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When solid state storage was first sold in 1991 it was expensive; a mere 20 MBs went for a whopping $1,000. Heck, even a few years ago SSDs were still pretty darned pricey (although not quite at the cost of $50,000 per GB).
Today, though, solid-state storage has drastically decreased in pricing while remaining the gold standard when it comes to storage performance.
Thankfully, you no longer need to break the bank to get the best budget SSD. Today we’re looking at our top six picks and taking a closer look at what to look for when shopping for a solid state drive.
How We Picked
When picking the best budget SSDs, we focused on trying to get the absolute best specs to the price. Of course, with any budget product, there’s going to be corners cut but, with budget SSDs, we believe that if you’re able to secure one that has top reliability coupled with fast speeds, you’re onto a winner. These are the main aspects we’ve taken into account when choosing our top five so you can be assured you’ll be getting the best of the best when making a purchase.
Without further ado, let’s get into those best budget SSDs of 2020.
Best Budget SSD In 2021
Decent price per GB
Good for gamers
Not many options
It’s no surprise that we are starting to see more solid state drives aimed at gamers.
Everybody knows gaming load times are the bane of life and if you can shave the odd millisecond off before you get in there then that is worth paying a small fortune for.
Seagate’s offering directly to this particular fraternity is the Firecuda and it blazingly fast.
It comes in two flavours only – M.2 versions of 1 and 2TB.
This could be the SSD that makes you finally realise why this sector is one of most exciting areas of tech development today.
Install one of these in your set-up you will notice a difference from what you had before and that’s kind of the whole point isn’t it.
It’s not the cheapest option and down the line you will run of out space for sure even though it’s a 1TB model, but if you manage your usage carefully this is a good, solid upgrade on what you already have in your system.
Excellent price per GB
Does not use PCIe lanes
As we saw with the other M.2 drives we looked at plugging your drive directly into the motherboard can result in some incredibly high read and write speeds. That being said, in order to reap the benefit of being plugged into the M.2 slot on your motherboard the drive itself must use PCIe lanes to communicate with your hardware. In some cases, M.2 drives can also use SATA lanes.
This is the case with the WD Blue 1TB M.2 drive. In this situation, the main benefit of M.2 drives– the speed– is lost. This drive has a read speed fo 560MB/s and write speed of 530MB/s making it much more comparable to the performance of a standard SATA SSD than an M.2 using PCIe lanes.
That said, this drive offers tons of storage space for a pretty good price, on top of highly reliable performance. WD Blue M.2 drives are certified for an industry leading 1.75 million hours mean time to failure making them the best SATA SSD for those who need to keep their data safe.
Good price per GB
Does not include mounting bracket
The Crucial MX500 falls into the middle of almost every category making it a great balance of performance, space, and affordability. For starters, it offers 500GB of storage space, meaning it’ll take more than just a few games to load it up but it’s not the biggest on the market.
This drive uses a standard SATA 6Gb connection and has read speeds of 560MB/s and write speeds of 510MB/s. It also offers good performance with smaller reads and writes with a solid 95k rads and up to 90k writes. With these numbers, Windows will boot up quickly and feel responsive, while waiting for games to load will be a thing of the past… Well, not altogether, Anthem would still take a while to load, even on this, just less so.
While the price per gigabyte is not the best on our list, the Crucial MX 500 offers a good balance of upfront affordability, solid performance, and a decent amount of space. If you’re looking for the best cheap SSD to throw your operating system and some games on, then this is a great option.
And if the value and performance weren’t enough to have you sold the Crucial MX500 is an incredibly reliable solid state drive. It boasts integrated power loss immunity that can preserve any work if power is lost. It also comes with an impressive 5-year warranty from Crucial so you can count on the quality.
Crazy fast performance
Also available in vanilla SATA
Best price per gigabyte
This SSD is Samsung’s slightly lower-spec version for home PC builders and it comes in slightly cheaper than their Pro range.
The mode here is the 500GB offering, but if money is no object then they also do it in flavours up to 2TB – but obviously be prepared to pay the premium for that level of storage.
Scoring highly in all performance tests, it never quite reaches the heady heights of the advertised specs but you aren’t really going to notice that.
Samsung reckon it has a lifespan of about 300TB r/w which should certainly last you around a decade of normal boot drive use.
There are cheaper options out there but this is up there with state-of-the-art at the time of writing. Check it out.
Things To Consider
How to Pick the Best Budget SSD for Your Needs
Solid state drives come in all different sizes and formats; in fact, it can quickly become confusing when shopping. In order to help ensure you are getting the best product for your needs let’s take a look at the most important things to keep in mind.
The first thing most people are going to want to look at when shopping for any form of computer storage is its capacity. Generally, solid-state drives come in 200GB, 500GB, and 1TB variants (although you also get 240GB, 480GB, and 960GB pretty often too).
Most people will want to put their operating system on their SSD– about 20GB– because it makes your computer boot faster. Additionally, the average AAA game is somewhere between 30 and 50GB (although it is not unusual for modern games to be even bigger than that). This means that the average 500GB drive can hold an operating system and about a dozen or so games.
Naturally, larger drives with more storage will be more expensive overall, but in most cases the larger the drive the less you will pay per gigabyte of storage.
The main advantage that solid-state drives offer over traditional hard drives is their incredible speed. For reference, the average hard drive today runs with read and write speeds somewhere in the range of 80 to 160 MB/s.
This means that even the slower solid-state drives on our list run at four or more times the speed of the average hard drive. With this speed, any of the solid state drives on our list will give you much faster boot up times if you put your operating system on it; it will also cut most load times in half.
What's the difference between M.2 and SATA
We want to touch on is the difference between SATA and M.2 drives. More standard solid states drives use the 2.5” form factor that looks like a traditional drive. The small metal housing is plugged into the motherboard using a SATA connection and also receives a power connector.
More recently, a form of SSD emerged called an M.2 which plugs directly into a slot on the motherboard. In some cases, these too use SATA connectors, but more often they utilize much faster PCIe lanes to communicate with the hardware in your computer. This is how the fastest drives on our list achieve their performance.
It is important to make sure when purchasing an M.2 drive that your motherboard has a slot for it.
It can be quite hard to get excited about storage but the Firecuda has managed to do just that to us. Large capacity, lighting speed and aimed at gaming PCs. It’s even got a bit of coll brand name thrown into the mix, but it’s the performance that makes this component stand out. It is competitively priced for the capacity too which makes everybody a winner. Easy choice.