The Fastest M.2 NVMe SSDs in February 2021

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Samsung 980 PRO Vs WD SN850Faster storage can shave seconds off most of your PC activities – from booting up your OS to loading apps and games. If you are currently booting from a hard drive, there is no other upgrade that will have such a noticeable effect on your user experience as a solid state drive (SSD).

But not all SSDs are created equal. If you have an available PCIe M.2 slot on your motherboard (desktop or laptop), then this is where to install your system drive. The best m.2 drives also use the modern storage interface protocol NVMe.

Table of Contents

What is NVMe and is it necessary?

NVMe example

Image credit: Intel

What SSD performance boils down to is how quickly it lets you move data from storage (non-volatile, slower) to DRAM (volatile, faster).

The NVMe protocol – short for non-volatile memory express – was created to make the most out of solid state drives in combination with the PCI Express (PCIe) interface. Its predecessor AHCI (paired with SATA) was originally intended for mechanical hard drives. The newer protocol includes many efficiency improvements to deal with parallel transfers and the low-latency nature of SSDs. If you are new to NVMe and want a primer on the concept, start with this introduction by Intel.

When shopping for a new SSD, it’s important to remember that M.2 is just a form factor that says nothing of performance. Some M.2 SSDs operate over the SATA interface and have the same performance limitations as a 2.5″ drive. If you have a relatively modern motherboard, it most likely has a PCIe/NVMe-capable (and therefore much faster) M.2 slot, so this is the type of drive to look for.

Fastest Gen4 Vs. Gen3 M.2 SSD

The PCI Express 4.0 (or Gen4) interface offers twice the bandwidth compared to PCIe Gen3. But to take advantage of a Gen4-compatible SSD, you also need a motherboard and processor (CPU) combo that supports the interface. For now, that means a recent AMD platform, specifically an X570, B550, or TRX40 motherboard combined with a 3rd-gen Ryzen or Threadripper CPU or better.

Intel’s 10th-gen Core CPUs, unfortunately, lack support for anything faster than PCIe Gen3. The 11th-generation Core desktop CPUs (Rocket Lake) are expected in the first half of 2021 and will finally bring PCIe 4.0 connectivity to Intel consumer platforms.

In other words, there is no need to invest in a more expensive Gen4 SSD unless you have a compatible PC or plan to upgrade in the near future. If you do own one of said platforms, the Western Digital SN850 has just recently usurped the throne as the fastest M.2 SSD overall (from the Samsung 980 PRO, which is also exceptionally fast). In the PCIe 3.0 generation, the Samsung 970 EVO Plus is still a great choice – not least because it’s significantly more affordable than the top PCIe 4.0 SSDs.

Product
Fastest M.2 SSD (PCIe 4)
WD_Black 1TB SN850 NVMe Internal Gaming SSD - Gen4 PCIe, M.2 2280, 3D NAND – WDS100T1X0E
Best PCIe 3.0 SSD
Samsung (MZ-V7S1T0B/AM) 970 EVO Plus SSD 1TB - M.2 NVMe Interface Internal Solid State Drive with V-NAND Technology
Image
WD_Black 1TB SN850 NVMe Internal Gaming SSD - Gen4 PCIe, M.2 2280, 3D NAND – WDS100T1X0E
Samsung (MZ-V7S1T0B/AM) 970 EVO Plus SSD 1TB - M.2 NVMe Interface Internal Solid State Drive with V-NAND Technology
Sequential read (max., MB/s)
7,000
3,500
Sequential write (max., MB/s)
5,300
3,300
Random read IOPS (4K/QD1)
N/A
19,000
Random write IOPS (4K/QD1)
N/A
60,000
Random read IOPS (4K/QD32)
1,000,000
600,000
Random write IOPS (4K/QD32)
1,000,000
550,000
Warranty
5 Years
5 Years
Endurance rating (TBW)
600 TBW
600 TBW
Price
$229.99
$164.99
Fastest M.2 SSD (PCIe 4)
Product
WD_Black 1TB SN850 NVMe Internal Gaming SSD - Gen4 PCIe, M.2 2280, 3D NAND – WDS100T1X0E
Image
WD_Black 1TB SN850 NVMe Internal Gaming SSD - Gen4 PCIe, M.2 2280, 3D NAND – WDS100T1X0E
Sequential read (max., MB/s)
7,000
Sequential write (max., MB/s)
5,300
Random read IOPS (4K/QD1)
N/A
Random write IOPS (4K/QD1)
N/A
Random read IOPS (4K/QD32)
1,000,000
Random write IOPS (4K/QD32)
1,000,000
Warranty
5 Years
Endurance rating (TBW)
600 TBW
Price
$229.99
Best PCIe 3.0 SSD
Product
Samsung (MZ-V7S1T0B/AM) 970 EVO Plus SSD 1TB - M.2 NVMe Interface Internal Solid State Drive with V-NAND Technology
Image
Samsung (MZ-V7S1T0B/AM) 970 EVO Plus SSD 1TB - M.2 NVMe Interface Internal Solid State Drive with V-NAND Technology
Sequential read (max., MB/s)
3,500
Sequential write (max., MB/s)
3,300
Random read IOPS (4K/QD1)
19,000
Random write IOPS (4K/QD1)
60,000
Random read IOPS (4K/QD32)
600,000
Random write IOPS (4K/QD32)
550,000
Warranty
5 Years
Endurance rating (TBW)
600 TBW
Price
$164.99

Last update on 2021-02-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2 SSD Overall: WD SN850

Western Digital SN850Both the SN850 and 980 PRO offer sequential read speeds of up to 7,000 MB/s as well as up to 1,000,000 IOPS (random 4K read/write). The SN850’s sequential write performance (1TB capacity) is rated as slightly faster 5,300MB/s versus the 980 PRO’s 5,000 MB/s. Nevertheless, the WD SN850 performs better in a majority of benchmarks, although the 980 PRO stays ahead in some. Of course, any difference in real-world use will not be on a noticeable level, so you really can’t go wrong with either of these performance leaders.

Check prices (1TB): Amazon, Newegg

Also Extremely Fast: Samsung 980 PRO

Samsung 980 PRO

Samsung’s 980 PRO was launched in October of 2020 and was the unequivocal market leader until WD launched the SN850. And to be fair, it still the best M.2 SSD in some benchmarks, and remains a great choice for any high-end PCIe Gen4-capable system, The 980 PRO and its proprietary Elpis controller easily outperforms the first batch of Gen4 M.2 SSDs based on the Phison E16 controller.

In spite of its name, the 980 PRO is more of a successor to the 970 EVO Plus than to the 970 PRO. Previously, the entire PRO lineup has been based on higher-end MLC (multi-level cell) NAND memory chips. With the 980 PRO, Samsung instead uses more affordable TLC (triple-level cell) NAND. Outside extremely storage-intensive workloads this will make little difference. However, it should be noted that the endurance rating is lower than the 970 PRO (and also lower than the Phison-based Gen4 drives listed below but equal to the SN850).

For now, the Samsung 980 PRO is available in 250 GB, 500 GB, and 1 TB capacities. These will be joined by a 2 TB model in early 2021.

Check prices (1TB): Amazon, Newegg

Best Price/Performance (Gen4): Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus

Sabrent Rocket 4 PlusOutside of storage behemoths like Western Digital and Samsung – who develop and produce SSDs from the ground up in their own fabs – Sabrent is one of the most interesting businesses. Although a comparatively recent addition to the storage industry, this company has consistently managed to be first on the market with a variety of relevant products, be it high-capacity M.2 drives, early PCIe Gen4 drives, or affordable QLC-based models.

This is also the case with the Rocket 4 Plus, which takes advantage of the brand-new Phison E18 controller. At the time of writing, only a handful of hardware sites have finished their reviews but it looks like this drive is highly competitive compared to the flagship devices from WD and Samsung.

Check prices (1TB): Amazon, Newegg

The PCIe 3.0 Leaders: Samsung 970 PRO and EVO Plus

No single drive will take home the crown as the fastest M.2. SSD in every benchmark or use case. However, one of the best general performers in the PCIe 3.0 segment is still the MLC-based Samsung 970 PRO. Samsung’s performance and reliability track record in the SSD segment has been almost flawless for a decade, so this drive is a very comfortable recommendation.

The 970 PRO comes with Samsung’s proprietary controller and MLC chips, as well as an excellent endurance rating of 1,200 TBW (1TB) or 600 TBW (512GB). When looking at the performance/$ equation, the 970 PRO has always been a somewhat questionable choice, but for the most demanding users, the investment might be worth it.

Check prices: Amazon, Newegg, Amazon UK

Samsung’s 970 EVO Plus is a lot more affordable than the PRO but very close in terms of raw performance. Although it doesn’t use high-end MLC NAND, this drive is still among the very best in the PCIe Gen 3 category.

Check prices: Amazon, Newegg, Amazon UK

Other Gen4 Alternatives: The Phison E16 SSD Lineup

Right until Samsung launched the 980 PRO, all PCIe 4.0-capable SSDs for consumers were based on the same Phison PS5016-E16 controller and 3D TLC NAND combo. What this means is that all of these drives offer about the same performance of up to 5,000 MB/s (sequential read) and 4,400 MB/s (sequential write). Other than the Sabrent Rocket Gen4, some of the nearly identical drives include:

 NameMax. sequential read/write (MB/s)4K random read/write performance (IOPS)Endurance rating (terabytes written)Check Price
Sabrent Rocket Gen4 (1TB)5000/4400750K/750K1800 TBWAmazon
Newegg
Amazon UK
Gigabyte Aorus Gen4 (1TB)5000/4400750K/700K1800 TBWAmazon
Newegg
Amazon UK
Corsair MP600 Gen4 (1TB)4950/4250680K/600K1800 TBWAmazon
Newegg
Amazon UK
Patriot Viper VP4100 (1TB)5000/4400800K/800K1800 TBWAmazon
Newegg
Amazon UK
Seagate Firecuda 520 (1TB)5000/4400760K/700K1800 TBWAmazon
Newegg
Amazon UK
XPG Gammix S50 (1TB)5000/4400750K/750K1800 TBWAmazon
Newegg
Amazon UK

Performance is roughly the same with any of these drives, and all come with the advantage of excellent endurance ratings compared to the competition. They are also known to run relatively hot, so unless you have a motherboard with an included heat spreader (often supplied with X570 motherboards and higher-end B550 boards), this might be a useful addition.

9 of the Best PCIe Gen3 M.2 SSDs

If your system is not ready for PCIe Gen4, you can save quite a lot by opting for a Gen3 drive. The following list includes some of the best-performing M.2 SSDs from the past couple of years. They are ordered by sequential performance first, random second. Because of the drives’ different controllers and memory types, these numbers are only an indication of actual performance.

# NameMax. sequential read/write (MB/s)4K random read/write performance (IOPS)Endurance rating (terabytes written)Check Price
1Samsung 970 PRO (1TB)3500/2700500K/500K1200 TBWAmazon
Newegg
Amazon UK
2Samsung 970 EVO PLUS (1TB)3500/3300600K/550K600 TBWAmazon
Newegg
Amazon UK
3Adata XPG SX8200 Pro (1TB)3500/3000390K/380K640 TBWAmazon
Newegg
Amazon UK
4PNY XLR8 CS3030 (1TB)3500/3000N/A1665 TBWAmazon
Newegg
Amazon UK
5HP EX950 (1TB)3500/2900410K/370K650 TBWAmazon
Newegg
Amazon UK
6Corsair Force MP510 (960 GB)3480/3000280K/700K720 TBWAmazon
Newegg
Amazon UK
7WD Black SN750 (1TB)3430/3000515K/560K600 TBWAmazon
Newegg
Amazon UK
8Intel SSD 760p (1TB)3230/1625340K/275K576 TBWAmazon
Newegg
Amazon UK
9Intel Optane SSD 800P (118GB)1450/640250K/140K365 TBWAmazon
Newegg
Amazon UK

High-End Alternative: Intel Optane 800p

Intel M.2 SSDThe last drive on our list is also a high-end option. Although its sequential performance might not sound like much, Intel’s Optane 800p is faster than all other M.2 SSDs in certain areas. Its extremely low latency makes random performance at low queue depths particularly good, which is an advantage for a system drive. The reason why it’s hard to compare it with other SSDs is that it uses Intel’s proprietary 3D XPoint memory instead of ‘normal’ NAND Flash.

Unfortunately, it also comes with a much higher cost/GB than competing drives and is only available in two tiny capacities – 58 GB and 118 GB. Read more about it here, or head straight to AnandTech for the most detailed review online.

Check prices: Amazon, Newegg, Amazon UK

Which is the Best M.2 SSD for Gaming?

For the average user, the difference between an SSD and a hard drive in terms of user experience is very clearly noticeable. The effect of shifting from one type of SSD to another is not nearly as dramatic.

All storage-intensive tasks that move lots of files around will be affected by an SSDs capability. However, a faster SSD will not necessarily shorten loading times in games by noticeable amounts. Here’s an interesting test from the web, comparing an M.2 PCIe SSD (970 Pro) versus an older 2.5″ SATA SSD (plus a mechanical hard drive) when loading various games:

SSD game loading test: fastest Samsung 970pro vs OLD SATA SSD vs HDD

Here’s a summary of the data:

GameLoading from
HDD
Loading from
2.5" SATA SSD
Loading from
970 Pro (PCIe/NVMe)
Decrease/Increase,
(NVMe Vs SATA)
Destiny 2
45s31s29s-6%
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided71s27s21s-22%
DOOM65s49s47s-4%
Civilization 627s18s17s-6%
Far Cry 525s10s11s+10%
Path of Exile23s3s3s+0%
World of Warcraft36s7s6s-14%
Skyrim Special Edition20s9s12s+33%
Witcher 313s7s5s-29%
Total325s161s151s-6%

Source: YouTube user Alexandr iuneWind

With these results in mind, it is probably safe to assume that a comparison of individual high-end M.2 PCIe SSDs will result in small differences as far as gaming is concerned. The usual price/performance calculation will serve you well. Of course, all seconds saved add up to minutes and hours in the long run, so a fast M.2 NVMe SSD is still a key component in a high-end PC. But in most cases, you should not expect the sort of radical performance gains that you see when coming from a traditional hard drive.

Will it Work on my Laptop/Desktop PC?

For the listed drives to work with your computer, it must have the proper slot and support for PCIe/NVMe. But there may be exceptions: Even without an M.2 slot on your (desktop) motherboard, you may still be able to use one in a full-size PCIe x4 slot using an adapter. But if you want to run your OS from the drive, your motherboard must still support booting from PCIe, which is no guarantee with older motherboards.

All recent, high-end ATX-size motherboards, on the other hand, include at least one M.2 slot and will be able to run a modern SSD at PCIe 3.0 speeds at a minimum. With an older board, you might not be so lucky. In any event, it’s always best to check the manual before buying a new drive.

Keying and Sizes

M.2 SSDs (and other M.2 cards) come in different sizes and some motherboards – particularly in laptops – will only hold a drive up to a certain size. They also have different sets of notches (keying) that will prevent you from installing it the wrong way.

M.2 Keying and Size

Three different key types or ‘notch styles’ may be used by M.2 SSDs: B, M or B&M. The socket can be either B or M, but not both.

High-end SSDs, as well as recent motherboards, will have to use an M-key slot, as this is the only type that provides four lanes of bandwidth, or 20 Gbit/s, also known as PCIe x4. B-key supports ‘only’ PCIe x2, or 10 Gbit/s.

On many motherboards, the connector itself or the PCB next to it will be labeled with the keying. Otherwise, check the specs or the manual. Likewise, M.2 card length might be stamped on the board, looking something like this:

High-capacity drives have additional memory chips mounted on the card and may require more space in some cases. The M.2 standard allows for cards of five different lengths, with the number format meaning width-length in millimeters. All sizes are the same width, so the two most common, 2280 and 2242, are 80mm and 42mm long, respectively (and so on). All sizes:

  • 2230
  • 2242
  • 2260
  • 2280
  • 22110

Not all motherboards – and much less all laptops – can accommodate the longest cards and some might not even support the common 2280 size (the format used by most of the drives listed above). 22110 drives are however very rare.

Also, don’t confuse M.2 and mSATA, which is another, older standard. These slots may look similar on the motherboard, but they’re not compatible. M.2 SSDs may also use the SATA interface, but that doesn’t mean it’s an mSATA drive.

Yes, it really is a bit confusing, but fortunately, M.2 2280 is the most common standard by far, so it’s actually hard to get it wrong. But just to be safe:

Checklist Before Buying an M.2 SSD

  • Check the drive’s interface and M.2 keying, e.g. B+M-key/M-key (all PCIe x4 SSDs are M-key).
  • Make sure it matches the slot on your motherboard or in your laptop. You can usually find this information on the specs page.
  • Also ensure that the length of the drive is supported, e.g. 2280 or 2242 (numbers in bold are millimeters).

To sum things up about keying and interfaces: it might sound complicated, but really isn’t. If you are building a high-end PC based on a Z170, Z270, B350/B450, X370/X470 chipset, it will likely have an M-key slot. And if so, most of the popular M-key or B+M-key drives will work. But there are a few exceptions, so it’s best to double-check.

Choosing the Right Capacity

You can hardly ever have too much storage space, but all of it doesn’t have to be super fast. There is no reason to use an expensive, high-end SSD to store family photos or your Steam library backups.

Speaking for myself, a primary 1 TB SSD is enough to hold the stuff I use on a regular basis. That includes the OS, all work-related apps, and a few games – basically what I want quick access to on a regular basis. The rest is mostly distributed on some affordable terabytes of hard drive space.

What capacity you need is always a personal question. If you just want a really fast computer for work (and who doesn’t?), you can probably get by with as little as 128 GB and use hard drives for the rest. However, when looking at the price/performance ratio (performance is usually improved in larger capacities), 240 or 256 GB drives offer a much more attractive entry-level price point. If you want to install any larger number of games, 1 TB should be considered a minimum size.

Most importantly, you want to boot from your fastest drive. That means it must be able to store the OS and all of its associated files (such as caches and swap). And it’s not that much:

  • Windows 10 (64-bit): 20GB
  • MacOs Catalina: 12.5GB
  • Ubuntu 20.04: 25GB
  • Manjaro 18/19: 30GB
  • Linux Mint 20: 20GB
  • Elementary OS 5 (Debian/Ubuntu): 15GB
  • Fedora 30 Workstation: 10GB
  • OpenSuse Tumbleweed: 40GB

Those numbers may or may not be a minimum requirement, but also add – at the very least – the amount of RAM in your system to be on the safe side (to make room for the swap file). Office apps are usually not that demanding either, with MS Office taking up about 4 GB of space on your SSD. Games tend to use a lot more but can range in size from a few hundred megabytes to dozens of gigabytes, so there is no simple answer. On the other hand, loading games from a slower device (but preferably still an SSD) is still a viable option, as seen above.

MLC Vs. TLC Vs. QLC NAND

SLC, MLC, TLC, QLC NANDIn any SSD context, you will inevitably run into the MLC, TLC, and QLC abbreviations. What these signify is the number of bits that can be written to each cell in NAND (Not-AND) memory chips. In the early days, only one bit could be written to each cell, i.e. single-level cell or SLC. Solid state drives using SLC memory were (and now only in very rare cases, are) extremely durable but also prohibitively expensive.

Consumer SSDs became common once density increased to two bits per cell, also known as multi-level cell or MLC. Most high-end drives today use the even denser triple-level cell, or TLC, memory type, whereas some budget SSDs use quad-level cell, or QLC NAND.

The downsides to increased densities are – all other things being equal – worse performance and durability. Adding additional bits per cell adds to the complexity and cells will be worn down in fewer write/erase cycles.

Nevertheless, today’s TLC-based drives are far faster than older MLC drives thanks to some highly innovative use of buffering and caching technology, whereby data is first written in SLC mode and then to the slower TLC memory. The durability problems have also mostly been solved using, among other things, spare capacity (overprovisioning) to spread out the wear over time. On the whole, today’s TLC-based SSDs are not only much faster but also durable enough to outlast most other PC parts for the average user.

As a PC gaming enthusiast since the 3dfx Voodoo era, Jesper has had time to experiment with a fair few FPS-improving PC parts over the years. His job at GPCB is to test and evaluate hardware, mainly focusing on GPUs and storage devices.

58 Comments
    • Very thorough article!
      You mentioned the Corsair MP600 was available with & w/o heat spreader, but could not locate one w/o it?
      Not even on Corsair’s website, on their online store, was it possible to purchase w/o, so I’m guessing you can’t and you assumed that you could buy w/o?

      • Thanks Dan!
        It looks like I mixed these drives up and got it wrong about the MP600 being available without the heat spreader. The article is now updated, thanks a lot for pointing this out.

    • Whatt is the best seagate firecuda 520 or samsung 980 pro

      • Hi Mohamed,
        The 980 Pro is considerably faster (theoretically) than the Firecuda 520 and all other drives with the same controller (until now, all PCIe Gen4 SSDs).

        In terms of sequential speeds, the 980 Pro offers up to 7,000 MB/s (read) and 5,000 MB/s (write), compared to the FireCuda’s 5,000/4,400 MB/s. Random performance is 1,000,000 IOPS (Samsung) Vs. 760,000 IOPS (Seagate).

        This large difference will however not be anywhere near as apparent as the numbers indicate outside of synthetic benchmarks. But it’s definitely faster overall.

    • Thanks Brad for spotting the typo! Changed it.
      There will probably be another few years before these things are a thousand times as fast… 🙂
      /Jesper

      • hello, Jesper!! great article with great info!

        I’m an audio professional and some of my DAW sound/sample libraries require that I install them on SSD drives. to keep from taking up space on my boot drive, I’m looking to move them to external storage and the an NVMe SSD seems to be the smart route.

        I’ll be connecting via USB 3 on a 2018 Mac Mini and putting the SSD in a USB 3 enclosure. I’m currently looking at the Samsung 970 PRO or EVO (512GB), but can you recommend a drive and enclosure combo where I can max read speeds and reliability at a reasonable price? thanks in advance!!!

  1. All the links for Samsung EVO (and what I can find online) are for PCIe Gen3 drives, not Gen4

  2. As of now, there are still no Samsung EVO (or PRO) M.2 drives on the market that run on Gen4. The Gen4 Samsung 980 PRO was announced at CES this year, but I’ve seen nothing of a release date yet.
    See:
    https://www.anandtech.com/show/15352/ces-2020-samsung-980-pro-pcie-40-ssd-makes-an-appearance

  3. Your specs are all wrong, for chart under heading, “”12 of the Fastest M.2 PCIe NVMe SSDs in 2020″” Please update!

    They should be this: (consider adding Gen3 for comparison)

    Gigabyte Aorus PCIe Gen4 (500GB) – 5000/4400
    Gigabyte Aorus PCIe Gen3 (500GB) – 3500/2500

    Sabrent Rocket PCIe Gen4 (500GB) – 5000/2500
    Sabrent Rocket PCIe Gen3 (500GB) – 3400/2500

    ADD:
    Corsair MP510 PCIe Gen3 (480GB) – 3480/3000

    All the rest seemed okay…

    • Thanks for your comment. I believe that you are mistakenly referring to the read/write specs for the 1TB+ models, which are higher than the 500GB ones listed here (write speeds in particular).

      That said, it would make more sense to compare the 1TB drives, which is probably the most common capacity these days. I’ll change this in the next update.

  4. Dont know how the Seagate NVME PCIe 4.0 Firecuda 1TB didnt make this list. It’s the fastest by far in real world file transfer speeds. Blew the Sabrent away in a side by side comparison video I saw. They all have the same Phison controller but Seagate uses its own proprietary firmware or something.

  5. The Addlink S90 should be included on the list near the top if not the number one spot. It performs even faster than what it advertises.

    • 3600 TBW is for the 2TB model. 1TB drives are compared in the table and the Corsair MP600 1TB offers half of the 2TB so 1800 TBW.

  6. “If you just want a really fast computer for work (and who doesn’t?), you can probably get by with as little as 128 GB and use hard drives for the rest. ”

    Price difference of 128GB and 240GB is only ~10 euros so for normal user there is no point to get only 128 GB. Going 128 GB needs special conditions.

  7. This article was really helpful. I want to buy an M.2 SSD for my Acer TravelMate P449-G2-M-50S9 (Part Number NX.VFUAL.001) but I wanted to know which ones were compatible with my device. Is any M.2 PCIe 2280 going to work with my laptop? I was trying to buy some models which didn’t appear in userbenchmark so I’m not completly sure if they’ll work or not.

    For example I was wondering if some of these are compatible with my laptop:
    Kingston SA2000M8/250G 250GB
    XPG SX6000 PCIE GEN3X2 M.2 2280
    SSD 256GB SEAGATE M.2 2280 BARRACUDA 510
    ADATA SWORDFISH PCIe Gen3x4 M.2 2280

    Thanks in advance!

  8. You are just quoting advertised speeds and that is completely misleading. I can tell you, Samsung drives don’t perform anywhere near the advertised speeds. I have tested 21 drives. The random speeds are particularly poor. Overpriced trash. I expect all other drives will experience similar speed differences. What really matters is real world performance, and I’ve yet to see a NVMe drive that performs anywhere near the marketed speeds.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment. I agree that max. sequential speeds don’t paint the whole picture but they still tend to be quite accurate when tested with e.g. ATTO. As for the Samsung drives, I’ve also tested most of them since the 830 and they have usually been among the best in most areas (except when compared to the Intel Optane drives in terms of latency/random data).

  9. Thanks , very helpful article
    what about Toshiba like :Toshiba XG5-P KXG50PNV2T04 2TB Internal M.2 2280 NVMe Solid State Drive (SSD)
    This wasn’t included in comparison, my Dell XPS came originally equipped with same Toshiba but 1TB, I am trying to upgrade to 2TB, I was thinking between Samsung 970 EVO Plus 2TB , Sabrent Sabrent 2TB Rocket NVMe PCIe M.2 2280 Internal SSD High Performance Solid State Drive (SB-ROCKET-2TB)and Toshiba XG5-P KXG50PNV2T04 2TB, what would you advise ?
    Thanks , appreciated

    • Thanks, Walid!
      Your current Toshiba XG5-P is a high-end OEM SSD, so it’s probably safe to say that you won’t experience any real-world difference outside of synthetic benchmarks with either the Samsung or the Sabrent (or a 2TB XG5-P).

      The Samsung EVO Plus is a great drive that performs well in almost every area, but personally I would have opted for one of the others at this time due to the large price difference and small real-world performance difference.

      Here’s a review that compares the Sabrent with the Samsung in the 2TB capacities: https://www.tweaktown.com/reviews/9434/sabrent-rocket-nvme-2tb-ssd/index.html (I haven’t seen any review of the XG5-P yet).

  10. Has anyone done a good performance shootout ranking PCIe 4.0 SSDs? Preferably the 2tB models?
    I have the Gigabyte AORUS 2tB and I’d like to know how it stacks up against the others. I bought it because the specs looked so good, and I am VERY impressed with its performance. Windows 10 boots up lightning fast, and games are super speedy too.

  11. I have to say you are the first tech writer who’s back doesn’t go up and get all snotty and defensive when someone has a dissenting opinion. You handle yourself with intelligence and diplomacy. Kudos to you and thank you for your informative articles.

  12. jb, excellent work- info is spot on.
    please update with the additional NVME’s ..
    ive been performing similar ATTO and Crystal Disk tests. the only mfg that actually understates the r/w speed is crucial. please verify the P5 NVME 500 & 1TB 2280’s ..let me know your thoughts and if i can assist.
    sped

  13. Crucial P5 500Gb & 1TB 2280

  14. Is it usually possible to move the M.2 plastic post on motherboards, to accommodate the various lengths? I’ve never encountered this before and while it looks possible (mine is a pale blue plastic post), I’m reluctant to break it, if they’re normally immovable

    • You are absolutely right, good point! On many motherboards, the post is a metal screw that can simply be moved to another position. The issue rarely comes up though since the vast majority of consumer M.2 drives use the 2280 form factor. Maybe this will change once really large capacities are more common.

  15. sorry for the duplicate comment. I noticed I said I was connecting via USB 3. it actually is USB-C. full corrected comment is below. thanks again!
    —–
    hello, Jesper!! great article with great info!

    I’m an audio professional and some of my DAW sound/sample libraries require that I install them on SSD drives. to keep from taking up space on my boot drive, I’m looking to move them to external storage and the NVMe SSD seems to be the smartest route.

    I’ll be connecting via USB-C to a 2018 Mac Mini and putting the SSD in a USB-C enclosure. I’m currently looking at the Samsung 970 PRO or EVO (512GB), but can you recommend a drive and enclosure combo (for external storage, not booting) where I can get max read speeds and reliability at a reasonable price? thanks in advance!!!

    • Hi Garfield, and many thanks!
      Although you could theoretically connect an external Thunderbolt drive to your 2018 Mac Mini, I would personally not spend money on anything that fast, and certainly no 970 PRO/EVO (which I would only use as an internal drive) + enclosure.

      I don’t know about your exact working environment of course, but I am currently using Logic (audio recording + samples) on a 2012 MacBook Pro (SATA SSD) with no lag whatsoever.

      It’s unlikely that you would have an issue with any external SSD on the market. My tip would be to simply maximize the amount of GB/$

      • I appreciate the info, suggestions and response!!

        I used to run Logic Pro X from a 2012 MBP as well with a Samsung SSD and it was a great solution!! the 2018 Mini has DEF been an upgrade, and the Logic Pro, Studio One and Native Instruments samples are currently on an external 7200rpm and running with no problems.

        however, my instruments from UAD LUNA are suggested to run on SSD (from UAD) and I use several sample-based Acustica Audio plugins that sound great, but are VERY heavy on the computer both in CPU load and space required. my thought was that the fastest possible SSD drive solution would be the smart bet. also, since the Samsungs are top notch in terms of quality, and I’ve installed them in both of the 2012 MBP in our home with great results, I just assumed I’d stay in the Samsung family… so in that scenario, you still say the Samsung EVO would be the least efficient option (because of cost)? thanks again!

        • Thanks for the clarification, though I’m not familiar with those plugins, so I won’t pretend that your situation is perfectly clear to me 🙂

          I still get the impression that storage bandwidth might be a lesser issue, but if you are intent on taking this route then I agree that a 970 EVO/EVO Plus would be one of the best-performing options.

  16. Keep in mind once PC games (and hardware) start supporting DirectStorage, a good NVMe drive will become a larger asset. I suspect games developed for the next-gen consoles will see optional support for DS on PC. Obviously the impact will vary based on how aggressively developers use it, your game settings (textures and so forth that would exceed available RAM), and how much memory you have to play with in the first place.

    Consoles will still benefit the most, obviously. They have a comparatively small amount of total available RAM, and they have fixed specs, so developers can really fine tune streaming algorithms. They’ll have to be more conservative on PC, and it will be optional, so the impact won’t be as large for many (most?) configs.

    Even so, I’m glad to see them bring DirectStorage to PC, it’s about time we actually taxed these high-falutin’ NVMe drives in-game.

  17. Sorry but 970 Evo Plus has 1200tbw and not 600tbw.

    • Hi Leonardo. The 2TB capacity is 1,200 TBW but the above mainly compares 1TB capacities, and the 1TB EVO Plus is 600 TBW. Did I get this mixed up somewhere?

  18. Thank you for this. I’m so tired of seeing lists based on advertised read and write speeds.

  19. MB/s Mega BYTES per sec
    Mb/s Mega bits per sec
    Mega meaning 1,000,000 or an even 1 million
    I see this expressed incorrectly a lot, the disk manufacturers do it constantly to try and make their drives seem faster.
    Since a pcie 3.0 lane max’s out at approximately 2Mbits/sec (pre-encoded using the 128b/130b standard) there is no way an NVME device can read 7000 or write 5000 Mega Bytes per second. The theoretical maximum transfer rate is actually about 985 mega bytes per second per lane or for a x4 (by 4) link 3940 mega BYTES per second. Not bad, and way way better than a mechanical HDD. In a quick test on 2 i9-9900k systems i got around 2800 Mega Bytes/sec throughput
    Pcie 4.0 is faster, about double that of pcie 3.0, or 16 Gbits/sec for a by 4 link which boils down to approx 8,000 Mega Bytes per second (theoretically)
    In real world scenarios, even with pcie 4.0 I would expect half the theoretical, perhaps maybe a little better. There are just so many other bottlenecks that slow things down.
    Another thing is the queue, I would not expect any normal desktop user to have a workload that makes use of a queue depth of more than 2 or 3 in the worst of cases so the 60,000 depth for desktops is mostly a wash

    • Thanks for the interesting comment. The 7,000/5,000 MB/s reads/write are only claimed in the PCIe 4.0 space though. Of course, and as you mention, these are theoretical sequential figures seen in e.g. ATTO.

      I think you may even be underestimating the difference between theoretical performance vs real-world scenarios for the average desktop user. I’ve seen a lot of comparisons of loading times (and made some myself). A high-end SSD will certainly improve things a bit on average over an entry-level model, but you get diminishing returns compared to the vast difference when compared to a mechanical drive.

      It will be interesting to see how much of an effect technologies like Microsoft’s DirectStorage will have on removing the bottlenecks and make the performance figures somewhat (or hopefully a lot) less theoretical.

  20. Very comprehensive and direct to the point. Well written article. Good job Jesper and thanks for this.

  21. Adata xpg S70

  22. You have the PNY XLR8 CS3030 listed as having a total terabytes written endurance of 1650 TBW. Is this a typo, or is this particular drive special in some way? The others in the same category are only around 600 TBW. TBW is actually one of the most important stats for my decision making. If the listed rating is true, this is the clear winner for the money in my book.

    • Yes, it’s an odd but correct number:
      https://www.pny.com/file%20library/company/support/product%20brochures/solid%20state%20drives/xlr8-ssd-cs3030-sell-sheet.pdf

      And I definitely agree that it’s important. Most high-end drives will likely last much longer than their specified TBW indicates, but a high number is always reassuring (and could say something about spare capacity/overprovisioning, which is hardly ever made clear in the specs).

      • Thank you for responding. I think you are absolutely right, the “spare capacity/overprovisioning” would perfectly account for the higher TBW despite the lower generation, as simply a space allocation decision on their part. It would also account for the odd 1650 number, at odds with the factors of the other TBW numbers. I expect as a result however, this SSD actually has slightly less usable memory than the others. It is however a tradeoff I am happy to have. My existing boot drive SSD has already had a couple of errors after only three years, including one that crashed the system. My upcoming new system needs a boot drive that can operate reliably for six years.

  23. If WD BLACK IS FASTER THEN SAY SO…. DONT SAY THE SAMSUNG IS KING… IF IT IS NOT.

  24. Refreshing an article such as this — over a year — can result in errors. You’re actually missing the truly fastest Gen 4 SSD, possibly due to their confusing nomenclature: Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus 2TB.

    Via Tweaktown: “Boasting sequential speeds in excess of 7,100 MB/s read and 6,600 MB/s write, the Rocket 4 Plus is capable of the highest throughput we’ve seen to date from any retail SSD…the first of its kind retail Phison E18 powered SSD.”

    Your article only covers the “Sabrent 1TB Rocket NVMe 4.0 Gen4″…which is considerably slower. It uses the Phison PS5016-E16 controller.

    • Thanks for your comment. You are absolutely right, I edited this page right before the Rocket 4 Plus was launched. Based on the reviews available so far, I’d be hesitant to call it the fastest of its kind, but there is no doubt it’s among the best. I have an SN850 here and I’m hoping to pit a Rocket 4 Plus against it soon!

  25. 20GB for Windows? My folder C:\Windows is 70BG FeelsBadMan

  26. I quite curious about m.2 slot which has gen4 and gen3 in x570 mobo. If i use 1TB gen4 card into m.2 gen4 slot and 500gb m.2 gen4 into m.2 gen3 slot, can both m.2 of gen4 card run together smoothly??

    Or it is still need same size of memory with different type of gen. Or you can have different type of memory with different type of gen?

    • They will work together smoothly, capacity and memory type is not an issue as it might be with RAM. However, a Gen4 SSD in a Gen3 slot will be capped at Gen3 speeds.

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