Whether it's inside a laptop or a desktop, the M.2 SSD is now the standard for the main drive in a PC. For one, they're incredibly small, and space is always at a premium. But the M.2 form factor also covers a range of standards, including SATA, PCIe 3.0, and the new, ridiculously fast PCIe 4.0. If you're looking for a new SSD, these are the ones to get.
If you want the best overall SSD, it's easy to recommend Samsung. The Korean giant makes exceptionally good storage, combining proven reliability with blistering performance and a reasonable price tag. The 970 EVO Plus is the top dog right now with read/write speeds up to 3,500/3,300 MB/s, paired with a Phoenix controller and a user-friendly companion app to help you get the best from your drive. You also get fantastic longevity and a superb warranty.
Best PCIe 4.0
PCIe 4.0 might be exclusive to AMD's Ryzen platform right now, but if you're building a PC with a Ryzen 3000 series CPU, then it's a worthy investment. Our favorite is the Sabrent Rocket 4.0, which combines the incredible read/write speeds of up to 5,000/4,400 MB/s with a range of capacities and above all else, an attractive price. The Rocket 4.0 isn't a lot more than many PCIe 3.0 drives, and that's the icing on the cake.
If your PC only supports the older SATA standard, you can still get an excellent M.2 SSD for it. The WD Blue 3D comes in capacities up to 2TB and promises a 25% lower power draw than previous models. Read/write speeds of 560/530 MB/s are excellent for a SATA drive. While it's tested for incredible longevity, it's also backed by a 5-year warranty and comes with easy to use companion software to ensure you're getting the best from it.
Crucial is a trusted name in storage, and the P2 is a great budget drive, not least because it's an affordable PCIe 3.0 SSD. With read/write speeds of up to 2100MB/s/1150MB/s, it's far from the fastest PCIe SSD you'll find, but it's a massive jump in performance over even the best SATA drives. It's got a great warranty, comes with optimization software, and is a perfect budget SSD for new builds, upgrades, or laptops.
Do you need RGB on your SSD? If the feature is a focus of your build, then why not, and AORUS has just the drive for you. The heatsink and shroud have RGB lighting integrated that not only looks snazzy but can sync up with your motherboard, too, for perfect lighting harmony. Read/write speeds of up to 3,480/2000MB/s ensure strong performance, in part thanks to its use of high-quality Toshiba NAND Flash memory.
Not all PCs use the same length M.2 SSDs, and if you need the 'half-size' version, then this is the one to get. Performance is good with read/write speeds up to 1700/1550 MB/s, it's low power and comes with a free copy of Acronis True Image to help you clone your existing drives if you're upgrading. The price is good, too, and it comes in capacities up to 2TB, so you've got plenty of storage potential.
When you're building a gaming PC, you want an SSD that you know you can rely on, and that's where the WD BLACK line comes in. This not only comes with a heatsink in the box to help keep things cool but provides blistering performance and intuitive software features. The game mode, for example, disables low power mode and ensures your SSD is running at its absolute maximum when you need it most.
A NAS will usually use HDD drives for the main storage, but an M.2 SSD can be an excellent companion to these to act as cache to speed up your data transfers. Essentially, you want something reliable and tested for heavy use, and the WD Red series is specifically designed to cater to the stress of being in a NAS. Speeds are good, the rated TBW is good, and it has a great warranty to back it all up.
Ever dependable, this PCIe SSD From Seagate is a good all-rounder whatever type of machine you're looking to put it in. It's reliable, well priced, and with read/write speeds up to 3450/3200 MB/s it has the performance for a workstation or a gaming rig. An added touch is that if you register the drive with Seagate, you have accessed to their data recovery experts in case of unexpected losses. That's a pretty strong piece of mind.
The bottom line
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All of these are excellent SSDs, but it's always an easy job to recommend Samsung to anyone shopping for storage for their PC. The 970 EVO Plus (opens in new tab) is just all-around exceptional. It has incredible performance, durability and reliability, a solid warranty, and an easy-to-use suite of software features.
But it's not a one size fits all situation, and there are many other great SSDs out there for different needs. Older PCs can still get good M.2 storage in the WD Blue 3D (opens in new tab) with good capacity options, reliable hardware and solid performance for a SATA drive.
Or if you're stepping up to a new Ryzen 3000 series PC, the Sabrent Rocket 4.0 (opens in new tab) is a superb PCIe 4.0 SSD to put at its heart. The performance is in a different league to anything on PCIe 3.0, and Sabrent is very aggressive in its pricing, too, which makes it all the more attractive.
Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.