Since NVMe SSDs came to market, we've largely ignored M.2 SATA products. At one time, these were the hot new form factor responsible for enabling slim PCs and millions of devices support the form factor. M.2 SATA SSDs generally costs less than NVMe models and work in most of the same notebooks and desktops including the system you just built.
The technology media wasn't the only group to ignore M.2 SATA SSDs. Since 2017, the number of new devices in this form factor has dwindled. At the height of M.2 SATA, nearly every new SSD announcement included details for both 2.5", mSATA, and M.2. The only fab company to release a new mSATA SSD in recent memory was Samsung. M.2 should outlive mSATA since it shares the same interface with NVMe on the M.2 standard but the options will continue to thin.
Currently, there are two M.2 SATA SSDs that standout from the rest. The Samsung 860 EVO M.2 and the Crucial MX500 M.2 show superior performance to other products on the market today. The Western Digital Blue 3D NAND M.2 is also a contender with high performance and a low price; at the moment we just don't have one on hand to test.
With two products in our review today we'll start to separate some of the comments.
Samsung released the 860 EVO M.2 series in four capacities ranging from 250GB to 2TB. The series introduced the new MJX controller and updated LPDDR4 DRAM to Samsung's SSD lineup. Both go relatively unnoticed next to Samsung's new 64-layer flash memory that brings industry-leading endurance to consumer-facing SSDs. The performance is consistent across the 860 EVO M.2 series. The sequential reads peak at 560 MB/s and sequential writes are not far behind at 520 MB/s. Random performance comes to 97,000 IOPS read and 88,000 IOPS write.
The Crucial MX500 M.2 came to market in three sizes ranging from 250GB to 1TB. The MX500 series, along with the Western Digital Blue 3D, are the only competitive SSDs to Samsung's 850 and 860 EVO products.
Crucial also has consistent performance across the MX500 series with 560 MB/s sequential read and 510 MB/s sequential write speeds. Random performance comes to 95,000 IOPS read and 90,000 IOPS write.
The performance increase from previous generation products from Crucial comes from 2nd generation 3D flash from parent company Micron.
Both the MX500 and 860 EVO share features that stand out from most other SATA SSDs shipping today. The drives support user encryption with both IEEE 1667 (Microsoft's eDrive) and TCG Opal. Both also include access to clone software, a software management suite and a DRAM cache feature to increase performance and longevity.
Pricing, Warranty, And Endurance
Today we're looking exclusively as the 500GB M.2 models from Crucial and Samsung. The 860 EVO M.2 500GB currently sells for $132.99 at Amazon. The drive has a 300 terabytes written (TBW) endurance rating and ships with a 5-year warranty. The MX500 M.2 500GB sells for $92.99 at Amazon. It also comes with a 5-year warranty but has a much lower endurance rating, 180 TBW.
A Closer Look
There is really not much to look at between the two drives. Most stay hidden in a notebook or in an M.2 slot with a video card covering them.
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