Leveraging Micron’s 176-layer TLC NAND, the Seagate FireCuda 530 offers sustained write speeds up to twice as fast as those of other popular PCIe 4.0 drives. In shorter transfers, the drive saturates the PCIe 4.0 interface with speeds up to about 7,000 MB/s. The Phison E18 controller is no longer the most efficient, but in terms of pure random performance it still puts up a fight. The drive’s current firmware supports the DirectStorage API, which may become valuable once PC games start taking advantage of it.
Two things set the Seagate drive apart, even from drives that use the same components, such as the Kingston KC3000, Corsair MP600 Pro XT, and the current version of the Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus. The first is an endurance rating of 2,550 terabytes written (TBW) for the 2TB version, compared to about 1,500 in its competitors. The second is a 3-year data recovery service, in addition to the 5-year warranty – a worthy addition when the data on your drive is worth more to you than the drive itself.
The 2TB FireCuda 530 version writes faster than the smaller-capacity models, selling for $150, and the 1TB version is almost as fast for $80. The 4TB version is currently more expensive than two 2TB drives, but it’s still a good option if you only have one M.2 slot.
PCIe 5.0 drives such as the Corsair MP700, Crucial T700 and Seagate’s own FireCuda 540 promise better sequential performance, but due to cooling and flash density limitations, things are more complex. Modern SSDs are designed to use a portion of their free space as cache for writing at full speed. Depending on how much free space the drive has, PCIe 5.0 drives will fill this cache a few seconds faster. After that, writing speed will be similar to that of the FireCuda 530. Costing about twice per TB, it’s simply not worth it.
Best for gamers: Samsung 990 Pro
The Samsung 990 Pro offers record-breaking random read performance for an M.2 drive. Maximum write speeds have been raised to max out the PCIe interface from about 5GB/s in the older 980 Pro. In long writes it’s actually slower than the previous model, but that’s for a reason: the drive remains much cooler than the competition when used without a heatsink, making it a prime candidate for laptops. At $130 for 2TB, we can recommend it with no reservations.
The Crucial T500 is a solid alternative. It uses Micron’s newer 232-layer flash and a smaller 4-channel controller for unprecedented efficiency for a DRAM-equipped SSD. Its main drawback is inconsistent performance in sustained writes. The 2TB version can be had for $120, or $125 with a heatsink. The 1TB version also provides great value at $57.
The Solidigm P44 Pro, previously known as the SK Hynix Platinum P41, performs similarly to the Samsung 990 Pro while being almost as efficient as the T500. It’s normally more expensive, but at the time of writing it can be had for $130 for 2TB. If you prefer to save some money, the Crucial P5 Plus performs similarly to the older 980 Pro while being less efficient, but sells at $104 for 2TB.
A trusted SATA: An alternative for older PCs and laptops
The wallet-friendly Crucial MX500 is a proven affordable option if you want to upgrade an older desktop or laptop that only supports the SATA interface.