How to choose a perfect SSD for your laptop?


Due to the ongoing pandemic, most professionals are working from home, and they have to push their laptops to a certain threshold. While working on demanding tasks, your system can sweat a lot if you are working on a budget-friendly or an older device. But, you can effortlessly improve your device's performance and app loading times by adding a Solid State Drive (SSD), if your device doesn't come with a pre-installed one. In this post, I will help you choose the best SSD for your device.



What is SSD?


Before exploring the best SSD for your device, first, let's see a few basics about SSD and its advantages over the regular spinning drives. The main advantage of SSDs is their speeds. Even the lower end SSDs are nearly four times faster than the hard drives. Usually, conventional hard drives have a read/write speeds of 150 MB/s. Besides better read and write speeds, SSDs are more reliable than conventional hard disks since SSD doesn't have any moving parts. Well, now dive into our topic of choosing the best SSD for your laptop.


Solid State Drives are broadly classified into two categories, SATA and NVMe SSDs.

SATA (Serial AT Attachment) is a more conventional hardware interface, and it uses AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface) as a software interface. AHCI was originally designed for hard drives, but nowadays, the interface is also used for SSDs. The SATA SSDs are further classified into two types, SATA DRAM SSDs and SATA DRAM-less SSDs. As the name implies, DRAM SSDs come with a dedicated DRAM, which acts as cache memory, and it helps in increasing the performance of the SSD. Whereas, DRAM-less SSD utilizes a part of the system's RAM for caching purpose. DRAM SSDs (e.g.WD Blue) are usually costlier than DRAM-less SSDs (e.g.WD Green) due to better boot performance. The read/write speed of SATA SSD is usually around 500 MB/s.

SATA SSDs are available in 2.5" and M.2 form factors. SATA 2.5" drives can be easily installed in your laptops by swapping it in place of regular hard disks, or if in case your system has CD/DVD drive slot, you can use a caddy tray to accommodate both your spinning drive as well as your 2.5" SSD. If you are planning to install an M.2 SSD, your laptop's motherboard must have a dedicated M.2 slot with support for the SATA interface, because some M.2 slots may support only SATA or NVMe SSD. Before purchasing an SSD, make sure that your laptop has an M.2 slot, its supported interface(s), and maximum supported size so that you can make purchase decisions accordingly.


If your planning to purchase a SATA SSD, purchase SATA M.2 SSD only if your device doesn't have an optical drive or if you are planning to use both hard drive and SSD simultaneously. If your laptop supports M.2 NVMe SSD, spend some extra money and consider buying an NVMe SSD as it has better performance when compared to M.2 SATA SSDs.

The next type of SSD is NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) SSD, and they are predominantly available in the M.2 form factor. M.2 is a form of PCIe (peripheral component interconnect express) hardware interface. Since it uses the PCIe interface, the performance is significantly faster (approx. 3 times faster) when compared to SATA SSDs. NVMe SSD also comes in varying read/write speeds. Affordable NVMe SSD (Kingston A2000) has an advertised read/write speeds of 2200 MB/s and 2000 MB/s, whereas costlier NVMe SSD (has an advertised read/write speeds of 3500 MB/s and 2700 MB/s. The difference in speeds is usually due to the type and size of NAND flash memory used. The actual speeds may vary due to many factors such as motherboard and configuration of the system etc.



Test machine: Lenovo IP 330 
Configuration: i5 8300H/GTX 1050/8GB RAM/250GB SSD/1 TB 5400 rpm HDD
SSD: Kingston A2000 250 GB M.2 NVMe SSD


Which one is perfect for you?


If your laptop has an M.2 slot with support for NVMe SSD, spend a bit more and go for at least affordable M.2 NVMe SSD as it is approximately 10X faster than regular hard drives. If you are doing intense work like video editing, then you can go with faster NVMe SSDs.


If you are tight on budget or if your device doesn't have an M.2 slot, then you can go with either DRAM or DRAM-less SATA SSDs. DRAM SSD helps in booting the device and applications faster, but the read/write speeds are more or less similar between both the SSDs.


Whatever SSD you choose, always boot windows and other major applications from SSD, this will significantly improve the device's performance. Likewise, avoid storing larger files, movies, and documents in SSD as it will reduce the performance of the SSD. Cramping a lot of files in SSDs will affect the performance. At least go for 256 GB SSD for your device, whereas the sweet spot is 512 GB.


Always make sure that the SSD has a free space of nearly 50% to ensure better performance.

Some of the best SSD at various price brackets


SATA DRAM

WD Blue (M.2) WD Blue 2.5"

250 GB 1 TB












SATA DRAM-less

WD Green (M.2) WD Green 2.5"

480 GB 240 GB












NVMe

Kingston A2000 Samsung 970 Evo

500 GB Plus 250 GB











Image credits: Samsung.com


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