Once a luxury, yet now a necessity, solid state drives have become an essential part of building a new PC. Their decrease in price has led to a massive increase in demand, to the point where even gaming consoles are now finally set to come equipped with an onboard SSD.
Though not all SSDs are created equal, luckily enough the cheaper variants usually do hold up quite well against their more expensive counterparts. The differences between higher end and budget SSDs is all but diminishing, to the point of hardly being noticeable in most cases. This can lead to cost differentials being based solely on marketing schemes that provide no advantage to the consumer. To exacerbate this effect, we also have the fact that the specifications that companies put out are often unreliable, as there is no regulating body to ensure that the SSD’s speeds that the manufacturers promote are actually accurate representations of the capability of their products. This is where real-world benchmarks come to play, and the differences they show between differently priced SSDs can be quite negligible. The best example is the comparison between the Samsung 860 EVO and the Samsung 860 PRO: a 1% advantage in benchmarked performance, yet an over twice as expensive price tag for the 860 PRO.
If you’re looking to purchase an SSD for gaming, streaming, or light video/photo editing, then the upgrades boasted by SSD manufacturers becomes even less pronounced. Only when moving large amounts of files, rendering high-resolution videos or video effects, and through the use of other similar workstation applications will these minor differences in specifications begin to surface.
So, if you’re looking to buy an inexpensive SSD for your new setup, then you’ve made a wise choice. To help you choose the SSD model that fits your needs, we will list the best M.2 NVMe solid state drives – both for PCIe 3.0 and PCIe 4.0 – as well as the best 2.5” SSDs, and the best external, portable, SSDs.
Best Budget SSDs – Our Recommendations
Best PCIe 3.0 M.2 NVMe SSD
The king of budget SSDs, Crucial is a consumer brand for Micron Technology: an Idaho based American producer of high-quality ROM and RAM units.
The Crucial P1 is a 3D NAND (Micron 64L 3D QLC) NVMe M.2 SSD that comes in three sizes: 500 GB, 1 TB, and 2 TB. It has a sequential read speed of 2,000 MB/s and a sequential write speed of 1,700 MB/s for its 1 TB variant – which we recommend for gaming and most desktop applications. It also features random QD1 read and write speeds of 170,000 and 240,000 IOPS. In terms of durability, the 1 TB variant has a rating of 200 TBW (terabytes written), while the 500 GB and 2 TB models have 100 and 400 TBW accordingly. All three P1 SSDs come with a 5-year warranty.
In terms of actual benchmarks, the P1 does perform surprisingly well. The 1 TB Crucial P1 averages sequential read and write speeds of 1,494 MB/s and 1,403 MB/s, with peak values reaching 1,731 MB/s and 1,757 MB/s; which is actually quite close to the advertised 2,000 and 1,700 MB/s values. Despite being cheaper than its chief competitors: the Sabrent Rocket Q1 and the WD Blue SN550, it actually outperforms both in user benchmarks, by 12% and 3% in effective speeds accordingly.
You can currently find the Crucial P1 3D NAND NVMe M.2 SSD starting at $59 for the 500 GB model, $104 for the 1 TB model, and $299 for the 2 TB variant. Excellent prices for excellent SSDs that have little to envy from their much more expensive competitors.
Best Budget 2.5” SSD
Crucial MX 500
Despite being slightly more expensive than the competing Samsung QVO and Sandisk SSD PLUS at the 1 TB range, the Crucial MX500 makes up for it in performance, since it is easy to argue that a 9%-89% effective speed increase is well worth the extra $5-$10 that the Crucial MX 500 will cost. The Crucial MX500 comes in four models: 250 GB, 500 GB, 1 TB and 2 TB.
The Crucial MX500 boasts sequential read and write speeds of 560 MB/s and 510 MB/s respectively; with 4KB QD1 read and write speeds of 7,500 IOPS and 42,000 IOPS, and 4KB QD32 read and write speeds of 95,000 IOPS and 90,000 IOPS (all values for the 1 TB version). Making use of Micron 3D NAND technology, this 2.5” SSD is equipped with AES 256-bit hardware-based encryption and integrated power loss immunity. According to Crucial, this SSD can write up to 360 TB before experiencing any hardware issues, and it comes with a 5-year limited warranty.
In terms of benchmarks, its advertised characteristics are not too far off from the truth: with 515 MB/s of peak sequential read and 475 MB/s of peak sequential write speeds the Crucial MX500 has a great price to value ratio. Even in real-life applications, like loading games, for example, TweakTown shows us that the Crucial MX500 will outperform both the Samsung 860 QVO and the $20 more expensive Samsung 860 EVO, and is rated as one of the highest price/performance 2.5” SSDs in the market.
If you’re out of M.2 slots or are just looking for a cheap 2.5” SSD to tack on to your PC, then the Crucial MX500 is the way to go. You can currently find it for only $114 for its 1 TB variant: an excellent price and another excellent product by Crucial.
Best Budget PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2 SSD
Sabrent Rocket 4
Though still quite expensive, PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2s are incredibly fast storage units that even rival Intel’s $1200 Optane SSDs. Two are the main rivals in regards to affordable PCIe 4.0 compatible M.2 SSDs, and these are the Corsair MP600 and the Sabrent Rocket 4. Though the Corsair Force MP600 is $5 cheaper than the Sabrent Rocket 4, it lags behind in its reported benchmarks, with some users even reporting inconsistent performance with this model. However, it is important to note that the 500 GB Corsair Force MP600 does come $20 cheaper than the equivalent 500 GB Sabrent Rocket 4, which is a considerable difference – making it much easier to recommend at that storage size. It also comes in 2 TB and 4 TB variants.
The Sabrent Rocket 4, which is based on Toshiba’s BiCS4 96L TLC NAND flash memory, advertises 5,000 MB/s read and 4,400 MB/s write speeds on a PCIe Gen4 compatible motherboard, and 3,400 MB/s read and 3,000 MB/s write speeds on a PCIe Gen3 motherboard. Average user benchmarks show values that are not quite as high, with average read and write speeds of 1980 MB/s and 3095 MB/s, though several of these user benchmarks might be on an PCIe 3.0 motherboard. On the other hand, TweakTown benchmarks show us that this SSD can live up to its advertised measurements, with 5,000.25 sequential read and 4,289.77 sequential write speeds displayed.
To maintain its reliability, the Sabrent Rocket 4 comes with an impressive MTBF (mean time between failures) of 1.7 million hours, as well as Error Correction Code, Bad Block Management, upgradeable firmware, and Over-Provision. It is important to note that this SSD will need a heatsink, which most motherboards include for the M.2 slots. If yours does not, or the one you have is already in use, you can purchase the Sabrent Rocket 4 with a heatsink at a $20 extra cost. The 1 TB version of this SSD can currently be found for $199, so if you’re looking for an incredibly fast PCIe Gen 4 SSD to pair with a new Ryzen CPU, the Sabrent Rocket 4 is the way to go.
Best Budget External SSD
Welp, what can we say, Crucial has done it again. The best price to performance ratio external SSD model is Crucial’s X8 portable USB 3.2 SSD. If you own a laptop, a MacBook, or a tablet, then an external SSD is a must, and Crucial’s X8 is compatible with pretty much any type of operating system. Windows, Mac, iPad Pro, Chromebook, Android, Linux… even gaming consoles like PS4 and Xbox One; this portable SSD will work with just about anything.
And since an external SSD is meant to be portable, the Crucial X8 is only about the size of a cell phone, and is made to withstand several types of common sources of damage. Its fully anodized aluminum unibody core can withstand a fall from 7.5 feet, while also being extreme temperature, shock, and vibration proof. To top it all off, it also includes a 3-year limited warranty.
With the help of the 10 Gbps second-generation USB 3.2 (USB-C, USB-A) the Crucial claims that this Micron 64-layer QLC NAND Flash X8 model can reach sequential read speeds of up to 1,050 MB/s for both its 500 GB as well as its 1 TB models. It’s actual measured read and write speeds fare at 941.5 MB/s and 892.7 MB/s, and its 4K Q1 read and write speeds reach 40.70 MB/s and 71.33 MB/s respectively – making it faster than several internal SATA SSDs. To put this in perspective, its chief competitor in the portable category, the relatively new Samsung T7 Touch SSD, has 4K Q1 read and write speeds of 27.66 MB/s and 40.22 MB/s. What the Samsung T7 does have as an advantage over the X8, is its physical security feature: the fingerprint scanner. If you’re looking for a portable SSD with an extra layer of protection, you can find the 1 TB Samsung T7 currently on sale for $159.
That being said, the Crucial X8 portable SSD is yet to be beaten in performance for its price, and you can currently find it for $119 for its 500 GB model, and $164 for its 1 TB model.