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If I were buying an SSD to replace a mechanical hard drive or an SSD that’s running out of room, I’d get the 500GB Samsung 850 EVO. It has one of the best combinations of price, performance, and capacity of any drive you can get, plus easy-to-use software and a long warranty, and it comes from a company that makes excellent SSDs (and all their components).
Who’s This For?
Replacing your boot drive with an SSD is one of the easiest ways to make an older computer feel newer and faster. If you’ve never used one before, you’ll be amazed.
Solid-state drives are three to four times faster than mechanical drives when reading or writing large files, and hundreds of times faster for the small random read and write operations your computer makes most during normal use. Since SSDs don’t have any moving parts, they use less power, put out less heat, and don’t vibrate. The one downside is that they’re more expensive than traditional hard drives, but that price gap is dropping fast.
You should get an SSD like the 500GB Samsung 850 EVO if you have a laptop or desktop that boots from a mechanical hard drive or a cramped, outdated SSD. It’s also a good way to save money on a new laptop. You can usually save several hundred dollars by buying a laptop configured with a mechanical hard drive or small SSD and replacing or augmenting it with a high-capacity SSD. Most people should get the highest-capacity SSD they can afford. Right now 500GB is the sweet spot.
Our Pick: 500GB Samsung 850 EVO
The 500GB Samsung 850 EVO is the best SSD for most people because it’s astonishingly cheap and incredibly fast. The 500GB version is usually around $190. That’s about $10-15 more expensive than the cheapest 500GB SSDs, but the Samsung is slightly faster, has a longer warranty, and comes with better software. This balance of features and price makes it the best choice for most people.
The best SSD vendors make at least their own flash memory, but only Samsung manufactures 100 percent of the parts in its SSDs, from controller to firmware to NAND. Because it uses Samsung’s new larger-scale 3D TLC V-NAND, it avoids the write-endurance problems of small-scale NAND. The 500GB version has a write endurance rating of 150 TB of writes, double the rating of most other drives in its price range. In real life, all SSDs should easily write many times that, and you’ll never come close to writing that much to your SSD unless you’re a video editor or high-res 3D modeler or an enterprise server (we don’t judge). It’s almost impossible to wear out an SSD before the drive itself is obsolete.
The 850 EVO comes with data migration software (Windows-only; Mac users can use the built-in Disk Utility and Linux users can use something like CloneZilla), so it’s easy to move your operating system and files from your old drive to the Samsung. It also comes with Samsung’s Magician toolbox for checking drive heath, updating firmware, and performing other maintenance, but that’s less of a distinguishing factor than it used to be. It has hardware support for full-disk encryption and a five-year warranty—two years longer than the Crucial BX100.
The 850 EVO gets exceptional reviews; AnandTech, Tech Report, CNET, PCWorld, and others all really like it. The only real flaw with the 850 EVO is that it was too expensive when launched, but the street price has come down fast. Now that the 500GB 850 EVO is regularly under $200, it’s the best SSD for most people.
Just as Good, Fewer Frills
If the 500GB Samsung 850 EVO is sold out or costs more than $210, get the $180 500GB Crucial BX100 instead. It’s consistently one of the cheapest 500GB SSDs on the market, but it’s also one of the fastest. Like the Samsung 850 EVO, it comes from a reliable company that makes its own NAND, though not its own controller.
AnandTech’s Kristian Vättö performs extensive power-use benchmarks on the drives he tests, and his tests show that the BX100 is much more power-efficient than the 850 EVO, so he recommends it over the Samsung drive for laptops. However, the difference in power draw for normal laptop use is only around .1Whr. For most laptops, that’s only a few minutes’ difference, especially for laptops which are older and less power-efficient to start with.
The BX100 is all the drive most people need, since outside of enterprise use full-disk encryption is still rare, and free drive-cloning software is easy to find. It was almost our top pick, and I’d buy it for my own computer.
The only real problem with it is Samsung’s aggressive pricing: while the 850 EVO is within $10 or $20 of the BX100’s price, it’s worth the extra cost for the Samsung’s longer warranty, slightly better speed, higher write endurance rating, and RAPID support.
The Best, But Overkill For Most
Most people don’t need an SSD faster than the Samsung 850 EVO or Crucial BX100. Because they’re so cheap and so close to the performance limit of their interface, it’s not worth paying a lot more for a little bit more performance.
However, if you edit a lot of video or RAW photos or you do 3D modeling and you want the best SATA SSD you can get, buy the Samsung 850 Pro. The 512GB version costs $290. It has the same write endurance rating as the 850 EVO, and access to the same great software, but it’s a bit faster and has a ten-year warranty. However, the few people who need more speed than they can get from the 850 EVO are better off with a PCIe SSD.
Wrapping it up
There are many great SSDs out there, and until we move away from SATA the only real differences are in endurance, consistency, price, and software, not speed. There are many drives that are almost as good as our pick, and some that are cheaper—you can see discussion of other drives in our full-length version of this guide.. But for most people, the Samsung 850 EVO is the best combination of price and performance.
This guide may have been updated. To see the current recommendation please go to TheWirecutter.com