Best Budget NVMe M.2 SSDs in 2023: Fast Storage For Less

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Affordable M.2 NVMe solid state drives In actual user experience terms, the difference between a budget NVMe SSD and a high-end M.2 drive is not as large as the specifications suggest. While you will see a huge difference when swapping your old hard drive for any SSD, the same cannot be said for upgrading your SSD to a faster one.

But there are of course differences between entry-level SATA and PCIe/NVMe drives. When you are building a new PC and have an M.2 slot to spare, you will want to use it. And if you prefer not to spend a substantial part of your budget on storage, there are now quite a few affordable PCIe/NVMe SSDs to choose from.

Most manufacturers highlight maximum sequential performance in their marketing, as these numbers are easy to understand and compare. However, when looking at seemingly slow drives like the now-discontinued Intel Optane series – which often outperformed much faster drives (specs-wise) – you will notice that sequential transfer rates are just one factor. In the real world, random IOPS performance and latency are usually more important.

Best Value Gen3/Gen4 NVMe SSDs

We will start with the conclusion before going into more detail. Based on our testing and others, these would be our top choices for the best affordable M.2 SSDs in 2023. (Note that PCIe Gen4 offers twice the bandwidth of Gen3 and is available in systems based on Ryzen 3000/11th-gen Intel Core processors or later.)

Product
Best Affordable Gen3
WD Blue SN570 (1TB)
Best Affordable Gen4
Teamgroup MP44 (1TB)
Image
Western Digital 1TB WD Blue SN570 NVMe Internal Solid State Drive SSD - Gen3 x4 PCIe 8Gb/s, M.2 2280, Up to 3,500 MB/s - WDS100T3B0C
TEAMGROUP MP44 1TB SLC Cache Gen 4x4 M.2 2280 PCIe 4.0 with NVMe Laptop & Desktop & NUC & NAS SSD Solid State Drive (R/W Speed up to 7,400/6,500MB/s) TM8FPW001T0C101
Sequential read (max., MB/s)
3,500MB/s
7,400 MB/s
Sequential write (max., MB/s)
3,000MB/s
6,500 MB/s
Random read IOPS (4K/QD32)
460K
650K
Random write IOPS (4K/QD32)
460K
650K
Warranty
5 years
5 years
Endurance rating
600 TBW
1,450 TBW
Best Affordable Gen3
Product
WD Blue SN570 (1TB)
Image
Western Digital 1TB WD Blue SN570 NVMe Internal Solid State Drive SSD - Gen3 x4 PCIe 8Gb/s, M.2 2280, Up to 3,500 MB/s - WDS100T3B0C
Sequential read (max., MB/s)
3,500MB/s
Sequential write (max., MB/s)
3,000MB/s
Random read IOPS (4K/QD32)
460K
Random write IOPS (4K/QD32)
460K
Warranty
5 years
Endurance rating
600 TBW
Check Price
Best Affordable Gen4
Product
Teamgroup MP44 (1TB)
Image
TEAMGROUP MP44 1TB SLC Cache Gen 4x4 M.2 2280 PCIe 4.0 with NVMe Laptop & Desktop & NUC & NAS SSD Solid State Drive (R/W Speed up to 7,400/6,500MB/s) TM8FPW001T0C101
Sequential read (max., MB/s)
7,400 MB/s
Sequential write (max., MB/s)
6,500 MB/s
Random read IOPS (4K/QD32)
650K
Random write IOPS (4K/QD32)
650K
Warranty
5 years
Endurance rating
1,450 TBW
Check Price

Last update on 2023-12-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Teamgroup MP44 pictureAmong the affordable NVMe SSDs in the Gen4 space, some entry-level options are based on cheaper QLC NAND memory chips, but there are exceptions. Our latest favorite is the Teamgroup MP44 – a DRAM-less drive that is often on par with flagship-class Gen4 SSDs with onboard DRAM. In most cases, it also effortlessly outperforms the former DRAM-less leader from WD, the SN770 (although this is still a very solid alternative). Another plus is that the MP44 uses high-quality TLC Flash chips and ships with a formidable endurance rating.

WD Blue SN570Our current budget favorite in the Gen3 space is the WD Blue SN570, which offers better performance than its SN550 predecessor at a similar price point. Much like the SN550 and other low-cost NVMe SSDs, the SN570 is DRAMless, but the latter’s specs have been vastly improved across the board to compete with Samsung’s non-Pro 980.

Best Affordable Gen4 NVMe M.2 SSDs

MSI Spatium M470 SSDNow that Intel and AMD both offer PCI-Express 5.0-enabled platforms in the enthusiast segment – and PCIe Gen4 across all price ranges – it’s safe to say that Gen4 has gone mainstream. Compared to Gen3, Gen4 doubles the bandwidth for devices that can use it. At this point, those devices are primarily Gen4 M.2 SSDs, which were initially confined to the high-end space, where pricing is less of a concern.

This has changed along with mainstream Gen4 adoption, as Gen3 drives are now being replaced by increasingly affordable Gen4 SSDs. These drives are, on average, a bit slower than their high-end counterparts. This is particularly true when it comes to sequential performance.

But again, random IOPS is usually a better proxy for real-world performance – and these numbers can be quite impressive even in the budget range. As a result, we are particularly interested in this metric when looking at budget SSDs. Another factor is the type of NAND memory used, where the TLC type is preferable to QLC from both an endurance and a performance standpoint.

Best Value: TLC-Based Gen4 SSDs

Budget TLC
Gen4 SSDs
Product
(1TB capacity)
Max. sequential read/write (MB/s)4K random read/write performance (IOPS)DRAMNAND
Type
Endurance/
Warranty
Latest
Price*
Check
Availability
teamgroup MP44Teamgroup
MP44
7400/6500650K/650KN/ATLC1450 TBW/
5-Year
$59.99Amazon
WD Black SN770WD
Black SN770
5150/4900740K/800KN/ATLC600 TBW/
5-Year
$74.99Amazon
Newegg
Amazon UK
Silicon Power US70Silicon Power
US70
5500/4400750K/750KDDR4TLC1800 TBW/
5-Year
Price not availableAmazon
Newegg
Amazon UK
PNY
XLR8 CS3040
5600/4300N/ADDR4TLC1800 TBW/
5-Year
Price not availableAmazon
Newegg
Amazon UK
WD SN580WD
Blue SN850
4150/4150600K/750KN/ATLC600 TBW/
5-Year
$114.99Amazon
Amazon UK
MSI M470MSI
Spatium M470
5000/4400600K/600KDDR4TLC1600 TBW/
5-Year
$69.99Amazon
Newegg
Amazon UK
Sabrent Rocket 4Sabrent
Rocket Gen4
5000/4400750K/750KDDR4TLC1800 TBW/
5-Year
$69.99Amazon
Newegg
Amazon UK
Addlink S90 LiteAddlink
S90 Lite
5000/4000780K/800KN/ATLCN/A/
5-Year
N/AN/A
Crucial P5 PlusCrucial
P5 Plus
6600/5000630K/700KDDR4TLC600 TBW/
5-Year
$69.99Amazon
Newegg
Amazon UK

Other than the excellent Teamgroup MP44 and WD Black SN770, drives based on the Phison E16 controller (previously used in early high-end Gen4 SSDs) are now making a noteworthy comeback in the affordable PCIe Gen4 SSD space. These include the MSI Spatium M470, PNY XLR8 CS3040, and the Silicon Power US70. While not quite on par with today’s best NVMe drives, the TLC-based mainstream models offer good value – not least due to the very high endurance (TBW) ratings. The brand-new WD Blue SN580 is also an interesting budget option, but at this time it is only slightly cheaper than the more capable SN770.

Another relative newcomer in 2023 is the Addlink S90 Lite, which uses the Gen4 Phison E21 controller and TLC chips with excellent results.

Budget QLC (or Unspecified) Gen4 SSDs

Budget QLC
Gen4 SSDs
Product
(1TB capacity)
Max. sequential read/write (MB/s)4K random read/write performance (IOPS)DRAMNAND
Type
Endurance/
Warranty
Latest
Price*
Check
Availability
Corsair
MP600 Core XT
5000/3500700K/900KN/AQLC250 TBW/
5-Year
$59.99Amazon
Newegg
MSI
Spatium M461
5000/3200630K/750KN/AQLC250 TBW/
5-Year
$56.89Amazon
Newegg
Crucial
P3 Plus
5000/3600N/AN/AQLC220 TBW/
5-Year
$54.99Amazon
Newegg
Solidigm
P41 Plus
4125/2950225K/520KN/AQLC400 TBW/
5-Year
Amazon
Newegg
PNY
CS2140
3600/3200N/AN/AN/A400 TBW/
5-Year
$54.99Amazon
Newegg
Kingston
NV2
3500/2100N/AN/AN/A320 TBW/
3-Year
$53.44Amazon
Newegg

Sabrent
Rocket Q4
4700/1800180K/450KDDR4QLC200 TBW/
5-Year
$189.32N/A

Corsair MP600 Core XTIn the more affordable QLC space, we find some Gen4 drives that offer about the same overall performance as high-end Gen3 models. That includes the PNY CS2140 and Kingston’s NV2, whereas the Crucial P3 Plus and Sabrent Rocket Q4 deliver significantly higher sequential transfer rates than what is possible with PCIe 3.0.

The Corsair MP600 Core XT and MSI’s Spatium M461 are an interesting pair of newcomers that have raised the performance bar for Gen4 QLC SSDs. Both use the Phison E21T controller, which we recently tested in the Corsair MP600 Mini and it performed well in the Steam Deck.

A downside of all QLC-based alternatives is that endurance ratings are noticeably worse compared to their TLC counterparts. In terms of performance, however, they are often more than decent.

Possibly Good Value: Early Phison E16 Drives

The first batch of Gen4 NVMe M.2 SSDs on the market all used the Phison E16 controller. Many of them are still around and may be worth looking into if you want Gen4 at a reasonable price. You can barely tell these SSDs apart as far as specifications go, as they all use nearly identical hardware.

Gen4 E16
SSDs (1TB)
ProductMax. sequential read/write (MB/s)4K random read/write performance (IOPS)NAND
Type
Endurance/
Warranty
Gigabyte Aorus Gen4 (1TB)5000/4400750K/700KTLC1800 TBW
Corsair MP600 Gen4 (1TB)4950/4250680K/600KTLC1800 TBW
Patriot Viper VP4100 (1TB)5000/4400800K/800KTLC1800 TBW
Seagate Firecuda 520 (1TB)5000/4400760K/700KTLC1800 TBW
XPG Gammix S50 (1TB)5000/4400750K/750KTLC1800 TBW

Admittedly, the Phison E16-based SSDs are not entirely identical. There are a few different firmware variants and some of the drives come with an included (and in some cases optional) heatsink. Nevertheless, although they are no longer on par with the fastest SSDs in the category, these drives have been almost universally well-received and the price remains the most important differentiator.

Best Affordable PCIe Gen3 NVMe M.2 Drives

Seeing as Gen4 SSDs are backward compatible, today’s differences in prices between budget Gen4 and Gen3 SSDs rarely motivate opting for the latter. But if you are looking to fill a PCIe 3.0 slot, it may still be worth a look.

Budget SSDs
(1TB version)
ProductMax. sequential read/write (MB/s)4K random read/write performance (IOPS)DRAMNAND
Type
Endurance/
Warranty
Latest
Price*
WD Blue SN5703500/3000460K/460KNoTLC600 TBW/
5-Year
$67.00
Samsung 9803500/3000500K/480KNoTLC600 TBW/
5-Year
$79.50
Mushkin
Helix-L
2110/1700240K/260KNoTLC600 TBW/
3-Year
Price not available
Sabrent Rocket Q3200/2000125K/500KDDR3LQLC260 TBW/
5-Year
Price not available
Seagate
Barracuda Q5
2400/1700N/AN/AQLC274 TBW/
3-Year
$52.99
PNY
CS2130
3500/1800N/ADDR3QLCN/A
5-Year
$99.99
Intel
670p
3500/2500220K/330KDDR3LQLC370 TBW/
5-Year
N/A
Patriot
P300
2100/1650290K/260KNoTLC320 TBW/
3-Year
$45.99
Mushkin
Pilot-E
3500/3000331K/353KDDR3TLC600 TBW/
3-Year
$57.95

TLC Vs. QLC NAND – Why It Matters

SLC, MLC, TLC, QLC NAND

Higher densities introduce durability and performance issues.

Although the incredibly high densities in today’s SSDs are a feat of engineering, the ability to write additional bits of data to each memory cell is not without downsides. The exponential increase in density from MLC (multi-level cell) via TLC (triple-level cell) to QLC (quad-level cell) NAND (Not-AND; a type of transistor logic gate) has introduced endurance and performance-related challenges.

  • Firstly, all else being equal, QLC NAND by itself performs significantly worse compared to TLC. The higher density makes QLC slower and more error-prone, which must be corrected for by the manufacturers. This is partly accomplished by using an SLC (single-level cell) cache. Once this significantly faster cache is temporarily used up, the SSD will write directly to the QLC memory, which reduces performance to a fraction of the maximum sequential rates. This is an issue with TLC-based SSDs as well, but there it is much less pronounced.
  • Secondly, the endurance ratings of affordable M.2 SSDs – QLC-based ones in particular – tend to be much lower compared to more expensive drives. This means that you can write less data to it as measured in TBW (terabytes written) before it runs out of warranty, which is mutually exclusive with the warranty in years. For the average gamer or office user, this is rarely an issue. But do keep the TBW ratings in mind if you work with e.g. video editing and other storage-intensive workloads.

However, the main problem with QLC SSDs so far is not that they are unreliable or slow (they’re not), but that they are still too expensive compared to their more durable and (usually) slightly faster TLC counterparts. As long as the price difference is small or non-existent – and it still is among the entry-level NVMe drives – there are few reasons to choose a QLC-based SSD over a TLC-based model.

Other Considerations When Buying an Entry-Level NVMe SSD in 2023

Sabrent Rocket Gen3Some compromises have to be made to get the best possible value in the budget M.2 NVMe SSD space. Besides the small QLC/TLC price differences, it is also interesting to note that the difference between entry-level and mid-range drives is also relatively small. Adding around $20–30 to your budget might get you a DRAM-equipped SSD with a much higher TBW rating.

Another issue with the entry-level M.2 SSD market is that some manufacturers are not providing detailed performance specifications (or even an endurance rating in the case of PNY). Comparing SSDs based only on maximum sequential performance alone is not sufficient, as these numbers are not reliable indicators of real-world performance outside of specific tasks. For reference, see our performance comparison further down on this page.

Warranty terms are also important. While three years sounds reasonable enough compared to other product categories, we have come to expect five years for SSDs, so anything less does not inspire as much confidence.

Those objections aside, it should be mentioned that practically all modern M.2 SSDs – even in the budget segment – are considerably more reliable in general than hard drives as well as older SSDs from 5–10 years ago. Drive failures are very uncommon and, for the average user, a cheap NVMe SSD should last for the lifetime of the system, even if the TBW rating is relatively modest.

Entry-Level NVMe SSD (Real-World) Performance

Although high maximum sequential transfer rates are typically the manufacturers’ headline feature, these numbers do not scale with common real-world scenarios like loading apps and games. As the average user load in gaming/office use is more centered around reading and writing small chunks of data, factors like latency and random performance are arguably more interesting.

As our testing of the similarly affordable WD Blue SN550, Sabrent Rocket Q, Kingston NV2, and Samsung 980 reveals, these drives are actually not that far from competing with the theoretically much faster (and more expensive) WD Black SN850 or Samsung 990 Pro in benchmarks measuring loading times.

Final Fantasy 14 loading times benchmark chart

The Final Fantasy XIV Shadowbringers benchmark is a more accurate and practical alternative to a stopwatch for measuring level loading times. Five different levels are loaded during the benchmark, which then provides a total loading time. Here, any SSD (including external SSDs in an NVMe enclosure) will provide a significant and clearly noticeable boost compared to any mechanical hard drive. Note that the hard drive used in our comparison is a comparatively fast 7,200 rpm 3.5″ model.

PCMark 10 app start-up times comparison chart

Unsurprisingly, the high-end SN850X and 990 Pro have the shortest app start-up times in PC Mark 10, but it is interesting to note that the cheap Kingston NV2 is trailing by trivial amounts, and the same is true for Seagates Gen3 FireCuda 510. Samsung’s non-Pro 980 and the QLC-based Sabrent Rocket Q are trailing a bit, but it’s hardly a night-and-day difference.

CrystalDiskMark all data comparison chart

Synthetic performance metrics from CrystalDiskMark tell a different story. These high-end, mid-range, and affordable NVMe SSDs perform about as you would expect from their specifications. 4K transfer rates, especially Q1T1 (minimum queue depth) correlate better with real-world scenarios, however. The average office or gaming PC workload is not centered around sequential transfers of large files, but more commonly the opposite.

Summary: Budget Gen4 SSDs Are Now a Great Option

The number of budget NVMe M.2 SSDs has greatly increased in the past couple of years and now makes up a fair share of the market. As of mid-2023, some observations stand out:

  • PCIe Gen4 NVMe SSDs now offer the best value overall – Thanks to the introduction of affordable yet very capable DRAM-less SSDs like the WD Black SN770 and Addlink S90 Lite, there is better value than ever in the Gen4 space. In terms of real-world loading times and user experience, you are not missing out on much at all by opting for a more affordable drive. The price difference between Gen3 and Gen4 has also become largely insignificant.
  • TLC NAND still trumps QLC in the price/performance race – Although it is technically impressive, the main selling point of QLC NAND is that the compromise between improved density and reduced endurance should result in lower prices. Unfortunately, the average price difference is still too small compared to the better-performing TLC counterparts.
  • There is no need to compromise on endurance ratings or warranty terms – On that same note, you don’t have to settle for mediocre endurance ratings or reduced warrant periods. At this time, the price difference between drives with or without an industry-standard warranty (five years) and good endurance is often non-existent.

Do you have a different opinion of what makes the best affordable M.2 NVMe SSDs at this time? Don’t hesitate to share it in the comments.

*Prices are updated automatically at regular intervals but are subject to change between updates. 

Jesper Berg
Jesper Berg

I got started with PC building in the 3dfx Voodoo era, right after PC gaming was pronounced dead the first time. It's still an interesting journey.

2 Comments
  1. Great article with very useful comparisons and analyses. Essential shopping guide.

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