Hail SATA: Performance SATA Solid State Drive Roundup

Despite the performance benefits, PCIe SSDs remain an expensive niche market. That means that most of us are not going to be loading up a high end system with PCIe SSDs. Most of us mere mortals will be using SATA SSDs. We tested some of the best SATA drives with enthusiast-friendly price tags.

Introduction

Good, fast, cheap; pick a maximum of two. While typically considered in the context of services for hire, this Unholy Trinity of aspects that allows consumers to, on a rigid and mutually-exclusive basis, have or eat their cake also makes up the foundation of product planning. In the SSD and storage space, product line segmentation has become increasingly clear in recent history. Until last year or so, most manufacturers offered a few thinly-differentiated lines of SATA drives. With impenetrable alphanumeric naming schemes used by most vendors, unless you lived and breathed this stuff, you’d probably find yourself quickly looking up which is the "fast one" when SSDs came up in discussion.

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Technological and manufacturing achievements have made the "good and fast" dyad the exclusive domain of PCIe SSDs, which are still far from cheap. Today, we’ll look at a different combination of parameters among high-end SATA drives. "Fast" is moot in the big picture thanks to the SATA bus being noncompetitive with PCIe, but we can hope that the leaders of our test are at least "good" and "cheap" enough.

The SSDs that we’ve selected for this comparison are among the higher-spec SATA options, and are priced to be accessible to most enthusiasts. We’ll be looking at the Samsung 850 Pro, Samsung 850 EVO, Micron M600, and the Sandisk Extreme Pro, and asking which is the best 500GB-class SATA SSD for power users. While the latest NVMe and PCIe wundercards get the glory, the SATA SSD segment is where volume tends to move, making it critically-important to manufacturers.

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While the specs of the SATA drives we’re reviewing look similar at a glance, these have very different feature sets and approaches to things like write caching. We’re also including the previously-reviewed G.SKILL Phoenix Blade in our testing to illustrate the gap between top SATA SSDs and PCIe competitors.