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Best SSD 2017: 10 SATA, PCIe and M.2 NVMe SSDs tested

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Want to boost your PC's raw performance without replacing your processor? An SSD is the best place to start. We round up the best SSDs including SATA, M.2 and PCIe SSDs for ultimate performance.

An SSD (solid-state drive) is the simplest and most cost-effective upgrade you can make to a laptop or desktop. It won't just change how quickly your PC boots up, but it'll also speed up opening applications, searching for files and generally make the system feel more snappy. It has to be seen to be believed.

In the very simplest terms, an SSD performs exactly the same function as your regular hard disk (or hard drive, if you prefer) but much, much faster. It replaces the mechanical aspects of your hard disk with non-moving transistors. They're more expensive that hard disks, but the performance benefit they offer is absolutely worth it.

Related: How to install an SSD in your laptop

SSD jargon explained

NAND Flash: Negative AND Logic gates. They’re similar to the chips used in RAM, but they can store data even when there’s no power flowing through them. They form the basis of all SSDs.

Controllers: SSDs, like other storage devices, are little computers in themselves. Controllers look after the algorithms that sort through data. The faster the controller, the better the performance.

SATA: Serial ATA. This is the most common, and cheapest type of SSD. It connects through your motherboard’s SATA ports and while it’s several times faster than a regular hard disk, it’s the slowest form of SSD, topping out at about 500-600MB/s. The current version of SATA is SATA III.

NVMe: Non-volatile Memory Express. This type of SSD connects over PCIe (PCI Express), with drives topping out at over 3000MB/s. You’ll either find it connecting directly to your motherboard’s PCIe slots or over M.2 (below), also using PCIe lanes.

M.2: This is a specific physical SSD format. Confusingly it can use both the SATA or PCIe lanes on your motherboard, but either way it fits into a smaller M.2 slot. M.2 SATA drives are most commonly found on ultra-thin laptops to save space (M.2 is very small) and cost (sometimes only using SATA-speed storage). If you’re buying an M.2 SSD for your desktop, make sure it’s an NVMe drive.

Warranties: SSDs used to have a reputation of being unreliable and having a short lifespan, technologies such as TRIM have made this much less of a worry. However, all SSDs come with a data warranty and a timed warranty, and your coverage expires whichever comes first. The SSD can track how much data it's written, so if you send it off for repair and that's been exceeded you probably won't get a free repair. More expensive SSDs have more generous warranties.

How We Test SSDs

Benchmark applications AS SSD and CrystalDiskMark run each drive through a variety of tests. Their sequential read and write routines test the raw file-copying pace of each drive, while a variety of random read and write tests demonstrate how responsive the drive is to the more random use a drive is put through during day to day use – the “snappy” feel of an SSD is all about its random read access performance.

ATTO’s benchmark also tests the read and write pace of each drive, but it uses an even larger variety of file sizes, which adds further detail to the picture of how each SSD will perform.

All the prices used here are accurate at the time of writing. Tests were conducted in late 2016, and we’ll have new SSD launches soon.

Kingston SSDNow UV400 kit

1 / 10

Our Score:

7

SATA: Kingston SSDNow UV400

Key features:
  • Loads of in-box accessories
  • Reasonable performance, especially in reads
  • Unable to match Samsung for speeds
Kingston has produced this drive to appeal to first-time upgraders and budget-conscious builders, so I was surprised when its box contained a host of accessories: a 3.5-inch drive bay bracket, an external caddy, a SATA cable and a MOLEX-to-SATA power adapter.

That sort of stuff isn't included in high-end drives any more, let alone with budget SSDs – it was a pleasant throwback to the early days of the SSD, when every firm would include accessories with their drives.

The drive itself looks great, too, with a sandblasted metal design and bold black logos, but it’s more conventional on the inside. It deploys a familiar Marvell four-channel controller alongside Toshiba-made 15nm TLC NAND, with some space set aside for SLC functionality – a move that’s supposed to increase write speeds.

The three-year warranty is entirely ordinary, and the drive is also protected for up to 200TB of file writes – a middling figure that’s 20TB less than the Crucial MX300 but more than 150TB the endurance rating of the Samsung 850 Evo.

The drive supports normal features like TRIM and SMART monitoring, but there aren’t any other surprises. That, perhaps, is why the UV400 didn’t throw up anything unexpected in performance tests. A pattern quickly emerged, with the UV400 excelling in file read tests but proving more mediocre in file write benchmarks.

Its sequential read speed of 529MB/s is miles ahead of the Crucial MX300, for instance, but its AS SSD write pace of 488MB/s is only 6MB/s beyond its rival. That’s a bit inconsistent when compared to the Samsung 850 Evo, too, which beat 500MB/s in both tests.

That pattern continued in CrystalDiskMark. The UV400 was more than 50MB/s ahead of the Crucial when reading but only 2MB/s better when writing, and it actually lost out to the MX300 in some of the smaller file write tests – a problem it never had in small file read benchmarks. Samsung’s drive, though, was consistently quicker in all of the CrystalDiskMark runs.

The UV400 led both rivals in Atto’s small file read test, and it continued to perform well here: its top read speed of 560MB/s outpaced the competition, although the Samsung was only 13MB/s behind. The drives were closer when writing files, though – the UV400’s maximum pace of 530MB/s matched the Samsung.

There’s another benchmark issue, too: access times. The UV400’s AS SSD read and write access times of 0.128ms and 0.134ms are hardly slow, but they’re a tad longer than any competitor. The Kingston’s IOMeter average access time of 2.2458s was similarly sluggish when compared to the competition.

It’s an inconsistent set of benchmark results, then. The UV400 is quicker than the MX300 in many important file read tests, and it sneaks ahead when writing, too – but the speed is undermined by sluggish access times and the all-conquering Samsung 850 Evo.

Kingston’s UV400 is one of the cheapest SSDs I’ve seen, and it remains a good option if speed isn’t as important as value. However, the Samsung 850 Evo remains the top choice for speed on a budget.

Buy Now at Amazon.co.uk from £121 | Amazon.com from $126.99

At time of review the Kingston SSDNow UV400 500GB was available for £121.
Crucial MX300

2 / 10

Our Score:

7

SATA: Crucial MX300

Key features:
  • Consistent, decent speeds – but a little slower in read tests
  • Generous endurance rating
  • Cheaper than both rivals
Crucial has developed a keen reputation for its affordable SSDs, and the MX300 is the third generation in one of its flagship ranges.

The new drive sees Micron – Crucial’s parent company – debuting its 3D Flash chips, which means its technology now matches those of Samsung and SK Hynix. The 3D chips deploy transistors across four planes, which means chips can be far denser and, therefore, cheaper. The MX200 used silicon dies that could hold 256GB of data, but the same dies in the MX300 hold 384GB.

Cost isn’t the only advantage. The Floating Gate transistors used here reduce electrical disruption and wastage from neighbouring cells, which cuts power consumption and can contribute to increasing the lifespan of the drive.

I’ve reviewed the 525GB version of the MX300. That’s sizeable, but tech fans will know that it’s a break from the usual 500GB and 512GB products. That’s because the new dies are 48GB in size, so Crucial builds the MX300 with eleven dies and a little overprovisioning.

This 525GB model costs £118, which is admirably low – a few pounds cheaper than the equivalent MX200, and even cheaper than the £126 Samsung 850 Evo 500GB. 275GB and 1TB models are also available, with the former at £64 and the latter £236.

The MX300 includes TRIM support, AES 256-bit encryption and SMART monitoring alongside data path and power loss protection, which is a decent roster of features at this price. Samsung’s drive offers additional customisable overprovisioning and cache memory, but those are niche features.

Crucial includes a three-year, 220TB warranty with the MX300. That’s two years shorter than Samsung’s drive, but a better endurance rating – the 850 Evo is only covered for 150TB of writes. The older MX200 also only had a 160TB endurance rating. That means the MX300 could be a better option if you’re going to be writing a lot of data to the drive.

The MX300’s new 3D Flash means that prices can come down, but benchmarks suggest that performance hasn’t improved across the board – especially read performance.
The new drive’s sequential write speed of 482MB/s is a tad better than the older drive, but the read result of 470MB/s is behind both the MX200 and the Samsung 850 Evo. That pattern continues: the MX300’s AS SSD 4K and 4K-64 write results were both quicker, but its read results were slower.

The same pattern emerged in CrystalDiskMark, with better write results and poorer read speeds. However, the MX300 was never a top performer: neither result got beyond 500MB/s, while the Samsung drive broke that barrier in sequential reads and writes.

The Atto benchmark revealed more of the MX300’s strengths and weaknesses. Its small-file read and write results of 378MB/s and 404MB/s were both better than the MX200, with the latter also faster than the Samsung. However, the new drive faltered by the time it was tasked with larger files: behind its predecessor when reading files, and behind the Samsung when reading and writing.

The MX300 fought back in IOMeter. Its total I/O result of 7,006 is better than both other drives, and its 268MB/s speed average also beat both other drives. However, its average response time was worse, suggesting that this drive can be sluggish to spring into action.

Crucial’s latest drive delivers mixed performance when compared to the MX200 and Samsung – but it’s important to remember that the MX300 is never slow. Its price is attractive, its endurance rating is better than both rivals, and it’s a little larger than those too. It won’t break speed records, but this is a reliable, affordable SSD.

Buy Now at Amazon.co.uk from £116.99 | Amazon.com from $129.99

At time of review the Crucial MX300 525GB was available for £118.99.
Samsung 850 Evo
Key features
  • Consistently fast read and write speeds
  • Reasonable warranty length
  • Cheaper than high-end Samsung drives

Best Budget SSD

This is another current-generation Samsung drive and, as such, it also uses the 3D V-NAND technology that helped to lift the 850 Pro above the competition. The 850 Evo is cheaper, because it uses TLC (triple-level cell) rather than MLC memory – a design that saves cash but reduces performance and endurance.

Despite that, the 850 Evo wasn’t far behind the 850 Pro in many benchmarks. Its 510MB/sec and 499MB/sec sequential read and write scores are only 17MB/sec and 3MB/sec behind the pricier Samsung, and it traded blows with the 850 Pro in small-file tests – it was faster when reading and slower when writing.

The 850 Evo proved adept with small-file tests in the ATTO benchmarks, but fell behind in larger tests, and then fell into the middle-ground in Iometer – unable to best the 850 Pro, but still further ahead of many drives at similar prices.

The Evo’s five-year warranty is among the most generous we’ve seen, even if it’s unable to match the mighty ten-year deal that Samsung includes with the 850 Pro. There are no extras in the box, though, so bear that in mind when you buy.

The 850 Evo strikes a fantastic balance between price and performance – slower than the 850 Pro, of course, but much more affordable. If you want a rapid SSD and would rather not compromise with a budget drive, this is the best mid-range alternative.



At the time of review, the Samsung 850 Evo 250GB was available for £81.
SATA: Samsung 850 Pro
Key features
  • Incredible benchmark performance
  • Mighty capacity
  • Great endurance rating and warranty

Samsung’s current flagship SSD reaps the rewards of the firm controlling every stage of its production.

It’s the fastest SATA drive we’ve seen in the sequential write benchmark and its small-file read pace hasn’t been beaten by any other SSD in this group. In 4K-64 tests it’s similarly dominant, and it’s the only recent drive to go beyond 500MB/sec in both of CrystalDiskMark’s sequential read and write runs.

In the all-round ATTO test the 850 Pro led in most benchmarks, and its Iometer long-term test result of 7,826 was the best we’ve seen by a significant margin.

The 850 Pro’s ten-year warranty is also longer than the deals offered with rival drives, and its 7mm body is smart and slick. It also benefits from a fantastic endurance rating of 150TB – thanks, in part, to Samsung’s revised 3D V-NAND system, which deploys transistors in an arrangement that reduces wear.

The only black mark is the lack of extras in the box, but this isn’t a big deal when the 850 Pro is so good in every other department. If you want the fastest drive around, and money is no object, then this is the best option.



At the time of review, the Samsung 850 Pro 512GB was available for £176.
Crucial MX200 M.2

5 / 10

Our Score:

7

M.2: Crucial MX200

Key features
  • The cheapest M.2 drive in this group
  • Consistent, decent speed
  • Identical to larger MX200 SSD
  • Ideal for laptops with M.2 slots
Crucial has cornered the budget SSD market over the past 18 months – in much the same way Samsung has nailed the high-end arena – and it’s now turned its attention to the growing M.2 segment with a slimmed-down version of its popular MX200.

It’s identical to the 2.5in version of the MX200, which means a Marvell controller and 16nm NAND alongside caching technology that aims to store frequently accessed files in order to boost performance.

That specification results in solid, if unspectacular, performance. A sequential read speed of 522MB/sec isn’t far off the 600MB/sec limit of the SATA bus, and its sequential write pace of 478MB/sec isn’t far behind the best SATA drives. Both of those results are virtually identical to the full-size MX200 drive.

The MX200 maintained that performance in the CrystalDiskMark tests, and it proved consistent in the ATTO benchmarks: its read speed quickly ascended beyond 500MB/sec and topped out at 561MB/sec across several different file sizes, and its write pace also got beyond 500MB/sec in several different tests.

The MX200’s small-file performance isn’t as good, with middling results across the board. However, its consistency elsewhere, combined with a price of just £84 for the 250GB sample reviewed here, make it the cheapest M.2 SSD we’ve seen – and, therefore, it’s our budget recommendation.

Buy Now at Amazon.co.uk from £71.99 | Amazon.com from $119

At the time of review the Crucial MX200 was available for £84.
Samsung 960 Evo 4
Key features:

  • 250GB, 500GB or 1TB capacity
  • M.2 form factor
  • 3-year timed warranty or 100TB, 200TB and 400TB data warranty (whichever comes first)

Best-value M.2 SSD


While the 960 Pro stole all the headlines, Samsung’s 960 Evo is the sensible buyer’s choice. You get brilliant performance for a lot less cash, making the Evo a more attractive mass-market choice.

Some of the new tech used on the 960 Pro remains, including a new five-core “Polaris” controller, 3D V-NAND and ample on-board memory.

Using cheaper TLC memory (as opposed to MLC) It’s not as fast as its more expensive brother, but it also makes use of Samsung TurboWrite technology that gives it a big performance boost in short bursts of activity using a small amount of faster SLC cache.

In the AS SSD benchmark, it topped out at a read speed of 2,034MB/s and a 1,847MB/s write speed. This puts it in the same league as the Toshiba OCZ RD400.

It trades blows with the 960 Pro in some benchmarks, which you can read more about in our full review. Elsewhere, it beats many of its rivals and is priced attractively as well.

It doesn’t have the same generous warranty as its more expensive sibling, so if you’re going to be pushing this drive with big loads daily, you might be better off going for a more expensive drive with better cover. For most regular gaming PCs, though, this is a fantastic-value choice.



At the time of review the 250GB Samsung 960 Evo was priced at £140.
Samsung 960 Pro
Key features:

  • 512GB, 1TB or 2TB capacity
  • M.2 form factor
  • 5-year timed warranty or 400TB, 800TB and 1,200TB data warranty (whichever comes first)

The Samsung 960 Pro is the ultimate M.2 SSD, putting in benchmark results that were by far and away the best we’ve seen. But it’s not surprising when you consider Samsung’s one or two-year lead in flash memory technology.

But you pay for that speed: the cheapest 512GB model costs £300, topping out at £1,100 for the 2TB model.

The 960 Pro is an improvement on its predecessor 950 Pro for several reasons. It manages to stack loads more transistors on top of each other, meaning greater capacity is possible in half the space.

The on-board “Polaris” controller has improved as well, and now features five cores instead of three, for even better performance.

You can read about the technicalities in more detail in our full review.

In the AS SSD benchmark, it scored 2,823 MB/s read speeds and 2,346MB/s write speeds; that write speed is nearly 1GB/sec ahead of the next-best PCIe model we’ve tested. We also tested in CrystalDiskMark, with read and write speeds clocking in at 3,454MB/s and 2,157MB/s.

Small file speeds are slightly slower, with 4K reads and writes coming in at 36.5MB/s and 159MB/s. It’s beaten by both Intel and Zotac here.

It’s not the fastest at small files (but still very fast) and obliterates the competition in big file transfers. Even better, there’s a massive 5-year warranty or 400TB, 800TB and 1,200TB data warranty (for 512GB, 1TB and 2TB respectively), whichever comes first.

It’s stupendously expensive and ultimately a very niche piece of kit. But those who want ultimate performance should seriously consider the 960 Pro.



At the time of review the 1TB Samsung 960 Pro was available for £690.
Toshiba OCZ RD400

8 / 10

Our Score:

8

PCI-E: Toshiba OCZ RD400

Key features:
  • SATA-beating speed
  • Reasonable price and larger than Intel equivalent
  • Not quite as quick as PCIe rivals

This is one of the first enthusiast OCZ SSDs to emerge since Toshiba swallowed up the firm back in 2013, and it’s a bit of a barnstormer. It’s a PCIe product, which means it uses the extra bandwidth provided by the NVMe interface to deliver better speeds than any SATA-based drive can manage.

It also means the RD400 faces competition from some of the world’s best SSDs. Zotac’s Sonix serves up 480GB of PCIe storage for £295, while the 400GB version of the Intel 750 Series drive also costs just under £300.

The Toshiba follows the form factor laid out by the Zotac drive, which means it’s an M.2 SSD mounted onto an expansion board that slots into a PCIe X4 slot. Unsurprisingly, Toshiba has relied on its own hardware here, with its in-house 15nm MLC NAND being powered by a bespoke controller. OCZ’s involvement seems restricted to some firmware tweaks and a logo on the box.

The RD400 comes with an exceptional 296TB endurance rating – one of the market’s leading figures – and a reasonable five-year warranty. It’s got most important features, too, although it is missing any encryption.

Toshiba’s latest drive is undoubtedly faster than any SATA SSD, but it’s inconsistent when compared to some other PCIe products. Its sequential read speed of 1,974MB/s is incredible, but it’s a few hundred megabytes behind the competition – and its write pace of 1,226MB/s is closer, but still lags behind. There’s also a big difference between this drive and the competition in smaller files: its 846MB/s and 609MB/s AS SSD read and write speeds are about 500MB/s and 800MB/s slower than the competition.

The RD400 was behind both rivals in CrystalDiskMark’s sequential read test and smaller file benchmark, but was a little quicker with mid-sized files. It also skipped ahead of the competition in that app’s sequential write test.

The Toshiba’s Atto scores also demonstrate further performance inconsistencies. It’s the fastest drive here in small file tests, but in every other benchmark it falls between the slower Intel and faster Zotac SSDs.

Then, surprisingly, the Toshiba easily outpaced its rivals in the IOMeter test. Its average speed of 978MB/s was three times quicker than other drives, and its average response was also about three times quicker.

That’s a good finish for this drive, but it doesn’t do enough to hide the inconsistencies elsewhere. It was middling in Atto and behind its rivals in most of the other benchmarks.

Despite the mixed results, the Toshiba remains one of the fastest SSDs on the market. It’s not got enough speed or extras elsewhere to overhaul the Zotac or Intel drive, but it remains a good option if SATA doesn’t provide enough speed and if the competition is a little too expensive.

Buy Now at Amazon.co.uk from £302.99 | Amazon.com from $329.99

At time of review the Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB was available for £350.
Zotac Sonix 480GB

9 / 10

Our Score:

9

PCI-E: Zotac Sonix

Key features
  • Lighting-fast speeds
  • Reasonable mid-range price
  • Highest endurance rating
Zotac’s drive is the best-looking product in this trio of PCIe SSDs, thanks to it metal exterior and smart cluster of cut-outs.

It’s just as impressive under the hood. The 15nm MLC NAND used to build this drive has a tighter manufacturing process than Intel’s 20nm memory, and it’s bolstered by a 512MB DDR3 cache. It’s all controlled by a multi-core chip from third-party firm Phison.

That tempting specification is reinforced by a two million hour endurance rating. That’s twice as much as the Kingston and 800,000 more hours than the Intel could manage.

It’s a great performer, too. Its AS SSD sequential read result of 2,412MB/sec inched ahead of the Intel, and its write speed of 1,298MB/sec came in second place by a tiny margin. It continued to lead the way in most of the small-file benchmarks, and then topped the table with a CrystalDiskMark read speed of 1,745MB/sec.

It fell behind the Intel again when writing, but its speed of 1,253MB/sec remains excellent – only 25MB/sec behind the Intel drive.

Zotac’s drive bolstered its performance in the ATTO test. Its top read speed of 3,056MB/sec is the fastest out of this group’s trio of drives, and its write speed of 2,276MB/sec is similarly dominant. The Zotac was consistent, too, quickly hitting those top-tier results and maintaining them across several different file sizes.

The final benchmark, Iometer, saw the Sonix SSD rampage through at 8,085MB/sec – another class-leading result.

Zotac’s drive doesn’t beat the Intel in every test, then, but it’s the winner across most of the benchmarks – and its affordable price makes it the best option if you’re after a lightning-quick SSD. Intel’s drive can’t quite keep up, but it remains a great option for larger capacities.

Buy Now at Amazon.co.uk from £343 | Amazon.com from $369.99

At time of review the Zotac Sonix 480GB was available fro £379.99.
Intel 750 series

10 / 10

Our Score:

9

PCI-E: Intel 750 Series

Key features
  • Vast storage capacity
  • Consistent speeds
  • Unable to match Zotac’s pace

Intel’s 750 Series is the most expensive drive in this group, but there’s good reason for its huge £762 price. This SSD doesn’t just pack high-end gear inside – it also has a mighty 1.2TB capacity. There are smaller versions available; the 400GB model starts at £371.

The vast 1.2TB capacity translates to 1.09TB of usable space. That’s huge, and more akin to the kind of space I’m used to seeing from hard disks.

The drive impresses beyond its huge size, too. Intel has used 20nm MLC NAND to form the 750 Series, and Intel has used 32 chips of varying sizes. They equate to 1.37TB of space, which means 18.8% of the drive is given to redundancy areas – a boon for protecting the drive.

The 750 Series SSD comes with an endurance rating of 1.2 million hours. That’s reasonable, but it’s unable to match the Zotac’s rating of two million hours.

The two drives are closer in benchmarks. The Intel’s AS SSD sequential read speed of 2,364MB/sec is less than 100MB/sec behind the Zotac, and the Intel’s write pace of 1,342MB/sec is a little quicker than its main rival. There was barely a gap between the SSDs in the 4K-64 queue depth tests, and those results were mirrored in CrystalDiskMark – the Intel was a little slower when reading but often a tad faster in write tests.

Intel’s drive accelerated to a top ATTO read speed of 2,495MB/sec, which is stunning – but Zotac’s drive was just a tad faster, topping out at 3,056MB/sec. And the Intel’s Iometer result of 6,934MB/sec is excellent, but a tad slower than the Zotac.

Overall, then, the Intel 750 Series is only a little slower than the Zotac drive – but even when it does fall back, it’s never far behind. It’s still ridiculously fast, and its huge capacity makes it a genuine hard disk replacement. It’s expensive, but it justifies the cost with huge size and well-balanced performance.

Buy Now at Amazon.co.uk from £687 | Amazon.com from $999.99

At the time of review the Intel 750 Series 1.2TB was available for £763.

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