What to look for when buying an SSD?

Purchasing an SSD to replace hard drives or install more modern and advanced versions is one of the best things anyone can do for hardware upgrades to improve or extend the life of their computer.

Advantages, in terms of performance, the time it takes for the operating system to boot directly affects performance when starting applications, transferring files to the volume itself or to other internal or external files. While the evolution of SSDs in durability and failure resistance has outstripped hard drives, it is also notable in terms of energy consumption, heat emission or zero noise emitted.

While the cost per GB for SSDs still seems high relative to the hard drive, SSDs have seen a rapid and steady decline in price, eventually making them the standard for internal consumer storage. Today we’re updating one of our great SSD buying guides, reviewing all the new SSDs that have hit the market since last summer, and everything you need to know about SSDs.

What is SSD and how does it work?

SSD (short for “solid state drives”) is a form of storage that has the same purpose as a hard drive, to permanently store data and files. By saving data to non-volatile memories, they do not require any constant power supply or batteries so that the stored data is not lost even in sudden PC interruptions.

The design of a typical SSD is much simpler than the design of a hard drive. It consists of an electronic board (PCB) with an indefinite number of NAND flash type memory chips, the base of these units, and where data is stored. They also need an additional chip that acts as a controller and an interface that we use to connect them.

While hard drives, known as hard drives, have magnetic platters, rotating platters and a pin for reading data, the structure of SSDs completely changes. The different structure of SSDs from HDDs provides great advantages. It has no mechanical or moving parts and uses a system of electrical cells to send and receive data. These grids are divided into sections called “pages” and these pages are where data is stored. Pages are grouped to form “blocks”.

What are the SSD types?

The most popular and versatile format is the 2.5-inch format, which uses the same standards as smaller hard drives. Largely common, you’ll find it on any desktop and most laptops. If you’re going to mount it on a laptop, you have to make sure its height is supported, as there are 9.5mm and 7mm thick units. In a PC tower, all current models will serve you and can be mounted in 2.5″ sockets as well as in 3.5″ sockets with adapters.

The second format to consider when purchasing an SSD is the so-called M.2. Much more modern and smaller in size than its 2.5-3.5-inch predecessors, it is marketed in several variants, but the most common is the 2280 with dimensions of 80 x 22 and 3.5 mm. Another variant is mSATA, even smaller than its predecessor (50.8mm x 29.85mm x 4.5mm), but less common. M.2 is the industry-dominated format recommended for use on motherboards that support it. The disadvantages compared to a 2.5″ SSD are precisely that there are millions of old computers that do not support it.

A third format we can find for desktop computers is the type of expansion card that plugs directly into a PCI slot on the motherboard. They are very fast when using PCIe, but since the industry has invested in M.2, they are supported by 100% of new motherboards for desktops and tend to be a little more expensive on most laptops and are not very common.

SATA and PCIe connectivity on SSDs

The most common port on SSDs is SATA. The second interface used in SSDs is PCIe. It is more modern, offers much higher performance. Drives using the 2.5-inch form factor can only connect to the SATA bus, while M.2 drives mostly prefer PCIe. M.2 to SATA ports are also available, but their adoption is minimal.

Not all SSDs offer the same performance even under the same link bus because of the memory used and especially the controller. Today, the user who buys an SSD should not settle for a unit that does not exceed 500 Mbytes per second over SATA in both read and write data transfer speeds. There are very cheap SSDs that lose performance, especially at the point of writing. Avoid them, they are not worth it.

M.2s using PCIe are the fastest drives you’ll find in consumer solid state storage. They use the native PCI-e interface to increase their performance up to five times that of SATA-connected solid state drives and fifteen times that of hard drives. Although the price was compelling at first for large consumption, over time the gap with SATA SSDs decreased.

How long is the SSD’s lifespan?

Despite their mechanical components, hard drives have come to the fore with their durability and therefore their intense use in data centers that operate 24/7, where reliability is above all else. Also, these environments require testing and certification, which can take months and years, so SSD adoption in the enterprise segment is much lower than consumer.

Additionally, SSDs are more prone to power outages while the drive is running, leading to data corruption or even device failure. This doesn’t mean that an SSD will outlast a hard drive, as the newer generations have greatly improved reliability, and large resistance tests have shown they support more than 2 petabytes of writes. This corresponds to a huge amount of data that in real conditions would take decades for a user to complete.

Additionally, all modern SSDs contain additional free memory cells so they don’t lose capacity when others fail or suffer errors by reallocating damaged sectors.

SSDs usage areas

Solid state drives offer advantages in all types of equipment, as we’ve seen, and can be used in both laptop and desktop computers, replacing hard drives or with them to economically provide a larger storage capacity.

One of the most common use cases is to install on a laptop to replace hard drives, but we can combine them if the equipment is compatible.

The same can be said for a typical desktop. It is more likely that we have both PCIe and SATA connectors on such equipment. Note that the SSD should always be the first boot drive to enjoy the performance benefits. By installing the operating system and main applications on the SSD, we must use the hard disks as a second unit for mass storage.

The combinations are varied and will depend on each user’s needs and budget. If your budget is tight, you can buy an inexpensive and small capacity SSD while keeping the hard drives. If the budget is big, go for high-capacity PCIe drives and say goodbye to hard drives.

SSD recommendations

Any of the major manufacturers (Samsung, Kingston, OCZ-Toshiba, SanDisk-WD, Crucial, Seagate…) will offer us a variety of interesting models in terms of format, performance and capacity. Until last year, the price drop continued until it reached around $1.50/GB. If you’re thinking of buying, don’t delay, because everything indicates that prices will skyrocket soon. In fact, the increase in NAND flash memory is already affecting the final selling price in the retail channel.

We’ve had news about SSDs lately, especially in future M.2 formats. Also interesting is the new PCIe 4.0 interface, which supports new motherboards, is becoming more and more common. We separate them according to the SATA and PCIe formats we see in the article, and add portable ones if you need them.

SATA-SSD recommendations

  • Kingston SSD KC600. The new series that we had the opportunity to analyze is the most advanced series of SATA. It offers 256GB, 512GB and 1 Tbyte versions.
  • Samsung EVO 860. A series that offers great performance and multiple talents. The most interesting at the moment is 500 GB. You have 1, 2 and 4 Tbyte versions respectively.
  • Kingston SUV500. Excellent speed with 480GB and 960GB capacities, encryption and a 5-year warranty and a very attractive price. If you need more, you can opt for the 2TB disk.
  • Crucial BX500. It offers 240GB and 480GB versions at outstanding prices. If you need more, you can choose a 2 Tbyte disk.
  • SanDisk SSD Plus. WD’s 240GB and 480GB versions come in pretty cheap, and the 960GB versions are another of the greats in the industry, where it’s available for a very good price. The series also has a 2TB model.
  • Toshiba TR200. The same can be said for the TR200 series, which are available in capacities of 240, 480 Gbytes, respectively.
  • WD Blue SSD. An example of the entry of major manufacturers into the SSD sector are the new Western Digital units with capacities of 250 and 500 Gbytes.
  • Seagate Barracuda. The other major hard drive manufacturer is launching this series with 250GB and 500GB and also has 1TB and 2TB versions.

SSD PCIe – NVMe recommendations

  • Samsung 970 EVO. One of the bestsellers in its segment, it offers 3,200 Mbytes per second in read mode. There are 250 GB, 500 GB, 1 Tbyte and 2 TB versions.
  • Kingston KC2000. Another of the bestsellers, it offers 250, 500GB, 1 and 2 Tbyte versions.
  • Samsung SSD 970 EVO Plus. The series is faster than before.
  • Corsair MP600 PCI3 4.0. The fastest of this selection, with support for PCIe 4.0 interface. You have 500GB, 1 and 2TB options.
  • WD Black SN750. Another of the biggest innovations of the year, with 250 GB, 500 GB and 1 TB versions, respectively.
  • WD Black NVMe SSD. One of the best PCIe SSDs you can buy.
  • Kingston A2000. Another of the proposed M.2 series (with lower performance than its predecessors, but cheaper) and the one we analyzed. It is one of the cheapest PCIe SSDs if you have enough performance.
  • Intel Optan H10. Another one we analyzed is special as it combines Optane technology with the storage capacity of an SSD.
  • Corsair MP500. It uses Toshiba memory and is very fast (3,000 / 2,400 MB/s) according to our own analysis. It offers 240, 480 and 960 Gbyte versions in M.2 format.
  • Adata XPG SX8200 Pro. Another very fast (3500MB/s) SSD with 1TB capacity. There are 256 and 512 GB versions.
  • Intel 660p. Very inexpensive M.2 unit after a monumental price drop. Its performance is average, like the Kingston A1000.

Portable SSD recommendations

External storage solutions based on solid state drives are another purchasing option for an SSD and have been gaining market share in recent years as have those based on hard drives and internal drives. The reduction in cost of NAND flash memories has lowered the final selling price, and these portable SSDs are a viable alternative today, with huge advantages over hard drives-based ones.

  • Samsung T7 Touch. With a read mode of up to 1,050 Mbytes per second, it is one of the highest performers on the market. Available in 500GB, 1 and 2 Tbyte capacities.
  • Seagate BarraCuda Fast SSD. Multipurpose external SSD with small size, attractive design and good performance that connects to USB Type-C port (540 – 500 Mbytes/s). It is marketed in 500GB, 1, and 2TB capacities.
  • SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD. Small, rugged and highly mobile, it’s available in 250GB, 500GB and 1 Tbyte options.
  • Crucial X8 Portable. It is similar in size to the previous one, but with more performance.