Update

The best SSDs of 2018

The best SSDs can supercharge your PC. Here are our picks for the best SSDs, what to look for in an SSD, whether you even need an SSD, and more.

Rob Schultz/IDG

Switching to a solid-state drive is the best upgrade you can make for your PC. These wondrous devices obliterate long boot times, speed up how fast your programs and games load, and generally makes your computer feel fast. But not all solid-state drives are created equal. The best SSDs offer solid performance at affordable prices—or, if price is no object, face-meltingly fast read and write speeds.

Many SSDs come in a 2.5-inch form factor and communicate with PCs via the same SATA ports used by traditional hard drives. But out on the bleeding-edge of NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) drives, you’ll find tiny “gumstick” SSDs that fit in M.2 connections on modern motherboards, SSDs that sit on a PCIe adapter and slot into your motherboard like a graphics card or sound card, futuristic 3D Xpoint drives, and more. Picking the perfect SSD isn’t as simple as it used to be.

That’s where this guide comes in. We’ve tested numerous drives to find the best SSDs for any use case. Let’s take a look at PCWorld’s top picks, and then dive into what to look for in an SSD. Quick note: This roundup only covers internal solid-state drives. Check out PCWorld’s guide to the best external drives if you’re looking for a portable storage solution.

Latest SSD news (06/12/18 update)

- Seagate just announced a mammoth 2TB Game Drive SSD exclusively for Xbox One gaming consoles. This capacity can store some 50 downloaded games, but at $600, this SSD is unreasonably expensive. And it’s not even for PCs!

- Plextor showed off its new 4-way M9Pe Extreme at the Computex, boasting sequential reads of 6500 MB/s and sequential writes of 5000 MB/s. Unfortunately, it looks like this 4TB-total SSD solution will be bulky, pricey, and not available until the end of 2018 at the earliest. Read more at Plextor

- SSD prices are dropping. For example: Our pick for “Best SSD for most people,” the Samsung 850 EVO, has dropped from $170 to below $130 since January. Our pick for “Best budget SSD,” the Crucial BX300, has fluctuated less, but now sits at a hair over $40, down from $60 in March. And then there’s the fastest SSD bar none, the Intel Optane 900P. It started at $630 late last year, but is now $567 on Amazon.

Best SSD for most people

The Samsung 850 EVO served as our go-to SSD recommendation ever since it debuted in 2014, but after a long reign at the top, the company replaced the legendary drive with the Samsung 860 EVO in 2018. The replacement isn’t quite as revolutionary as its predecessor but nevertheless claims the throne as the best SSD for most people.

The Samsung 860 EVO isn’t the fastest SSD you can buy—that honor goes to advanced drives that transfer data over PCI-E rather than the traditional SATA interface—but it’s the fastest triple-layer cell (TLC) SATA drive we’ve tested, albeit by a small margin. More importantly, it’s solved the slow write performance plaguing many other SSDs that use TLC NAND chips. We copied a whopping 80GB of data in one test and the EVO stayed strong the entire time, rather than bogging down after exceeding its cache.

Costs crept slightly upwards with the new generation of hardware, but the Samsung 860 EVO still offers a compelling blend of price, performance, and capacity that few SSDs can match, backed by a long five-year warranty and Samsung’s superb Magician SSD software for easy-peasy drive installation and maintenance. And as a 2.5-inch SATA-based drive, the Samsung 860 EVO should have no problems slipping into most desktops or laptops, unlike exotic M.2 and PCIe SSDs. (The drive is also available in the M.2 form factor however.)

The 500GB Samsung 860 EVO ($170 on Amazon) is probably the best option for most people, but it’s also available in 250GB, 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB models. Prices for SSDs start to get staggering once you hit 1TB or more of capacity, though. Most people would be better off buying the 500GB version and pairing it (if need be) with a high-capacity traditional hard drive like the Western Digital Blue lineup ($50 for 1TB on Amazon).

But other SSDs are challenging the Samsung 860 EVO. The Sandisk Ultra 3D ($150 for 500GB on Amazon) and Intel SSD 545s ($180 for 500GB on Newegg) are two other good options. The Sandisk Ultra 3D’s three-year warranty lags behind the five-year warranty of the Samsung and Newegg drives, though. The WD Blue 3D NAND SATA SSD ($140 on Amazon) is essentially the same SSD as the Sandisk Ultra 3D, but sold with a different label and in another form factor (M.2).

Samsung also offers the Samsung 860 Pro, but the Samsung 860 EVO is nearly as fast. The only reason to opt for the Pro model is if you you’re concerned about longevity or write far more data daily than the average user, as it offers a best-in-class endurance rating. You pay for the peace of mind, though. A 256GB model costs $140 on Newegg, while a 512GB model sells for $250. You’ll also find 1TB2TB, and 4TB Samsung 860 Pro drives available—the latter for a staggering $1,900. (Plus $1.99 shipping.)

Best budget SSD

If you’re looking for a solid, easy-to-install SATA SSD but don’t want to spend a lot of money, check out the Crucial BX300. It’s one of the fastest budget-friendly drives we’ve tested.

Many cheap SSDs use triple-level cell (TLC) NAND chips that can peter out on the performance front when you’re transferring a lot of files and exceed the drive’s cache. (More on that in the buying guide section.) The Crucial BX300 uses multi-level cell (MLC) NAND that sidesteps the issue, so it delivers consistent transfer speeds even when you’ve moving over large batches of files. The three-year warranty isn’t great, but it isn’t bad either.

The price is certainly right though, especially if you’re planning to pair your SSD with a mechanical hard drive. On Amazon, you can grab a 120GB model for just $60 and a 240GB model for $80. There’s also a 480GB BX300 for $145, but in that price range, consider a Samsung 860 EVO or SanDisk Ultra 3D instead.

Best NVMe SSD

If performance is paramount, the Samsung 970 Pro is the best NVMe SSD you can buy, backed by Samsung’s excellent Magician SSD management software—but most people should buy Western Digital’s WD Black 3D NVMe SSD instead. This ludicrously fast drive roars past SATA-based SSDs in sustained read/write tests and delivers much the same performance as the chart-topping 960 Pro. But it does so for significantly less cash: $200 less in the 1TB capacity. It’s available on Amazon at $120 for 250GB capacity, $230 for 500GB, and $450 for $1TB.

The SanDisk Extreme Pro M.2 NVMe 3D SSD (phew!) is the exact same drive as the WD Black 3D, sold under a different brand. If you can find it at a lower price, snag it instead.

The Samsung 970 EVO largely mirrors the WD Black 3D’s pricing and performance, though Western Digital’s drive holds a slight speed advantage at lower capacities. If you’re looking to pick up an NVMe SSD with 1TB of capacity or more, it’s a draw. Choose whichever you can find for cheaper.

Best budget NVMe SSD

NVMe drives are finally starting to go mainstream, and for the first time we feel comfortable recommending a budget NVMe SSD, though consider spending just slightly more for the WD Black 3D if you’re looking for a drive in the 250GB to 500GB capacity range.

The Intel 760P SSD almost matches the prices of SATA-based drives, with a 128GB model selling for $73 on Newegg, a 256GB model for $109, and a 512GB model for $200. Even better, the drive turns in almost chart-topping read speeds and write speeds that exceed even the fastest SATA drives. That said, it has a noticeable flaw, though it’s not one that will affect many people often. If you’re writing or copying a large amount of data and exceed the Intel 760P’s 6GB cache, write speeds plummet. It only disappoints relative to pricier NVMe drives though; this budget NVMe’s worst speeds are still 100MBps faster than the speediest SATA drives. 

Be sure to read PCWorld’s Intel 760P SSD review though, as each model of the drive offers different performance as well. We tested the 512GB version. And if you’re concerned about the 760P’s performance but still don’t want to break the bank for an NVMe SSD, check out the Plextor M9Pe, which leaves Intel’s drive in the dust while writing large amounts of data. At $221 for a 512GB version, it’s a decent bit more expensive than the Intel 760P, though it’s still much more affordable than the vast majority of NVMe SSDs. You won’t go wrong with either of these drives.

Fastest SSD

If performance is paramount and price is no object, Intel’s Optane SSD 900P is the best SSD you can buy, full stop. The drive doesn’t use traditional NAND technology like other SSDs; instead, it’s built around the futuristic 3D Xpoint technology developed by Micron and Intel. Hit that link if you want a tech deep-dive, but in practical terms, the Optane SSD 900P absolutely plows through our storage benchmarks and carries a ridiculous 8,750TBW (terabytes written) rating, compared to the roughly 200TBW offered by many NAND SSDs. If that holds true, this blazing-fast drive is basically immortal—and it looks damned good, too.

But you pay for the privilege of bleeding edge performance. Intel’s Optane SSD 900P costs $390 for a 280GB version and $600 for a 480GB model. That’s significantly more expensive than even NVMe SSDs—and like those, the benefits of Intel’s SSD will be most obvious to people who move large amounts of data around regularly. And the Optane SSD 900P actually uses the NVMe protocol to communicate with your PC, so you’ll need to meet some additional criteria to be able to boot from it—which we’ll cover next.

The step-down Intel SSD 800P ($129 for 58GB, $199 for 118GB on Newegg) isn’t anywhere near as compelling a purchase despite being far more affordable. It still offers best-in-class longevity and very fast random file access, but the 800P delivers mundane results in other performance areas, and it’s crippled by low capacities and sky-high prices. Grab one of our other top SSD picks or Samsung’s 960 Evo ($130 for 256GB on Amazon) instead.

NVMe SSD setup: What you need to know

Be aware of what NVMe drives deliver before you buy in. Standard SATA SSDs already supercharge boot times and loading times for PCs, and for a whole lot cheaper. You’ll get the most use from NVMe drives, be it in a M.2 form factor like the Samsung 960 Pro or a PCIe drive, if you routinely transfer data, especially in large amounts. If you don’t do that, NVMe drives aren’t worth the price premium.

If you decide to buy an NVMe SSD, make sure your PC can handle it.  This is a relatively new technology, so you’ll only be able to find M.2 connections motherboards from the past few years. Think AMD Ryzen and mainstream Intel chips from the Skylake era onward, for the most part. NVMe SSDs that were mounted on PCIe adapters were popular in the technology’s early years, before M.2 adoption spread, but they’re rarer now. Make sure you’re actually able to use an NVMe SSD before you buy one, and be aware that you’ll need 4 PCIe lanes available in order to use it to its full potential.

Brad Chacos

The Samsung 960 Pro NVMe SSD in an M.2 slot.

To get the most out of an NVMe drive, you want to run your operating system on it, so you must have a system that recognizes the drive and can boot from it. PCs purchased during the past year or two should have no problem booting from an NVMe drive, but support for that can be iffy in older motherboards. Do a Google search for your motherboard and see if it supports booting from NVMe. You may need to install a BIOS update for your board. If your hardware can’t boot from an NVMe SSD, your machine should still be able to use it as a secondary drive.

What to look for in an SSD

Capacity and price are important, of course, and a long warranty can alleviate fears of premature data death. Most SSD manufacturers offer a three-year warranty, and some nicer models are guaranteed for five years. But unlike the olden days of SSDs, modern drives won’t wear out with normal consumer usage, as Tech Report tested and proved years ago with a grueling endurance test.

The biggest thing to watch out for is the technology used to connect the SSD to your PC.

  • SATA: This refers to both the connection type and the transfer protocol, which is used to connect most 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch hard drives and SSDs to your PC. SATA III speeds can hit roughly 600MBps, and most—but not all—modern drives max it out. (More on that in the next section.)
  • PCI-E: This interface taps into four of your computer’s PCIe lanes to blow away SATA speeds, to the tune of nearly 4GBps over PCIe gen. 3. Those sort of face-melting speeds pair nicely with supercharged NVMe drives. Both the PCIe lanes in your motherboard and the M.2 slot in your motherboard can be wired to support the PCIe interface, and you can buy adapters that allow you to slot “gumstick” M.2 drives into a PCIe lane.
  • NVMe: Non-Volatile Memory Express technology takes advantage of PCIe’s bountiful bandwidth to create blisteringly fast SSDs that blow SATA-based drives out of the water. Check out PCWorld’s “Everything you need to know about NVMe” for a nitty-gritty deep-dive.
  • M.2: This is where things get tricky. Many people assume M.2 drives all use NVMe technology and PCIe speeds, but that’s not true. M.2 is just a form factor. Sure, most M.2 SSDs use NVMe, but some still stick to SATA. Do your homework. Many modern Ultrabooks rely on M.2 for storage.
  • U.2 and mSATA: You may also stumble across mSATA and U.2 SSDs, but both motherboard support and product availability are rare for those formats. Some older Ultrabooks included mSATA before M.2 became popular, and drives are still available if you need them.

Speed matters, of course, but as we said most modern SSDs saturate the SATA III interface. Not all of them, though. About that…

Buyer beware: TLC vs MLC vs SLC SSDs

We’re starting to see more SSDs that use triple-level cell (TLC) NAND technology. TLC can store three bits per cell. By comparison, one bit single-layer cell (SLC) SSDs offer the best performance at the cost of higher prices and lower capacities, and multi-level cell (MLC) SSDs store two bits per cell.

Gordon Mah Ung/IDG

Some TLC SSDs suffer from sustained write performance woes.

TLC drives offer greater data density, in other words, which in turn can be used to increase the capacity of SSDs, or offer standard SSD capacities at lower prices. But TLC’s sustained write performance is comparatively poor—in some cases exceedingly. If you move large amounts of data, transfer speeds for these drives can fall off a cliff once you’ve exceeded the SSD’s cache.

The problem isn’t universal, and it won’t matter if you don’t move big batches of files, but storage makers don’t advertise this potentially crippling SSD problem. We’ve witnessed the behavior in numerous SSDs, including the Toshiba TR200 and Q300 as well as the older OCZ Trion 100. Heck, even the TLC-packing Crucial BX200 suffers from the issue—and its MLC-equipped sibling the BX300 is our favorite budget drive! Stick to our tried and tested picks for the best SSD rather than rolling the dice on a cheap clunker.

SSDs vs. hard drives

Do you need an SSD? “Need” is a strong word, but we heartily recommend that everyone upgrade to an SSD. Solid-state drive speeds blow even the fastest mechanical hard drives out of the water. Simply swapping the hard drive in your old laptop or desktop out for an SSD can make it feel like a whole new system—and a blazing fast one at that. Buying an SSD is easily the best upgrade you can make for a computer.

Intel

Intel Optane accelerates hard drives.

SSDs cost more per gigabyte than mechanical hard drives, though, and thus aren’t often available in ultra-high capacities. If you want speed and storage space, you can buy an SSD with limited space (like the 128GB Crucial BX300) and use it as your boot drive, then set up a traditional hard drive as secondary storage in your PC. Place your programs on your boot drive, stash your media and other files on the hard drive, and you’re ready to have your cake and eat it too.

Alternatively, Intel’s new Optane drives blend both worlds. These tiny, affordable M.2 drives are designed to pair with a hard drive in your system and act as a cache, speeding up the most-used programs on your PC. Intel’s tech can truly supercharge your everyday experience, but once you blow past the M.2 drive’s 16GB or 32GB of cache, you’re back to pokey hard drive speeds. Optane also has strict configuration and supported hardware requirements. Check out PCWorld’s Intel Optane memory review for the full details.

Best SSDs: Our reviews

If you’d like to know more about our best SSD picks as well as other options, the links below point you toward all the SSDs we’ve recently reviewed. We’ll keep evaluating new ones on a regular basis, so be sure to check back to see what other drives we’ve put through their paces. And once more, if you’re looking for portable storage, check out PCWorld’s roundup of the best external drives

At a Glance

The Western Digital Black 3D NVMe SSD is as fast as Samsung's 960 Pro, but it costs a lot less. In fact, it's only slightly more expensive than entry-level drives. It's the drive that smart buyers should go for.

Pros

  • Top-notch performance
  • Priced more like a budget NVMe SSD than a premium model
  • Five-year warranty

Cons

  • Boring label
  • Easy to confuse with an older WD Black SSD that was also M.2/NVMe

This is the fastest M.2 NVMe SSD available to the end-user, as well as the priciest. Based on fast-writing MLC (2-bit) NAND, it's also long-lived. All things considered, it's the one you want if you have the wherewithal.

Pros

  • Fastest M.2 NVMe SSD available
  • Long warranty and high TBW rating

Cons

  • Considerably more expensive than the competition

If you want the fastest, longest lasting storage for your PC, Intel's SSD 900P with its Optane memory is it. It's especially faster with applications such as video and audio content creation and editing that can thread multiple writes.

Pros

  • Blazingly fast
  • 100 times the rated endurance of NAND SSDs
  • Stunning IOPs numbers

Cons

  • Rougly twice the price of the average NVMe/PCIe SSD

Supplanting the Samsung EVO as the top dog in the low-end SSD market, the Intel 545S is the first bargain TLC drive we've tested that won't invoke buyer's remorse the first time you have to write a lot of data to it. It's not as fast as an MLC drive, but darn close. The 5-year warranty and 288 TBW rating are major perks as well.

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Doesn't slow down writing large data sets, as most TLC SSDs do
  • Slender, attractive 7mm profile
  • 5-year warranty and high write rating

Cons

  • Not quite as fast overall as an MLC SSD

The Sandisk Extreme Pro NVMe is a worthy competitor to the Samsung 960 Pro performance-wise, and blows its doors off on price. Top-tier performance at a budget price pretty much says it all.

Pros

  • High-end NVMe performance
  • Near budget-level in price

Cons

  • Slower than the rival 960 Pro without caching involved

Though it isn't the equal of WD's Black NVMe in sustained writing, the 970 EVO nonetheless provides the same performance the other 99 percent of the time. A much better deal than its 970 Pro sibling, though the latter is still top dog performance-wise.

Pros

  • Affordable (relatively) NVMe drive
  • Very fast until off cache
  • Available in up to 2TB capacity

Cons

  • Slows to just over 600MBps after cache is exceeded
  • 250GB version is a much slower performer

The Samsung 860 EVO delivers performance every bit as good as its MLC rivals. It's a worthy competitor for the WD Blue 3D and Sandisk 3D, two other TLC drives that are undoing TLC's weak reputation.

Pros

  • Excellent performance on a par with MLC drives
  • Very affordable
  • Very fast with small queued writes

Cons

  • Less long-lived than the MLC (2-bit) SSDs

With top-notch performance and stellar longevity ratings, this drive is as good as it gets when it comes to 2.5-inch SATA SSDs. It's also available with up to 4TB of capacity, which should be enough for even the most demanding users. Pricey, but the best.

Pros

  • Excellent SATA performance
  • Available with up to 4TB of space
  • Uses long-lived 2-bit MLC NAND

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not availabel in the M.2 form factor

The ADATA XPG SX8000 gets an extra half star for its affordability alone. It's not the fastest NVMe SSD we've tested, but it's particularly adept at writing batches of small files, and it's still two to three times faster than the fastest SATA SSD. Good stuff.

Pros

  • Good NVMe performance, especially writing small files
  • Super affordable for an NVMe drive
  • 5-year warranty

Cons

  • Somewhat slow sequential throughput (for an NVMe drive)

It's not the fastest PCIe/NVMe SSD we've tested, but that's like saying the Lamborghini we tested isn't as fast as the Ferrari. What the PT920 is, by far the most evocative. But it's evocative of an assault rifle which will limit it's appeal to the shoot 'em up gaming crowd. For then, great. For others... Just hide it in the case.

Pros

  • Fast PCIe/NVMe performance
  • Evocative assault rifle styled heat-sink
  • Decent price per gigabyte

Cons

  • Evocative assault rifle styled heat-sink (yes, we know)
  • Requires modern BIOS if you want to boot from it

This affordable MLC NAND SSD is an outstanding performer, though the somewhat limited capacity (480GB max) might cost it some market share. But if you value speed over capacity, there are very few drives that can match the BX300. Especially given the price.

Pros

  • Excellent peformance
  • Highly affordable for an MLC NAND SSD

Cons

  • Only available up to 480GB
  • TBW endurance rating could be higher

This PCIe/NVMe SSD is cheaper than Intel's similar 750, and not that much slower. It also looks good, for gamers showing off their PC's internals.

Pros

  • 2GBps reads, 1GBps writes
  • Sylish heatsink and activity lights

Cons

  • TBW rating of the 1TB model is slightly low

We were ready to love this NVMe SSD because of its superlow price, but while indeed it is near the price of SATA, so is the sustained write speed. That said, in everyday use, you will see that NVMe kick in the pants performance.

Pros

  • Exceptionally affordable for an NVMe SSD
  • Very fast reader

Cons

  • Very slow writer for NVMe
  • Low TBW rating compared to recent competition

You'll get a nice boost in storage performance over SATA from this M.2 NVMe drive, but you can get about the twice the boost from similarly priced drives.

Pros

  • Affordable upgrade from SATA
  • Five-year warranty and high TBW rating

Cons

  • Only PCIe x2 and a slow performer for NVMe
  • The same price as much faster competition at the time of this review

Plextor's latest NVMe SSD delivers big time on looks and price, while still providing adequate NVMe performance with read speeds three times as fast as SATA, and write times twice as fast except during exceptionally large data transfers.

Pros

  • Good performance for the price
  • Stylish heat sinks on two models
  • Y model comes with PCIe adapter and great heat sink for only a slight premium

Cons

  • Sustained writes slow slightly after cache has been emptied

Intel's Optane technology shows promise and scales well, but it's four times the price and doesn't offer the capacity of NAND-based solutions. While we rated the 800P at 3 stars, that's with the average user in mind. It would rate higher as a corporate solution, where its marvelous longevity would come into play.

Pros

  • Fast with non-queued small file reads
  • Outstanding longevity

Cons

  • Slow sustained writes for an NVMe drive
  • Four times the cost of the NAND-based competition

This SSD will make your system faster if it's replacing a hard drive—just not as much faster as other SSDs. It's the worst overall performer we've seen, with sustained write speeds that are considerably slower than those of a fast hard drive.

Pros

  • Decent sustained read speed
  • Nice upgrade from a hard drive

Cons

  • Horrible write performance for an SSD
  • Extremely slow random write access

Though this drive will behave like a normal SSD under light duty, write any substantial amount of data to it and it is slower than a hard drive. With no price advantage over much faster drives, the TR200 is not a product we recommend.

Pros

  • Relatively affordable
  • Good light-duty performance

Cons

  • Slower than a hard drive writing larger data sets