Most computers and storage drives still use the common SATA or PCIe 3.0 interfaces to carry their data bits, but if you’re lucky enough to have a relatively modern PC, you might be able to upgrade to a solid-state drive ( SSD). ) built on top of the incredibly fast PCIe 4.0 protocol.
We’ve tested several PCIe 4.0 SSDs and the best to cross our labs so far is the WD Black SN850X in a field of tough competitors, though it’s neck and neck with the rival Seagate FireCuda 530. Ultimately, due to its better overall performance, the WD Black SN850X takes our top spot.
Read on for more information, including what to look for in a PCIe 4.0 SSD.
Updated on 03/14/2023: To include the Adata Legend 850, our new pick for second best budget PCIe 4.0 SSD. Check out our roundup below for more information.
1. WD Black SN850X: Best PCIe 4.0 SSD
Decently affordable given its speed
Available up to 4TB
Optional heatsink for 1/2 TB models
Expensive per gigabyte
Somewhat parsimonious TBW ratings
Price when reviewed:
$159 for 1TB I $289 for 2TB I $699 for 4TB
The WD Black SN850X is a blazing fast drive and sits right next to the FireCuda 530 at the top in terms of speed. The reason we picked the WD Black SN850X over the best PCIe 4.0 is that it offers better value for money: not only does it give you the same great speed as FireCuda, but it does so at a lower price per GB.
Also, in terms of overall performance, the SN850X stands out with its excellent real-world transfer rates and excellent random write performance. In the crowded field of excellent PCIe 4.0 SSDs, the WD Black SN850X remains at the top despite stiff competition.
Read our full WD Black SN850X review
2. Seagate FireCuda 530: Best PCIe 4.0 SSD Runner-up
Fastest NVMe PCIe 4 SSD we’ve tested to date
Very high TBW (longevity) index
Five-year warranty with free three-year data recovery
The FireCuda 530 is a fast drive. They were talking the fast and the furious hit the NOS guy fast. It’s still the only drive that writes our 450 GB test file in less than 200 seconds. Not only that, but it’s the fastest unit in both synthetic benchmarks and real-world transfers. It also comes with a very high TBW longevity rating, meaning you can type harder for longer at those blistering speeds.
The only reason it doesn’t take our top spot is that it’s a bit expensive compared to the WD Black SN850X, which comes close to the speed of the FireCuda. Still, if your main concern is speed and you have some money to spend, the extra money will come in droves.
Read our full review of the Seagate FireCuda 530 (2TB)
3. Crucial P3 Plus: Best budget PCIe 4.0 SSD
Good PCIe 4 performance
Excellent PCIe 3 performance
Second level overall performance
Extremely low TBW ratings
Price when reviewed:
500GB/$60 | 1TB/$100 | 2TB/$190 (tested) | 4TB/$400
The latest generation PCIe 4.0 SSDs are not cheap. Fortunately, technology is becoming more widespread, making it possible to sell various models at attractive prices. Best of the affordable bunch? Crucial P3 Plus.
At just $100 for a 1TB model, the price can’t be beat. It also offers solid overall performance. The P3 Plus isn’t the fastest PCIe 4.0 drive, but it has decent real-world transfer rates and is still an NVMe in the end. It might be slower than our top-of-the-line PCIe 4.0 SSDs, but it’ll be a huge improvement if you’re upgrading from a SATA drive. If you’re looking for a good amount of NVMe storage on the cheap, then the Crucial P3 Plus is your best bet.
Read our full Crucial P3 Plus NVMe SSD review
4. Adata Legend 850: Best Budget PCIe 4.0 SSD Runner-Up
Great performance in the real world
Attractive designer style heat sink available.
The 512 GB capacity is a relatively slow recorder
Price when reviewed:
$59.99 for 512GB
If you don’t need a 1TB capacity drive like the Crucial P3 Plus above, or are just looking to get your hands on ultra-fast PCIe 4.0 for as little money as possible, then the 512GB Adata Legend 850 is worth considering. For just $50 at the time of writing, you can get the solid Legend 850. The drive scored very well in synthetic benchmarks for read scores, and in our real-world 48GB read and write test. , he scored better than many of his peers. The 512GB capacity is probably not enough to be the primary drive in a high-end gaming or content creation PC, but for the average budget gaming PC or laptop it would make a solid foundation or great upgrade.
Read our full review of the Adata Legend 850 512GB SSD
5. Sabrent Rocket 2230 SSD – Best for Steam Deck
Short (30mm long), 2230 form factor
Very good daily performance.
Attractive label and packaging
A bit expensive for the capacity.
TBW rating somewhat low
Price when reviewed:
You’ll find PCIe 4.0 slots in a lot of devices these days, including some you might not expect, like handheld game consoles. In the past, if you wanted to upgrade storage on these smaller handhelds, or even laptops where the larger 2280 NVMe SSDs couldn’t fit, you were generally out of luck. Fortunately, Sabrent fixed that with their Rocket 2230 SSD. At just 30mm long, it allows you to use it in small devices like the popular Steam Deck. Performance-wise, it’s an HMB drive that’s perfectly fine for everyday use and has a decent gigabyte-per-dollar balance. That said, if your device is capable of handling the larger 2280 drives, you’ll likely find a better price for performance at that size. But for those who need a smaller PCIe 4.0 drive, the Sabrent Rocket fits the niche perfectly and is the best option for devices like the Steam Deck.
What to look for in an SSD
There are a few things to keep in mind, but most importantly, you’ll want to focus on capacity, price, and warranty length. Three-year warranties are standard, but some nicer models are warranted for up to five years. And unlike the good old days of SSDs, modern drives won’t wear out with normal consumer use, as Tech Report tested and demonstrated years ago with a grueling endurance test.
Another crucial thing to consider is the technology used to connect the SSD to your PC. For more details and buying advice, you can read our detailed guide on what type of SSD you should buy.
- sata: This refers to both the connection type and the transfer protocol, which is used to connect most 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch hard drives and SSDs to your PC. SATA III speeds can reach approximately 600 MBps, with most, but not all, modern drives reaching the maximum. (More on that in the next section.)
- PCIe– This interface takes advantage of four of your computer’s PCIe lanes to knock out SATA speeds, adding up to almost 4 GBps over PCIe gen 3. Those kinds of melting speeds pair nicely with supercharged NVMe drives. Both the PCIe lanes on your motherboard and the M.2 slot on your motherboard can be wired to support the PCIe interface, and you can purchase adapters that allow you to insert M.2 “gumstick” drives into a PCIe lane. PCIe 4.0 drives are significantly faster, but require an 11th generation (or newer) AMD Ryzen 3000 series or Intel Core processor, along with a PCIe 4.0 compatible motherboard.
- NVMe: Non-Volatile Memory Express technology takes advantage of the abundant bandwidth of PCIe to create blazing fast SSDs that outperform SATA-based drives. See PCWorld’s “Everything You Need to Know About NVMe” for detailed information.
- M.2: This is where things get tricky. Many people assume that all M.2 drives use NVMe technology and PCIe speeds, but that’s not true. M.2 is just a form factor. Sure, most M.2 SSDs use NVMe, but some still stick to SATA. Do your homework. Many modern Ultrabooks rely on M.2 for storage.
- U.2 and mSATA: You might also stumble upon mSATA and U.2 SSDs, but both motherboard compatibility and product availability are rare for those form factors. Some older Ultrabooks included mSATA before M.2 became popular, and the drives are still available if you need them.
Speed matters, of course, but as we said, most modern SSDs clutter up the SATA III interface. Although not all of them.
How we test SSDs
We test SSDs using a variety of synthetic benchmarks (such as the various CrystalDiskMark 6 tests) and real-world tests, including 48GB transfers that show how a drive performs during common tasks, as well as a demanding transfer test. of 450 GB that pushes the cache performance of an SSD to the limit.
PCIe 4.0 testing was performed on an MSI MEG X570 motherboard with an 8-core AMD Ryzen 7 3700X CPU, using the same Kingston DRAM, cards, and software. All tests are performed on an empty or nearly empty unit. Note: Performance will decrease as the drive fills up.