Leaderboard - Best Hard Drive, SSD and Storage Solutions
The StorageReview Leaderboard briefly describes the drives that we believe are the best in their given categories. Note, however, that these capsule comments are not a substitute for the full reviews of the drives. To help consumers better sort through the clutter, StorageReview has also put together a list of the most important SSD brands (updated 10/14) to consider when buying an SSD. SMB and Enterprise users may also be interested in our dedicated enterprise storage reviews section and upcoming storage webinars to further their storage education.
SSD (Solid State Drives)
Performance - The Samsung SSD 850 Pro (along with the 2TB model) is drive that can compete at the top (just like its predecessor, the Samsung SSD 840 Pro), offering a complete in-house solution filled with Samsung components through and through. In addition, the SanDisk Extreme Pro is also a great solution with a great 10-year warranty.
Mainstream - Buyers can now get a ton of value from mainstream SATA 6.0Gb/s SSDs as prices continue to come down. The biggest concerns for most SSD buyers are about reliability and perhaps a little less about top-tier performance. Not that SSDs in this class can't perform, they certainly do and most users won't "feel" that much of a difference between the performance SSD class and the more cost competitive mainstream category. Our current top choice is the Samsung 850 EVO (2TB model), which uses 3D V‐NAND to drive tremendous performance, in some cases more than that of the performance drives listed above including its Pro brethren. OCZ's latest entry mainstream entry with the Vector 180 is also a good choice, matching the EVO on price but using higher grade MLC NAND. The OCZ drive also offers the best list of reliability features along with the ShieldPlus Warranty plan, which is a class-leading service that the company offers to eliminate the hassle and pain that are usually inherent of support and warranty claims. The BX100 is currently our best low cost option and value alternative (with a price tag starting at only $68 dollars) and, though weaker in performance, the new OCZ Trion SSD comes in as the cheapest (starting at $57) along with an industry-best warranty program. The MX200 is a midrange offering for those concerned about data integrity more than performance though it doesn’t offer much in performance gain, though it provide enterprise-grade data protection features like power fail protection at a price that is roughly $.50/GB. Lastly, the Corsair Neutron Series XT currently offers the top real-world performance (even better than the Samsung Evo 850) and low power consumption.
mSATA - The mSATA class of SSDs designed for ultra-thin portables and embedded solutions. While there are a number of products in the market, only a few are special. The power efficient Samsung 850 EVO mSATA SSD is the top performing drive of this form factor, offering class-leading performance and capacity for those wanting the absolute best of both worlds. The Intel SSD 525 is another top-class performer with a pedigree of reliability and compatibility while the Plextor M5M also provides very good performance and is a viable option as well.
M.2 - Like the mSATA, the M.2 form factor is built for ultra-thin devices and embedded solutions; however, it has the added benefit of not being limited by mSATA’s legacy architecture. That being said, dominates this part of the market with the Samsung SM951 PCIe M.2 and Samsung SM951-NVMe M.2 offerings. Though they are more expensive than 2.5” SATA SSDs, the M.2 form factor offers much better performance and power consumption. Samsung also offers a non-PCIe M.2 SSD, the Samsung 850 EVO M.2, which comes in upwards of 500GB in capacity, great power effeciency, and impressive overall performance.
PCIe - While there appear to be several options in this category, many are from brands you've never heard of and almost all fail to make complete use of the PCIe interface. The Intel 750 is certainly the exception here, offering incredibly high performance to make it the fastest client drive we have seen to date; all at a reasonable price. OCZ Storage RevoDrive 350 also posts fast throughput for a workstation-class product. Unfortunately it tops out at just under 1TB.
3.5" Desktop Hard Drives
Enthusiast - Our current top choice for consumer performance hard drives is the newly revised WD Black 6TB. It's simply faster than all other desktop drives in virtually every benchmark with a huge capacity point, which is perfect for gamers and those looking for SSD alternatives. When lower cost is required, the Hitachi Deskstar 7K4000 is still a very good option. As far as high-capacity goes, the HGST Ultrastar Helium He8 Enterprise HDD is available in both SAS and SATA interfaces and comes in a massive 8TB model. In addition to having he fastest throughput at the 8TB capacity point, it also boasts low power consumption, which results in lower total cost of ownership.
Mainstream – As SSDs are now the main focus of mainstream system builds, we are seeing fewer and fewer new releases of Hard Disk Drives. However, we still have our favorites - for always-on applications like home servers, the Seagate Barracuda LP and the Seagate Desktop HDD15 are a nice choices due to their lowest in class idle power consumption. If you want to take the step up to a 4TB drive, look at the new 4TB Hitachi Deskstar 5K4000.
NAS HDDs - HDD vendors have started segmenting drives for specific use cases, NAS being one that has emerged in 2013. The WD Red Pro (4TB) and the Seagate Enterprise NAS (6TB) are our top choices for NAS duty, though the Seagate drive shows significantly better performance. WD also offers the Red in a 2.5 inch form factor. In addition, 6TB HGST Deskstar NAS HDDs are ideal for small NAS environments where capacity needs trump most other requirements. The Seagate Archive HDD 8TB is currently the highest capacity drive on the market with its strong points being energy efficient and low cost.
2.5" Notebook Hard Drives
Hybrid Hard Drives - Seagate is the first to re-enter the hybrid hard drive space with the Momentus XT. The drive comes in capacities up to 500GB (for 7mm design for the latest thinnest laptops) and 1TB (for 9.5mm design for maximum capacity) where the drive is able to effectively use its extra 4GB flash storage. The company also just recently released its 1TB Laptop-specific SSHD. The Seagate Desktop Hybrid, WD Blue 1TB, and Toshiba SSHDs are also a way to give hard drive users a modest bump in speed.
Enthusiast - In all of our testing, one notebook drive continues to rise to the top - the Western Digital Scorpio Black. After two years, the 320GB Scorpio Black is still a great drive, bested only by the recent release of its bigger brother, the 500GB Scorpio Black. The Cruicial MX100 SSD is also a good choice for consumers looking to upgrade their laptops to a solid-state based system, especially for those looking for good gaming performance.
High Capacity - The Samsung SpinPoint M9 holds the spot as best high-capacity 2.5-inch drives, offering 2TB of storage in a 9.5mm drive height, which is standard to almost all notebooks. In addition, 7200RPM performance models have reached as high as 1TB, such as the Seagate Momentus.
Standard 2.5" - While most products in this category are engineered for price point, there are a few that stand out. The Seagate Backup Plus Fast Portable is one of our class favorites for both its high capacity of 4TB and top performance. We also recommend the WD My Passport Pro, as it offers good performance, high capacity, and easy-to-use bundled software.
Portable SSDs - These high-priced solutions are mostly catered towards enthusiasts looking for both ultra-portability and speed. There hasn't been much released in this category, though we certainly were impressed with the Samsung Portable SSD T1 due to its premium build and great performance. In addition, the recent Seagate Seven Portable caught our eye due to its class-leading design as well as being the slimmest portable drive on the market; however, its mainly for design-savvy consumers who are willing to pay a hefty price for its capacity.
Wireless - The wireless portable drive market is flooded with options, but few really stand out and differentiate. The hard drive based models we like best is the LaCie Fuel, but it's followed closely by the Corsair Voyager Air and the Seagate Wireless Plus. All three are available in capacities up to 1TB; the Corsair is special because of the built-in NAS functionality and the Seagate gets points for excellent build and swappable interface options. The LaCie owns best design and is ready to go for Apple devices out of the box. The entire class though needs application development help and heavy users will find several gaps in use, but both excel in providing wireless access to files when on the go. For smaller capacity needs, there are several flash-based options that provide ease of use in a tiny package. Our favorites in this class are the SanDisk Connect, SanDisk Connect Media Drive and the Kingston MobileLite Wireless.
USB3 Flash Storage - Both the SanDisk Extreme PRO USB 3.0 Flash Drive and the Patriot Supersonic Magnum USB drive provide best in class performance, while the Corsair Flash Voyager holds its own against these top of the line flash drives and is an excellent, lower-cost alternative for professionals and enthusiasts. Those looking for enhanced security features (as well as performance) should consider the Kingston Secure USB Flash Drives with ESET USB 3.0. The most recent durable USB 3.0 drive that can withstand the elements is the Patriot Supersonic Bolt XT, though it is a bit pricey. Those looking for design over performance should take a look at Samsung's newest additions to their flash drive portfolio: the Samsung Bar (premium, rugged build) and the Samsung FIT (their most compact flash drive to date). Both of these portable drives are very inexpensive as well.
Top-in-Class Memory Cards – It’s hard not to recommend the recent fleet of Samsung microSD/SD EVO and PRO cards, which have dominated in the performance, reliability, and price categories, making them ideal for any high-end mobile device. For example, the new Samsung microSD PRO Plus 64GB is built for performance and microSD EVO 128GB offers consumers a balance of price and speed. Samsung hasn't released the Plus versions of their SD line yet; however, their PRO and EVO are still the best offerings out there. Also recommended is the SanDisk Ultra Plus SD card due to its low price point and class-leading lifetime warranty. The best performing SD card, however, is the Lexar Professional 2000x, which allows for improved workflows and seamless video and image capturing and transfer. Toshiba's current top offering is the Toshiba Exceria Pro, which delivers first-rate performance and up to 128GB of storage.
For Compact Flash (CF) memory cards, we suggest you take a look at the lesser known, but high-performing, Komputerbay CF Professional 1000x.
Desktop Storage (DAS)
Performance – LaCie has thrived in this area due to the premium design and advanced technology used with all of their devices. That being said, the LaCie d2 Thunderbolt 2 is a very flexible solution, as it offers high capacity and an optional SSD upgrade kit to add serious performance; this makes it a perfect companion for media enthusiasts and professionals. Although a bit older, the LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2 still provides some pretty impressive numbers with its two PCIe SSDs cranking out roughly 1300MB/s read performance. We also highly recommend the LaCie 5big Thunderbolt 2, as it offers users upwards of 30TB in capacity as well as great performance and a variety of RAID configurations. The G-Technology G-SPEED Studio 4-bay--a direct competitor to the 5Big--is also a very good DAS, providing consumers with a high capacity point, great performance, and a very easy-to-use RAID manager; all at a reasonable price.
Single Drive - As data requirements grow, so does the importance of high capacity desktop storage solutions at a reasonable price. These may be less in storage capacity compared to the multi-drive devices, but they are only of a fraction of the price and are catered towards people who don't need 30TB in storage. As such, the current leader in this category is the Seagate Backup Plus External Hard Drive, which has a massive 8TB in available storage on just a single drive.
Home/SOHO Network Storage
Large NAS (more than 5 bays) – We're big fans of pretty much anything Synology when it comes to this category, such as with the new DS1515+ (5-bay) and the DS1815+ (8-bay), both which boast from pretty great performance along with the reliability that comes with the company's storage solutions.
Smaller NAS (less than 5) – The QNAP TS-451 NAS is a powerful NAS for home, small, and medium businesses along with an HDMI port. As far as affordability and simplicity goes, the WD My Cloud Mirror (as well as its entire line of My Cloud devices) is a very competitively priced and robust NAS that has a consumer-centric feature-set as well as the easiest setup on the market. The Synology DS214se (2-bay) and the more recent DS415+ (4-bay) also fits this bill.