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Don't have a solid state drive? These five SSDs will help you get with the times, on any budget

best solid state drives intel  series ssd
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Are you looking for a massive upgrade to your computer storage? We probably don’t have to tell you about the lightning-fast speeds that solid state drives provide: The best SSD options are now bigger, more affordable, and more compatible than ever, which makes this a good time to buy. If you’re looking for a storage option that also comes with a significant speed boost, we have the top options in several different price ranges for you to consider.

Related: The Fasetto Link allows for 2TB of storage and wireless transfers without Wi-Fi

Note on hard drive capacity: Some companies quote capacity after overhead, and others before. This leads to uneven rounding practices, and explains why you see some drives at 256GB and some at 250GB. Even then, it’s rare for a drive to have exactly its stated capacity, though variance is generally less than 10GB.

Note on SATA vs. PCIe: SATA – specifically SATA III – and PCI Express (PCIe) are two interface options for your SSDs. SATA drives are still very, very common, but PCIe is quicker. Most people don’t need a PCIe drive, at least not yet, but high-end drives in particular benefit from it.

Under $100: Samsung 850 EVO 250GB ($85)

Samsung 850 EVO 250GB

This 2.5-inch SSD gets a lot of attention as a broadly excellent upgrade choice for a variety of needs. Samsung has plenty of experience creating solid state drives, and the 850 EVO is one of the best SSD products yet, combining both simplicity and quality performance.

The interface for this drive is SATA 6Gb/s, with a sequential read speed of 540 megabytes per second and a write speed of 520 MBps. Reviews have shown it to be one of the quickest SATA drives available.

Like most of the SSDs on our list, the Evo comes in several different size options ranging from 120GB to 2TB of storage, with costs varying accordingly. We picked the 250GB version for a couple reasons. It’s a good size for an all-purpose SSD designed for the general user, and it provides a widely-shared base storage number to help you compare it with other models.

While MSRP says the drives cost $100 and $150, don’t worry – the model has been broadly marked down under $90, making it the best option for an SSD under $100.

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Under $200: Samsung 850 Pro 256GB ($122)

amsung 850 Pro 256GB

Get used to the Samsung models, because they keep getting top marks in multiple price ranges. The 850 Pro gets praise as an ideal upgrade for a performance-focused computer made for games or entertainment. It utilizes Samsung’s 3D V-NAND memory — it’s the first in Samsung’s library of SSDs to use it — interfaces via SATA III, and has a sequential read speed up to 550 MBps and a write speed up to 520 MBps.

Except for a few data format differences, you may think this model isn’t much different from the Evo we just talked about. But those data differences add up to a generally faster, slightly more capacious model that’s a better fit for high-end computers – and very attractive in light of falling prices that help make the Pro and Evo more direct competitors.

The 850 Pro comes with options ranging from 128GB to 2TB. Again, the 256GB model, which can be found between $130 and $160, stood out as a well-rounded option.

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Under $300: SanDisk Extreme Pro SSD 480GB ($194)

SanDisk Extreme Pro SSD 480GB

This is another great SSD model that gets frequent recommendations for upgraders and has our full support. Note that we picked the 480GB version as a larger option for more robust storage options, but there are three different sizes available depending on your needs.

The SanDisk Extreme Pro offers sequential read speeds up to 550MBs and write speeds up to 515MBs, along with a few SanDisk features such as nCache Pro to help make storage management easier. At 10 years, the limited warranty is also longer than most and should easily last the life of your SSD.

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Under $400: Samsung 950 Pro 512GB ($323)

Samsung 950 Pro 512GB

If you need more space than a few hundred GBs and are interested in a high-quality, forward-looking SSD, we highly recommend the 950 Pro 512GB from Samsung. Some of the specs are indeed similar to the 850 Pro model, including 3D V-NAND, but the differences are stark. The 950 gets sequential read speeds up to 2,500 megabytes per second and write speeds up to 1,500MBps, making it one of the best SSD options in terms of speed. Samsung also claims that it is 1.5 times more power efficient than the 850 model.

Why such a big difference between the two models? This is the first PCI Express-only model on our list. Replacing SATA with this newer interface allows for a bundle of new tricks, including better performance for certain types of data and greater compatibility with cutting edge protocols designed to increase efficiency. Of course, you should make sure that your computer can handle PCI Express attachments before jumping on the 950. These days it shouldn’t be a problem, but it never hurts to check.

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Any Price: Intel 750 Series 1.2TB ($1,050)

Intel 750 Series 1.2TB

While we mentioned PCI Express, we haven’t yet talked about NVMe, or Non-Volatile Memory Express. It’s a very similar connection standard that uses the same physical interface, but also adds additional features specifically for storage purposes. The Intel 750 SSD shows off the advantages of this approach with its flexible installation options and high speeds.

This is obviously going to make the drive extra fast — in ideal scenarios, it can exceed transfer speeds of two gigabytes per second — but the high-end SSD has other advantages, too. One of the most interesting is the choice between add-in card and 2.5-inch form factors, which allow you to pick a design that fits your upgrade plans and current drive standards. The lightning speeds and compatibility of the card put it on the top of our list, but you’ll have to pay at least $1,000 for the 1TB model. Just make sure you really want it!

Read our full review

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