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The Best Budget SSDs of 2022

Over the past five years, solid state drives have dramatically changed their shape, speed, and storage chips. These devices have the biggest impact on speed when upgrading a computer. With the help of an SSD, even fairly old computers can be revived.

There are more than a dozen manufacturers of solid-state drives, among which are the world-famous companies Samsung, Micron, Seagate and Western Digital. Over the past 10 years, SSDs have evolved from an expensive computing luxury to high-quality, affordable products. For example, a 2008 SSD with a capacity of only 32 GB cost $800, which is $600-$700 more than a modern SSD with a capacity of 60 times more. Even the most inexpensive modern hard drives have data transfer rates up to 5 times faster than the 2008 model.

All this became possible thanks to modern interfaces and technologies, but not only. The production efficiency of memory chips has increased, so the cost per gigabyte of data is lower than ever before. In addition, there has been an oversupply in recent years, which is also driving prices down.

This year the situation has stabilized, allowing everyone to purchase an SSD. Large manufacturers like ADATA, Samsung and Western Digital have entered the lower price range, where little-known brands used to be. The price war between them is to the benefit of buyers.

Changes in the SSD manufacturing process improve quality and reduce cost. The manufacturing process is moving from building 32 and 64-layer NAND memory to 96 and 128-layer chips. The emergence of 176-level memory is not far off. Among other things, these technological processes make it possible to increase the volume of storage per unit area, reducing the cost of materials and reducing the cost of production and price.

In general, the speed and capacity of SSDs have increased significantly, while the relative cost has decreased. As discussed above, this makes an SSD the best buy for a computer. It remains only to make the right choice from a large number of inexpensive drives.

How to Buy an Inexpensive SSD

Let’s say you have a computer or laptop and you want to make them faster with an SSD. You need to check prices for the latest models and purchase an affordable SSD of the size you need from a reputable manufacturer. Nothing else is required. It’s hard to go wrong, and you’re unlikely to regret your choice of SATA drives.

If you want to dig deeper and get the fastest and most durable drive for a price, some of these drives are listed below.

Which SSD form factor should you choose?

SSDs are no longer exclusively 2.5-inch drives like similar laptop hard drives. Such versions remain, but there are many drives of a different form.

If you have a laptop or 2 in 1 device, it may require an M.2 form factor drive. Of course, if in these devices you can change or add drives at all. The latest generations of motherboards and computers also have one or more slots for installing M.2 drives. They are not just for laptops. When choosing such a drive, there are many nuances that need to be studied further.

The presence of an M.2 slot does not mean that such a drive will work in your laptop or computer. You need to check that the system will accept a drive of a similar physical size. M.2 drives come in a variety of lengths and even thicknesses. You also need to understand whether the Serial ATA or PCI Express bus is used. Further, different systems support different generations of PCI Express (PCIe 3.0 and PCIe 4.0). This affects the maximum data transfer rate.

Which memory to choose: MLC, TLC or QLC?

The main technical problem when choosing a solid-state drive is to determine the type of flash memory in it. It is necessary to study the meaning of the terms “MLC”, “TLC” and “QLC”.

The first letter in these names means the number of bits that can be stored in a memory cell on the drive. MLC stands for “many”, in this case 2 bits per cell. TLC stores 3 bits per cell, QLC 4 bits. There are millions of cells in the drives, so each extra bit in one cell is multiplied by the number of cells, and as a result, drives with TLC or QLC memory can store more data than MLC with the same number of memory chips. This reduces manufacturing costs as fewer storage and chip packages are required.

TLC technology was slower at first. In particular, it lagged behind in terms of data recording speed. Reliability with intensive data writes was also lower compared to MLC. Over time, these shortcomings disappeared. Now TLC drives are most often found in computers. The proliferation of “3D” versions of TLC NAND has given manufacturers the opportunity to increase capacity in a smaller space by creating memory chips with vertical and horizontal layering.

Since TLC modules are cheaper to manufacture and give decent performance, most SSD creators use them. This is especially true for budget models. For most users, the resulting speed will be enough. MLCs are now rare in cheap mainstream SSDs.

It was mentioned above that TLC memory may have a lower data write speed compared to MLC. The main reason is that it and the more modern QLC contain more bits per cell. Manufacturers were able to get around this problem due to smart caching technology. It treats a section of the drive as if it were a faster single-layer type of SLC memory. As a result, during write operations, the data is placed in a fast cache. When the system is idle, data is transferred from the cache to the slower flash memory.

The disadvantage of this method is that the buffer size is usually 6-10 GB. It should be small so as not to reduce the overall capacity of the drive and not lead to an increase in production costs. On drives with TLC or QLC memory, if you try to copy more data than can fit in the buffer, write performance may temporarily drop significantly.

The average user rarely copies very large files, so there will be no problems. Still, you need to be aware of this feature, especially when creating content or in other professional areas where large files are used or they are moved from disk to disk. For such situations, you can buy a more expensive drive with MLC memory.

How to evaluate the durability of an SSD?

Another disadvantage of TLC and QLC NAND memory is a shorter runtime than the more traditional MLC. This is not a guess; this is indicated by the specifications of the manufacturers themselves. Memory durability is measured using the Terabytes Written, or TBW. This is the amount of data, in terabytes, that can be written to a drive during its lifetime before cells begin to fail. Based on TBW, the duration of the manufacturer’s warranty is determined.

Every time you start a new write operation to a memory location where data is already stored, that data must first be deleted. The process of deleting and writing new data slows down the drive. To prevent this from happening, the SSD controller tries to write data to clean cells where there is nothing. Someday these blank cells will run out and you will have to write down the filled ones.

The SSD can repeat the erase and write operations a limited number of times before the cell degrades and no more data can be written to it. In MLC type memory, cells typically last about 5000 data write and delete cycles. TLC type memory is capable of withstanding about 1000 cycles. It seems like a big difference, but a process called “overprovisioning” tries to smooth it out. Part of the disk remains hidden and is not used. It is put into operation when other cells begin to fail.

In real use scenarios, ordinary users and advanced professionals are rarely able to use the entire resource of an SSD, unless a server or some other tasks is running on it, when data is constantly being written. A recent long-term experiment by The Tech Report was to write data to an SSD until it failed. The Samsung SSD 840 model on TLC chips allowed to write more than 800 TB before it lost its functionality. In real application scenarios, this will take more than 10 years. It is unlikely that anyone will use the drive for so long when new, faster, more spacious and cheaper models appear.

Thus, the durability of an SSD is not the main consideration when buying.

This does not mean that important information should not be backed up. There are no rotating parts inside SSDs, but they, too, can fail due to malfunctions, power surges, and other unforeseen events. You can change the drive if it’s under warranty, but you can’t get the data back.

SSD software evaluation

Many power users feel they can do without the bundled SSD software. Despite this, manufacturers offer similar programs and they can be useful. It all started many years ago with Samsung and Intel, who released their drives with applications to analyze various aspects of operation, including the general health of the drive, the amount of data written to it, and whether it is tuned for maximum performance. After that, the complexity of the programs only increased.

The benefits of such programs may vary. Some offer extensive functionality; others take a beautiful interface. Some drives have only simple utilities for updating the firmware and nothing more. If there are no performance problems, you can do without updating the firmware.

If you like tweaking, buy a drive with quality software and check it out. Samsung offers one of the best apps, and Crucial/Micron, SanDisk/Western Digital, and ADATA/XPG also have good apps.

If you bought a drive to install into an existing computer and want to migrate the operating system, you’ll need a disk cloning utility like Acronis TrueImage. Budget drives may not have such programs, but there are many free programs of this kind on the Internet. For example, Disk Copy EaseUS.

What is a good drive warranty?

Before buying, you need to find out what kind of warranty they give on the SSD. Many of the budget models we tested have a three-year warranty, while the more expensive ones have a longer warranty. Samsung, with its popular SSD 850 EVO model, was one of the first to give a long-term warranty for a budget drive, namely for 5 years.

Samsung has been able to improve the TLC memory. She combined it with vertical V-NAND memory and created cheap drives that are close in durability to more expensive models based on MLC chips. In general, you should aim for a 5-year warranty, although it’s common for budgets to hit 3 years or hit the TBW limit, whichever comes first.

Key metric: cost per gigabyte of data

Without mathematical calculations, it is difficult to compare different drives in terms of price and features, especially if they have different capacities. According to the capacity classes, the following can be distinguished:

  • 120 GB or 128 GB
  • 240 GB, 250 GB or 256 GB
  • 480 GB, 500 GB or 512 GB
  • 960 GB or 1 TB

Drives with a capacity of more than 1 TB do not currently fall into the budget category. The cost of models over 2 TB exceeds $200. Over time, the price will decrease and they will also begin to be considered cheap. For convenience, you can compare the prices of drives with the same capacity.

An even more accurate way to determine the value of drives is the cost per gigabyte. It is necessary to divide the price by the volume in gigabytes. For example, a $50 240GB drive costs 20.8 cents per gigabyte. A $50 256GB drive costs 19.5 cents per GB. The cheapest modern drives cost about 10 cents per gigabyte. This calculation allows you to choose the drive most efficiently.

Which budget SSD should you buy?

Consider specific models. This article introduces 2.5″ Serial ATA and PCI Express M.2 drives. The choice depends on which one your computer supports.

Note: These drives are also available in other sizes than those tested. Check out the reviews for other capacity options if you need more or less storage.

1. Crucial P5

The most valuable among M.2 PCI Express drives. If you’re looking for the best value for money in PCI Express storage, the Crucial P5 M.2 is the current leader.

2. Intel SSD 670p

The best drive for download speed. Quite pricey for a QLC-based drive, Intel’s variant delivers one of the best random read speeds for shallow 4K data blocks.

3. Samsung SSD 870 EVO

Best performing 2.5″ SATA drive. The Samsung drive provides the highest speed among SATA models. Random read and write operations of 4K data are so fast that you can confuse it with PCI Express 3.0 drives.

4. Samsung SSD 980

The fastest M.2 to PCIe 3.0 drive. The other Samsung drive is a great mid-range option with the best performance for a PCI Express 3.0 interface.

5. ADATA XPG Gammix S50 Lite

The best budget with PCIe 4.0 interface. If you’ve been waiting for a price, drop to buy a PCI Express 4.0 drive, the wait is over. ADATA XPG S50 Lite delivers the best price/speed ratio for drives with this interface.

6. Addlink S70

The best among the very cheap. If money is tight, but you want to join the high speeds of solid-state drives, feel free to take the Addlink S70.

7. Samsung SSD 870 QVO

The best in capacity among drives 2.5 inches. If you want the best value for money 2.5″ SATA drive, choose Samsung again. This drive is the successor to the South Korean manufacturer’s first model based on QLC chips.

8. WD Blue SN550

The best budget drive for modest data recording needs. This WD model offers good quality among PCI Express M.2 drives. In tests, it keeps at the level of drives twice as expensive.

9. SK Hynix Gold S31

Best for gamers 2.5-inch SATA. SK Hynix is ​​known primarily as a manufacturer of RAM, but it also knows how to make SSDs. The debut model delivers high speed and excellent quality per gigabyte.


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