The cheaper options with Phison E12(S) or Silicon Motion SM2262(EN) controllers often offer only a three-year warranty, but they still perform as well as most high-end PCIe 3.0 SSDs. An extra $20 on a 1TB drive puts some of the best PCIe 3.0 drives within reach. The SK hynix Gold P31 is the clear choice for laptops based on its record-shattering power efficiency, while the ADATA SX8200 Pro offers some of the best real-world performance and is also very affordable at most capacities.

 

Entry-level NVMe: Mushkin Helix-L

Compared to our definition of high-end NVMe drives, entry-level NVMe drives compromise on at least one major design point: using QLC NAND instead of TLC, a DRAMless controller or one with fewer PCIe lanes or NAND channels that limits throughput. Any one of those features will put an entry-level NVMe drive at a significant disadvantage compared to typical high-end drives on at least some benchmark, but real-world performance is still more than adequate for most users. The best options in this market segment offer better real-world performance than mainstream SATA SSDs while also undercutting them on price.

This is the most technologically diverse segment of the consumer SSD market, since there are so many viable ways to cut costs while still offering much higher performance than SATA drives are capable of providing.

  240-256GB 480-512GB 1TB 2TB
ADATA Swordfish $37.99
(15¢/GB)
$54.99
(11¢/GB)
$99.99
(10¢/GB)
$209.99
(10¢/GB)
Mushkin Helix-L $36.99
(15¢/GB)
$53.99
(11¢/GB)
$93.99
(9¢/GB)
 
WD Blue SN550 $39.99
(16¢/GB)
$57.99
(12¢/GB)
$104.99
(10¢/GB)
 
Sabrent Rocket Q   $79.99
(16¢/GB)
$119.99
(12¢/GB)
$249.99
(12¢/GB)
Inland Professional QLC     $94.99
(9¢/GB)
$192.99
(10¢/GB)
Crucial P1   $59.82
(12¢/GB)
$104.99
(10¢/GB)
$224.99
(11¢/GB)
Inland Premium $43.99
(17¢/GB)
$64.99
(13¢/GB)
$119.99
(12¢/GB)
$229.99
(11¢/GB)
Mushkin Pilot-E   $67.99
(14¢/GB)
$114.99
(11¢/GB)
$219.99
(11¢/GB)
 

Many entry-level NVMe drives can be ruled out by the existence of a much better high-end drive that is only a little bit more expensive, such as the Mushkin Pilot-E and Inland Premium also listed above in the high-end segment. Both of those come with 3-year warranties that are more typical of this entry-level segment.

The Mushkin Helix-L is one of the best penny-pinching NVMe options at the moment, or the ADATA Swordfish for its 2TB option. Both are DRAMless SSDs with TLC NAND so they can offer decent performance even at the lower capacities. The QLC based drives should only be considered for 1TB and up. The Inland Professional is the cheapest option in that category, but because it is also DRAMless it cannot match the performance of something like the Sabrent Rocket Q.

SATA SSDs

The SATA SSD market is unsurprisingly pretty stagnant. It's becoming increasingly common for manufacturers to silently update the NAND in SATA SSDs without changing the product name, which is why products like the Crucial MX500 are still around with no successor on the horizon. While in the past we have strongly criticized this kind of silent swapping of components, a straightforward update from 64L to 96L flash doesn't have much impact on performance of SSDs that are already constrained by the SATA interface. We continue to condemn any invisible product updates that swap TLC for QLC or switch to a DRAMless SSD architecture.

Options for high-capacity multi-TB consumer SSDs are increasing, with some product lines now going all the way up to 8TB. But at the opposite end, we're seeing disappointing prices on 256GB models: for quite a while they've been more expensive on a per-GB basis than 512GB and 1TB models, but that gap is widening. As with 120GB models, these lower capacities are starting to be left behind as flash memory technology pushes for higher capacities. These drives are still fine options for users with modest capacity and performance requirements, but stepping up to a 500+GB model is now usually pretty cheap.

Mainstream 2.5" SATA:  WD Blue 3D aka SanDisk Ultra 3D

We consider mainstream SATA SSDs to be those that use TLC NAND and have DRAM buffers. These offer performance and reliability that's a step above budget models with DRAMless controllers or QLC NAND (or both). We don't bother making recommendations for those budget-oriented models, because the right answer is usually just whatever's cheapest at the time, and with many of those products it's impossible to keep track of what kind of components they're using from one month to the next.

  240-256GB 480-512GB 1 TB 2 TB 4 TB
Samsung 860 EVO $49.99
(20¢/GB)
$74.99
(15¢/GB)
$129.99
(13¢/GB)
$279.99
(14¢/GB)
$698.99
(17¢/GB)
WD Blue 3D NAND
SanDisk Ultra 3D
$44.99
(18¢/GB)
$57.99
(12¢/GB)
$99.99
(10¢/GB)
$229.99
(11¢/GB)
$494.99
(12¢/GB)
Crucial MX500 $44.99
(18¢/GB)
$57.99
(12¢/GB)
$114.99
(11¢/GB)
$223.21
(11¢/GB)
 
SK hynix Gold S31 $43.99
(18¢/GB)
$56.99
(11¢/GB)
$104.99
(10¢/GB)
   
 
Samsung has launched the 870 QVO, but nothing has been said about an 870 EVO or 870 PRO yet, so the 860s are still some of the fastest and most expensive consumer SATA SSDs. The Crucial MX500 and WD Blue 3D aka SanDisk Ultra 3D are still fairly evenly matched and better deals overall than the Samsung 860 EVO. The SK hynix Gold S31 is also very competitively priced for the smaller capacities, but it lacks the multi-TB options.

 

Niche Product Segments

The 2.5" SATA and M.2 2280 NVMe form factors cover most of the consumer SSD market, but not quite all of it.

Readers in our forums noted earlier this year that supplies of the mSATA version of the Samsung 860 EVO had dried up. Samsung was the last major consumer SSD brand to release a new mSATA model, and it was a bit of a surprise that they even bothered with the 860 EVO mSATA. The notebook market has long since moved over to M.2 SATA and M.2 NVMe options, so the last product segment keeping the mSATA form factor alive was probably portable SSDs that enclosed a mSATA SSD with a USB to SATA bridge. Now that several USB to NVMe bridge chips are available, the portable SSD market has been pursuing higher performance and has largely switched from mSATA to M.2 SSDs.

 

M.2 SATA: WD Blue 3D

The M.2 SATA form factor is also on its way out, but isn't as far gone as mSATA. PC notebook OEMs are overwhelmingly preferring M.2 NVMe SSDs over M.2 SATA SSDs for new machines. Even an entry-level DRAMless NVMe SSD allows OEMs to advertise that they're using NVMe, and for the most part the performance will indeed be better than with a SATA-based SSD. With OEM SSD shipments falling, fewer SSD manufacturers will bother to keep their M.2 SATA product lines going for the sake of aftermarket upgrade sales and a diminishing slice of the portable SSD market. For the moment, several major brands are still offering M.2 SATA SSDs with comparable pricing to their 2.5" SATA counterparts, so consumers have good upgrade and replacement options. The 2TB WD Blue 3D NAND stands out in this niche since it is much cheaper than Samsung's 2TB option, and Crucial simply doesn't have a 2TB competitor.

  250GB 500GB 1TB 2TB
Samsung 860 EVO M.2 $49.99
(20¢/GB)
$89.99
(18¢/GB)
$153.69
(15¢/GB)
$349.99
(17¢/GB)
Crucial MX500 M.2 $44.99
(18¢/GB)
$57.99
(12¢/GB)
$114.99
(11¢/GB)
 
WD Blue 3D M.2 $44.99
(18¢/GB)
$59.99
(12¢/GB)
$104.99
(10¢/GB)
$229.99
(11¢/GB)
ADATA SU800 M.2 $39.99
(16¢/GB)
$57.99
(11¢/GB)
$102.99
(10¢/GB)
 

 

Extreme Capacities: Sabrent Rocket Q 8TB, Samsung 870 QVO 8TB

Options for consumer SSDs with capacities beyond 2TB are still few and far between, but this multi-TB market segment is no longer a mere curiosity. While historically it was Samsung that pushed the limits with outrageously priced halo products including some of the first 2TB and later 4TB options, more recently it has been Sabrent setting new records. They were the first to pair the Phison E12 high-end NVMe controller with QLC NAND, to produce the Rocket Q M.2 SSD in capacities up to 8TB. Their more high-end TLC-based Rocket M.2 NVMe product line currently goes up to 4TB, and there's also a Phison E16-based PCIe 4.0 successor to the Rocket Q, but with no 8TB option yet. Corsair and ADATA have also introduced 4TB models to pre-existing product lines, with an RGB option from the latter. In the SATA market, Samsung still offers a choice of MLC, TLC or QLC NAND for 4TB drives, and their QLC-based 8TB 870 QVO has recently started shipping.

  2TB 4TB 8TB
Sabrent Rocket Q
(NVMe)
$249.99
(12¢/GB)
$719.99
(18¢/GB)
$1499.99
(18¢/GB)
Sabrent Rocket Q 4.0
(NVMe)
$319.99
(16¢/GB)
$749.99
(18¢/GB)
 
Sabrent Rocket (TLC)
(NVMe)
$279.99
(14¢/GB)
$749.99
(18¢/GB)
 
       
Samsung 870 QVO
(SATA)
$212.64
(11¢/GB)
$469.99
(12¢/GB)
$899.99
(11¢/GB)
Samsung 860 EVO
(SATA)
$279.99
(14¢/GB)
$698.99
(17¢/GB)
 
WD Blue 3D
(SATA)
$229.99
(11¢/GB)
$529.99
(13¢/GB)
 

All of these high-capacity models carry a price-per-GB premium over the more mainstream capacities from the same product lines, and the best performance is usually found on the 1TB or 2TB models. So these models bring significant tradeoffs, and aren't necessarily the best way to equip a system with an excess of solid-state storage. But for notebooks with only one M.2 slot or other scenarios where the highest per-drive capacities are required, these multi-TB drives offer new possibilities and much lower prices than high-capacity enterprise SSDs. The hard drive market has generally cleared the way for compatibility with such massive drives. However, as far as we know none of these SSDs have switched to using 4kB sectors by default rather than 512-byte sectors. This means that cloning from a smaller SSD onto a 4TB or 8TB SSD and then expanding the filesystem is generally a straightforward process, but cloning from a 4k-native hard drive onto one of these SSDs may not be an option.

 

POST A COMMENT

18 Comments

View All Comments

  • faizoff - Wednesday, September 30, 2020 - link

    I buckled and got a Sabrent Rocket Q 2TB. It hit the sweet spot of $200 on Amazon. As much as I wanted to get the XPG SX8200 Pro 2TB, saving $50 I felt was better for a performance boost I probably will never ever see. Reply
  • jamesindevon - Wednesday, September 30, 2020 - link

    "However, as far as we know none of these SSDs have switched to using 4kB sectors by default rather than 512-byte sectors."

    Sabrent appears to have software that allows you to switch between the two: https://www.sabrent.com/acronis/ssc/

    But what I posted to say was, why not? SSDs have to track logical to physical mapping on a per-sector basis, and store that in RAM (for performance). 4K native sectors would seem to offer a useful saving on the bill of materials.
    Reply
  • croc - Wednesday, September 30, 2020 - link

    However, using 4k sectors also has a trade-off... for ever 512 byte file you lose 3.5k... Games seem to have a LOT of 512 byte files... Reply
  • kobblestown - Thursday, October 1, 2020 - link

    Most popular filesystem will allocate on granularity of at least 4K anyway.

    Smaller sectors might be beneficial for multi-disk ZFS setups with small record sizes - those can be spread better across the devices. However, AFAIK, the physical sector size reported by the drive has nothing to do with the actual write page size. Apparently, SSDs write in pages of at least 8-16KB (maybe as low as 4KB?). And no, I'm not confusing this with the erase block size which is usually way larger. If anyone has more information on the write page size, please share.
    Reply
  • Billy Tallis - Thursday, October 1, 2020 - link

    I think most TLC NAND is now 16kB page size, but it's also common to see partial/sub-page program support of some sort so that 4kB writes can be done at least a bit quicker than a full 16kB write. And the flash translation layer in mainstream SSDs is almost always working at 4kB granularity—that's what leads to the standard 1GB of DRAM per TB of NAND ratio. Reply
  • kobblestown - Friday, October 2, 2020 - link

    Well, I imagine, that having an SLC cache can help a lot in such situations. They can probably afford to underutilise the cache due to smaller-than-page writes because later they will coalesce the blocks to occupy complete pages when the data is being moved to the TLC zone. Reply
  • BedfordTim - Wednesday, September 30, 2020 - link

    It might be helpful to list the compromises on the cheaper drives. For example QLC or DRAMless. Reply
  • Toadster - Wednesday, September 30, 2020 - link

    no Intel Optane drives? Reply
  • Billy Tallis - Wednesday, September 30, 2020 - link

    The 900P and 905P stock situation is bad these days, and what options are in stock with reputable vendors are still insanely expensive at over $1 per GB. They're not worth including in an article about options for making reasonable SSD purchases, for pretty much the same reasoning that I don't bother making specific recommendations for budget SATA drives: if your goal is simply to spend as little (or as much) as possible on your storage, then you don't need advice and can just go to your retailers of choice and sort by price. Reply
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, September 30, 2020 - link

    What does the supply situation look like for smaller sized drives? Asking out of curiosity because this recently covered mini-PC only has a 2242 m.2 sata for it's second drive slot.

    https://www.anandtech.com/show/16119/minisforum-un...
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now