formats, interfaces, features and buying guide

SSD absolutely dominates the pC storage solutionsBoth those installed in new OEM equipment and in the retail market where it has become one of the best upgrades that a user can do to eliminate the bottleneck that for years have been our beloved, but now obsolete hard drives, relegated to other tasks such as external drives or NAS, in addition to servers or data centers where they do have life ahead.

These solid state drives offer all the advantages of NAND flash memory based solutionsbased solutions, primarily in terms of far superior performance in booting the operating system or applications, transferring files internally or to external drives, or recovering systems from sleep modes.

Its advantages are also relevant in terms of consumption, heat emission or noise emissionThe absence of the moving parts of the mechanical drives means that they have zero power consumption, heat emission or noise emissions. In terms of robustness and failure resistance, today�s SSDs equal or surpass hard disks in terms of mean time between failures or warranty, with five years in most mid-range series and up.

Finally, mention the possibilities of this type of drives in its M.2 format by offering a greatly reduced size compared to a hard disk, which allows more free space in desktop PCs and especially in laptops, an important section to achieve thinner and lighter designs.


SSD Technical Basics

Solid state drives serve the same purpose as a hard drive to store data and files persistently. In this way and compared to other types of memory such as RAM, the data on an SSD is maintained even if we turn off the computer. By storing data in non-volatile memories, they do not require any kind of constant power supply or batteries to keep the data stored, even in the event of sudden PC shutdowns.

How an SSD works

There is an important difference between how an SSD handles data and how a hard drive handles data. An SSD writes data in chunks called âpagesâ. A group of pages is called a  “block” and in order to write new data to a busy block, the entire block has to be erased first.

To avoid loss of data, all information that exists in the block must first be moved to another location before the block can be erased. Once the data is moved and the block is erased, only then can it be written. This process is almost instantaneous but requires empty free space for it to work properly. If there is not enough free space the process loses efficiency and slows down.

We comment on this technical section because it affects the capacity when we make the purchase of an SSD. To achieve maximum efficiency we should leave free approximately 20 percent of the drive. That’s why we recommend buying drives with one more capacity point than you really need. For example, the price of a 250GB model versus a 500GB model is usually not excessive and will be well worth it.

Resistance to failure

Another big difference compared to disks is that SSDs have no moving parts which gives them a big advantage in terms of impossibility of mechanical failure. On the other hand, sSDs are more prone to power failure while the drive is in operation, causing data corruption or even complete failure of the devices. In addition, the memory blocks on an SSD have a limited number of write operations.

Fortunately, reliability has improved greatly in recent years and massive endurance tests confirm that an SSD lasts longer than a hard drive before it begins to fail. In addition, all SSDs include additional free memory cells so that when the others fail, they do not lose capacity by reallocating damaged sectors.


Memory types

In the technical section, we must also mention the type of NAND flash memory used by these units. In recent times, manufacturers are betting on the ones that use NAND flash memory QLC (quadruple cell level). This type of technology increases storage density and lowers costs, allowing higher capacity models to be offered at lower prices.

The problem is that as the bits per cell increase the resistance is reduced versus earlier formats such as TLC (triple cell level), MLC (double cell level) and especially SLC, Single-Layer Cell which only stores one bit per cell and which you will no longer see in the consumer market because they are not sold. They are all QLC and TLC now. In any case, the best manufacturers have increased the warranty to 5 years on consumer units, while there are professional models with up to 10 years warranty.

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Finally, we should point out the section of the cache because it has been controversial the last few months. Almost all solid state drives include additional memory for data caching. This type of memory is much faster than general NAND flash and allows the performance of the drive to be boosted, but it only maintains its performance for the duration of its capacity. This cache is managed by the installed controller and is internal, automatic and efficient. When it runs out, support is over until it fills up again.

Always depending on the amount installed, a typical user will not usually notice performance loss in common tasks. But it can be noticed in more advanced tasks or those that require moving a larger amount of data and that ends up exhausting the cache. Some manufacturers are removing this cache memory to reduce costs, but without proper announcement. Be careful when purchasing because this cache is important to the performance of the drive.

SSD Formats and Interfaces

These drives are marketed in several standardized formats and interfaces that every user should be aware of when facing their purchase for upgrades or hard drive replacements. We review them.

2.5 inch. This is a standardized format that is also used by smaller hard drives. It is the most widespread and versatile because you will find it in any desktop computer and almost all laptops, whether they are new generation or older ones. In a tower PC you can mount any of these models in the 2.5â³ bays and also in the 3.5â³ bays with an adapter, while in laptops they vary according to their thickness of 9.5 mm and 7 mm the thinnest ones and are usually used in ultraportables or convertibles.

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M.2. Much more modern and smaller in size than the previous one, it is marketed in several variants although the most widespread is the so-called ‘2280’ which measures only 80 x 22 and 3.5 mm, smaller than a RAM module. It is the format that is being imposed in the industry and recommended for use in motherboards that support it, both for size and performance when using the PCI-Express interface that we will see below. Another variant is mSATA, even smaller than the previous one (50.8 mm x 29.85 mm x 4.5 mm), but less widespread.


Cards. A third format that we can find in this case exclusively for desktop computers is the card type directly plugged into a PCIe slot on the motherboard. This format includes drives that mount their chips directly on the card or if the card is used as an accessory to mount the above M.2 drives on boards that do not have a dedicated connector. They are just as fast as M.2 when using PCIe, but they tend to be a bit more expensive and are in much shorter supply than the M.2s that are taking over completely. We would really only recommend them when our motherboard does not have M.2 connectors available.

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Related to the previous section, but very different, every buyer of these drives must know the interfaces supported by their equipment or what is the same, the connection bus to which the SSD is going to be connected. Basically there are two:

SATAÂ (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment). It is a tremendously widespread bus as it has been around since 2003 and is supported by 100% of the PCs sold in the last 15 years. Extremely versatile, it is only used by 2.5-inch drives since the few M.2 drives that were marketed years ago for this port have practically disappeared.

Not all SSDs offer the same performance as they depend on the memory used and especially its controller, but practically all SATA SSDs exceed 500 MB/s, between double and triple that of a hard drive, although less fast than those we will see below. They are the cheapest SSD in cost per GB.

PCIe. More modern and much faster than SATA, PCI-Express has become the primary local bus in PCs, and the trend is for it to become the only bus once all existing legacy SATA components are phased out. It is used both for internal connection in the integrated circuits of the motherboards (chipsets) and to connect external cards plugged into the corresponding slots.

In the case of SSD they have dedicated connectors on the motherboards, the M.2 mentioned and support NVMe protocol that makes the drive bootable, allows to obtain high performance, reduces the overhead of I/O components and CPU. Among the few drawbacks compared to SATA models is that PCI drives get hot and quite hot. Many manufacturers include heatsinks and the best motherboards also include them.

The most widespread drives connect to the interface PCIe 3.0 and offer speeds in the neighborhood of 3,000 MB/s for sequential reads, while the 4.0 version boosts data transfer to over 7,000 MBytes per second. PCIe 5.0 is on the way, but there are no units on the market yet.

M.2 PCIe and a SATA installed on the same board


SSD Offer (October 2021)

Solid state drives offer advantages in any type of equipment as we have seen and can be used in all types of computer equipment, laptops, tablets or desktops, either replacing hard drives or next to them to maintain greater storage capacity economically. The combinations are varied and will depend on the needs and budget of each user.

The offer is very wide and any of the major manufacturers (Samsung, Kingston, OCZ-Toshiba, SanDisk-WD, Seagate, Intel) or integrators that use the memories of the above (Corsair, Crucial, ADATA …) market interesting models varied in formats, performance, capacity and price. Since our last guide, the offer of PCIe drives has increased to the detriment of those that connect to SATA, although there is anything you are looking for.

Here’s a representative selection of what’s on offer separated by connection interface. We add a sample of external drives, another purchase option that has been gaining ground in recent years and that like internal drives offers multiple benefits over hard drives.


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Samsung 980 PRO. It has TLC memory and Elpis controller (both from the company) and although it is not the fastest on the market, with 6,400 MB/s read â 2,700 MB/s write, it is one of the reference models in PCIe 4.0. It includes a large amount of cache (512 MB LPDDR4) and has a 5-year warranty. It is marketed from 250 GB to 2 TB, from 79 euros. Review here.

SSD: Formats, interfaces, features and buying guide 40

SSD: Formats, interfaces, features and buying guide 42

WD_BLACK SN850. It uses TLC 3D NAND memory from Kioxia (Toshiba), its own controller and is one of the fastest on the market by taking advantage of PCIe 4.0: 7,000 MB/s read â 5,100 MB/s write and up to one million IOPS read. With a five-year warranty and a very high TBW life, it is available from 500 GB for 111 euros, although the most attractive model in cost per GB is the 1TB for 184 euros. Review here.

SSDs: form factors, interfaces, features and buying guide 40

SSD: Formats, interfaces, features and buying guide 42

Corsair MP600 PRO XT. The newest in the list and probably the fastest: 7,100 MB/s and 6,800 MB/s in sequential read and write. It stands out in the cooling section as it mounts a spectacular memory heatsink as standard. It has a five-year warranty and lifetime endurance because the Tbytes written will not be able to reach them in normal use. The 1 Tbyte version is priced at 200 euros and if you want more you have 2 and 4 Tbytes.

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Kingston KC2500. One of the best PCIe 3.0 SSDs on the market with TLC memory, Silicon Motion controller and speeds of 3,500 / 2,900 MBytes per second. Highlight the built-in hardware encryption with comprehensive data protection with 256-bit XTS-AES and five-year warranty. Available in capacities from 250 GB to 2 TB, starting at 50 euros. Review here.

SSD: Formats, interfaces, features and buying guide 40

SSD: Formats, interfaces, features and buying guide 42

Crucial P5 Plus. More economical than the previous ones, it uses in-house memory (TLC from Micron) and offers speeds of 6,600 MB/s in sequential reads and remarkable write speeds: 5,000 MB/s. The 500 GB model is priced at 98 euros, although the most attractive at the moment is the 1 TB model for 153 euros.

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Seagate FireCuda 520. The other big hard disk drive also has a good solid storage offering. It offers maximum sequential read and write speeds of up to 5,000 MB/s and 4,400 MB/s, with capacities starting at 500 GB for 100 euros.

SSDs: form factors, interfaces, features and buying guide 40

SSD: Formats, interfaces, features and buying guide 42


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Samsung SSD 870 EVO. Surely the best selling among the 2.5″ SATA. Mounts memories and own controller and achieves the maximum performance that allows SATA with sequential speeds of 560/530 MB / s. It offers capacities from 250 GB to 4 Tbytes of capacity from 52 euros. The intermediate version of 1 TB costs 109 euros.

SSD: Formats, interfaces, features, and buying guide 40

SSD: Formats, interfaces, features and buying guide 42

Crucial MX500. In a 2.5″ form factor, it mounts Micron memory and offers sequential reads/writes up to 560/510MB and random reads/writes up to 95/90K. They have a 5 year warranty and offer capacities from 250 GB to 4 Tbytes of capacity. Very economical, they start at 44 euros and currently the most interesting in capacity/price is the 1 Tbyte for 90 euros.

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SSD: Formats, interfaces, features and buying guide 42

Kingston SKC600B. Mounts Toshiba memory and Silicon Motion controller for 550 / 520 Mbytes per second sequential read / write. It stands out for its support for comprehensive security packages for data backup, XTS-AES compatible hardware-based 256-bit XTS-AES self-encryption and TCG Opal 2.0 security management solutions. With a five-year warranty, it offers capacities from 256GB to 2TB with prices starting at ¤49. Review here.

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SanDisk Plus. Another of the most representative of the SATA 2.5″, mounts own memories for a performance of 535 MB/s in reading, although in writing falls a little to 450 MB/s. Its price makes up for it, as the 1TB version costs 89 euros. It offers other capacities from 120 GB for 39 euros.

SSD: Formats, interfaces, features and buying guide 40

SSD: Formats, interfaces, features and buying guide 42

KIOXIA Exceria. The new brand of what used to be Toshiba Memory, they mount memories of the house and data transfer up to 555 Mbytes in sequential reading. The 1 Tbyte version is priced at 98 euros and offers other capacities such as 240 GB for only 31 euros.

SSD: Formats, Interfaces, Features and Buying Guide 42

SSD: Formats, interfaces, features and buying guide 40

WD Blue. The world’s leading manufacturer of hard drives also has an interesting offer of SSDs, such as this model with sequential read speeds of up to 560 MB/s and sequential write speeds of up to 530 MB/s. The 1 TB model is priced at 99 euros and offers others up to 4 TB or the smallest, 250 GB for 39 euros.

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External SSDs

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WD My Passport Portable SSD. Supports NVMe protocol to offer more than 1,000 Mbytes per second in read / write. It is offered in capacities of 500 GB, 1 TB and 2 TB, from 95 euros.

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Kingston XS2000. New last month with a minimal size that can be carried anywhere in a pocket and connects to a USB Type-C port. IP55 certified for water, dust and shock resistance, it offers ultra-high performance with 2,000 Mbytes per second data transfer in both sequential read and write. You get the 500 GB version for 97 euros.

SSD: Formats, interfaces, features and buying guide 42

SSD: Formats, interfaces, features, buying guide 40

SanDisk External SSD. Small in size, robust and highly mobile. The company offers standard drives at 520 Mbytes per second, the Extreme (1000 MB/sec) and the Pro that offer 2,000 MB/sec. They offer all kinds of capacities and the base version of 1 Tbyte is priced at 118 euros.

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WD_BLACK P50. Specially designed for gamers on consoles and PCs who need additional storage for their games. Its performance is very high up to 2,000 MB/s sequential read. It has an attractive and resistant casing and is sold in capacities from 500 Gbytes to 4 Tbytes. The 1 TB version is priced at 218 euros.

SSD: Formats, interfaces, features and buying guide 40

Seagate BarraCuda Fast SSD. All-purpose external SSD with a small size, attractive design and good performance connected to a USB Type-C port (540 â 500 Mbytes/sec). It is marketed in capacities of 500 GB, 1 and 2 TB from 94 euros. (If you are interested, we analyze it here).

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– Samsung T7. Small size, low weight, resistant and with speeds of 1,050 Mbytes per second. It is available in 500 GB, 1 and 2 Tbytes capacities, with prices starting at 89 euros.

SSD: Formats, interfaces, features and buying guide 40

SSD: Formats, interfaces, features and buying guide 42

Note: This selection of offers contains some links from our affiliates, but we are notor none of the products included have been suggested or recommended by them or their manufacturers, but chosen at our own discretion.

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