Switching to a solid-state drive is the best upgrade you can
make for your PC. These wondrous devices speed up boot times,
improve the responsiveness of your programs and games, and
generally makes your computer feel fast. But not all
solid-state drives are the same. You can find top-notch SSDs that
offer solid performance at an affordable price, or you can spend
big to achieve read and write speeds that reach a whole other
Many SSDs come in a 2.5-inch form factor and connect to your PC
via the same SATA port used by a traditional hard drive. But out on
the bleeding-edge of NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) drives,
you'll find tiny gumstick SSDs that fit in an M.2 connection on a
modern motherboard, SSDs that sit on a PCIe adapter and slot into
your motherboard like a graphics card or sound card, futuristic 3D Xpoint drives, and more. Picking the perfect SSD isn't as simple as it
used to be.
That's the purpose of this guide. We've tested numerous drives
to find the best SSDs for any use case, and offer our top picks
below. In addition to that we give you useful information on what
to look for in an SSD so you can be a more knowledgable shopper.
Quick note: This roundup only covers internal solid-state drives.
Check out PCWorld's guide to the best external drives if you're looking for
a portable storage solution.
Editor's note: This article was most recently to
include the Silicon Power XD80 to the reviews and best NVMe SSD
Latest SSD news
- Check out our guide to which SSD you should buy, breaking down
everything you need to know about which sort of solid-state drive
works best in each system.
- Samsung teased blazing-fast PCIe 5.0 SSDs in July,
ahead of the next-gen specification's expected support in future
Intel and AMD systems. It's an enterprise drive, but make no
mistake: PCIe 5.0 is coming.
Best SSD for most people
Samsung's mainstream EVO series of SSDs has sat atop our
recommended list ever since 2014, and the new Samsung 870 EVO is still a great option for
people who want a rock-solid blend of speed, price, compatibility,
and the reliability of Samsung's 5-year warranty and superb
Magician management software. But most people would be better off
buying the SK Hynix Gold S31.
Not only is the Gold S31 among the fastest SATA SSDs we've ever
tested, landing within spitting distance of the best-in-class 870
EVO, but the price for this drive is spectacular. At $44 for a 250GB
drive, $48 for a 500GB
drive, or $85 for 1TB, the
Gold S31 costs much less than Samsung's line, which charges $95 for a 500GB
model. When all was said and done in those real-world 48GB
copies, the Gold S31 proved the fastest drive we've ever tested for
sustained read and write operations, our review proclaimed at the
time. Enough said.
Well, maybe not. Let's talk a bit about the brand itself, since
SK Hynix isn't exactly a household name. Despite that, it's one of
the largest semiconductor manufacturers on the planet. The company
has been developing NAND and controller technology since the
get-go, and while it's been the SSD manufacturer for numerous large
computer vendors, it generally hasn't taken a place for itself on
the shelves. Now it has, and the results are sterling.
If you need a larger capacity, though, or simply want to stick
with a tried-and-true brand, still look to the Samsung 870 EVO, which is available in 250GBRemove
non-product link, 500GBRemove
non-product link, 1TBRemove
non-product link, and 2TB
non-product link. They're just a tiny hair
faster than the SK Hynix drives in raw performance but cost a fair
amount more. That speaks more to how wildly good of a deal the Gold
S31 is though, as the Samsung 870 EVO offers a very compelling and
affordable package compared to most SSDs. The Samsung 870 QVO is another strong contender,
with capacities ranging from 1TB all the way to a whopping 8TB, but
we'll discuss that in the next section.
Best budget SSD
The best budget SSD is also the best SSD for most people, as the
SK Hynix Gold S31 discussed previously delivers fantastic
performance at extremely affordable prices. If you aren't
interested in that drive for whatever reason, though, you have more
Now that traditional multi-level cell (MLC) and triple-level
cell (TLC) solid-state drives are plummeting in price,
manufacturers have rolled out new-look quad-level cell (QLC) drives
that push SSD prices even lower. The new technology lets drive
makers stuff SSDs with hard drive-like levels of capacity while
simultaneously coming close to the juicy SSD speeds we all love so
much—most of the time. The first round of QLC drives, including the
still-superb Samsung 860 QVO, saw its write speeds plunge to hard
drive-like levels when you transfer dozens of gigabytes of data in
The Samsung 870 QVO—Samsung's second-generation QLC
offering—doesn't suffer from the same fate. If you don't plan on
moving around massive amounts of data at once and need more space,
this a great option if you need capacities larger than what SK
Hynix offers. Samsung's drive is available at $100 for 1TB, $190 for 2TB, $353 for 4TB, or $700 for 8TB (oof) on Amazon.
The older Samsung 860 QVO remains a good option too, but
the newer 870 QVO bests it in every way.
If you want to add a bunch of storage to your computer at even
lower price, also consider Crucial's BX500, a fantastic SSD
available in several flavors: The 2TB capacity we tested (currently
$195 on Amazon),
1TB ($100 on Amazon),
480GB ($55 on Amazon),
and 240GB ($35 on Amazon).
The BX500 is subjectively as fast as anything out there until it
runs out of cache, we said in our review. That's likely to be a
rare occurrence for the average user. Power users should skip it,
but for everyone else it's a good deal.
But what if you've got a newer motherboard that supports the
faster, newfangled NVMe M.2 drives? Keep reading!
Best NVMe SSD
If performance is paramount, the Samsung 970 Pro or Seagate FireCuda 510 are the fastest NVMe SSDs
you can buy—but most people should buy the SK Hynix Gold P31. Yes, SK Hynix is on a roll,
dominating our budget, NVMe, and best overall SSD categories.
The Gold P31 is the first NVMe SSD to feature 128-bit TLC NAND,
and it pushes SK Hynix's drive beyond other options, which use 96
NAND layers. The model we tested absolutely aced our
CrystalDiskMark 6 and AS SSD synthetic benchmarks, nearly hitting
the blistering 3.5GBps read and write speeds claimed in the press
release. It also held its own against SSDs that cost much more in
our real-world 48GB and 450GB file transfer tests. The SK Hynix
Gold P31 performs like a top-tier drive, but it's priced just
slightly higher than bargain drives, we stated, and well, that says
it all. You can get a 500GB model for $75, a 1TB model for $135, or a 2TB version for $280 on Amazon.
The Crucial P5 is another great, affordable
NVMe SSD that performs on par with much costlier options, and would
likely be our top pick if the SK Hynix Gold P31 didn't exist. The
Gold P31 is both slightly faster and slightly cheaper, however, so
go for that first. Crucial's drive is a killer alternative though.
Its PCIe 4.0-capable cousin, the Crucial P5 Plus, delivers slightly faster
speeds for a much higher sticker price, however. It's still a
capable SSD, but doesn't earn our full recommendation like the
You can find compelling options for slightly less money if
you're on a budget, though. The Addlink S70 NVMe SSD is another stellar
fast-performing option, earning our Editors' Choice award. Addlink
isn't as well-known as some bigger brands, but it offers a 5-year
warranty on its drive. The same holds true for Silicon Power's XD80 SSD, which offers
tremendous performance for a PCIe 3.0 drive and also earned our
Editors' Choice award. It's hard to find in capacities other than
1TB, however, thought that size is priced excellently at the same
$110 as Addlink's offering.
If you don't mind spending up for faster, Samsung 970 Pro-level
performance, the Kingston KC2500 also runs with the big dogs,
but at a more affordable price. While it didn't reach the top step
of the podium in any one test, the KC2500 was always within easy
hailing distance of the leader, we said in our review. It's
available at about the same price as the competition and should be
at the top of your short list when you're shopping for a
high-performance NVMe SSD.
And now, you can finally get blistering NVMe speeds without
sacrificing capacity thanks to a new breed of supersized SSDs,
though you'll pay up for the privilege. The OWC Aura 12 delivers average NVMe performance
(read: faster than most) paired with a big 4TB of
performance for $929. The superb Sabrent Rocket Q amps everything up
with top-notch performance and a crazy 8TB capacity, but it'll set
you back a cool $1,500.
The bleeding-edge isn't cheap.
Best PCIe 4.0 SSD
Most NVMe SSDs use the standard PCIe 3.0 interface, but even
faster PCIe 4.0 drives exist now—at least on systems that support
the bleeding-edge technology. Currently, only AMD's Ryzen 3000
processors support PCIe 4.0, and even then only when they're
inserted in a X570 or B550 motherboard. If you meet that criteria,
though, PCIe 4.0 SSDs leave even the fastest PCIe 3.0 NVMe SSDs in
Corsair, Gigabyte, and Sabrent rolled
out the first PCIe 4.0 SSDs available, with all offering similar
performance from 1TB models at around $200. Our favorite PCIe 4.0
drive costs slightly more, though.
We've only recently added a PCIe 4.0 test bench to our setup,
but the champion thus far is the Samsung 980 Pro. The drive exceeded
Samsung's claimed 7GBps read and 5GBps write speeds in our testing.
To drive home just how ludicrous that is, the SK Hynix Gold P31—our
favorite standard NVMe drive—wowed us with write speeds half as
fast. Samsung's drive also blazed through our real-world file
transfer tests, though it can occasionally slow down a bit if you
throw a massive amount of data at it, as we discovered in our 450GB
transfer test. Most people will never stress their SSD this hard,
All that performance comes at a premium, though. You'll pay $70
for 250GB, $120
for 500GB, or
$200 for 1TB of
capacity. There's also a massive 2TB
option for $300.
Alternatively, the WD Black SN850 is a hair behind the Samsung 980
Pro's performance, but by a rather slim margin, for roughly the
same price. If you're looking for the ultimate in single SSD PCIe4
storage performance, you won't go wrong with either, we said in our
review. Your choice. It also earned our Editors' Choice award. The
same goes for the Adata XPG Gammix S70 Blade, another worthy 980
The excellent Seagate FireCuda 530 is even
faster than the Samsung 980 Pro if you're looking for pure
performance, but that extra speed comes at an even higher price—$150 for 500GB, $255 for 1TB, $490 for 2TB, or a heart-stopping $1,000 for 4TB. [The Seagate FireCuda 530] not only
bested the best of the rest in our real-world and synthetic
benchmarks, it did so by a healthy margin in several tests, we said
in our review. If you can afford it and you can find it, you won't
If you want an SSD with fast PCIe 4.0 speeds, but don't want to
spend up for Samsung or Seagate's overkill-for-most-people
performance, consider the XPG Gammix S50 Lite.
The XPG Gammix S50 Lite is the first PCIe 4 SSD we've tested
that doesn't carry a hefty next-gen surcharge, we said in our
review. In the real world, you'd be hard-pressed to tell the
difference between a system running it, and one running the far
more expensive Samsung 980 Pro. Very long transfers aside, it's a
very good deal.
The Gammix S50 Lite costs $140 for 1TB or
NVMe SSD setup: What
you need to know
Be aware of what NVMe drives deliver before you buy in. Standard
SATA SSDs already supercharge boot times and loading times for PCs,
and for a whole lot cheaper. You'll get the most use from NVMe
drives, be it in a M.2 form factor like the Samsung 980 Pro or a
PCIe drive, if you routinely transfer data, especially in large
amounts. If you don't do that, NVMe drives aren't worth the price
If you decide to buy an NVMe SSD, make sure your PC can handle
it. This is a relatively new technology, so you'll only be able to
find M.2 connections motherboards from the past few years. Think AMD Ryzen and mainstream Intel chips from the Skylake era onward, for the most part. NVMe
SSDs that were mounted on PCIe adapters were popular in the
technology's early years, before M.2 adoption spread, but they're
rarer now. Make sure you're actually able to use an NVMe SSD before
you buy one, and be aware that you'll need 4 PCIe lanes available
in order to use it to its full potential.
The Samsung 960 Pro NVMe SSD in an M.2 slot.
To get the most out of an NVMe drive, you want to run your
operating system on it, so you must have a system that recognizes
the drive and can boot from it. PCs purchased during the past year
or two should have no problem booting from an NVMe drive, but
support for that can be iffy in older motherboards. Do a Google
search for your motherboard and see if it supports booting from
NVMe. You may need to install a BIOS update for your board. If your
hardware can't boot from an NVMe SSD, your machine should still be
able to use it as a secondary drive.
What to look for in an SSD
Capacity and price are important, of course, and a long warranty
can alleviate fears of premature data death. Most SSD manufacturers
offer a three-year warranty, and some nicer models are guaranteed
for five years. But unlike the olden days of SSDs, modern drives
won't wear out with normal consumer usage, as Tech Report tested and proved years ago with a
grueling endurance test.
The biggest thing to watch out for is the technology used to
connect the SSD to your PC. We go into deeper details and buying
advice in our guide on which SSD you should buy.
- SATA: This refers to both the connection type
and the transfer protocol, which is used to connect most 2.5-inch
and 3.5-inch hard drives and SSDs to your PC. SATA III speeds can
hit roughly 600MBps, and most—but not all—modern drives max it out.
(More on that in the next section.)
- PCI-E: This interface taps into four of your
computer's PCIe lanes to blow away SATA speeds, to the tune of
nearly 4GBps over PCIe gen. 3. Those sort of face-melting speeds
pair nicely with supercharged NVMe drives. Both the PCIe lanes in
your motherboard and the M.2 slot in your motherboard can be wired
to support the PCIe interface, and you can buy adapters that allow
you to slot gumstick M.2 drives into a PCIe lane. PCIe 4.0 drives
are significantly faster, but require an AMD Ryzen 3000-series CPU
with an X570 or B550 motherboard.
- NVMe: Non-Volatile Memory Express technology
takes advantage of PCIe's bountiful bandwidth to create
blisteringly fast SSDs that blow SATA-based drives out of the
water. Check out PCWorld's Everything you need to know about NVMe for a
- M.2: This is where things get tricky. Many
people assume M.2 drives all use NVMe technology and PCIe speeds,
but that's not true. M.2 is just a form factor. Sure, most
M.2 SSDs use NVMe, but some still stick to SATA. Do your homework.
Many modern Ultrabooks rely on M.2 for storage.
- U.2 and mSATA: You may also stumble across
mSATA and U.2 SSDs, but both motherboard support and product
availability are rare for those formats. Some older Ultrabooks
included mSATA before M.2 became popular, and drives are still
available if you need them.
Speed matters, of course, but as we said most modern SSDs
saturate the SATA III interface. Not all of them, though.
SSDs vs. hard drives
Do you need an SSD? Need is a strong word, but we heartily
recommend that everyone upgrade to an SSD. Solid-state drive speeds
blow even the fastest mechanical hard drives out of the water.
Simply swapping the hard drive in your old laptop or desktop out
for an SSD can make it feel like a whole new system—and a
blazing fast one at that. Buying an SSD is easily the best upgrade
you can make for a computer.
SSDs cost more per gigabyte than mechanical hard drives, though,
and thus aren't often available in ultra-high capacities. If you
want speed and storage space, you can buy an SSD with
limited space and use it as your boot drive, then set up a
traditional hard drive as secondary storage in your PC. Place your
programs on your boot drive, stash your media and other files on
the hard drive, and you're ready to have your cake and eat it
Best SSDs: Our reviews
If you'd like to know more about our best SSD picks as well as
other options, the links below point you toward all the SSDs we've
recently reviewed. We'll keep evaluating new ones on a regular
basis, so be sure to check back to see what other drives we've put
through their paces. And once more, if you're looking for portable
storage, check out PCWorld's roundup of the best external drives.