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Best M.2 SSD 2021: get the fastest SSD for every configuration and budget

Two M.2 SSDs – the Samsun Evo Plus and the Western Digital SN750 – on a blue background
(Image credit: Western Digital | Samsung)

If your computer’s feeling a little sluggish, consider investing in one of the best M.2 SSDs. You’ll immediately experience a boost in read and write speeds on your computer or gaming PC. And, since there are so many options out there, it’s an easy upgrade to make as well. 

Just like any other peripheral, however, the top M.2 SSD for you might be different from someone else. After all, there are different budgets and data access needs, as well as motherboard configurations. In fact, your motherboard might not be compatible with these types of hard drives. In that case, you might want to read up on the best SSDs for your storage needs. After all, the differences in sequential speeds and random data access from one solid state drive to the next are small enough that you might not realize that you’ve installed the wrong kind in your PC.

If you’re able to install an M.2 SSD, on the other hand, you’ll see an improvement particularly in read speeds overwrite speeds. That’s due to the fact that your Windows 10 computer will spend more time accessing memory instead of writing it. However, software developers and content creators should put a premium on better write speeds since you’ll be accessing and changing projects regularly.

Whatever your needs are regarding price, read and write speeds, and interface, we’ve collected the finest M.2 SSDs for your consideration. So, no matter if you’re upgrading your desktop or building a new PC, there’s something here that will help you get the most out of your rig.

Save space on your new M.2 SSD with this cloud storage solution

IDrive, the cloud storage veteran, delivers tons of storage online for an incredibly small outlay. 5TB for $3.98 for the first year is unmatched till now and so is the support for unlimited devices and the extensive file versioning system available.

Best M.2 SSD at a glance

  1. Adata XPG SX8200 Pro
  2. Samsung 970 EVO Plus
  3. WD Black SN750
  4. Corsair Force MP600
  5. Seagate FireCuda 520

The Adata XPG SX 8200 Pro on a white background

(Image credit: XPG)

1. Adata XPG SX 8200 Pro

One of the most durable M.2 SSDs you're going to find

Specifications
Capacity: 256GB to 2TB
Memory type: 3D TLC NAND
Interface: PCIe 3.0 x4
Max seq. read speed: Up to 3,500MB/s
Max seq. write speed: Up to 3,000MB/s
Heatsink: Yes
Mean time between failures (256GB/2TB): 2,500,000 / 2,000,000 hours
Terabytes written (256GB/2TB): 160 / 1280
Reasons to buy
+Great sequential read performance+Fantastic durability+Best value for large capacity M.2s
Reasons to avoid
-Random access speeds fall short of rivals

If you're looking for great value for the long haul, then the Adata XPG SX8200 Pro SSD is one of the best M.2 SSDs you're going to find. 

It has respectably-high sequential read and write speeds compared to its nearest competitors, the WD Black SN750 and Samsung 970 EVO Plus, but it's the SSD's outstanding durability that defines it. With an MTBF rating of 2,000,000 hours and a TBW score of 1280 at 2TB - the highest TBW of the PCIe 3.0 M.2s on the list - and 160 at 256GB. It also has a 5-year warranty, so no matter the capacity you buy, it will keep hustling along, even if it's a tad bit slower than the rest. 

Where it does fall short compared to the SN750 and the 970 EVO Plus - by a good bit, in fact - is its random access speeds. The XPG SX8200 Pro is a little under half as fast as the two competing SSDs, so if you use batch programming to generate a lot of new files for work, like invoices or database entries, then you might notice that the XPG SX8200 lags somewhat. That isn't most people, though, who will find the XPG SX8200 Pro more than fast enough for general use, gaming, and creative work. 

The Samsung 970 EVO Plus on a white background

(Image credit: Samsung)

2. Samsung 970 EVO Plus

The reigning speed demon of the PCIe 3.0s

Specifications
Capacity: 250GB to 2TB
Memory type: 3D MLC NAND
Interface: PCIe 3.0 x4
Max seq. read speed: Up to 3,500MB/s
Max seq. write speed: Up to 3,300MB/s
Heatsink: No
Mean time between failures: 1,500,000 hours
Terabytes written (250GB/2TB): 150/1200
Reasons to buy
+Fastest speeds for a PCIe 3.0 M.2 on the list+In-house memory and controller hardware
Reasons to avoid
-Bit more expensive than competition-Lowest durability for a PCIe 3.0 M.2 on the list

The Samsung 970 EVO Plus has some of the fastest sequential read and write speeds of any PCIe 3.0 M.2 SSD out there, making it an obvious contender for the best M.2 SDD on the list. Its random access performance is also the fastest of the PCIe 3.0s, easily making it the winner in the PCIe 3.0 bracket in terms of raw power.

The downside is its durability. The 970 EVO Plus has the lowest durability as measured by MTBF, rating only 1,500,000 hours, and its TBW rating at 2TB is 1200, matching the SN750, but lagging the XPG SX8200. At 256GB, it scores a rather low 150, the lowest of the three PCIe 3.0 contenders. 

It doesn't come with an option for a built-in heat sink, so any heat it generates needs to be bled off with additional cooling solutions. It does use Dynamic Thermal Guard technology to help regulate its core temperature as well as a hardware heat spreader and nickel-coated controller. It's not a heatsink, but it's something.

Of all the M.2 SSD's on this list, the Samsung EVO Plus is the most expensive, in some cases (against XPG SX8200, for example) by a good margin. If you have the money to spend and you want the fastest SSD your PCIe 3.0 board can handle, then you can't go wrong with the Samsung EVO Plus.

The WD Black SN750 NVMe SSD on a white background

(Image credit: Western Digital)

3. WD Black SN750 NVMe

The perfect balance of speed and durability

Specifications
Capacity: 250GB to 2TB
Memory type: 3D TLC NAND
Interface: PCIe 3.0 x4
Max seq. read speed: Up to 3,400MB/s
Max seq. write speed: Up to 2,900MB/s
Heatsink: Yes (not available for 250GB model)
Mean time between failures (250GB/2TB): 1,750,000 hours
Terabytes written (250GB/2TB): 200/1200
Reasons to buy
+Excellent performance+Excellent durability+Heatsink option available on 500GB and up
Reasons to avoid
-Sequential write speed could be faster

If you're looking for the best M.2 SSD for your non-PCIe 4.0-compatible motherboard but you want a good balance of performance, durability, and cost, then you really want to look at the WD Black SN750. 

It has excellent performance overall, with fast sequential read and write speeds, though not as fast as the Samsung 970 EVO Plus, and it has significantly higher random access speeds than the XPG SX 8200 while falling a bit short of the 970 EVO Plus's speeds.

As for durability, it has an MTBF of 1,750,000 hours, a TBW of 1200 at 2TB and 200 at 250GB, so you can expect a lot of life out of it. At a slightly higher price, you can get one with a built-in heatsink that should help extend its useful life even more. Unfortunately, the heatsink is only available on 500GB models or larger.

The WD Black SN750 also has a fantastic size-to-price ratio - falling behind the XPG SX8200 at higher capacities but matching its price at 1TB, if you don't go with the heatsink option, that is. It costs a little bit less than Samsung's 970 EVO Plus, with or without the heatsink, so between speed, longevity, and price, the WD Black SN750 is a perfect compromise if you don't want to sacrifice too much on any front.

The Corsair Force MP600 PCIe 4.0 SSD on a white background

(Image credit: Corsair)

4. Corsair Force MP600

An affordable PCIe 4.0 SSD, but at a cost

Specifications
Capacity: 500GB to 2TB
Memory type: 3D TLC NAND
Interface: PCIe 4.0 x4
Max seq. read speed: Up to 4,950MB/s
Max seq. write speed: Up to 4,250MB/s
Heatsink: Yes
Mean time between failures (500GB/2TB): 1,700,000 hours
Terabytes written (500GB/2TB): 850/3600
Reasons to buy
+Least expensive PCIe 4.0 on the list+Aluminum heatsink comes standard+Solid durability
Reasons to avoid
-Much slower than PCIe 4.0 standards allow

The Corsair Force MP600 is a bit slower than the other PCIe 4.0 SSDs on this list, but fortunately, it's also lower in price than the others that the slight difference in speeds will hardly seem worth paying a $50/£40/AU$70 premium for that little extra bit of juice. 

The current PCIe 4.0 SSDs are also much slower than the maximum speeds possible with the 4.0 standards, which have about double the bandwidth of PCIe 3.0 SSDs. So even with the current round of 4.0 SSDs being slower than the 4.0's potential, the Corsair Force MP600 is the slowest of the slower PCIe 4.0s currently available, even if its just by a little bit. 

If you can live with that, then the Corsair Force MP600 is still an excellent SSD and its as durability as the other 4.0s on the list, so you really aren't losing much by going with the Corsair Force MP600 over the others, making it a strong contender for the best M.2 SSD in the PCIe 4.0 bracket at the moment.

All of this assumes your motherboard is PCIe 4.0-compatible. If not, any PCIe 4.0 will run at max PCIe 3.0 capacity, so the extra power you're paying for is pretty much wasted.

The Seagate FireCuda 520 PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSD on a white background

(Image credit: Seagate)

5. Seagate FireCuda 520 Gen4 SSD

A brilliant M.2 SSD for raw performance

Specifications
Capacity: 500GB to 2TB
Memory type: 3D TLC NAND
Interface: PCIe 4.0 x4
Max seq. read speed: Up to 5,000MB/s
Max seq. write speed: Up to 4,400MB/s
Heatsink: No
Mean time between failures (500GB/2TB): 1,800,000 hours
Terabytes written (500GB/2TB): 850/3600
Reasons to buy
+Marginally faster access speeds than rivals+Fantastic durability
Reasons to avoid
-Not as fast as PCIe 4.0 allows-Bit more expensive

If you have a Gen4-enabled motherboard and you wanted to get the best M.2 SSD in terms of raw performance, then you can't go wrong with Seagate's FireCuda 520 Series SSD. 

With max sequential and random access speeds that beat the Corsair Force MP600, even if its just by a modest amount, the FireCuda still gets to call itself the fastest M.2 SSD around - and since its only $20 to $30 more than the Corsair Force MP600, you can justify the marginal price increase on the marginally faster SSD. 

Since there are other PCIe 4.0 SSDs with more or less identical specifications to the FireCuda, and most are roughly the same price as well, you actually have a few options to choose from will more or less perform as well as this one. 

None of them are fully utilizing PCIe 4.0 to its fullest, but theirs is likely to be the best M.2 SSD performance we're going to get for a while, so if you're looking for the best M.2 SSD with a PCIe 4.0 interface, now might be as good a time as any to dive right in and get your feet wet with the Seagate FireCuda 520. 

John Loeffler

John (He / Him / His) is TechRadar's Computing Staff Writer and is also a programmer, gamer, activist, and Brooklyn College alum currently living in Brooklyn, NY. Named by the CTA as a CES 2020 Media Trailblazer for his science and technology reporting, John specializes in all areas of computer science, including industry news, hardware reviews, PC gaming, as well as general science writing and the social impact of the tech industry.


You can find him online on Twitter at @thisdotjohn


Currently playing: Valheim, Darkest Dungeon, Satisfactory