Best M.2 NVME SSD for laptop

We have installed and benchmarked eight different drives today including low end budget drives and high performance SSDs such as the Samsung 970 Evo+.

So…which brand should you buy?

We will be discussing that today.

Ten years ago most people did not use a solid-state drive of any kind and they were small and expensive.

It wasn’t until five years ago that Solid State Drives became mainstream.

Starting with an excellent series of drives, the Samsung 840 Evo.

Which I own for my desktop computer, and then two years ago I did a comparison video of various SSDs.

one for hard drives using serial ATA and one for newer NVME drives.

Upgrading An Older Computer To SSD

If you have not before upgraded an older computer from a hard drive to an SSD.

I can tell you it can make quite a difference in the speed and performance of the computer.

but if you are building a new machine today and are using one of the latest Intel core processors.

Then NVM Express (NVME) is where it’s at.

NVME stands for Non-Volatile Memory Express

which is a really fancy way of saying that the storage is flash memory.

Which can be accessed over the PCI Express bus.

These are actually PCI-E expansion cards in an m.2 form factor.

As opposed to something that slides into some sort of expansion slot; it is X4 or 4 lanes per PCI-E.

M.2 is not directly related to NVME

it is just a different way to connect NVME drives.

There is a commonly held misconception that SATA drives are only 2.5-Inch in physical size.

When in fact they can be physically smaller or equal in size to the M.2 variant.

Most current SATA drives use Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI).

here’s an important point – you can have AHCI drives in 2.5″ form and NVME drives in the m.2 format.

There is a standard called U.2 that nobody adopted and is no longer widely used.

As you can see, this right here is a really good example of that.

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This is two M.2 drives, one is SATA, and one is NVME.

In this way both drives will be the same format.

We are discussing today NVM Express and frankly, at this time, that is what you should be purchasing.

Here is a brief summary, without going into too much detail.

NVME is better than AHCI in almost every way.

They did not use it for hard drives because they could not have utilized it to their advantage.

Hard drives with NAND flash have faster random-access times, taking advantage of the superior NVME protocol.

This is why it is used for SSDs.

The old interface was intended for hard drives, however it did not work particularly well with Solid State Drives.

This has changed now with the arrival of the NVME interface, and so life goes on.

How big a hard drive do I need?

Once upon a time, 256 Gigabyte Solid State Drives were considered monstrous, but those days are gone.

One terabyte of NVME memory can now be bought for about $100.

At that price point, I truly believe that most individuals should get a one terabyte hard drive for an everyday computer.

To make a secondary backup computer.

One which is not used very much, you should have a drive of one terabyte.

It will also be good to have a backup computer which is used only from time to time.

Something which is quite small, however, you can definitely use a smaller hard drive.

Many types of storage can become too small for a machine or operating system over a relatively short period of time.

Now Days They Are Relatively Inexpensive

On the other hand, hard drives are relatively inexpensive and can usually be changed out as needed.

In addition, unlike hard drives, SSDs tend to be faster and longer-lasting as they get larger.

1 Terabyte drives are generally a bit faster than the 500 gig versions.

They generally have double the total storage capacity of the drive.

Although this is not a factor for most people, and generally you will have a better overall experience on that drive.

The drive also contains a larger buffer or cache for instances when you require your computer to be able to handle multiple large requests simultaneously.

As of their latest price reduction.

I recommend getting the 1 terabyte model unless you are very constrained for cash.

2 terabytes is not a crazy amount of space, but let’s talk about it in a moment.

Video Games Are Becoming Larger

In addition, video games are becoming larger and more complex, so game designers rely on disk drives to stream data into the games.

If you don’t like having your microphone cut off especially in open-world games or fast-paced games.

Also, games that change the maps often, then you might want to install your most modern games on an SSD.

Moreover, if you do not load the game completely, you will get repeated texture pops, accompanied by annoying delays, during game play.

As for its size, Call of Duty Black Ops 4 takes up 140 gigabytes.

Even games such as Grand Theft Auto Five which are now quite old (being released in Sept. 2013) have ballooned to over 80 gigabytes in size.

Half of the regularly benchmarked games today are pushing a hundred terabytes each.

if you want any further indication that you should set aside one terabyte of storage for your boot drive, not to mention your game and data drive.

Booting From An NVME Drive

In order to boot your operating system from an NVME drive, you must have a motherboard with native support for it.

Intel has begun supporting NVME with the fourth generation of processors, beginning with the nine hundred series of motherboards.

The Z97 motherboards usually have one M2 slot.

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Although those weren’t full-speed slots.

It is of no consequence to me because I have an NVME drive installed in my Z97 Setup on my i747 90k.

It was when we switched from slots operating at 100 MHz to 125 MHz that compatibility became an issue.

Newer Computers Should Be Utilizing M.2

Any new computer should also have a M.2 slot.

AMD started supporting NVME with its Ryzen processors in 2017.

A SATA SSD provides sufficient storage for anyone with a computer that truly needs significant storage.

Perhaps you might want to add a second solid-state drive to your machine now, with the intention of making it your primary boot device once your main system has been upgraded at some point in the future.

Adding M.2 To An Older Computer

This is a PCI Express 4x card plugged into a M.2 slot because an M.2 slot is just 4 PCI Express lanes.

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This will allow you to make the connection between the wires and the printed circuit board.

It can be installed in just about anything.

A 10 year old I7-920 will run this and it will be able to act as a data drive.

It is not a boot disk, but a data storage device.

Therefore, go ahead and buy the NVME drive of your choice and place it inside your old system.

making sure to remove it when you upgrade so that it can be placed into the new computer as a boot drive.

Another advantage of this card for any computer user is that it makes installation much easier.

You need a 2.5-inch drive, a power cable from your power supply, an SATA data cable, four drive screws for mounting your system, a place to put it, and cable management.

Insert the card into the card reader. Put the drive into the computer. You’re done.

The installation takes just a minute and is very easy.

Even if you have an older computer.

Especially if you have an older PC with a PCI Express 2.0 slot.

You will still be able to run this at half speed, but there is a price to pay: installing a budget drive. It will still not matter for this problem.

Even if you have a 7, 8 or 9 year old computer, installing more internal storage is a simple way to go.

if you have a PCI Express 4 or greater slot to put it into.

finally, as a final point, a question which many people ask is what is the difference between single-level cells (SLC), multi-level cells (MLC), tri-level cells (TLC), and quad-level cells (QLC).

What Is The Difference Between SLC, MLC, TLC and QLC

The SLC mode uses one bit of information per NAND memory cell.

mLC is two bits per NAND memory cell

TLC is three and QLC is four.

Dramatically speaking, the difficulties of implementing QLC are significantly greater than the difficulties in implementing TLC.

However you receive much more storage for your buck, which is why the hard disk drive companies do it.

We have not used SLC drives in a long time.

The early generations of NAND were SLC (Single Level Cell).

But they quickly shifted to MLC (Multi Level Cell).

The majority of the drives are TLC tri-level cell and three bits per cell, and two of them are QLC.

the Intel 660 P

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and the Crucial P1.

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They run slower by default.

These drives do use some form of buffering, however, random write performance is nevertheless fast, due to the use of a cache on the device.

The Intel 660 P combines SLC (1 bit per cell) memory with MLC memory (2 bits per cell).

The amount of capacity that you have depends upon the size of the hard drive and how full it is, because it lessens a bit as the hard drive fills.

Although the read speed and the write speed to its Solid State Cache is very good.

The performance of the QLC memory on those is not actually that great as you might expect.

However, there’s really no need for concern unless you plan on writing hundreds of gigabytes of data to the drive on a regular basis without giving it a chance to breathe every once in a while.

even if you intend to write 10, 20, or even 30 gigabytes, it will not be a problem.
You can only have a problem with this if you are trying to write large amounts of data to it.

In case large amounts of writing are to be done on a regular basis, a hard drive other than the Cloud would probably be more appropriate.

Does The Cache Matter?

Although you might think that one of the other caches is better, in the real world it makes very little difference.

Furthermore, even the TLC of the other drives is quite a bit slower than the benchmark figures alone can indicate as they either have DRAM buffers or SLC caches of their own.

Although the drives’ capacity is smaller than the QLC ones in order that they might buffer incoming, especially random writes and pick up performance.

Samsung’s 970 PRO and EVO SSDs are excellent examples of modern MLC drives.

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These are expensive. This is a superior grade, two level cell, and this will run at its top speed throughout the run of the drive.

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You probably won’t need this.

 It is a small percentage of people who do it.

The 970 EVO is a TLC NAND drive, as such it possesses a lower theoretical maximum write ceiling than some drives.

Samsung makes spectacular hard drives, they are expensive but nonetheless they are still very high quality.

Now, I actually have that particular disk in the thread Ripper machine which is my primary hardware device used to create content for YouTube.

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I work intensively with it, so I have a professional-grade hard drive installed, however unless you are using it for video production (4K resolution at 60 frames per second) for your job, as I do, then it should be fine.

You may not need an expensive Pro drive.

There are other factors that also matter, like the exact nature of the NAND in the drive and how it may affect the format of the drive in our use.

Drive Write Life

don’t worry about how much write life the drives have.

unless you intentionally mistreat the computer, and if you have not heard of this before all flash memory wears out eventually.

Unlike hard disks, NAND memory cells have a limited number of writes that they can handle, and all of these controllers compensate by using algorithms to minimize data sorting on the board, spreading out writes across the device to lessen the risk of wearing out one area.

These will become worn out long before they are obsolete.

I have owned solid-state drives since 2010.

I still have the original drives I used in 2010.

No hard drives in my computer have used up more than 10% of their total lifetime write capacity.

Most of my hard drives are at 98 or 97 percent of total remaining writes.

However, if you are concerned about it, you should rest assured that it is not as big of a deal as it may sound.

It is time to move on to some benchmarks.

Let us begin with sequential and then move on to random performance.

First, I’d like to discuss sequential read and write performance.

these are the “wow, look at this” moments where we have data speeds of 3.5 gigabits per second (3.5 Gb/s) – that’s super fast

when compared to the transfer rates of 500-550 megabytes per second, these are substantially faster rates.

With some drives you will instantly notice that the Crucial P1 and the Intel 660p are slower and oddly somehow the sequential write speed of the Intel 760p is 50% of the other drives.

However it’s upsides are effectively offset by its downsides; for example, the sequential read and sequential write speeds of the other standard TLC-based SSDs.

such as the ADATA S510 and Sebert Rocket, are both faster than the Samsung 830.

The 970 Evo Plus and the Western Digital Black SN750 are in the same three-and-a-half-gigabytes-per-second band.

It appears quite impressive.

However, unless you are transferring files directly from one identical hard disk to another identical hard disk.

I think you will not find this transfer rate occurring very often and I am wondering whether or not this really matters in day-to-day use.

While that is a subjective concern, it can be examined based upon the speed of load time, the launch time, and the length of time needed to install and launch applications.

Me, having used so many of these drives in practical circumstances, I can inform you that 

Random Matters More Than Sequential

Here are some test results of random reads and writes.

still a stunning performance but naturally not as high as the original.

Now we are getting into the specifics of actual normal desktop user experience.

This is eight threads of depth on eight cores.

This is not going to be the experience on a single-user desktop running several programs simultaneously, with a web browser open, playing a video while playing a game.

Intensive, high demand project with a high workload.

It makes the numbers really impressive.

It also enables multiple controllers and multiple data channels enabling the device to achieve higher throughput performance.

Queue Depth 32 – Thread Count 1 – MB/s

However, this is not the sort of thing you will see on an everyday basis.

what has been changed here is the queue depth is 32 but the thread count is one.

What I’m saying is that one person is creating one thread that will handle multiple things or work on two different programs or access two different databases.

but in general this is more indicative of the high demand workloads placed by a single program on these hard drives.

what we are seeing here is a consistent level of performance across the board.

A read speed of roughly 500 MBps and a write speed of roughly 400 to 500 MBps.

All differences were leveled out when the thread count was reduced.

If we do not use the queue depth count, performance numbers become meaningless.

Queue Depth 1 – Thread Count 1 – MB/s

This is more down-to-earth and more realistic than any of those drive companies.

Because you will never see this kind of speeds advertised on the box or on the packaging or in the online advertising or wherever you look.

Based on our own testing, the Western Digital Black hard drive has an average random read rate of about 45 megabytes per second and it has an average random write rate of about 146 megabytes per second.

Random write speeds are higher in solid state hard drives because they all have some form of a cache;

a dram buffer or they have a small amount of flash memory that is faster than the rest of the drive and the flash memory allows for the buffer of the incoming writes.

so random writes coming in out of order the drive could take storing the buffer rearrange and then write out to the drive.

Which is why the random write speed is so much faster than the random read speed.

Keep in mind that even the spectacular Samsung 970 EVO Plus only does 65 megabytes per second when reading random data.

In comparison to the lowest drives available from online stores, the Sabrent Rocket and to my surprise, the $72.77 AddLink S70 and in my opinion.

The Western Digital Black SN750, are both better deals.

These are all genuine differences.

There is a genuine difference between, say, a Samsung and a Sabrent, however, it may not be detectable in actual use.

While that may be true if you’re doing intensive tasks such as installing one of these drives in a high-end desktop, surely any NVME drive will be better than a SATA drive for normal consumer workloads on the desktop.

It really won’t make much of a difference which brand of hard drive you purchase.

Except to say, the price tag is not the only thing that I think one should consider when making an acquisition.

Price Per Gigabyte

Therefore, I suggest that we do this. Here are the prices per gigabyte of each of these drives.

In my opinion, the Samsung 970 Evo Plus is one of the best NVME drives.

I recommend you buy this drive, it is amazing!

Sabrent Rocket Is Half The Price Is It Worth it?

The Sabrent Rocket however is half the price of the 970 Evo plus and is really close in performance.

It is not quite perfect, here and there is room for improvement.

Samsung has the advantage of a longer warranty, better endurance, and better tools. Samsung’s cloning software is an excellent tool.

If you can afford it, go ahead and buy the Samsung.

They are remarkable drives, however you can buy twice the space from some other manufacturer for the same price.

I have mentioned the crucial p1 and the Intel 660 P before.

They serve the purpose well and if you prefer brand names, then get the Micron and everybody knows Intel among other computer manufacturers.

Excellent companies and warranty vs price

They are excellent drives with excellent warranties and excellent companies standing behind them, however, performance-wise the Sabrent Rocket is actually the winner in this case.

The ADATA SX 8200 is the closest in quality if its price were only a touch lower, because ADATA is a larger firm and more familiar to the public, and its warranty and support network are better developed.

The Intel 760 P is a quality drive, however it costs too much in comparison with other alternatives and I am disappointed with the Western Digital Black.

I will link to all of these below, but in my opinion the Sabrent Rocket, the Intel 660p and the crucial P1 are the three you should look at.

The ADATA SX 8200 Pro series may all be considered, but honestly any of those drives would provide wonderful performance and would probably be much faster anyhow vs the drive currently in your computer.

Bottom Line

In short, buy based upon price!

regardless of the brand you choose, your modern computer will enjoy the experience and it is unlikely you will notice a difference between them.

to be honest, even though I own a pair of them myself, I find it hard to tell the difference under normal desktop user conditions.

For an Intel 660p M.2 2 TB drive is less than $200.

That is twice the storage capacity for less money and in most instances most people won’t be able to tell the difference between those two drives.

So, before you think you need to purchase the most premium of drives, consider the value of some less expensive ones.

In my judgement, both drives, the Sabrent Rocket and the AddLink drive, were thoroughly impressive.

For the price, they performed remarkably well.

at the time the Sabrent was $100 cheaper, or $110 versus Samsung’s $220 and the results have been really good.

The only disadvantages are a shorter warranty and a company you’ve probably never heard of.

Instead of Intel or Crucial, which are their consumer brands, Micron is its corporate brand which is likely to be around for the next four to five years.

Regardless of which one you choose, you will not be able to go wrong with either.

In my opinion, the SX 8200 Pro is also a superb mid-range alternative that offers solid performance.

Is not as quick as the Samsung, nonetheless it is quite fast and can be got for under 150 dollars for the one terabyte size.

This is quite impressive.

As I mentioned earlier, one TB should be the minimum for most consumers.

The fact that one can purchase a 2 TB hard drive for under $200 pleases me greatly.

it is impressive when you consider the historical prices of SSDs.

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