The best M.2 SSDs will bring you the kind of data access read and write speeds that will make a significant difference. The speed that you’ll experience will get you to your Windows 10 login screen in less than 5 seconds, for instance. And, there are plenty of M.2 options to choose from.
If you’re looking for some more general options, check out our roundup for the best SSDs.
Just like everything else, the best M.2 SSD for you will have a lot to do with what your needs are. Keep in mind that your motherboard configuration, your price range, and your data access needs will determine which one works best for you. You need to make sure your motherboard accepts M.2 SSDs. PCIe 3.0 and PCIe 4.0 interfaces don’t, for example. Also, the difference in sequential and random data access speeds between SSDs and interfaces are subtle enough that you possibly won’t notice that you've gotten the wrong kind of SSD for your PC.
Consider why you need increased data access speed. For most improvements in SSD performance, a faster read speed is much more crucial than a faster write speed. This is due to the fact that most storage access operations read data into RAM instead of saving data to storage. However, write speeds are a vital consideration if you’re a software developer or creative professional constantly opening, changing, and saving projects throughout the day.
No matter what you’re looking for in terms of price, data access, and interface, we’ve rounded up our top picks of the best M.2 SSD to help you find the right one for you.
- Find the best SSD of 2021 for every need, from SATAs to M.2s to portables
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Best M.2 SSD at a glance
- Adata XPG SX8200 Pro
- Samsung 970 EVO Plus
- WD Black SN750
- Corsair Force MP600
- Seagate FireCuda 520
If you're looking for great value for the long haul, then the Adata XPG SX8200 Pro SSD is one of the best M.2 SSDs you're going to find.
It has respectably-high sequential read and write speeds compared to its nearest competitors, the WD Black SN750 and Samsung 970 EVO Plus, but it's the SSD's outstanding durability that defines it. With an MTBF rating of 2,000,000 hours and a TBW score of 1280 at 2TB - the highest TBW of the PCIe 3.0 M.2s on the list - and 160 at 256GB. It also has a 5-year warranty, so no matter the capacity you buy, it will keep hustling along, even if it's a tad bit slower than the rest.
Where it does fall short compared to the SN750 and the 970 EVO Plus - by a good bit, in fact - is its random access speeds. The XPG SX8200 Pro is a little under half as fast as the two competing SSDs, so if you use batch programming to generate a lot of new files for work, like invoices or database entries, then you might notice that the XPG SX8200 lags somewhat. That isn't most people, though, who will find the XPG SX8200 Pro more than fast enough for general use, gaming, and creative work.
- Read the full review: Adata XPG SX8200 Pro
The Samsung 970 EVO Plus has some of the fastest sequential read and write speeds of any PCIe 3.0 M.2 SSD out there, making it an obvious contender for the best M.2 SDD on the list. Its random access performance is also the fastest of the PCIe 3.0s, easily making it the winner in the PCIe 3.0 bracket in terms of raw power.
The downside is its durability. The 970 EVO Plus has the lowest durability as measured by MTBF, rating only 1,500,000 hours, and its TBW rating at 2TB is 1200, matching the SN750, but lagging the XPG SX8200. At 256GB, it scores a rather low 150, the lowest of the three PCIe 3.0 contenders.
It doesn't come with an option for a built-in heat sink, so any heat it generates needs to be bled off with additional cooling solutions. It does use Dynamic Thermal Guard technology to help regulate its core temperature as well as a hardware heat spreader and nickel-coated controller. It's not a heatsink, but it's something.
Of all the M.2 SSD's on this list, the Samsung EVO Plus is the most expensive, in some cases (against XPG SX8200, for example) by a good margin. If you have the money to spend and you want the fastest SSD your PCIe 3.0 board can handle, then you can't go wrong with the Samsung EVO Plus.
- Read the full review: Samsung 970 EVO Plus
If you're looking for the best M.2 SSD for your non-PCIe 4.0-compatible motherboard but you want a good balance of performance, durability, and cost, then you really want to look at the WD Black SN750.
It has excellent performance overall, with fast sequential read and write speeds, though not as fast as the Samsung 970 EVO Plus, and it has significantly higher random access speeds than the XPG SX 8200 while falling a bit short of the 970 EVO Plus's speeds.
As for durability, it has an MTBF of 1,750,000 hours, a TBW of 1200 at 2TB and 200 at 250GB, so you can expect a lot of life out of it. At a slightly higher price, you can get one with a built-in heatsink that should help extend its useful life even more. Unfortunately, the heatsink is only available on 500GB models or larger.
The WD Black SN750 also has a fantastic size-to-price ratio - falling behind the XPG SX8200 at higher capacities but matching its price at 1TB, if you don't go with the heatsink option, that is. It costs a little bit less than Samsung's 970 EVO Plus, with or without the heatsink, so between speed, longevity, and price, the WD Black SN750 is a perfect compromise if you don't want to sacrifice too much on any front.
- Read the full review: WB Black SN750 NVMe SSD
The Corsair Force MP600 is a bit slower than the other PCIe 4.0 SSDs on this list, but fortunately, it's also lower in price than the others that the slight difference in speeds will hardly seem worth paying a $50/£40/AU$70 premium for that little extra bit of juice.
The current PCIe 4.0 SSDs are also much slower than the maximum speeds possible with the 4.0 standards, which have about double the bandwidth of PCIe 3.0 SSDs. So even with the current round of 4.0 SSDs being slower than the 4.0's potential, the Corsair Force MP600 is the slowest of the slower PCIe 4.0s currently available, even if its just by a little bit.
If you can live with that, then the Corsair Force MP600 is still an excellent SSD and its as durability as the other 4.0s on the list, so you really aren't losing much by going with the Corsair Force MP600 over the others, making it a strong contender for the best M.2 SSD in the PCIe 4.0 bracket at the moment.
All of this assumes your motherboard is PCIe 4.0-compatible. If not, any PCIe 4.0 will run at max PCIe 3.0 capacity, so the extra power you're paying for is pretty much wasted.
If you have a Gen4-enabled motherboard and you wanted to get the best M.2 SSD in terms of raw performance, then you can't go wrong with Seagate's FireCuda 520 Series SSD.
With max sequential and random access speeds that beat the Corsair Force MP600, even if its just by a modest amount, the FireCuda still gets to call itself the fastest M.2 SSD around - and since its only $20 to $30 more than the Corsair Force MP600, you can justify the marginal price increase on the marginally faster SSD.
Since there are other PCIe 4.0 SSDs with more or less identical specifications to the FireCuda, and most are roughly the same price as well, you actually have a few options to choose from will more or less perform as well as this one.
None of them are fully utilizing PCIe 4.0 to its fullest, but theirs is likely to be the best M.2 SSD performance we're going to get for a while, so if you're looking for the best M.2 SSD with a PCIe 4.0 interface, now might be as good a time as any to dive right in and get your feet wet with the Seagate FireCuda 520.