Samsung’s smartphones may be close copies of the Apple iPhone, but the Korean tech giant has a credible claim to starting the solid-state drive (SSD) revolution. These speedy storage drives, with no moving parts, are now staples in mainstream laptops and expensive workstations alike, but not all are created equal. Near the top of the SSD pyramid is Samsung’s SSD 970 EVO ($179.99 for 500GB, as tested), a lightning-quick yet reasonably priced PCI Express NVMe drive that takes advantage of Samsung’s expertise in designing non-volatile memory to deliver some of the fastest throughput you can buy. In fact, the only SSD we’ve tested recently to post better numbers is the SSD 970 EVO’s big brother, the Samsung SSD 970 Pro, which is only slightly faster but nontrivially more expensive. That makes the SSD 970 EVO our new Editors’ Choice for the best high-end M.2 SSD you can buy.
Samsung’s SSD Lineup Explained
Samsung’s flagship internal SSD line splits along two axes: value for performance, and form factor.
The company’s Pro models offer the absolute best performance and reliability for the most money. Meanwhile, the EVO drives’ slightly lower prices, reliability, and speeds are attributable mostly to differences that consumers building a PC for use at home shouldn’t worry about, for instance, two-bit MLC memory for the SSD 970 Pro versus the three-bit TLC memory in the SSD 970 EVO. (See our explainer Buying a Solid-State Drive: 20 Terms You Need to Know.)
Then consider the second axis, form factor. EVO- and Pro-family drives are both available in either the gumstick-shaped M.2 variety (the test sample in this review is M.2) or the larger 2.5-inch Serial ATA (SATA) type. The flagship SATA drives are called SSD 860 Pro($192.74 at Amazon) and SSD 860 EVO. The M.2 drives use the cutting-edge PCI Express NVMe interface, which offers roughly six times more potential throughput than does the SATA interface.