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How we test: SSDs

Everything you need to know about our benchmarking process for storage drives

How we test: SSDs

Not all storage media is created equal. In addition to varying levels of capacity, solid-state storage drives can vary significantly in speed due to a range of factors, including the connection type it uses, the interface it’s based on and the quality of the underlying memory chips. 

We use two tools to thoroughly test the performance of each drive we review. The first is the synthetic AS SSD benchmark, which measures raw sequential read and write speeds for each drive – giving an indication of how quickly it can load and save large files – as well as random-access 4K operations across 64 simultaneous threads, showing how it copes with heavy demand. 

We also use the PCMark 10 storage benchmark suite to assess real-world performance. These tests use “traces” – captured sequences of read and write operations generated by real desktop activities – to put every drive through a standardised workload. The system drive test includes booting Windows, launching and using applications such as Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Excel, launching Battlefield V, Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 and Overwatch and copying data files both to and from the target disk. We also perform the data drive test, which focuses on file-copy performance. Both benchmarks produce absolute performance scores.

The Crucial P5 SSD on a table

Of course, performance isn’t the only consideration: value for money is of the greatest importance, and we calculate a cost-per-gigabyte to determine which drives give you the most space for the price. We also look at any extra features such as hardware encryption or bundled software, and for external drives we factor in style and practicality. Based on all of these considerations, we award each product a star rating out of five.

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