SSD Ranking: The Fastest Solid State Drives

Gaming PC Builder is reader-supported. When using links on our site to make a purchase, we may earn an affiliate commission.

In the past decade, no other hardware upgrade has delivered such a dramatic improvement to the overall user experience as the shift from slow hard drives to fast solid state drives. The SATA interface used by the first SSD generations was fully saturated early on and the same thing quickly happened to their much faster PCI Express Gen3 x4 successors. As of 2020, the fastest SSDs in the consumer market use PCI Express (PCIe) Gen4, which offers double the bandwidth over Gen3.

The aim of this page is to be a rough guide to the best solid state drives on the market in the form factors used by consumer motherboards. We base our rankings on an average of read/write transfer rates, with additional weight given to drives with high random performance and high-end NAND Flash memory.

First, a quick look at the drives that we consider leaders in their respective form factors. They don’t necessarily represent the best value but are definitely some of the speediest storage devices that you can use in your PC build today.

Product
Fastest 2.5-inch SATA
Seagate FireCuda 120 SSD 1TB Internal Solid State Drive – SATA 6Gb/s 3D TLC for Gaming PC Laptop (ZA1000GM10001)
Fastest M.2 PCIe Gen4
SAMSUNG 980 PRO 1TB PCIe NVMe Gen4 Internal Gaming SSD M.2 (MZ-V8P1T0B)
Best Add-In Card
Intel Optane SSD 905P Series (960GB) (AIC PCIe x 4 3D XPoint)
Image
Seagate FireCuda 120 SSD 1TB Internal Solid State Drive – SATA 6Gb/s 3D TLC for Gaming PC Laptop (ZA1000GM10001)
SAMSUNG 980 PRO 1TB PCIe NVMe Gen4 Internal Gaming SSD M.2 (MZ-V8P1T0B)
Intel Optane SSD 905P Series (960GB) (AIC PCIe x 4 3D XPoint)
Sequential read (max., MB/s)
560 MB/s
7,000 MB/s
2600 MB/s
Sequential write (max., MB/s)
540 MB/s
5,000 MB/s
2200 MB/s
Random read IOPS (4K/QD32)
100,000 IOPS
1,000,000
575,000 IOPS
Random write IOPS (4K/QD32)
90,000 IOPS
1,000,000
550,000 IOPS
Average rating
User reviews
6 Reviews
132 Reviews
25 Reviews
Warranty
5 years
5 Years
5 Years
Endurance rating
1,200 TBW (1 TB)
600 TBW
17,520 TBW (960 GB)
Price
$203.22
$229.99
$1,356.01
Fastest 2.5-inch SATA
Product
Seagate FireCuda 120 SSD 1TB Internal Solid State Drive – SATA 6Gb/s 3D TLC for Gaming PC Laptop (ZA1000GM10001)
Image
Seagate FireCuda 120 SSD 1TB Internal Solid State Drive – SATA 6Gb/s 3D TLC for Gaming PC Laptop (ZA1000GM10001)
Sequential read (max., MB/s)
560 MB/s
Sequential write (max., MB/s)
540 MB/s
Random read IOPS (4K/QD32)
100,000 IOPS
Random write IOPS (4K/QD32)
90,000 IOPS
Average rating
User reviews
6 Reviews
Warranty
5 years
Endurance rating
1,200 TBW (1 TB)
Price
$203.22
Store link
Fastest M.2 PCIe Gen4
Product
SAMSUNG 980 PRO 1TB PCIe NVMe Gen4 Internal Gaming SSD M.2 (MZ-V8P1T0B)
Image
SAMSUNG 980 PRO 1TB PCIe NVMe Gen4 Internal Gaming SSD M.2 (MZ-V8P1T0B)
Sequential read (max., MB/s)
7,000 MB/s
Sequential write (max., MB/s)
5,000 MB/s
Random read IOPS (4K/QD32)
1,000,000
Random write IOPS (4K/QD32)
1,000,000
Average rating
User reviews
132 Reviews
Warranty
5 Years
Endurance rating
600 TBW
Price
$229.99
Store link
Best Add-In Card
Product
Intel Optane SSD 905P Series (960GB) (AIC PCIe x 4 3D XPoint)
Image
Intel Optane SSD 905P Series (960GB) (AIC PCIe x 4 3D XPoint)
Sequential read (max., MB/s)
2600 MB/s
Sequential write (max., MB/s)
2200 MB/s
Random read IOPS (4K/QD32)
575,000 IOPS
Random write IOPS (4K/QD32)
550,000 IOPS
Average rating
User reviews
25 Reviews
Warranty
5 Years
Endurance rating
17,520 TBW (960 GB)
Price
$1,356.01
Store link

Last update on 2020-11-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Note that our choice of M.2 drive currently requires an X570, B550, or TRX40 motherboard and a 3rd-gen Ryzen/Threadripper CPU to run at full speed over the PCI Express 4.0 interface. While Intel Z490 motherboards usually support PCIe Gen4, the latest batch of 10th-gen Core CPUs don’t, unfortunately. If you use a Gen3 system, the Samsung 970 EVO Plus is still a class leader. Gen4 SSDs are backward compatible but will be capped at Gen3 speeds.

For our more complete list of SSDs, we’ll start with 2.5″ SATA drives. Today’s high-end SATA SSDs are all bandwidth-limited compared to more modern interfaces/protocols such as PCI-express/NVMe (M.2 or add-in card form factors). So if your computer has an available NVMe-capable PCIe M.2 slot, this is the form factor you should be looking at first.

Quick links
Best 2.5″ SATA SSDs
Best M.2 PCIe/NVMe SSDs
Best PCI-Express add-in card SSDs

Best 2.5-inch SATA SSDs

Seagate FireCuda 1201. Seagate FireCuda 120

Available Capacities: 500GB – 4TB
Interface: SATA 6Gbps
560 MB/s read (1TB)
540 MB/s write (1TB)
Endurance Rating (1TB): 1,200 TBW

The high-end SATA SSD market has been stagnant for several years. Samsung’s 860 PRO has been viewed as the class leader and no other manufacturer has even made a serious attempt to challenge it. Most recent efforts have gone into building cheaper drives based on QLC NAND. Then Phison released the S12 controller that eventually ended up in the Seagate FireCuda 120, which was released in the middle of 2020.

Somewhat surprisingly, this drive outperforms the old 860 PRO in several areas. It’s also considerably less expensive, as it uses TLC NAND instead of MLC. Sequential performance is at the top of the charts, as are its 100K read and 90K random write IOPS. Endurance should not be an issue either, with the 4TB model offering an endurance rating of no less than 5,600 TBW (terabytes written).

Check prices: Amazon, Newegg, Amazon UK

Reviews: TweakTown, StorageReview


860-pro2. Samsung 860 PRO

Available Capacities: 256GB – 4TB
560MB/s read
550MB/s write
Endurance Rating (1TB): 1,200 TBW

This list has been maintained for many years now and Samsung has been on top since late 2012, starting with the somewhat legendary 840 Pro. Today you need to move on from the aging SATA interface to get noticeably better performance, but Samsung hasn’t stopped improving on its flagship SATA product.

In 2020, the 860 PRO is still one of the best and likely one of the most reliable. If previous Samsungs are an indication, the 300 TBW (terabytes/total bytes written) rating for the 256 GB model up to 4,800 TBW for the 4 TB model (all use durable MLC NAND), might be conservative estimates. This, coupled with a 5-year warranty and great overall performance, makes the 860 Pro look very attractive overall. Unfortunately, it’s also a lot more expensive than its main rivals.

Check prices: Amazon, Newegg, Amazon UK

Reviews: AnandTech, Notebookcheck


860 EVO3. Samsung 860 EVO

Available Capacities: 250GB – 4TB
550MB/s read
520MB/s write
Endurance Rating (1TB): 600 TBW

The 860 EVO is the successor of Samsung’s incredibly successful 850 EVO. It’s a great alternative to the 860 PRO, as it’s significantly less expensive and you will hardly notice the performance difference in real-world use.

It performs very well considering it’s a TLC-based SSD. Moreover, it offers excellent endurance numbers at precisely half those of the 860 Pro at equivalent capacities (which are still better than most competitors), as well as a 5-year warranty.

Check prices: Amazon, Newegg, Amazon UK

Reviews: TweakTown


SanDisk Ultra 3D4. SanDisk Ultra 3D

Available Capacities: 250GB – 4TB
Interface: SATA 6Gbps
560MB/s read
530MB/s write
Endurance Rating (1TB): 400 TBW

The Ultra 3D from Flash SanDisk (now a subsidiary of Western Digital) delivers excellent performance at a reasonable price point. It has now been around for a few years but is still a popular choice due to its attractive mix of good performance and usually a lower price than the Samsung 860 EVO. Its sequential read speeds of 550 MB/s and write speeds of 530 MB/s are complemented by very good random read/write figures as well (95K/84K IOPS).

SanDisk uses a controller from Marvell 88SS1074 in the Ultra 3D SSD, in combination with 64-layer TLC NAND. This makes it identical to the WD Blue SSD in everything but stickers and packaging.

Check prices: Amazon, Newegg, Amazon UK

Reviews: HotHardware, AnandTech


5. Crucial MX500

Available Capacities: 250GB – 2TB
Interface: SATA 3 6Gbps
560MB/s read
510MB/s write
Endurance Rating (1TB): 360 TBW

Crucial’s MX500 uses TLC NAND and also offers great performance at a very attractive price point. It’s is available in capacities up to 2 TB. Like the 860 EVO, the MX500 is backed by a 5-year warranty, but its endurance rating is lower than both the 860 EVO and the SanDisk Ultra 3D. It starts at 100 TBW for the 250 GB model and ranges up to 700 TBW for the 2 TB model, which should still be more than sufficient for the average user.

The MX500 can compete with the 860 series in many areas, but rarely (if ever) surpass it. However, the price/performance ratio is excellent so this drive is a good choice for most SATA-limited systems.

Check prices: Amazon, Newegg, Amazon UK

Reviews: AnandTech, Guru3D


Kingston KC6006. Kingston KC600

Available Capacities: 256GB – 2TB
Interface: SATA 6Gbps
550MB/s read
520MB/s write
Endurance Rating (1TB): 600 TBW

Kingston’s KC600 was launched in 2019 and comes with a Silicon Motion SM2259 controller and 96-layer 3D TLC NAND from Micron. Although it is a bit more expensive than many of its competitors, it does offer hardware-based 256-bit AES encryption, which makes it an interesting option for business users. The overall specs are also excellent.

Performance-wise, it’s slightly slower than the Samsung 860 series but still in the high-end SATA territory. Random performance is up to 90,000/80,000 IOPS (read/write). Another plus is that the endurance ratings are on par with the best.

Check prices: Amazon, Newegg, Amazon UK

Reviews: Hexus.net


SK Hynix Gold S317. SK Hynix Gold S31

Available Capacities: 250GB – 1TB
Interface: SATA 6GBps
560 MB/s read
525 MB/s write
Endurance Rating (1TB): 600 TBW

South Korean SK Hynix is one of the world’s largest memory manufacturers but is mainly known for its DRAM, such as DDR4 modules and GDDR6 chips for graphics cards. However, the company is also an experienced supplier of NAND Flash, including complete SSDs, for OEMs.

Now, SK Hynix is making an effort to launch SSDs under its own brand, and one of the first ones is this SATA drive. The SK Hynix Gold S31 has been very well received and immediately established itself among the leaders in the segment. Like most high-end SATA SSDs, it will of course saturate the interface, but it also tends to compete with (and in some cases surpass) drives like the Samsung 860 EVO and Crucial MX500 in real-world tests.

Check prices: Amazon, Newegg, Amazon UK

Reviews: TweakTown, AnandTech


Mushkin Source8. Mushkin Source

Available Capacities: 120GB – 2TB
Interface: SATA 3 6GBps
560MB/s read
520MB/s write
Endurance Rating (1TB): 400 TBW

The original Mushkin Source was and is positioned as an entry-level SATA SSD. But now that many high-end MLC-based drives have disappeared from the market in favor of cheaper alternatives, the Source has risen in the charts.

It’s based on a Silicon Motion SM2258XT controller and 64-layer TLC NAND, meaning that sequential performance is more than adequate compared to the competition at 560 MBps read and 520 MBps write. Random performance is 78K/81K read/write (1TB model).  However, in mixed read/write workloads, the Mushkin Source is not as competitive. On the other hand, this is reflected in the rather moderate price tag.

Check prices: Amazon, Newegg


TeamGroup L59. TeamGroup L5 Lite 3D

Available Capacities: 120GB – 960GB
500MB/s read
480MB/s write
Endurance Rating (960GB): 240 TBW

There’s a wide variety of entry-level SATA SSDs on the market. Some of the cheapest models are not particularly attractive even from a price/performance perspective, but the TLC-equipped TeamGroup L5 performs better than many of its competitors. Although it doesn’t fully saturate the interface like the more expensive alternatives, it comes close enough to do well in many benchmarks. On the downside, the largest capacity is 960 GB.

Check prices: Amazon, Newegg, Amazon UK


M.2 Drives (2280/2260)

Update: Check out our new, up-to-date listing of the best M.2 SSDs.

Samsung 980 PRO1. Samsung 980 PRO

Interface: PCIe Gen4 x4 NVMe
Available Capacities: 250GB, 500GB, 1TB
7,000 MB/s read (1TB)
5,000 MB/s write (1TB)

If you are looking to pair your PCIe Gen4-compatible system with the fastest possible Gen4 SSD, you will end up with the Samsung 980 PRO. This drive replaces the competing Phison-based drives (see below) by a rather wide margin, as it reaches sequential speeds of up to 7,000 MB/s (read) and 5,000 MB/s (write). 4K random performance is up to 1,000,000 IOPS.

Unlike its predecessor, the 980 PRO is not equipped with high-end (and expensive MLC) NAND memory. Instead, it uses Samsung’s own 128-layer TLC NAND. In most situations, this will be well compensated by the SLC-mode write cache. However, at 150 TBW (250GB), 300 TBW (500GB), and 600TBW (1TB), the endurance ratings are not as attractive as the Phison competitors or the 970 PRO. Another limitation is that 1TB is currently the largest available capacity.

Check prices: Amazon, Newegg, Amazon UK

Reviews: AnandTech


2. Gigabyte Aorus Gen4

Interface: PCIe Gen4 x4 NVMe
Available Capacities: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
5,000 MB/s read (1TB)
4,400 MB/s write (1TB)

If you own an X570 or B550 motherboard and AMD Ryzen 3rd-gen combo, the Aorus Gen4 is another option. This is one of several Gen4 devices that use the same combination of a Phison E16 controller and 96-layer TLC NAND. Other than the Aorus Gen4, this includes the Sabrent Rocket 4, Seagate Firecuda 520 (listed below), Patriot Viper VP4100, and the Corsair MP600.

Since these drives all use essentially the same hardware, performance is similar as well. Sequential read bandwidth approaches 5 GB/s. Peak write speeds are lower, but still exceed any PCIe 3.0 SSD by a fair margin. As is often the case, the smallest capacity is slightly slower.

Check prices: Amazon, Newegg, Amazon UK

Reviews: MMORPG


sabrent gen4 ssd2. Sabrent Rocket Gen4

Interface: PCIe Gen4 x4 NVMe
Available Capacities: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
5,000 MB/s read (1TB)
4,400 MB/s write (1TB)

Looking at the spec sheet of Sabrent’s PCIe 4-enabled Rocket, you may notice that it’s identical to the above Gigabyte Aorus. The reason is that they are more or less identical because they use the same components. Just like the Aorus, it uses Phison’s E16 controller and the same Toshiba NAND.

However, the firmware is apparently not identical and the drives do differ in some real-world benchmarks, but not by much. Like its close relatives, this drive also peaks at 5 GB/s sequential read transfer rates over the new interface. You can get this drive with or without a sizeable heatsink on top.

Check prices: Amazon, Newegg, Amazon UK


3. Seagate Firecuda 520

Interface: PCIe Gen4 x4 M.2
Available Capacities: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
5,000 MB/s read (1TB)
4,400 MB/s write (1TB)

The Firecuda 520 is Seagate’s version of the very same Phison E16-based Gen4 SSD, thus it closely resembles the aforementioned Sabrent and Aorus drives. It uses the same controller/NAND combo and also performs about the same.

While the hardware is largely identical to the above drives, Seagate has built its own controller firmware. Unlike its competitors, there is no version of the Seagate Firecuda 520 that comes with a heatsink. Seagate is instead relying on the fact that most modern PCIe 4 motherboards come with an M.2 heatsink integrated.

At the start of 2020, these Phison E16-based drives are still the fastest SSDs on the market when combined with the 3rd-gen AMD Ryzen or Threadripper platforms.

Check prices: Amazon, Newegg, Amazon UK


970-pro4. Samsung 970 Pro

Interface: PCIe Gen3 x4 NVMe
Available Capacities: 512GB, 1,024GB
3500MB/s read
2300MB/s write

If you want top performance and are willing to pay a bit more for it, then the Samsung 970 Pro is about as good as it gets in this form factor. Although in terms of everyday user experience, you would probably never be able to tell the difference between this an any of the other top contenders in this segment.

But an SSD is the sum of its parts, nothing more and nothing less. What sets the 970 Pro apart from many of its competitors (including the 970 EVO) is that it uses higher-quality MLC NAND, and will, therefore, last longer than its more affordable TLC counterparts. The endurance rating is 600 TBW (twice that of the comparable EVO) or five years (same as the EVO)

It will also perform better and more consistently thanks to the better NAND. This is particularly noticeable in the random write area, with 500,000 IOPS (4K, QD32) in both available capacities.

Check prices: Amazon, Newegg, Amazon UK

Reviews: StorageReview, TweakTown


970 EVO Plus5. Samsung 970 EVO Plus

Interface: PCIe Gen3 x4 NVMe
Available Capacities: 250 GB, 500 GB, 1 TB
3500MB/s read
3300MB/s write

Instead of launching an entirely new model, Samsung updated its popular 970 EVO lineup (which is still available) with the 970 EVO in 2019. As the name implies, it is basically an improved version of the same SSD, using the same controller but denser, 96-layer TLC NAND and some additional tweaks. The improvements are particularly noticeable in term of write performance. Sequential transfer rates are up from 2,500 MB/s to 3,300 MB/s, meaning that it outperforms the 970 PRO in some cases.

According to Samsung, random write performance with the 970 EVO Plus has been improved by as much as 57% compared to the previous EVO.

Check prices: Amazon, Newegg, Amazon UK


sn7506. WD Black SN750

Interface: PCIe Gen2 x4 M.2
Available Capacities: 250GB, 500GB, 1TB
3470MB/s read (500GB)
3000MB/s write (500GB)

Western Digital has been a giant in the storage industry for decades, but only recently started catching up in the SSD market following the company’s acquisition of SanDisk.

This drive, which is a slight update of the WD Black 2018, uses SanDisk’s 96-layer TLC flash, which brings some performance improvements over its predecessor. Its sequential transfer rates are high but differ quite a bit between capacities. This is particularly true for the drive’s listed write speed, where the 250 GB drive (1,600 MB/s) is considerably slower than the 1TB variation (3,000 MB/s). The random figures are also more impressive in the larger capacities.

WD offers a 5-year warranty with these drives and the TBW rating is up to 600 TBW. All capacities except the 250 GB model are available with an optional heatsink that might help the drive perform consistently during extended high loads.

Check prices: Amazon, Newegg, Amazon UK

Reviews: AnandTech, TweakTown


adata sx82007. ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro

Interface: PCIe Gen3 x4 NVMe
Available Capacities: 256GB to 1TB
3200MB/s read (480GB)
1700MB/s write (480GB)

Unlike Samsung’s lineup, ADATA’s ‘Pro’ designation does not imply that it’s an MLC drive. It instead uses now-common 64-layer 3D TLC NAND, meaning that – like many similar drives – the listed sequential read and write speeds do not paint the whole picture. These drives normally use an SLC cache keep transfer speeds up, but only until the cache is full.

That doesn’t mean that the SX8200 Pro is not a fast drive, because it is. It surpasses the Samsung 970 EVO in certain areas, with the help of a Silicon Motion SM2262 controller and a DRAM buffer. The warranty is five years and the TBW ratings start at 160 TBW for the 256GB model, which doubles in line with the capacities.

Check prices: Amazon, Newegg, Amazon UK

Reviews: TweakTown


optane 800p8. Intel Optane SSD 800P

Interface: PCIe Gen3 x2 NVMe
Available Capacities: 58GB, 118TB
1450MB/s read
640MB/s write (1 TB)

This drive is very difficult to categorize as it differs considerably from all of its competitors in more ways than one. While the sequential transfer rates may seem modest, the Optane 800P outperforms Samsungs Pro-series drives in many areas. This might compensate for the comparatively tiny capacities and the high cost, at least in specific use cases.

The reason why it’s so different is that the Optane doesn’t even use NAND Flash. Instead, it’s equipped with Intel’s own 3D X-Point memory, which has other characteristics, making it partly more similar to DRAM.

But at the end of the day, the average PC builder will have to compare NAND and 3D X-Point in terms of price/performance/capacity, and then the 800P may be a tough sell. An exception might be workstation users who put their drives through a heavy load on a daily basis, because no competitor offers the same endurance: 1.7 to 3.4 full drive writes per day for the duration of the 5-year warranty period.

Check prices: Amazon, Newegg, Amazon UK

Reviews: StorageReview, AnandTech


Best PCI Express Add-In Card SSDs

optane 905p1. Intel Optane SSD 905P

Interface: PCIe NVMe 3.0 x4
Form Factor: Add-in Card, HHHL (CEM 3.0)
Available Capacities: 480GB, 960 and 1.5TB
Up to 2600MB/s read
Up to 2200MB/s write
Random 4K Write: Up to 550K IOPS

Considering the overall performance scores that this drive racks up across various reviews, this may well be the fastest SSD in the world at this time. And it also has an endurance rating in a league of its own compared to other drives aimed at not-necessarily-professional users.

However, for the average user – including most professionals – this drive is probably overkill. But if you really want the best-performing drive, you’ll be happy to learn that Intel has introduced a new endurance metric for it known as PBW, or petabytes written.

The 960 GB capacity has a PBW rating of 17.52, meaning you can write about 17.5 million GB to it before it wears down. Intel’s 3D Xpoint memory, which appears to be practically invincible, is the reason why this drive is difficult to compare to regular NAND-based SSDs.

Check prices: Amazon, Amazon UK, Newegg

Reviews: TweakTown


900p ssd2. Intel Optane SSD 900P Series

Interface: PCIe NVMe 3.0 x4
Form Factor: Add-in Card, HHHL (CEM 3.0)
Available Capacities: 280GB and 480GB
Up to 2500MB/s read
Up to 2000MB/s write
Random 4K Write: Up to 500K IOPS

Only slightly behind its successor is the 950p’s predecessor in Intel’s Optane 900p-series. These drives also use 3D Xpoint memory, and while it may not show in the drives’ raw sequential transfer performance, it’s a very impressive SSD.

As is the endurance rating, which is 10 full drive writes per day for 5 years. Such characteristics mean that it’s well suited not only for enthusiast builds but also for heavy-duty workstations.

Check prices: Amazon, Amazon UK, Newegg

Reviews: HotHardware


nx5003. Corsair Neutron NX500

Interface: PCIe NVMe 3.0 x4
Form Factor: Add-in Card, HHHL
Available Capacities: 400GB, 800GB and 1600GB
Up to 3000MB/s read
Up to 2500MB/s write
Random 4K Write: Up to 270K IOPS

In spite of its higher theoretical maximum transfer rates (measured with ATTO, according to Corsair), we will rank the Neutron NX500 from Corsair below the Optane 900p because real-world performance is consistently below according to the reviews we’ve seen (links below).

It’s apparently tough to compete with 3D Xpoint, but that doesn’t mean that the NX500 is a low-end product. Among the small number of consumer-oriented PCIe drives currently available in the add-in card form factor, it’s an attractive option given that the price point is reasonable compared to the Optane.

Check prices: Amazon, Amazon UK, Newegg

Reviews: AnandTech, Tom’s Hardware


Summary and Explanations

We’ve tried our best to compile the most comprehensive list of SSDs available and used this to create the lists you see above. Since there are new drives launched each month, we will update our list and ratings regularly. Also, if you think we’ve omitted something or need correction, don’t hesitate to leave a comment!

Lots of abbreviations and technical terms are used on product pages and SSD discussions. If you are new to them they will, needless to say, be totally incomprehensible. We will attempt to explain some of them here.

What is SLC, MLC, TLC, and QLC?

SLC, MLC, TLC, QLC NANDAn SSDs performance, as well as its life span, are to a large extent determined by the quality of the memory cells. Higher-quality memory not only performs better but can also be erased and written to a larger number of times before it wears out.

SLC (single-level cell) NAND Flash memory is more durable than MLC (multi-level cell, two bits per cell), which in turn is more durable than TLC (triple-level cell) NAND.

Since recently, QLC (quad-level cell) drives such as the Samsung QVO are also available. Additional bits per cell affect performance negatively because it makes the cells considerably more error-prone. There are clever technologies that compensate for this, but in the end, there’s no substitute for higher-quality NAND.

Unsurprisingly, high-end memory is also much more expensive to produce. There are zero SSDs today in the consumer space based on SLC memory, but some use MLC (like the Samsung PRO lineup up until the 980 PRO, which is a TLC drive).

Most consumer SSDs in 2020 use comparatively affordable TLC memory, but QLC is increasingly common. SLC memory has always been prohibitively expensive and has never been used in the consumer market and MLC is being phased out.

SSD endurance: What’s MTBF and TBW?

MTBF is short for “mean time before failure” and is more relevant for conventional hard drives than SSDs, which have no mechanical parts that are prone to failure over time. TBW (terabytes written or total bytes written) is much more useful. This will give you is an indication of how much data can be written to the drive before it wears out. This is affected by the drive’s capacity, spare capacity (so-called overprovisioning), and the quality of the NAND memory chips.

For a drive with a 300 TBW rating, 300 TB is the amount of data that the manufacturer guarantees can be written to it (usually in a mutually exclusive number of years). This is not to say that an SSD will necessarily fail after this amount of TB written. It’s part of the warranty terms and an indication of its relative endurance.

Production Processes

Unlike other parts such as a CPU/GPU, a smaller production process as measured in nanometers (nm), is not a strong selling point, as this results in lower durability, all else being equal. However, for the average home or office user, durability is rarely an issue, since most SSDs are likely to outlive the rest of the computer by a fair margin. Just don’t rely on low-cost drives with cheap NAND in a server or other environment with a high continuous workload.

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.

11 Comments
  1. Interesting that you did not list Samsung 1725a or b drives 3500/3000Mbps at 800,000 Iops or the PM983.

    • A valid point. Actually we did list enterprise/datacenter products originally. But since these can barely be obtained or used by the average mortal due to the cost and interface constraints, we decided to lessen the scope to just consumer drives.

  2. Hello, This post was really helpful. I bought a corsair mp600 ssd and found out that it’s a NVME type. May be that’s the reason for higher speed. Right?

  3. Corsair CSSD-N400GBNX500 took my boot time for Windows 10 Pro from a descent 18 seconds on my corsair 1T SSD to 13 seconds flat. I load into many of my games on PUBG at least 12 seconds before my son’s SSD loads him in when que’ed up on the same team. The install was super simple and quick, no drivers were needed to install, just plug and play. 🙂

  4. After your suggestion, I bought the OCZ RevoDrive 350 from Amazon and it arrived within 2 days.

    Thanks a lot!

  5. I am thinking of getting Samsung 860 EVO as soon as this Coronavirus tension eases

  6. crucial mx500 is still cheap and a better choice in my opinion!

  7. I am thinking to buy Crucial MX500 for my desktop PC.

  8. Silicon Power PCIe 3.0 and 2.5 Sata are great options and you can usually find it cheaper than many of the ones listed. I believe they have a PCIe 4.0 too. What do you think Jesper?

Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.