February 24, 2020
SSDs have begun to replace conventional hard drives at a rapid pace. Although HDDs offer the lowest price per GB and are available in extremely high capacities, even the fastest hard drives cannot match the speed of low-end SSDs. Previously, we have seen some of the best NVMe SSDs people can buy. Now, we shall have a look at some of the best SATA SSDs on the market.
As the name implies, SATA SSDs connect to the SATA interface, which maxes out at 6 GB/s or about 600 MB/s. These are still slower than NVMe drives, but they are much faster than traditional hard drives. SATA SSDs offer a reasonably affordable way of upgrading your storage. Like the NVMe SSDs, SATA SSDs are also comprised of a controller that contains the firmware and individual NAND chips that store data.
When buying a SATA SSD, you should consider the sequential read and write, random reads and writes, and the endurance rating. Most drives have decent endurance ratings and an extended warranty period, so you need not worry about this much. However, you should consider buying the maximum possible storage capacity you can afford since the higher the storage density is, the greater is the performance of flash memory.
With that information, here are the 8 best SATA SSDs that you can buy in 2020 for booting the OS, gaming, and for creative workflows.
The Samsung 860 EVO launched in 2018 but continues to be one of the best performing SATA SSDs even today. The 860 EVO is available in capacities ranging from 250 GB to 4 TB. As with most SSDs, you get the best performance and endurance with higher capacities than the entry-level ones. The 860 EVO can also be found in both M.2 and SATA formats depending on your requirement. However, the SATA variants are found to be the better-performing ones in general. Samsung rates the 860 EVO as having a 550 MB/s and 520 MB/s sequential read and write speeds, respectively. While these are top-of-the-line speeds, they are in line with what a vast majority of the SATA SSDs offer. As such, any performance benefits - if any - will only be known in synthetic benchmarks.
Samsung offers an excellent endurance rating for this drive at about 2400 TB, which is high enough even for professional use. If you need the absolute best in terms of SATA-based SSD storage, the Samsung 860 EVO is the one to get.
While the Samsung 860 EVO offers great performance for almost any application, the 860 Pro is the one to get if performance is your top-most consideration. Even with many PCs increasingly opting for the best NVMe SSDs, the Samsung 860 Pro still manages to hold its ground despite being restricted to the SATA interface. Samsung offers the 860 Pro in capacities up to 4 TB, and this model is more expensive than the EVO due to its higher endurance rating and the use of a 2-cell MLC NAND flash. The 860 Pro is known for its blazing-fast transfer speeds that make the maximum use of the SATA interface. The drive aces all synthetic benchmarks and is also very power-efficient, making it a great option for laptops. The Samsung 860 Pro is also the first SATA SSD certified for use in a NAS, and it also works great with Linux.
Like other Samsung SSDs, the 860 Pro comes with the Samsung Magician software, which is among the best SSD software available today. Samsung Magician includes a host of features such as firmware updates and drive maintenance tools. Samsung also offers a Data Migration Tool that allows easy migration of OS and data from an older HDD or SSD. Although NVMe drives are increasingly becoming more affordable, the Samsung 860 Pro still is one of the best SATA SSD for almost any kind of workload. Creatives and multimedia professionals especially stand to gain from its high sequential and random I/O speeds.
Not many SATA SSDs can fully compete with what the Samsung 860 EVO, but the Crucial MX500 is an exception. The Crucial MX500 is probably the best value SATA SSD available on the market with a performance that matches the 860 EVO in more than one way. Micron makes the Crucial series, so you know that you are are getting quality 3D NAND chips with a high endurance rating. The MX500 uses a 64-layer 3D NAND that brings much-needed improvements in terms of performance and cost, compared to the previous 768-Gbit generation. The Crucial SSD comes with features that enhance its reliability compared to other SATA SSDs. A data protection feature prevents loss of data during power surges, and a Data Write Acceleration feature uses a dynamic SLC buffer to boost performance without loss of actual storage capacity to the user. The MX500 can be used on both standard 3.5-inch drive bays (with an adaptor) or thin notebooks.
Crucial offers the Storage Executive software to help you keep a tab on parameters such as the SSD's health, maintenance status, firmware updates, etc. An interesting feature in Storage Executive is the option to use system RAM as a temporary buffer before writing the data to the SSD. Crucial calls this Momentum Cache, and while it does improve write performance, it also consumes a lot of power. The Crucial MX500 is a highly recommended SATA SSD to use as your operating system drive if you are looking to transition from a traditional hard drive-based workflow. The gains are immediately visible while still being economical, compared to most other SATA SSDs on the market.
The Western Digital (WD) Blue 3D NAND SATA SSD is an improved version of the 2D NAND SATA SSD that was available till recently. With the 3D NAND version, WD aims to directly take on the likes of Samsung while still offering the price advantage. The WD Blue 3D NAND SATA SSD is also available under the SanDisk Ultra 3D SSD moniker. Essentially, both products are the same with the same specifications, including the use of a Marvell 88SS1074 controller, so you should be good with either of them. The use of BiCS 3 NAND flash helps the WD Blue SATA SSD to offer consistent read and write performance in the 500 MB/s range. The SSD is also suitable for moderate loads and even for gaming.
Comparison with the Samsung SATA SSDs, especially the EVO series, is inevitable, but the WD SSD comes very close to that of the 850 EVO, which is a feat in itself. The WD drive has the price advantage that is not found in Samsung, which makes it one of the best affordable SATA SSDs in the market. The WD SSD works great as a boot drive and can handle the majority of consumer workloads without breaking a sweat. A 400 TB endurance rating ensures peace of mind, as well. For those who need a similar performance in an M.2 form factor, the WD Blue 3D NAND SATA SSD is a good option. If you have slightly more demanding workloads, its cousin, the Sandisk Ultra 3D, would be a better choice.
The Kingston UV500 is the successor to the budget UV400 series, and it is available in 2.5-inch, M.2, and mSATA formats in capacities ranging from 120 GB to 1.96 TB. The UV500 is powered by a Marvell 88SS1074 controller and features a 64-layer 3D TLC NAND flash. Kingston advertises sequential read and write speeds of 520 and 500 MB/s, respectively, for all capacities in the series except for the 120 GB variant. While the sequential reads and writes are on par with the competition, the Kingston UV500 does take a hit when it comes to random reads and writes, topping out at just 79 K and 45 K IOPS, respectively. Real performance figures might be even lower, depending on the workload.
Kingston offers the SSD Manager tool to manage various aspects of the drive, including firmware updates and health. The Kingston UV500 is one of the few consumer SATA SSDs to sport both 256-bit data encryption and TCG Opal 2.0, so it can also be used in an enterprise setup. The Marvel controller also offers error-correction and low-density parity-check (LDPC). Despite these features, the Kingston UV500 is not the fastest-performing drive, by comparison. If you are not after a top-of-the-line performance and just need a basic upgrade from a traditional HDD, the Kingston UV500 can be a good option.
The HP SSD S700 Pro is designed for those who need a reliable storage solution for long-term use. The drive comes in capacities ranging from 128 GB to 1 TB. The HP S700 Pro offers everything expected from a high-end consumer SATA SSD including the use of 3D NAND and a proprietary HP controller. This enables the driver to deliver sequential read speeds up to 570 MB/s and writes up to 525 MB/s, which are some of the highest numbers possible using a SATA interface. Random reads and writes are on the high side as well. HP rates the S700 Pro at around 650 TBW endurance, which is among the highest in mainstream SATA SSDs. The high IOPS speeds mean that the S700 Pro can manage all types of workloads without flinching.
Another advantage of the S700 Pro is its price. Although it launched as a premium product a few years ago, the prices have since come down drastically, and the 1 TB version can be had for less than $150, making it an absolute bargain - considering the speed and features on offer. The S700 Pro also offers other features such as Dynamic Write Acceleration (DWA), the hardware encryption of data, thermal cooling, a 1 GB DRAM cache, and a higher-order low-density parity-check making it one of the most feature-rich SATA SSDs on the market.
Gigabyte's first entry into the SSD market is the UD series, and the UD Pro comes in capacities of 256 GB and 512 GB. The UD Pro 512 GB uses the old but popular Phison S10 SATA controller that is paired with BiCS3 3D TLC NAND. The UD Pro offers a standard feature set found in other SSDs, but the use of an older controller does show its weakness in benchmarks. Gigabyte advertises sequential read and write speeds up to the SLC cache, but the actual numbers drop when the data is being written from the cache to NAND. For light workloads, this may go unnoticed by the majority of users, but those looking to use this drive for heavy workloads (such as content creation) may have to consider this aspect. The endurance rating for the drive is at a respectable 200 TBW, but we have seen other drives offer much higher ratings. Nevertheless, regular users will not be hitting that value any time soon, so there is no need to worry.
For most people upgrading from conventional HDDs, the Gigabyte UD Pro 512 offers a good stepping stone. But there are some considerations needed before committing to it. Game load times are higher compared to the competition, and performance in synthetic benchmarks is on the lower side. Gigabyte also does not bundle any extra utilities with the UD Pro. You may not need them for the most part, but it is a glaring omission given the fact that the competition offers them. The Gigabyte UD Pro 512 GB is an easy recommendation if you are looking for the best SATA SSD under $100, provided high-end performance is not something that you are looking at.
The Kingston KC600 is one of the latest entrants in the SATA SSD space. The KC600 is available in capacities ranging from 256 GB to 2 TB, though the latter is yet to be available. The KC600 uses a 96-layer TLC NAND that is managed by a Silicon Motion 2269 controller. A portion of the TLC NAND is designated as SLC NAND that serves as a secondary cache. Kingston offers a 5-year warranty and a 600 TBW endurance rating for the 1 TB model. The KC600 also offers AES 256-bit data encryption and TCG Opal support, so businesses can easily incorporate this into their workflow.
Performance-wise, the KC600 comes close to most best performing SATA SSDs in this list, making it an ideal solution for both gaming and booting your operating system. It offers a sustained I/O performance without any speed drops even while writing large files, making it a good choice for content creators as well. As with most SSDs, you'd do best to opt for a higher-end model to achieve the maximum possible sequential reads.
Dear readers, that was a look at some of the best SATA SSDs on the market today. Do remember that, while almost any SSD would give an instant performance uplift over a traditional HDD, you should look into important specs - such as the random I/O, sequential I/O, and endurance ratings if you want a long-term trouble-free operation.