SSD Tier List: The Best Deals You Can Find From Each Tier

From gamers loading massive textures to content creators rendering Ultra HD video, storage speed has become a prime factor influencing system performance. Solid state drives (SSDs) have revolutionized workflow – booting in seconds, apps launching instantly, games not bottlenecked by sluggish seek times.

But not all SSDs are equal. With a variety of interfaces, protocols, memory specifications and tiered performance, finding the best SSD for your needs and budget requires some deeper understanding.

This definitive guide breaks down the SSD tier system, showcases top models from entry level to blazing fast, and arms you with expert advice to make smart SSD upgrade decisions. Let‘s dive in!

Breaking Down The SSD Tier System

SSD technology has matured since its debut over a decade ago. We can now categorize drives into distinct tiers classified by performance and pricing:

Entry Level SSDs – Basic drives prioritizing affordability over speed. Lack some high performance features but much faster than hard drives.

Mid-Range SSDs – Offer strong balance of price and performance. More advanced hardware than entry-level. Great for mainstream users.

High-End SSDs – Cutting edge SSDs pushing performance boundaries. Pack high speed interfaces, max out specs, premium price tags.

This tier system exists for both SATA and NVMe SSDs. The protocol determines maximum drive bandwidth, while tier determines price/performance balance.

Now let‘s analyze top options across SSD budgets and use cases.

Best Entry Level SATA SSDs

SATA connects drives using legacy infrastructure also used by hard drives. But don‘t let that fool you – even basic SATA SSD blow away hard drives, delivering massive real-world speedup:

[bar chart showing 10x speed advantage of SATA SSDs over HDDs]

Ideal Uses:

  • Primary drive upgrade from HDD
  • Storage drive for backups, media, files
  • Budget gaming/video production rigs

Due to streamlined memory hardware, entry SATA SSDs trade some top-end speed for affordability. But their economical price point makes SATA an easy speed boost over pokey hard drives.

Here are top entry level SATA picks across budgets:

ModelPriceCapacityMax SpeedNAND LayersDRAM?
PNY CS900$60240GB500MB/s64No
Kingston Q500$90480GB450MB/s64No
Crucial BX500$1001TB540MB/s96No

PNY CS900 – Outstanding budget upgrade drive. Up to 10x faster than HDD. Economical way to revive older system. Lacks DRAM cache but great value.

[PNY CS900 image]

Kingston Q500 – Proven SATA SSD now available up to 480GB. Ideal HDD replacement with solid speeds for the price. Performance impacted slightly by absent DRAM.

Crucial BX500 – Impressive value marriage of 1TB capacity and 500MB speeds. Handles everyday tasks easily. Integrated software assists seamless HDD cloning.

Best Mid-Range SATA SSDs

With refined controllers and memory, mid-range SATA drives balance speed and value. Noticeable performance gains over entry-level, while keeping costs reasonable.

Many mid-range SSD feature quality-of-life upgrades like DRAM caching, superior endurance ratings, and 5 year warranties. These are great workhorse drives suitable for most PC users.

ModelPriceCapacityMax SpeedNAND LayersDRAM?
ADATA Ultimate SU800$1251TB520MB/s32Yes
SK Hynix Gold S31$1801TB525MB/s72Yes
WD Blue 3D NAND$2152TB545MB/sN/AYes

ADATA Ultimate SU800 – Proven SATA stalwart with superb value. Impressive speeds consider very affordable pricing. Lacks latest hardware but outstanding everyday drive.

SK Hynix Gold S31 – Feature-packed media storage solution. Class-leading reliability metrics and 5 year warranty inspire confidence. Top value for 1TB.

WD Blue 3D NAND – Western Digital‘s engineering pedigree shows in slick TLC BiCS3 memory. Excellent sequential throughput and noise reduction. 2TB sweet spot.

Best High End SATA SSDs

If you demand maximum SATA performance without jumping to NVMe, premium SATA drives check every box. Cutting edge components push interface to its limits.

Speeds up to 550MB/s are possible, but less dramatic real-world gains vs mid-range SATA. However advanced hardware like powerful controllers, DRAM and 3D NAND improve overall experience.

ModelPriceCapacityMax SpeedNAND LayersDRAM?
Samsung 870 EVO$5304TB560MB/s128Yes
Seagate FireCuda 520$2502TB550MB/s96Yes
WD Black SN750$3202TB550MB/s64Yes

Samsung 870 EVO – Trusted high performance drive with latest V-NAND and powerful Phoenix controller. Excellent sustained write speeds. 5 year warranty.

Seagate FireCuda 520 – Impressively low access times with compact 96L 3D TLC NAND. Aggressively high transfer speeds. Large 2TB capacity.

WD Black SN750 – Western Digital‘s fastest SATA flagship. Purpose-built for gamers and creative pros. Widely regarded best high performance SATA drive.

Making Sense of NVMe SSDs

NVMe is a next generation storage protocol surpassing limitations of antiquated SATA infrastructure. With dedicated PCI Express connectivity, NVMe enables SSD trajectory to continue upwards:

[Chart contrasting exponentially faster NVMe SSD performance trajectory verse flattening SATA SSD speeds over time]

Adoption of blistering fast NVMe drives is accelerating as prices decrease and tech goes mainstream. Let‘s break down your NVMe tier options.

Best Entry Level NVMe SSDs

Thanks to NVMe technology democratization, entry level M.2 PCIe drives are displacing old SATA disks:

ModelPriceCapacityMax SpeedNAND LayersDRAM?
Crucial P1$1201TB1700MB/s64No
Crucial P3 Plus$65500GB5000MB/s176No

Ideal Uses:

  • Primary OS / applications drive
  • Game storage on budget
  • Basic content creation

Key Strengths:

  • Entry NVMe often cheaper than SATA counterparts
  • 3-5x faster than SATA SSDs
  • Low power draw enhances laptop battery

Considerations:

To hit price points, entry NVMe cut corners on NAND quality and controller hardware. Most lack DRAM and rely on system memory bandwidth, reducing performance during intense loads.

Still, thanks to the NVMe interface, even bargain SSD blow away what SATA offers.

The Crucial P1 offers excellent read rates up to 2000MB/using denser QLC NAND to hit 1TB for just over $100. While writes fall behind premium NVMe, real world use remains snappy thanks to NVMe submission queues.

The Crucial P3 Plus brings bleeding edge tech like PCIe 4.0 support and 176L NAND to entry tier pricing. At 500GB under $65 the price per GB value is outstanding. Weigh drive capacity versus storage needs.

Best Mid Range NVMe SSDs

With balanced performance and value, mid range NVMe deliver loads of speed for reasonable investment. A good fit for PC enthusiasts without going cost-prohibitive.

Refinements like PCIe 4.0 bus support, DRAM and advanced controllers keep prices below premium NVMe while retaining responsive gaming/content creation experience:

ModelPriceCapacityMax SpeedNAND LayersDRAM?
Silicon Power US70$1401TB5000MB/s176Yes
Sabrent Rocket Q4$901TB4400MB/s192Yes

Silicon Power US70 – New PCIe 4.0 champion leveraging latest controller and physical specs. Also features aggressive Dynamic Thermal Guard cooling. Killer price/performance.

Sabrent Rocket Q4 – Cheaper 1TB thanks to QLC NAND while retaining Sabrent‘s tuning expertise. Impressive sequential and random IO considering entry pricing.

Best High End NVMe SSDs

If budget is no concern, "money is no object" NVMe SSDs offer dangerously fast transfer rates nearing limits of PCI Express bus and NAND itself!

Topped off specs coupled with exotic cooling make premium NVMe perfect for hardcore gamers, content producers and speed demons.

ModelPriceCapacityMax SpeedNAND LayersDRAM?
Samsung 990 Pro$1851TB7400MB/s162Yes
WD Black SN850X$1401TB7200MB/s232Yes

Samsung 990 Pro – Successor to legendary 970 Pro leveraging next gen V-NAND, refined Phoenix controller and Double Sided Thermal Guard. A performance legacy continues.

WD Black SN850X – With up to 7.2GB/s from PCIe 4 and tantalizing DirectStorage support, the newest Black showcases innovation pushing NVMe to its limits.

Making The Right SSD Purchase Decision

Even with our SSD Tier guide, finding the perfect drive still depends on your individual needs and budget. Keep these tips in mind:

Understand Interface Support

NVMe SSD throw down crazy speeds, but first ensure hardware compatibility. Many older systems still utilize SATA ports. Verify motherboard or laptop support M.2 PCIe NVMe before throwing money at fastest SSD.

Size Capacity Appropriately

Bigger SSD isn‘t necessarily better if unused space sits idle. Compare your current storage consumption with new drive size. Price per GB rises on high capacity units. Find your ideal balance of speed, capacity and reasonable cost.

Get The Right Physical Size

M.2 has become the default for NVMe SSD, but varies lengths have specific uses. Know whether you need 2230, 2242, 2260, 2280 or 22110. Similarly for SATA, stick with standard 2.5" drives unless you specifically require mSATA or M.2 SATA.

Mind The Cache

While caches like SLC and DRAM do bolster SSD performance, don‘t get fixated. Look at overall IO ratings that factor in thermal throttling and workload variances for realistic speed expectations.

Keep Eyes On Emerging Tech

In just a few years, new SSD interface PCIe 5.0 and NVMe 2.0 blows away what‘s shipping today. Stay abreast of tech like DirectStorage, Optane and 3D NAND advancements that soon trickle down to consumers. Exciting potential ahead!

The Best SSD Is The Right SSD

There‘s no one perfect SSD model for all users. By understanding SSD tier classification – entry, mid and high-end options for both SATA and NVMe – you gain better clarity selecting the appropriate drive for your needs and budget constraints.

Keep up with the latest SSD benchmarks and model reviews as new contenders releasing make landscape ever-changing. Your dream SSD awaits!

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