Solid State Drive Classifications
SATA solid state drives (SSD) are commonplace. They utilize the SATA interface, whether in the 2.5” (physical) or M.2 (logical) form factor. They use the older AHCI protocol, a protocol not designed for solid state drives. In practice, any SSD will be an upgrade over a mechanical HDD and even old computers will have one or more SATA connectors. One specific characteristic divides the “good” drives from the “bad”: the presence or lack of DRAM. DRAM on a SSD does not act as a write or data cache as you would find on a HDD. Instead, it helps with the flash translation layer (FTL) – the method by which the drive communicates between the OS and the flash. The FTL handles myriad functions and the presence of DRAM assists it in these tasks, improving both performance and endurance. Drives utilized with mixed workloads – reads and writes – and especially many small operations benefit most from DRAM. This includes OS and mixed use.
ENTRY LEVEL DRIVES
Entry Level SATA drives are suitable for light OS use or general data storage or may act as a dedicated games drive. Generally, it is desirable for these to be smaller in capacity for the former and larger in capacity for the latter, and they not be ideal as a primary (system) drive. For example, most QLC drives fall into this category because they require more flash to hit peak performance due to denser flash and the parallel nature of SSD design. QLC drives are also slower and less consistent outside of the temporary SLC cache. Entry Level SATA drives also usually lack DRAM which is more crucial for SATA.
These SATA SSDs are suitable for any use but are a cheaper alternative to the very best drives on the market. They usually have DRAM but may be deficient in some other area: older or lower quality flash, an older controller, etc. These are an option if budget is important but you do not want to drop to a DRAM-less drive.
These are the very best SATA drives on the market. They have newer, powerful controllers and the newest flash. They are suitable for any type of usage.