Fastest SSD Drive for Windows and Linux

by Patrick Hyde •

The Details

Unlike a mechanical hard drive, an SSD doesn’t have any moving parts. With more components and exposed circuitry, a HDD is vulnerable to mechanical failure. The SSD can access and write data much faster and is resistant to physical shock. But advertised SSD benchmarks are hard to pin down, as they depend on the type of data transfer and a drive’s age.

Although data shows that SDDs have a much lower fail rate than HDDs, lower end models have a lifespan of only a few years and decline with age. So while the spinning platter on a HDD can theoretically store infinite writes, data is rewritten on the chip in a SSD. Luckily, recent innovations in the way flash data is transferred maximize the speed of SSDs while extending their active life.

Fastest SSD Overall: Samsung 850 Pro SSD

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I weighed a few factors to decide the fastest SSD. First, I wanted a close balance between read and write performance. Sequential read and write performance are based on how fast a hard drive can read and write data onto the drive. The read and write speeds are important if you are moving around large chunks of data as quickly as possible, as a web developer might. I also wanted strong IOPs (Input/output operations) performance based on real-world workloads.  The 4KB speed determines performance and speed during small transfers of data, like your quotidian browsing and gaming. Finally, I factored in reliability and lifespan, which vary wildly in the SSD market. By these metrics, I determined that the Samsung 850 PRO is the fastest SSD drive available.

The drive’s performance rests on the laurels of its V-NAND chip. The 850 PRO is the first commercial drive to use 3D NAND. NAND is the type of solid-state flash memory cell to which your data is transferred and stored. It is also endures a limited number of writes, which is why SSDs deteriorate over the years. Samsung stacked 32 cell layers vertically, allowing them to achieve higher density and the capacity to deliver higher performance and reliability over time. Instead of a 3 or 5 year lifespan, Samsung designed the 850 PRO  to handle a minimum of 150 Terabytes Written, or a 40 GB daily read/write workload over 10 years. It comes with a 10 year warranty, a true feat in the SSD world.

The innovative vertical flash is paired with a 3-core MEX controller and 1 GB DDR2 cache. As a result, the Samsung delivers the fastest speeds of any consumer SSD. It has a sequential read/write speed of 550/520 MB/s, and 4KB random read/write speeds of 100,000/90,000 IOPS. Wary of manufacturer provided benchmarks? I don’t blame you, as they vary wildly for SSDs and rarely translate to a typical consumer performance. But the Samsung 850 Pro dominates the effective speed category on userbenchmark.com, where PC owners can upload benchmark performance. So gamers, media professionals, and other PC users find the fastest bet in the Samsung Pro.

Other perks include rapid RAM cache acceleration, full drive encryption, and free data migration. The 850 PRO’s security complies with TCG Opal v.20 and gives you the option to instantly erase data and sanitize your drive with a crypto erase feature. It works with Windows 10/8/7/Vista SP1 and above (32/64 bit), Widows Server 2008 (32/64 bit), and is Linux Compatible.

The main downside is the price. A 1TB drive costs over $400, while 256GB costs over $100.

Another Option: Mushkin Reactor

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Mushkin’s Reactor SSD drives deliver impressive performance and storage capacity at a discounted price. Every component in the Reactor is designed to deliver high benchmarks while lowering the cost of production. Its quad channel Silicon Motion controller delivers sequential read/write speed of 560/460MBs and 4K random read/write speeds of 74,000/76,000. At 1TB for just over $200, those speeds are an incredible value for gamers.

So what are the sacrifices, besides a 9% drop in effective speed? The Reactor does not come with any data transfer software, so you’ll need to use a cloning program like EaseUS. It uses MLC NAND flash memory, so it will not last as long as the 850 PRO. It comes with a 3 year warranty.

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