When it comes to data access speeds, the best M.2 SSD can get you to your Windows 10 login screen in less than 5 seconds and make reading and writing data to storage a significantly faster process.
But with all the options out there, which are the best M.2 SSDs for your specific need? That will depend on a couple of factors, mostly: your motherboard configuration, your typical data access need, and your budget.
In the case of your motherboard configuration, you need to look beyond just the read and write speeds and see whether the M.2 SSD will interface with your motherboard. PCIe 3.0 and PCIe 4.0 interfaces are not compatible, and sometimes the difference in sequential and random data access speeds between SSDs with one or the other interface is subtle enough that you might not notice that you're buying the wrong kind of SSD for your system.
Another consideration is what you need the increased data access speed for. If you are looking for general performance boosts, faster read speeds are going to matter much more than an SSD's write speeds, since the vast majority of storage access operations are to read data into RAM, not saving data to storage. In some cases, though, write speeds are an important factor to consider, especially if you are a creative professional or software developer who opens, saves, and reverts changes to file dozens of times a day or even every hour.
Then, there's the matter of cost. If you're willing to invest a lot of money, you can probably find exactly what you need very quickly. If you're on a budget though, things get trickier. Fortunately, we're here to help you find the best M.2 SSD for your specific needs, no matter the budget.
- Find the best SSD of 2020 for every need, from SATAs to M.2s to portables
Best M.2 SSD at a glance
- Adata XPG SX8200 Pro
- Samsung 970 EVO Plus
- WD Black SN750
- Corsair Force MP600
- Seagate FireCuda 520
One of the most durable M.2 SSDs you're going to find
Capacity: 256GB to 2TB | Memory type: 3D TLC NAND | Interface: PCIe 3.0 x4 | Max seq. read speed: Up to 3,500MB/s | Max seq. write speed: Up to 3,000MB/s | Heatsink: Yes | Mean time between failures (256GB/2TB): 2,500,000 / 2,000,000 hours | Terabytes written (256GB/2TB): 160 / 1280
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 reigning speed demon of the PCIe 3.0s
Capacity: 250GB to 2TB | Memory type: 3D MLC NAND | Interface: PCIe 3.0 x4 | Max seq. read speed: Up to 3,500MB/s | Max seq. write speed: Up to 3,300MB/s | Heatsink: No | Mean time between failures: 1,500,000 hours | Terabytes written (250GB/2TB): 150/1200
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
The perfect balance of speed and durability
Capacity: 250GB to 2TB | Memory type: 3D TLC NAND | Interface: PCIe 3.0 x4 | Max seq. read speed: Up to 3,400MB/s | Max seq. write speed: Up to 2,900MB/s | Heatsink: Yes (not available for 250GB model) | Mean time between failures (250GB/2TB): 1,750,000 hours | Terabytes written (250GB/2TB): 200/1200
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
4. Corsair Force MP600
An affordable PCIe 4.0 SSD, but at a cost
Capacity: 500GB to 2TB | Memory type: 3D TLC NAND | Interface: PCIe 4.0 x4 | Max seq. read speed: Up to 4,950MB/s | Max seq. write speed: Up to 4,250MB/s | Heatsink: Yes | Mean time between failures (500GB/2TB): 1,700,000 hours | Terabytes written (500GB/2TB): 850/3600
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.
5. Seagate FireCuda 520 Gen4 SSD
A brilliant M.2 SSD for raw performance
Capacity: 500GB to 2TB | Memory type: 3D TLC NAND | Interface: PCIe 4.0 x4 | Max seq. read speed: Up to 5,000MB/s | Max seq. write speed: Up to 4,400MB/s | Heatsink: No | Mean time between failures (500GB/2TB): 1,800,000 hours | Terabytes written (500GB/2TB): 850/3600
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.