5 Best SATA SSDs to Buy In 2021

SATA SSDs are still the backbone of the SSD market despite NVMe Gen 3 and even PCIe Gen 4 drives becoming more and more popular in recent years. The PCIe drives do offer substantially higher speeds but they are still out of the reach of a consumer looking to build an entry-level or mid-range system. SATA SSDs are still fantastic for cheap OS drives or large game drives because they offer substantially faster speeds than traditional hard drives while still maintaining a good bang-for-the-buck value.

SATA drives are also a great option for a large game library, which can be used in addition to an NVMe drive acting as an OS drive. The SATA SSDs are not much slower than NVMe drives when it comes to game loading times due to the fact that modern games are still not taking advantage of the extra speeds that NVMe or PCIe Gen 4 drives offer. Therefore, SATA SSDs provide excellent value in terms of cost-per-gig and make a great addition to a modern gaming PC or a laptop.

With that out of the way, here are the 5 best SATA SSDs you can buy in 2021.

1. Samsung 860 EVO

The Best All-Rounder SATA SSD

Pros

  • High Speeds
  • Samsung's MJX Controller
  • Available in M.2 SATA Form Factor
  • Very Reliable Drive

Cons

  • Marginally More Expensive

70,602 Reviews

Capacity: 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB | NAND Flash Type: 3D TLC NAND | Read Speeds: 550 MB/s | Write Speeds: 520 MB/s | DRAM Cache: Yes | Form Factor: 2.5-inch and M.2

One of the finest consumer SATA SSDs to ever hit the market, the venerable 860 EVO is still going strong in 2020 and is our pick for the absolute best SATA SSD you can buy in 2021. Samsung’s EVO line is aimed at consumers who are looking for performance but who aren’t willing to spend extra on their PRO line for added endurance. Therefore, the EVO is a perfect SSD for gamers to add to their gaming PCs.

The 860 EVO is a performance-focused SATA SSD that is available in both the 2.5 inch as well as the M.2 form factors. The option of M.2 is a good step by Samsung since it allows the user to install the SSD directly onto the motherboard without any physical drive mounting procedures. This also removes any cables from the SSD and enables a much cleaner overall look to the system.

Samsung has released the 860 EVO in most capacities ranging all the way from 250GB all the way up to 4TB. This is a good decision and allows potential buyers to choose the SSD capacity of their choice. Most people on a budget will be fine with 250GB or 500GB options and those SSDs will also make great OS drives without spending too much money. Alternatively, for people looking for the ultimate storage drives, the 2TB and 4TB options are also available which will be plenty for a large steam library and all the OS files as well.

The 860 EVO uses a Samsung MJX controller and has a Tri-core, 8-ch, 8-CE/ch configuration. The SSD does contain a DRAM cache as well which is fantastic since SSDs without a DRAM cache tend to face slowdowns and have comparatively worse endurance as well. The 860 EVO also uses Samsung’s own NAND flash in a 3D TLC 64-layer configuration which is branded as V-NAND in Samsung’s own terminologies. This allows the Samsung drive to hit speeds of up to 550 MB/s read and 520 MB/s writes in sequential scenarios, which is the maximum that is possible with the SATA 6 Gbps link.

Overall, the 860 EVO is a performance-focused SATA SSD that offers great all-around performance in a wide range of capacities and form factors. The 860 EVO is our default pick for the best SATA SSD to buy in 2021, and the only drawback to the EVO is its marginally high price. The 860 EVO also has a PRO variant for those who are looking for extra endurance from their drive, and that costs quite a bit more as well.

2. Crucial MX500

The Best Alternative to 860 EVO

Pros

  • Great Performance
  • Owned by Micron Itself
  • Available in M.2 SATA Form Factor
  • High Endurance Rating

Cons

  • No 4TB Variant for Mass Storage

45,273 Reviews

Capacity: 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB | NAND Flash Type: 3D TLC NAND | Read Speeds: 550 MB/s | Write Speeds: 510 MB/s | DRAM Cache: Yes | Form Factor: 2.5-inch and M.2

The MX500 is a premium SATA SSD from Crucial that is among the very best SSDs on the market right now. Crucial is owned by Micron itself, which is a giant in the manufacturing of memory products, therefore their products do get the finest silicon from Micron in them. The MX500 is another performance-focused SATA SSD that proves to be a good alternative to the 860 EVO.

Just like the 860 EVO, Crucial has also released the MX500 in both 2.5-inch and M.2 form factors. Again, it is a good step from Crucial to include the M.2 form factor in there because it allows the user to connect the drive directly to the motherboard for a cleaner overall look. There is no need to worry about any cable management either, and it also has the added bonus of removing the need for any SATA power cables from your power supply as well.

The MX500 is available in most of the capacities that the average user might care about. The 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB capacities are available and the only notable omission is the 4TB model. The higher storage capacity would’ve been a nice addition however it is understandable why Crucial decided to omit the 4TB model altogether.

Crucial has chosen premium components for the MX500. The drive uses the SMI SM2258 controller while using a Single-core, 4-ch, 80CE/ch configuration. The MX500 also features an onboard DRAM cache that would prevent slowdowns and improve the overall endurance of the drive. The DRAM cache also helps in sustained performance and the process of wear-leveling which is important for an SSD. For the NAND, Crucial is using Micron’s own 3D TLC NAND with 64 or 96 layers depending on the drive capacity, and that helps to increase the density of data that can be stored in the memory cells. The MX500 saturates the SATA 6 Gbps link by delivering read and write speeds of 550 MB/s and 510 MB/s respectively.

Even more attractive might be the pricing situation of the MX500 as it is cheaper than the 860 EVO when compared across similar capacities. So if you do not need the 4TB option and the additional Samsung feature set, the MX500 is a brilliant alternative to the 860 EVO at a cheaper overall price.

3. Western Digital Blue

A Great Value Option

Pros

  • Good Speeds
  • Marvell 88SS1074 Controller
  • Available in M.2 SATA Form Factor

Cons

  • Endurance Rating might not be the Best
  • Some People don't trust WD's Reliability

24,854 Reviews

Capacity: 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB | NAND Flash Type: 3D TLC NAND | Read Speeds: 560 MB/s | Write Speeds: 530 MB/s | DRAM Cache: Yes | Form Factor: 2.5-inch and M.2

WD’s Blue series is the more performance-focused lineup of WD’s SATA SSDs. WD also makes the cheaper WD Green series which is a good drive but lacks the DRAM Cache and is also cut-down in some other ways. WD Blue, however, is one of the better SATA SSDs on the market right now.

On paper, the WD Blue drive has all that you could ask from a SATA SSD. It comes in all capacities from 250GB all the way up to 4TB so that most people can choose whatever capacity they want for their use case. The 250GB and 500GB drives are great value for an affordable OS drive for an entry-level gaming PC or even a laptop. WD also offers the 2TB and 4TB varieties which can be useful for consumers looking for a large amount of solid-state storage on the cheap.

WD has also gone ahead and made the WD Blue drives in the M.2 SATA form factor in addition to the 2.5 inch SATA form factor. This would make it easier to install the drive directly into the motherboard to remove cable clutter and improve the overall aesthetics of the build.

WD is using the Marvell 88SS1074 controller in the WD Blue drives with a Dual-Core, 4-ch, 8-CH/ch configuration. The WD Blue drives also contain a DRAM cache which helps in the overall durability of the drive and improves sustained performance. Drives without DRAM cache tend to slow down under longer workloads but the WD drive does not succumb to that problem. WD is using Sandisk’s 3D TLC NAND with 64 layers that allow more data to be written to the NAND cells. This configuration allows the WD Blue to reach read speeds of 560 MB/s sequential reads, and 530 MB/s sequential writes and that essentially saturates the SATA 6Gbps link.

The WD Blue is comparatively cheaper than both the MX500 and the 860 EVO and should therefore be a good alternative to those drives. The only problem is that many people do not trust WD’s reliability due to their history with hard drives and while there have not been any major cases of WD Blue drives failing, it is a point that you might want to consider while making a purchase decision.

4. Intel SSD 545s

Intel's Reliability at a Price

Pros

  • Good Performance
  • Available in M.2 SATA Form Factor
  • Reliable Drive

Cons

  • Really Expensive
  • Only 256GB and 512GB Variants

448 Reviews

Capacity: 256GB, 512GB | NAND Flash Type: 3D TLC NAND | Read Speeds: 550 MB/s | Write Speeds: 500 MB/s | DRAM Cache: Yes | Form Factor: 2.5-inch and M.2

The Intel 545s is a relatively older option in our lineup today but it is still a very solid SATA SSD. Intel has made some pretty reliable drives over the years and has made quite a name for itself in the storage space. They are also the ones who pioneered the 3DXpoint technology in the form of Optane for consumers in the desktop space, and so Intel has quite a reputation to uphold in the storage business.

The 545s is a performance-focused SATA SSD that does feature most of the bells and whistles when it comes to the internal configuration. However, one area where the 545s falls short is the capacity that the drive is offered in. Being a SATA SSD, it is in the best interest of the manufacturer to offer it in multiple capacities since SATA SSDs offer good value in terms of cost-per-gig. However, Intel didn’t get the memo and they have only offered the 545s in 256GB and 512GB capacities. These two capacities are just not enough for the majority of users and people would look towards other drives like the 860 EVO for 1TB, 2TB, and even 4TB capacities.

Thankfully, Intel did offer the 545s in an M.2 SATA form factor so they have some reconciliation there. As far as the internals of the drive go, Intel is using the SMI SM2259 controller in a Single-core, 4-ch, 8-CE/ch configuration with an onboard DRAM cache. The DRAM cache helps the drive maintain its speeds in sustained workloads and helps in processes like wear-leveling as well. For the NAND, Intel is using its own 3D TLC NAND with 64 layers. This internal layout helps the Intel 545s reach read speeds of 550 MB/s and write speeds of 500 MB/s. These speeds are pretty similar to the other drives in this category.

Overall, the 545s is a good drive with decent reliability, but the lack of higher capacity options really hurts its position. This is compounded by the fact that the 545s is more expensive than even the Samsung 860 EVO, which is why the Intel offering only manages fourth place in our roundup.

5. TEAMGROUP T-Force Vulcan

A Good Alternative if Needed

Pros

  • Good Speeds
  • Reliable Drive

Cons

  • Limited to 1TB Maximum Capacity
  • Other Cheaper Options are Available
  • Brand Loyalists Might not Trust TeamGroup

948 Reviews

Capacity: 250GB, 500GB, 1TB | NAND Flash Type: 3D TLC NAND | Read Speeds: 560 MB/s | Write Speeds: 510 MB/s | DRAM Cache: Yes | Form Factor: 2.5-inch

Our final recommendation of this roundup comes from a relatively new player in the storage space, TEAMGROUP. The T-Force Vulcan is another performance-focused SATA SSD that is a good alternative to the drives mentioned above. The Vulcan is one of the more premium lineups in TEAMGROUP’s arsenal, so this drive is a good representation of the best that T-Force has to offer.

TEAMGROUP offers the T-Force Vulcan in 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB options and while that is better than Intel, it is certainly way worse than what WD and Samsung have to offer. The 2TB and 4TB options are missing which is a big blow to the T-Force Vulcan since enthusiasts who need more space on their SATA SSD now have to look elsewhere. TEAMGROUP also does not offer the T-Force Vulcan in an M.2 form factor which, as we have explored already, is a real help if you want to remove excess cables from your build.

As far as internals go, the T-Force Vulcan uses an SMI SM2258 controller in a Single-core, 4-ch, 8-CE/ch configuration. The Vulcan also features a DRAM cache which helps its overall performance and longevity. The NAND is supplied by Micron, and it is the standard 3D TLC 64-layer NAND that we have seen in most other SSDs in this list. The performance of the drive is good though, as the drive can hit read speeds of up to 560 MB/s and write speeds of up to 510 MB/s, making it comparable to most other drives in this roundup.

All in all, the T-Force Vulcan is a good offering and should be considered as an alternative to the other drives in this list. It is somewhat more expensive than the MX500 and WD Blue options, so that should also be taken into consideration when making a purchase decision. The Vulcan offers good performance overall but the other options out there give it a tough time in terms of overall reliability, value, and feature set.

Usman Saleem
Usman is a hardcore tech enthusiast and hardware geek with a passion for PC Gaming and the PC Hardware industry. What started with flash games in a browser window, led to an undying love for the technology behind PC Gaming and the hardware that drives it.