M.2 SSD on a budget?
March 29, 2021 11:14 AM   Subscribe

My laptop SSD just died. Is a name-brand replacement worth it, or should I get a cheap off-brand? Other considerations to narrow the search?

The laptop is a Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 370. As I understand it, this model accepts both SATA and NVMe interfaces, and is intended to fit the 2280 form factor. Current drive is a 128GB SATA drive (Toshiba THNSNJ128G8NU).

I don't need too much storage - 128GB is adequate, anything above 256 would be overkill. I mostly work with text, spreadsheets, and CAD files; occasionally large databases (in addition to lots of web browsing, of course). I think my normal usage is more memory-intensive than storage-intensive, except this computer only has 8GB of RAM so I've had a swapfile on the SSD that probably sees a fair bit of use. (Kind of wondering if I should get a cheap SSD and upgrade the RAM?)

I DO NOT use Amazon. Right now I'm looking on eBay and Newegg; would be happy to buy elsewhere as long as it's not Amazon.

Are the name-brand drives significantly more reliable than off-brand? Are there other factors I should consider when searching? Is there anything good under $40?
posted by sibilatorix to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Myself, I have used Samsung SSD's since 2013 (not NVMe) and have never had a failure or issue. But, Lenovo-brand name replacements are always overpriced for HD's and RAM. (Same with Dell, Apple, etc.)
posted by rozcakj at 11:20 AM on March 29

Name-brand drives tend to use better parts and have better warranties. In case of SSD, they probably have more reserve capacity, but that's a guess on my part, which adds to reliability.

Personally, I would compromise and go for a mid-tier vendor... You may have heard of them, but you didn't know they also have SSDs. Transcend, Mushkin, Plextor, and so on. OTOH, I did see a Samsung 128GB M.2 for as low as $50, so when the prices don't matter THAT much, I would probably just pay the extra bucks for peace of mind.
posted by kschang at 11:30 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]

To be honest the name brand ones aren't expensive enough to not go with them in my opinion. I would def stick to Samsung or Crucial. If you're looking for cheap but fast storage, could you go with an SSD (if you have a SATA port and space for a drive)? You will def save money going that way and the difference in performance is negligible (I switched from SATA SSD to M.2 a bit ago and while benchmarks show a difference, in practice it's not really noticeable.)

EDIT: I just checked that laptop and looks like it doesn't have SATA slots or space for a drive. Scratch that then, sorry.
posted by dozo at 11:48 AM on March 29

Looking at Newegg at M.2 2280 drives with the Sold by Newegg button set to on pulls up all brands that I've personally at least heard of, if not used. NewEgg does a marketplace-type thing now too, but you can turn that off and just look at things that they sell themselves, or at least ship from their warehouses; the stuff they actually carry in stock themselves tends to be at least known brands with decent reputations. (For example, turning off the Sold by Newegg thing gets me literal no-name brands that will ship from China directly.) The brands I'm seeing are Kingston, Team Group, Silicon Power, and Mushkin; all of them would be fine, IMHO, for general use computing type applications. This Mushkin one is one I have, even, except in 500GB. (It works fine.) That's probably your best bet of the ones < $40 they have - it's 250GB and NVMe, not SATA-3, so worth the $7 price premium over the Team Group 128GB they have as well.
posted by mrg at 11:49 AM on March 29 [2 favorites]

If you feel like doing a little reading/research there's the March Anandtech SSD Guide which gives a good snapshot of the Market right now.

Another great resource I consult frequently is the ol' Reddit SSD chart [Google Sheets link], which, while not listing ever single drive in the world, does have good info on a lot of them w.r.t. DRAM vs DRAMless etc.

That said, the prevailing conventional wisdom among hardware people will be that DRAMless SSDs are the worst thing in the world, but I've been using several over the past year or so for generally day-to-day computing and honestly, they're fine. Under a normal workload I don't think you could Pepsi-Challenge tell much of any difference between a DRAM vs DRAMless SSD. Up to you if you wanna save a buck or two.
posted by glonous keming at 12:15 PM on March 29

I'd go name-brand because this is your boot drive; it'll take the most abuse an SSD is likely to encounter, and the big brands have warranties. You'll likely see wherever you shop that they don't allow media to be returned after opening, sometimes not at all, so once it's in your hands, everything is between you and the manufacturer-- that had best be someone who'll have an address, an email contact, maybe a phone number, set up in your country and ready to engage you in your local language. You won't get that with the off-brands.
posted by Sunburnt at 12:59 PM on March 29

The prices on name brand parts have fallen significantly in the last few months. The 500GB Samsung 970 EVO has been selling for around $75. That's more than your $40, but it is very likely to last the remainder of the service life of your laptop. They also make a 250GB version, but the cost savings isn't linear and that's usually around $60.
posted by jgreco at 1:12 PM on March 29

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions!

I just ordered this Team Group 128GB NVMe drive (they have a SATA one that's a few dollars cheaper, too). Looked like it was comparable to the Mushkin that mgr linked to, just smaller (because I don't need 250GB) and not quite as fast.
posted by sibilatorix at 1:55 PM on March 29

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