The Best M.2 Solid-State Drives for 2023 (2023)

The Best M.2 Solid-State Drive Deals This Week*

  • Samsung 990 Pro 2TB M.2 NVMe Gen4 Solid-State Drive$156.28(List Price $289.99)
  • Lexar NM800 Pro 1TB M.2 NVMe Gen4 Solid-State Drive$69.99(List Price $149.99)
  • WD_BLACK SN850 2TB M.2 NVMe Gen4 SSD With Heatsink$154.99(List Price $299.99)
  • Crucial P3 Plus 2TB M.2 NVMe Gen4 Solid-State Drive$79.99(List Price $91.99)
  • Seagate Firecuda 520 2TB M.2 NVMe Gen4 Solid-State Drive$171.76(List Price $209.99)

*Deals are selected by our commerce team

Under the hoods of the skinniestlaptops,and in the hollows of the latest desktop-PC motherboards, solid-state storage has undergone a transformation. The whole idea? To make the storage hardware itself close to invisible. In recent years, solid-state drives (SSDs) have migrated from the slab-like shapes of familiar hard drives into little sticks of memory that offer much the same capacities as their predecessors. And they have picked up speed along the way.

Below you'll find our top-rated M.2 SSDs, followed by a detailed guide to everything you need to know about selecting the best one for your PC. We'll conclude with a side-by-side spec breakout table of our top picks.

Our Experts Have Tested 19 Products in the SSDs Category This Year

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Deeper Dive: Our Top Tested Picks

The Best M.2 Solid-State Drives for 2023 (1)

Crucial P5 Plus

Best PCI Express 4.0 M.2 SSD for Most Users

4.5 Outstanding

Why We Picked It

The Crucial P5 Plus takes all that was good about the previous-generation Crucial P5 and adds PCI Express 4.0 compatibility, with a corresponding hike in performance—provided you have the proper hardware. The drive's PCMark 10 results were particularly impressive, at or near the top of our comparison group in almost every benchmark. Tack on a good software suite, full-disk hardware-based encryption, and a five-year warranty, and you have an all-around excellent high-performance internal SSD.

Who It's For

The Crucial P5 Plus makes a great all-around internal SSD if you are upgrading to PCI Express 4.0. The P5 Plus posted excellent program-loading times in our testing and offers a solid software package and warranty. And you can rest assured that your data is safe; the drive's full-disk 256-bit AES hardware-based encryption should withstand any brute-force attempt to crack it.


  • Superb PCMark 10 overall and program-loading scores
  • Good SSD management software suite
  • 256-bit AES hardware-based full-disk encryption
  • Five-year warranty


  • Slow Crystal DiskMark 4K write speeds


$42.99 Amazon

Learn More

Crucial P5 Plus Review

The Best M.2 Solid-State Drives for 2023 (2)

Crucial P3

Best PCI Express 3.0 M.2 SSD for Most Users

4.5 Outstanding

Why We Picked It

The Crucial P3 is a good choice as a PCI Express 3.0 SSD to upgrade your system, providing good performance at such at a modest price. As the successor to the Crucial P2, the P3 offers higher capacities and much higher throughput speeds at a lower cost per gigabyte, thanks to Micron's switch from TLC to QLC flash memory for this drive. The drawback is that the change lowers the P3's write-durability rating, making it best for tasks that don't consistently write large amounts of data to the drive. The controller lacks a DRAM cache, which causes a performance hit in some SSDs but seemingly not the P3, which generally scored well in the PCMark 10 benchmarks.

Who It's For

The Crucial P3 provides good performance in a PCI Express 3.0 NVMe SSD. Its QLC NAND flash memory keeps the P3's price down while allowing capacities up to 4TB. It's a spot-on pick for upgrading older PCs that don't support PCIe 4.0.


  • Available in capacities up to 4TB
  • Low cost per gigabyte for all models
  • Includes link for Acronis True Image cloning software
  • Good benchmark results for a PCI Express 3.0 drive


  • Relatively low write-durability (TBW) ratings
  • Lacks 256-bit AES hardware-based encryption


$24.99 Amazon

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Crucial P3 Review

The Best M.2 Solid-State Drives for 2023 (3)


Best Budget PCI Express 4.0 M.2 SSD

4.5 Outstanding

Why We Picked It

The versatile ADATA XPG Atom 50 is a PCI Express 4.0 internal SSD usable in desktops, laptops, and the PlayStation 5. Geared toward gamers, the Atom 50 put up excellent numbers in our PCMark 10 testing, including on the game-loading trace test. Its QLC-based NAND flash memory helps keep this budget drive's cost down. Finally, the Atom 50 supports AES 256-bit hardware-based encryption, the gold standard for consumer-based drives.

Who It's For

The ADATA XPG Atom 50 is for gamers and others looking to get a high-performance PCI Express 4.0 drive on the cheap.


  • Inexpensive for a PCIe 4.0 SSD
  • Superb benchmark results with high scores for OS booting and game loading
  • Compatible with Sony PlayStation 5
  • AES 256-bit hardware-based encryption


  • Currently available only in 1TB capacity
  • Relatively low scores in some file-copy tests


$79.99 Amazon

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ADATA XPG Atom 50 Review

The Best M.2 Solid-State Drives for 2023 (4)

HP FX900 PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSD

A Solid Alternative to the ADATA XPG Atom 50

4.0 Excellent

Why We Picked It

The HP FX900 isn't the fastest PCI Express 4.0 SSD on the block, but this M.2 model puts up solid (and, in some cases, excellent) numbers at a surprisingly moderate price. It's a no-frills internal drive that delivered good results even compared with drives that have considerably higher throughput ratings. Among the tests in which it did particularly well are two of significance to gamers: 4K reads and launching Battlefield 5. Its DRAM-less architecture didn't seem to hurt its performance for everyday operations, while keeping its cost per gigabyte among the lowest in the PCIe 4.0 SSD segment.

Who It's For

Gamers looking for a budget PCI Express 4.0 stick who realize that there's more to SSD performance than sequential speed ratings will love the HP FX900. It punches above its weight class, holding its own against drives with considerably higher throughput ratings. The FX900 aced several PCMark 10 tests, including ones related to gaming. It's well worth consideration for users looking for a very capable drive at a bargain price.


  • Competitively priced
  • Solid benchmark performance, with a few top-tier scores


  • Lacks a full heatsink
  • Relatively low write-durability (TBW) rating
  • No AES 256-bit hardware-based encryption


$39.99 Amazon

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HP FX900 PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSD Review

The Best M.2 Solid-State Drives for 2023 (5)

WD Blue SN570

Best Budget PCI Express 3.0 M.2 SSD

4.0 Excellent

Why We Picked It

Despite its name, the WD Blue SN570 is an SSD to drive your budget blues away. The SN570 is a solid performer among affordable PCI Express 3.0 M.2 SSDs. It is faster than its predecessor, the WD Blue SN550, and delivered above-average results in most of our benchmark tests, in a few cases even beating the Editors' Choice award-winning Samsung SSD 980. Consider it a solid pick for a terabyte M.2 stick on a budget.

Who It's For

The WD Blue SN570 does well as a budget general-purpose internal SSD for those of us with computers that don't support the PCI Express 4.0 standard. The SN570, the third iteration of Western Digital's popular budget SSD, is faster than ever and proved a solid performer in our benchmark tests. You can have this PCI Express 3.0 NVMe stick for a song—and it won't have you singing the blues.


  • Affordable
  • Decent speed for a PCIe 3.0 SSD


  • Low write durability rating for a TLC-based drive
  • Low AS-SSD program load benchmark score


$24.99 Amazon

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WD Blue SN570 Review

The Best M.2 Solid-State Drives for 2023 (6)

Samsung SSD 990 Pro

Best High-Performance M.2 Drive for Creative Users

4.0 Excellent

Why We Picked It

The Samsung SSD 990 Pro, the company's flagship PCI Express 4.0 NVMe internal solid-state drive, has a hard act to follow in the Editors' Choice-winning SSD 980 Pro, but for the most part it makes a great product even better. This power-efficient drive gets high marks for raw speed, everyday application performance, a strong software suite, and hardware-based encryption. It doesn't quite merit its predecessor's Editors' Choice award, because other recent internal SSDs have outpaced it in our gaming benchmarks, but its overall capability makes this Samsung a versatile drive well-suited for creative tasks.

Who It's For

Though it can't quite match the gaming prowess of some of the latest generation of PCIe 4.0 speedsters, the 990 Pro still offers respectable gaming performance while being a thoroughbred workhorse for creative tasks. It's an appealing choice for many buyers and a worthy upgrade from the 980 Pro.


  • Impressive overall performance
  • Compatible with PlayStation 5
  • Includes powerful Samsung Magician software
  • 256-bit AES hardware-based encryption


  • Mediocre gaming benchmark scores


$79.99 Amazon $79.99 Best Buy

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Samsung SSD 990 Pro Review

The Best M.2 Solid-State Drives for 2023 (7)

SK Hynix Platinum P41

Best PCI Express 4.0 M.2 SSD for Serious Gamers

4.5 Outstanding

Why We Picked It

South Korean memory-chip maker SK Hynix is a relative newcomer to the consumer solid-state drive market, but you would never know that based on its first offerings. The SK Hynix Platinum P41, a PCI Express 4.0 NVMe M.2 SSD, is its best yet. It dominated our PCMark 10 and 3DMark Storage benchmark testing, setting several new records in the process. The P41 supports 256-bit AES hardware-based encryption. SK Hynix provides a clone utility tool, the SK Hynix System Migration Utility, for its SSDs, in addition to Easy Drive Manager software, which lets you see detailed information on drive health, run diagnostics, and erase the drive. And the P41 can be had for a very reasonable price in its 1TB and 2TB capacities.

Who It's For

The SK Hynix Platinum P41 is a worthy choice for anyone looking to buy a high-performance PCI Express 4.0 NVMe SSD without breaking the bank. It blew away several of our benchmark records. The P41 provides AES hardware-based encryption and a clone utility tool as well as SSD management software. Just be forewarned that with its blistering speed, you will want to add a heatsink, the one item of note that it is missing.


  • In our testing, exceeded its sequential speed ratings
  • Excellent scores in PCMark 10 and 3DMark benchmarks
  • Competitively priced
  • Includes drive cloning/migration software
  • Supports 256-bit AES hardware-based encryption


  • No heatsink included


$63.99 Amazon

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SK Hynix Platinum P41 Review

The Best M.2 Solid-State Drives for 2023 (8)

WD Black SN850X

A Solid Alternative to the SK Hynix Platinum P41

4.5 Outstanding

Why We Picked It

The WD Black SN850X is an upgrade to Western Digital's high-performance PCI Express 4.0 NVMe internal gaming SSD, the SN850. The SN850X improves on an already excellent drive by giving buyers the option for a 4TB version and an upgrade in flash memory technology that boosts sequential read and write speeds. It turned in improved benchmark results in both gaming and general storage tests (including a new PC Labs record in the 3DMark Storage benchmark). You'll definitely want to use a heatsink with this speedster (it's available with or without). About all it lacks is hardware-based security.

Who It's For

The WD Black SN850X is a great choice as an elite PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2 SSD for gaming and/or creative use.


  • Capacities up to 4TB
  • Available with or without heatsink
  • Exceeded both its sequential read and write speed ratings
  • Aced PCMark and 3DMark storage tests


  • Lacks 256-bit AES hardware-based encryption


$64.99 Amazon

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WD Black SN850X Review

The Best M.2 Solid-State Drives for 2023 (9)

ADATA XPG Spectrix S40G

Best M.2 SSD for PC Modders

4.5 Outstanding

Why We Picked It

If you're a custom PC builder with RGB-lighting fever, and have RGB-ified just about every inch and corner of your system, perk up: ADATA has brought pretty lights to the internal SSD final frontier. The XPG Spectrix S40G is the most flamboyant NVMe drive we've seen to date. With its exceptional 4K write speeds, top-notch sequential-read speeds, and respectable durability rating, ADATA makes having a top-of-the line, over-the-top SSD affordable and fun, in one fell swoop.

Who It's For

The ADATA XPG Spectrix S40 is an unapologetically bright RGB-lit PCIe 3.0 NVMe M.2 SSD that blings up your PC. Its 4K read and write speeds should keep most gamers happy, too. The ADATA XPG Spectrix S40G carries some respectable wins out of its duel with other competing drives we've tested, and it looked great doing it.

Of course, to show off the lighting, you will need to have an open-frame rig, or one with a see-thru case. If you've already RGB'd your keyboard, mouse, video card, motherboard, case, and headphones, and are at a loss for what's left, the Spectrix S40G makes enough sense both in performance and looks to belong in any lighting-obsessed custom PC builder's arsenal.


  • Exceptional 4K write and sequential-read results.
  • Strong value proposition.
  • RGB lighting is a fun addition for PC builders.


  • Some quirks around saving RGB settings with multiple profiles.


$34.99 Amazon $79.99 Newegg $45.99 Best Buy

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ADATA XPG Spectrix S40G Review

Buying Guide: The Best M.2 Solid-State Drives for 2023

The traditional SSD that you can buy and install in adesktop PC, or in place of a spinning hard drive in an older laptop, uses what's known as the "2.5-inch drive" form factor. (In actuality, the drives are about 2.75 inches wide.) These SSDs have the same dimensions that laptop-style hard drives did. SSD makers adopted this standard size to make SSDs compatible with existing laptop designs. (They could configure laptops with the choice of a hard drive or an SSD without any retooling.) Desktop PCs, meanwhile, could accommodate SSDs of this size with little fuss. You could mount them in a 3.5-inch drive bay using a simple bracket, or even just using alternate mounting holes in those same spots. Over time, too, desktop PC chassis have evolved to gain their own bays and mounting points for 2.5-inch drives.

However, from an engineering point of view, SSDs didn'tneedto be that big. The enclosure an SSD comes in has a lot of dead space inside. It's designed in that 2.5-inch size and shape to make the drive fit into those existing bays. So when mobile-device designers, challenged with slimming down laptops and tablets, reassessed this issue, the consensus was clear: The bulky 2.5-inch form factor, eventually, would have to go.

At the core, an SSD is just a thin circuit board studded with flash-memory and controller chips. Why not design around that? Thus the M.2 form factor was born. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

In the Beginning, There Was mSATA...

The first attempt was a new form factor called mini-SATA, or mSATA. The boiled-down essence of an SSD with the shell removed,an mSATAdrive is a bare, rectangular circuit board. (MostmSATAdrives relevant to upgraders measure about 1 by 2 inches.) mSATA drives fit into a special slot in a laptop's logic board or on a PC motherboard. As the name suggests, the slot is a conduit to the Serial ATA bus in the system. The interface on the drive end is an edge connector on the PCB, as opposed to the usual SATA cabling. The mSATA drive also draws all the power it needs through the slot.

The Best M.2 Solid-State Drives for 2023 (10)

(Credit: HP)

By being reliant on SATA, mSATA drives gained all of the advantages and limitations of that interface, including theupper speedlimit of SATA 3.0, the latest revision of Serial ATA. That's not a bad thing, mind you. mSATA was also unusual in that it piggybacked on an existing connector, known as Mini-PCI, often used for installing small onboard components such as compact Wi-Fi cards.

Now, mSATA drives still linger on the market, primarily because some laptop models adopted the form factor years back, and residual demand exists as capacity upgrades. But it's definitely a fading form factor, and mSATA saw only slight adoption on desktop systems.

Even in mSATA's heyday, though, a replacement was in the works. During development, it was known as NGFF, for "Next-Generation Form Factor." As it took shape, though, it took on its current, final name: M.2. The drives would be smaller, potentially more capacious, and, most important, not necessarily reliant on SATA.

So, What Is an M.2 SSD?

M.2 drives are as utilitarian as upgrades come: They look like sticks of gum studded with NAND modules and a controller chip. ("NAND" is the generic term for the flash-memory chips that make up the actual storage on the SSD; the term refers, technically, to the type of logic gates used in the underlying memory structure. See our primerBuying an SSD: 20 Terms You Need to Knowfor more SSD lingo explained.)

The key thing to remember about M.2 is that it is a form factor, a shape. The bus—the data pathway over which the data travels to and from an M.2 drive—is distinct from M.2 itself and can vary. And it can make all the difference.

The Best M.2 Solid-State Drives for 2023 (11)

(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

But first, the shape issue. Any M.2 drive you are looking at will be labeled with a four- or five-digit number as part of its specifications or model name. It's a measurement, in millimeters: The first two numbers define the drive's width, the second two the length.

The market has settled on 22mm wide as the standard for desktop and laptop implementations; the aftermarket drives available and the accessible slots we've seen have all been that width. The most common lengths we've seen are 80mm ("Type-2280") and 60mm ("Type-2260"). The lengthier the drive, the more NAND chips you can tend to stuff on it (plus, M.2 drives can be single- or double-sided), though know that length isn't an absolute measure of capacity.

The Best M.2 Solid-State Drives for 2023 (12)

42mm, 60mm, and 80mm M.2 SSDs (Credit: Intel)

Now, why does length matter? Fit, especially in the case of laptops. Most desktop motherboards with M.2 slots have screw-mounting points for several lengths ofM.2drive (usually, 80mm, 60mm, and 42mm), so length hasn't been an issue there. But it's a different matter in a laptop with a user-accessible M.2 slot. The bay may be space-limited to M.2 drives of a certain size, or to only single-sided modules, if the thickness tolerances are really tight. You'll want to check the space available before you shop.

Early examples of the latest generation of M.2 drives, using the PCI Express 5.0 bus, also come in the Type-2280 format, but it's expected that some PCIe 5.0 slots on new motherboards will be built to support the larger Type-25110 format (25mm by 110mm), so we may well see PCIe 5.0 SSDs with these dimensions as well. PCIe 5 drives are capable of tremendous throughput speeds (in excess of 10,000MBps) that should generate abundant heat, and the SSDs we have seen so far come with substantial built-in heatsinks.

M.2 drive length isn't always an indicator of drive capacity, but therearelimits to NAND-chip density and how many memory modules engineers can stuff onto a PCB of a given size. As a result, most of the M.2 drives we've seen to date have topped out at 2TB, though you can find a few 4TB and 8TB models at lofty prices. The typical capacity waypoints are as follows:

  • 120GB or 128GB

  • 240GB, 250GB, or 256GB

  • 480GB, 500GB, or 512GB

  • 960GB or 1TB

  • 2TB, 4TB, and 8TB

Smaller-capacity 32GB and 64GB M.2 SSDs are also available for use in embedded applications or for SSD caching, but these are of marginal interest to upgraders or PC builders. Pricing on these drives ranges anywhere from 10 to 75 cents per gigabyte, and the biggest factor affecting price is the bus type of the drive.

Now, to reiterate an important point: A drive may come in the M.2 form factor, but that says nothing about the bus that it makes use of. Determining that is just as important as making sure it fits.

PCI Express vs. SATA: The SSD Bus-Interface Issue

This is the trickiest part of an M.2 SSD upgrade. Most of the early M.2 drives were really just ordinary SATA drives stripped down to their fundamentals: a bare circuit board with a different physicalconnector,but at heart the same drives as their 2.5-inch bigger brothers. Some of them still are. You won't seesubstantiallybetter performance with these M.2 SATA drives versus their 2.5-inch SATA equivalents, because ultimately your data is traveling along the exact same inner pathways inside the computer once it leaves the drive.

That's not a bad thing. Especially in the case of laptops, an older machine might supportonlyM.2 SATA-bus SSDs, and that will be the boundary of your upgrade path...end of story. As a result, the only reasons you'd upgrade the drive, in that situation, would be to get more capacity, or if the old one failed.

Nowadays, though, many lean, premium laptops can make use of PCI Express-bus M.2 SSDs. (Just about all new desktop motherboards with M.2 slots also support PCI Express M.2 SSDs, too.) With these, you may see a substantive increase in performance in benchmark testing, but in most real-world usage, they'll just feel like a fast, premium SATA SSD.

The Best M.2 Solid-State Drives for 2023 (13)

(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

The earliest versions of M.2 PCI Express SSDs made use of the PCI Express Gen 2.0 x2 interface, which defines a throughput ceiling that's higher than SATA 3.0's, but not enormously so. That evolved into PCI Express Gen 3.0 x2 and x4, paired with a technology called Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) to propel performance even further, especially with heavy, deeply queued workloads.

Beyond that is PCI Express 4.0, a newer version of the PCI Express bus. It has rapidly gained traction, though it still signifies, in most cases, a higher-end drive. The read and write speeds for a few are rated as high as 7,000MBps. These drives are supported on recent desktop systems using the latest chipsets from AMD and Intel, and the very latest mobile platforms. For AMD, that is the X570 and B550 (and later) chipsets (for mainstream Ryzen CPUs) and the AMD TRX40 (for third-generation Ryzen Threadripper ones). With Intel, PCI Express 4.0 is supported on Intel 500-series chipsets that work with 11th Generation "Rocket Lake" desktop CPUs, or on laptops built on the latest "Tiger Lake" 11th Generation mobile platform, and on later "Alder Lake" 12th Generation platforms.

You can use these PCIe 4.0-based SSDs in older AMD- and Intel-chipset systems that support PCI Express 3.0, but they'll just bounce down to slower PCIe 3.0 speeds. Fast on PCIe 4.0's heels, though, is the PCIe 5.0 standard. Some of the very latest desktop motherboards already support it, although PCIe 5.0 M.2 SSDs themselves are just beginning to come to market here. Note, however, that just because a motherboard may support the PCIe 5.0 bus, that doesn't mean the board maker necessarily included a PCIe 5.0-capable M.2 SSD slot. (The 5.0 support may only be extended to ordinary PCIe x16 expansion slots.) Again, check those specs!

Meet NVMe: The Speed Booster

We mentioned NVMe above. NVMe is another technicalhurdle to consider,because systems and motherboards need board-level support for these drives to be bootable. All late-model motherboards now support NVMe M.2 drives, but older boards are not guaranteed to support booting from an NVMe-based drive. Outside of new motherboards, these high-bandwidth, NVMe-capable slots are also found in some recent laptops. Also note that in some cases, a laptop may support a PCI Express NVMe drive, but it may be soldered to the motherboard and thus not upgradable. So, if you're thinking of upgrading a recent laptop or convertible, be sure to consult your manual very closely before buying one of these drives.

The Best M.2 Solid-State Drives for 2023 (14)

(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

Among M.2 drives, PCI Express 3.0 and 4.0 x4 M.2 drives that support NVMe are now the norm among aftermarket purchases. These are indeed impressively fast drives, leaving the fastest SATA-based drives well behind. But know that they are more relevant for PC builders or folks upgrading relatively recent systems rather than older PCs, which may not have an M.2 slot, or may have an M.2 slot but not one that supports PCI Express and/or NVMe—only SATA-based M.2. So, as we said in the previous paragraph, make sure that your system supports this kind of drivebeforepicking one up. You don't want to bring home one of the fastest consumer drives available, only to find your system won't boot with it installed.

Basic Compatibility, Card-Based M.2, and More

Okay, back from Planet NVMe. Today, the real choice if you're M.2-shopping will be between basic SATA and PCI Express M.2 drives, and for most users, those options will be dictated simply by what your motherboard or laptop can accept. A careful browse of support forums or a call to the vendor's support line should unravel the M.2 bus-compatibility details. On the desktop side of the aisle, many recent M.2-equipped mobos support both kinds.

If you're looking to upgrade a desktop but your PC's motherboard doesn't have an M.2 slot at all, one incidental option is what we call an "M.2 drive on a card" or an AIB SSD (for "add-in-board SSD"). We've seen solutions like this from storage stalwarts such as Plextor, OWC, and Kingston. Also, with some of their high-end motherboards, Asus and MSI offer an M.2 PCI Express 4.0 "carrier card" like these makers use, to supplement their onboard M.2 slots. In essence, these products put an M.2 drive or drives on a PCI Express expansion card and let you tap their speed through the PCI Express slots in a desktop PC that lacks any (or enough) M.2 slots. Some such cards support as many as four M.2 drives.

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We actually like these because often, you often get a robust heat sink on the M.2 drive. Some PCI Express-bus M.2 SSDs can run hot under sustained read/write tasks and throttle their speed. That said, unless you're running a server or something similar, where a drive is constantly getting hammered with reads and writes, that's usually not something you have to worry about. That's because many of these drives are so fast, they get their transfer duties done before they have a chance to get all that hot.

One last caveat to drop in before we get to our product recommendations surrounds Intel's SSD line. Intel for a while sold a family of M.2-based storage products under the brand name Optane, in two very distinct types of drive. Intel'sOptane SSDsare SSDs like any other, bootable drives that can serve as a stand-alone boot drive or as secondary storage. They were discontinued for consumers in 2021, but you may still see them around. (Incidentally, Intel ultimately sold its SSD business at the end of 2021 to SK Hynix, which has spun it off into a new Hynix subsidiary, Solidigm.)

Intel'sOptane Memory is a different animal. This is an M.2-format module thatlookslike an SSD, but serves as an accelerating cache for another drive, usually a hard drive. Again, these are not the same thing; if you're buying an Optane drive, make sure you know what you are buying. You can read a lot more aboutOptane Memory in our deep-dive reviewof the first generation. We mention it only because you may run across it if you're upgrading a laptop or desktop from a few years back. If you can, simply replace it and the hard drive with a vanilla M.2 SSD, if the PC supports it.

M.2 Upgrades and Boot Drives: What to Look For

Welcome to the cutting edge! You're shopping for a kind of drive that many folks don't even realize exists. As a result, you need to pay attention to several factors that may not be documented very well while you shop. Let's recap.

Check the physical size.Make sure the width and especially the length (expressed in millimeters) will work in the space available for the drive. (This is mainly an issue with laptops.) Most will be 22mm wide, but the length varies: 42mm, 60mm, 80mm, and 110mm are the common sizes.

The Best M.2 Solid-State Drives for 2023 (18)

(Credit: Molly Flores)

Know which bus you're on.In a laptop-upgrade scenario, you're almost certainly swapping out one M.2 drive for another, with the intent of gaining capacity. Make sure you know the specifications of the drive coming out of your system—and whether it's reliant on the SATA or PCI Express bus—so you can install the same, presumably roomier kind going in.

For a desktop, it's a bit trickier. Some motherboard M.2 slots support either SATA-bus or PCI Express-bus M.2 drives on the same slot. Others support only SATA M.2 drives (those will be older boards),stillothers support only PCI Express M.2 drives. (And, in the case of PCI Express M.2, not all older motherboards support PCIe x4 or NVMe!) You need to know what your board is able to use and buy accordingly. All else being equal, PCI Express should give you a speed boost over a SATA model, but for everyday tasks, a SATA SSD will serve just as well, and be indistinguishable in most cases from a PCI Express one.

Also, with recent drives, look for PCI Express 4.0 or even PCIe 5.0 support. You'll want to have a compliant late-model AMD or Intel motherboard if you buy one of those. Again, check the specs.

Check for bootability.If you're installing an M.2 SSD in a desktop board for the first time, verify with the board maker that an M.2 SSD of the bus type you are considering will be bootable. Though unlikely, a BIOS upgrade may be necessary with an older motherboard.

Compare the cost per gig.Cost per gigabyte is the main yardstick whereby you can price-compare similar M.2 drives from different makers. Expect to pay more for PCI Express bus models, all else being equal, and more for PCIe 4.0 drives than PCIe 3.0 ones. But the cost differences are narrowing in both cases. Divide the price (in dollars) by the capacity of the drive (in gigabytes) to get the cost per gig. For example, a 1TB (1,000GB) drive that's selling for $99 works out to about 10 cents per gigabyte. Use this as avalueyardstick when looking at different drives.

So, What Is the Best M.2 SSD to Buy?

Below is a spec breakout of the top M.2 solid-state drives that we've reviewed. You can also check out our roundups of thebest external SSDs, as well as thebest external hard drives for Mac, and the overallbest external hard drives.

If you're also interested in factoring larger 2.5-inch drives into the equation, check out our roundup of the best internal SSDs overall, which includes some 2.5-inch models. And if you want to see strictly PCI Express-based SSDs, see our roundup of the best PCI Express NVMe drives.

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Hobby: Skimboarding, Photography, Roller skating, Knife making, Paintball, Embroidery, Gunsmithing

Introduction: My name is Lakeisha Bayer VM, I am a brainy, kind, enchanting, healthy, lovely, clean, witty person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.