Real-life friends often hit PCWorld staffers up for hardware recommendations. And when people ask for the best SSD, our universal answer has been “Get a Samsung 850 EVO.” That still holds true three years after the SSD’s launch. We recently bought another one for PCWorld’s graphics card testing system, in fact.
The Samsung 850 EVO isn’t the fastest SSD you can buy—that honor goes to advanced NVMe drives—but it’s neck-and-neck with other SATA-based drives. More importantly, the price of this once-cutting-edge SSD has plummeted over the years. While it started off expensive, today the Samsung 850 EVO 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 SATA-based drive, the Samsung 850 EVO should have no problems slipping into most desktops or laptops, unlike exotic M.2 and PCIe SSDs.
The 500GB Samsung 850 EVO ($150 on Amazon) is probably the best option for most people, but it’s also available in 250GB, 1TB, 2TB, and 4TBmodels. 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 after all these years other SSDs are challenging the Samsung 850 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 ($155 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).
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, grab a Samsung 850 EVO or SanDisk Ultra 3D instead.