A solid state drive (SSD) is a data storage device that uses flash memory chips rather than a spinning platter to store data. SSDs have much faster read/write speeds, lower latency, and better reliability compared to traditional hard disk drives (HDDs). However, SSDs are typically more expensive per gigabyte compared to HDDs.
The cost of SSDs can range widely, from around $50 for a 120GB budget SATA SSD to over $1000 for a high-end NVMe SSD with 2TB of storage. Factors like form factor, capacity, interface, NAND flash type, and brand can all impact the price.
Some of the main factors that affect SSD pricing are:
- Form factor – M.2 SSDs generally cost more than 2.5″ SATA SSDs for a given capacity.
- Capacity – Higher capacity drives have a higher total cost, but lower cost per gigabyte.
- Interface – NVMe SSDs are more expensive than SATA SSDs due to higher speeds.
- NAND flash type – Drives with higher performance/endurance flash like 3D TLC cost more than drives with QLC NAND.
- Brand name – Major brands like Samsung and WD charge a premium over lesser-known brands.
SSD Form Factors
SSDs come in different physical form factors, connector interfaces, and communication protocols that affect performance, compatibility, and price. The three most common SSD form factors are:
The 2.5-inch form factor is the most popular and fits in the drive bays of most laptops and desktops. 2.5-inch SSDs come with SATA connectors and use the SATA III interface which has a maximum bandwidth of 600MB/s (Source).
The M.2 form factor is a small, rectangular shape designed to save space. M.2 SSDs use PCI Express interfaces for faster speeds, with the most common being PCIe 3.0 x4 with a bandwidth up to 4GB/s. They can also use the slower SATA III interface (Source).
PCIe SSDs connect directly to a PCI Express slot on the motherboard. They provide the fastest speeds using PCIe 3.0 x4 or higher interfaces with bandwidth over 4GB/s. However, they are more expensive and require a compatible PCIe slot (Source).
Common capacity options for SSDs range from 120GB on the low end to 4TB on the high end. Some key capacities to consider are:
- 120GB – 256GB: Good for boot drives or basic storage needs
- 500GB – 1TB: Provides a balance of capacity and affordability for most users
- 2TB+: Ideal for power users, gamers, creative professionals who need substantial storage
Larger capacity SSDs generally offer a better price per gigabyte. For example, a 500GB SSD may cost around $0.20 per GB, while a 2TB model drops to around $0.15 per GB. This makes higher capacity SSDs more cost effective for those needing lots of storage space.
According to TechTarget, capacities up to 100TB are now available for enterprise/data center use, but SSDs between 120GB to 4TB remain the most common for general consumer and business needs.
NAND Flash Types
There are several different types of NAND flash memory used in SSDs, each with their own tradeoffs between cost, capacity, and endurance:
SLC (single-level cell) – Stores 1 bit per cell. Most durable and highest performance, but most expensive per gigabyte.1
MLC (multi-level cell) – Stores 2 bits per cell. Good balance of cost and performance.2
TLC (triple-level cell) – Stores 3 bits per cell. Less durable but cheaper per gigabyte.3
QLC (quad-level cell) – Stores 4 bits per cell. Least durable but cheapest per gigabyte.
In general, lower capacity drives like 128GB or 256GB will use faster and more durable SLC or MLC NAND, while higher capacity drives tend to use cheaper but less durable TLC or QLC NAND.
Brand Name vs Generic SSDs
When shopping for an SSD, you’ll find there are major brands like Samsung, Western Digital, and Crucial, as well as lesser-known or generic brands. There can be a significant price difference between brand name and generic SSDs.
For example, a 1TB Samsung 870 EVO SATA SSD retails for around $110, while a generic 1TB SATA SSD from Silicon Power costs around $65. A 500GB Samsung 980 Pro NVMe SSD goes for around $120, versus $55 for a 500GB KingFast NVMe drive.
The brand name SSDs from Samsung, Western Digital and Crucial range from 1.5-2x the cost of comparable generic models. The price difference is largely attributed to the reputation and proven reliability of the major brands. Generic SSDs may use lower-tier NAND flash or controllers.
For most users, a quality generic SSD provides excellent performance and value. But for mission-critical applications or intensive workloads, it may be worth investing in a proven brand name SSD.
Sequential Read/Write Speeds
Sequential read and write speeds measure how fast an SSD can continuously read and write data. Faster speeds generally equate to better performance, especially for tasks like transferring large files, loading games, or running demanding applications.
Entry-level SATA SSDs often have sequential read/write speeds around 500-550MB/s. Mainstream models range from 550-580MB/s, while higher-end options can exceed 600MB/s. M.2 NVMe drives boast even faster speeds, commonly above 3,000MB/s for reads and 2,000MB/s for writes .
In general, faster sequential speeds come at a premium. A 500GB SATA SSD with 550MB/s speeds may cost around $50, while a comparable 1TB model with 560MB/s runs closer to $100. High-performance NVMe drives with 3,000+ MB/s throughput can cost $150 or more at 1TB. Shoppers should weigh their performance needs and budget.
For most mainstream users, a SATA SSD with 550MB/s sequential speeds offers a nice balance of affordability and responsiveness. Enthusiasts willing to pay more can benefit from the blazing transfer rates of high-end NVMe drives.
Warranties and Support
SSD manufacturers offer a range of warranties to guarantee the lifespan and reliability of their drives. Warranty periods typically range from 3 years up to 10 years for high-end enterprise drives. For example, Samsung 870 EVO SSDs come with a 5 year limited warranty (https://www.samsung.com/semiconductor/minisite/ssd/product/consumer/870evo/).
Longer warranty periods give peace of mind but also raise the cost of the SSD. Top manufacturers like Samsung, Intel and Crucial offer strong warranty support on most models. Basic SSDs aimed at system builders may have shorter 1-3 year warranties. Extended warranties can be purchased for additional years of coverage.
When an SSD fails during the warranty period, the manufacturer will repair or replace the drive. Support responses vary between manufacturers. Well-rated brands like Samsung and Crucial have good reputations for honoring warranties and providing SSD replacements.
Retail vs OEM Drives
There is an important distinction between retail and OEM (original equipment manufacturer) SSDs that impacts pricing. Retail SSDs are sold individually in consumer packaging through retailers. OEM drives are sold in bulk direct to computer manufacturers without any retail packaging.
This means OEM drives often cost less because there are no branding, packaging, documentation, or warranty support costs factored into the pricing. For example, a 1TB Samsung 970 EVO SSD has an MSRP around $150 from retailers, while the OEM version sells for closer to $100 (1).
However, OEM drives come bare without accessories, cables, installation software, or user manuals. The warranty support is also more limited, often only 1 year versus 5 years on retail models. So savvy builders can save money buying OEM, but give up some convenience and support in exchange.
Current Sales and Deals
There are several places to find good deals on SSDs both online and in brick-and-mortar stores.
Online retailers like Amazon, Newegg, and Best Buy frequently have sales on SSDs. For example, Best Buy has a page dedicated to on sale hard drives and SSDs. Amazon also has regular deals on brands like Samsung and WD.
Specialty computer and electronics retailers like Micro Center often have SSD sales advertised on their websites or in weekly ads. Signing up for email newsletters from these retailers can help you stay on top of the latest deals.
Online deal sites like Slickdeals have sections dedicated to SSD deals where users post discounts they find across the web. Checking these sites regularly can help you find significant savings.
Many SSD manufacturers like Crucial and Samsung run promotions directly on their websites as well, so it pays to check there too.
Being flexible on capacity, form factor, and interface can open up more money-saving opportunities. For instance, external portable SSDs frequently go on sale more than internal models.
With some diligence, patience, and comparison shopping, you can often find an SSD on sale for 20-50% off retail pricing.
So what’s the final verdict on SSD prices? Here are some typical price ranges to keep in mind for different budgets:
Budget SSDs ($50 – $100): At this price point, you’ll get a 128-256GB SATA SSD from a lesser-known brand. Performance won’t be blazing fast but it’s a cheap way to get the benefits of an SSD over a hard drive.
Mainstream SSDs ($100 – $200): The 240-500GB SATA SSDs from well-known brands like Samsung, Crucial and WD fit in this range. Great balance of price and performance for most users.
High-Performance SSDs ($200 – $300): Here you’ll find 500GB-1TB NVMe PCIe SSDs from top brands. Blazing fast speeds for high demanding tasks like gaming, video editing etc.
To get the best value deals, look out for sales during major shopping holidays or sign up for price trackers to get alerts on price drops for specific models. Buying previous generation or refurbished drives can also save quite a bit over latest models.