Having a solid state drive (SSD) with good read speeds can make a big difference in how fast your computer feels. When looking for a quality SSD, you’ll want to pay attention to the read and write speeds it offers.
What factors affect SSD read speed?
There are a few key factors that determine how fast an SSD can read data:
- Interface – SATA, NVMe, etc. NVMe drives are much faster than SATA.
- Controller – This is the processor on the SSD that manages data transfers. Better controllers equal faster speeds.
- NAND flash memory – The quality and arrangement of the NAND chips impacts performance.
- DRAM cache – A larger DRAM cache improves read/write speeds.
What interface options are available?
The most common interface options for consumer SSDs are:
- SATA – The older SATA interface caps speeds at around 550 MB/s. Many affordable SSDs use SATA.
- NVMe – NVMe drives connect via PCIe lanes and offer blazing fast speeds over 3000 MB/s. Ideal for high performance.
- M.2 – A form factor that supports both SATA and NVMe drives. M.2 SATA drives are limited by the SATA interface speed.
What read speeds can you expect from SATA vs NVMe?
Due to the interface differences, NVMe drives are much faster for reads and writes. Here is a general comparison of SATA vs NVMe speeds:
|Typical Read Speeds
|Up to 550 MB/s
|Over 3000 MB/s
As you can see, NVMe blows SATA out of the water for read speed performance. Even a low-end NVMe drive will run circles around the fastest SATA SSDs.
What is considered a “good” read speed for an SSD?
For SATA SSDs, any drive with sustained read speeds over 500 MB/s would be considered good performance. The Samsung 860 EVO is a popular SATA SSD with 550 MB/s read speeds.
For NVMe SSDs, look for sequential read speeds above 3000 MB/s. The Samsung 980 Pro has read speeds up to 7000 MB/s and is one of the fastest consumer NVMe drives available.
Here are some examples of good read speeds for popular SSD models:
|Samsung 860 EVO
|WD Blue SN550
|Samsung 980 Pro
How do SSD form factors affect speed?
The physical form of the SSD does not directly impact read/write performance. However, certain form factors like M.2 are designed to take advantage of faster interfaces like NVMe.
Here is a quick overview of common SSD form factors:
- 2.5 inch – The traditional SSD form factor. These always use the SATA interface and are limited to SATA speeds.
- M.2 – A small, stick-like form factor. M.2 drives support SATA and NVMe interfaces. NVMe M.2 drives offer the fastest speeds.
- Add-in card – Large circuit board that plugs into a PCIe slot. Used primarily for enterprise NVMe SSDs and offer massive read/write performance.
While form factor itself does not affect speed, it does dictate available interfaces. NVMe M.2 drives are the fastest consumer SSD option on the market currently.
What makes a good quality SSD controller?
The controller is the processor chip on the SSD that manages all data transfers between the NAND flash memory and the host computer. Controllers optimized for fast read speeds have a few key characteristics:
- NVMe interface support – Controllers that support the NVMe protocol can achieve much faster speeds.
- Powerful processor – More processing power and cores allow the controller to handle multiple tasks efficiently.
- Fast DRAM cache – A large, fast DRAM cache on the controller improves read speed performance.
- Quality firmware – Optimized firmware ensures maximum performance and compatibility.
Leading SSD controller manufacturers include Phison, Silicon Motion, Samsung, Western Digital, and Marvell. Drives with controllers from these vendors typically offer excellent read/write speeds.
How does NAND flash memory affect SSD speed?
The quality and arrangement of NAND flash memory chips inside an SSD has a direct impact on performance. Here’s an overview:
- Single-level cell (SLC) – Highest performance but very expensive. Not commonly used in consumer drives.
- Multi-level cell (MLC) – Faster than TLC but costlier. Offers a good balance of speed and price.
- Triple-level cell (TLC) – Most affordable and common in consumer SSDs. Slightly slower performance than MLC.
- QLC (quad-level cell) – Increasingly popular for low-cost SSDs. Speeds are slower than TLC NAND.
Higher quality NAND like MLC provides faster read speeds, but it comes at a higher cost per gigabyte. Most consumer SSDs today use TLC NAND which offers a good compromise.
What size DRAM cache should you look for?
The DRAM cache on an SSD stores frequently accessed data for faster retrieval. Look for drives with a larger DRAM cache which improves read and write speeds. A good minimum size for most SSDs is:
- 128MB for SATA SSDs
- 512MB for entry-level NVMe SSDs
- 1GB+ for high-end NVMe SSDs
Having a DRAM cache of at least 512MB is recommended for NVMe drives to fully take advantage of the faster NVMe interface. For pricier high-end SSDs, a 1-2GB cache is ideal.
Should you look at 4K read speeds?
4K read speeds specifically measure how fast an SSD can read/write small 4K blocks of data. This provides insight into performance handling small files like program applications and operating system files.
4K read speed benchmarks are more relevant for evaluating real-world use case performance. Consistently high 4K speeds indicate an SSD with strong overall technical capabilities.
What is queue depth and how does it impact reads?
Queue depth refers to how many read/write operations an SSD can process in parallel. SSDs with higher maximum queue depths can handle more simultaneous requests and achieve faster sustained speeds.
Higher queue depth support also improves multi-tasking performance when running many applications. For very fast NVMe SSDs, look for queue depth support of at least 128.
Should you consider sequential vs random read speeds?
Most SSD manufacturers advertise the sequential read speed, which measures large file transfers one after the other. However, random read speed is also important.
Random read speed measures reading many small files scattered across the SSD in random order. It represents real-world use better. Faster random read speeds ensure snappy loading times for apps and operating system files.
Ideally, you want an SSD with both high sequential and random read speeds for optimal performance with all file types and operations.
How much do reads vs writes impact speed?
Read speed is generally much faster than write speed on SSDs. For typical consumer workloads, reads occur much more frequently than writes.
Prioritizing an SSD with high read speed ensures fast loading of applications, files, and games. Write-heavy work like 4K video editing relies more on high write performance.
For most users, having an SSD with good read speed is the primary goal for a snappy computer. But strong write speeds are still desirable for content creation and multitasking.
Should you upgrade from a SATA to NVMe SSD?
Upgrading from a SATA to NVMe SSD can provide a major boost in system performance. Key advantages of switching to NVMe include:
- Faster boot and app load times – NVMe SSDs can load data up to 6-7x faster than SATA.
- Better multi-tasking – Accessing apps and files simultaneously occurs much quicker.
- Additional bandwidth – No bottleneck from the SATA interface (capped at 550MB/s).
- Improved future-proofing – NVMe speed leaves room to grow as applications demand more.
The jump from SATA to NVMe comes at a higher cost per GB. But for performance-focused users, the speed boost is well worth the premium.
What is the impact of SSD endurance on speeds?
SSD endurance is a measure of drive writes over its lifetime. All SSDs slow down as they approach their write endurance limits.
Drives optimized for endurance can maintain peak read speeds for more writes. Look for SSDs with higher terabyte written (TBW) ratings to maintain speed performance longer.
Also, enabling overprovisioning on an SSD helps compensate for worn-out cells, extending high read speed performance.
Do budget SSDs have good enough read speeds?
Lower-cost SATA SSDs can still provide a big speed boost over hard disk drives. However, they are limited by the SATA interface to a maximum of around 550 MB/s read speed.
Budget NVMe SSDs offer much faster peak read speeds in the 2,000-3,500 MB/s range. But sustained speeds may drop lower under heavy workloads.
While cheaper SSDs are much faster than HDDs, premium SSDs provide more consistent speed for serious computing. Evaluate your workload needs vs budget when choosing.
What makes SSDs faster than hard drives?
SSDs are inherently much faster than traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) for several key reasons:
- No moving parts – SSDs are flash-based with no mechanical platters or read heads to move into position.
- Lower latency – Electrical signals are accessed immediately. HDDs require physical head movements.
- Faster interface – SATA SSDs are faster than SATA HDDs. NVMe SSDs are exponentially faster.
- Better parallelism – SSDs can access multiple flash cells in parallel. HDDs read one disk area at a time.
The combined improvements give SSDs access times measured in microseconds rather than the milliseconds of HDDs. This translates to vastly faster boot, app loading, and file copying.
When evaluating SSD read speeds, prioritize drives with fast NVMe interfaces, high-quality controllers and NAND flash, and large DRAM caches. Look for speeds above 550MB/s for SATA drives and over 3000MB/s for NVMe SSDs.
While sequential read speeds are important, also consider 4K random read speeds and queue depth support for real-world performance. For most consumer workloads, read speed has more impact than writes.
With the right SSD, you can transform slow system boot and app load times into a much snappier, more productive computing experience.