Storage Recommendations for All Types of Users

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The 2020 holiday season is upon us and with all the tech that’s available, the topic of storage is bound to come up sooner or later. Whether you’re a casual user, a gamer, or a creative content professional, creating backups, archiving data, or designing a surveillance system, storage will be one of the key factors in your overall build. However, not all drives are created equal, so read ahead to find out what kind of drive is recommended for your undertaking.

Photo and Video Enthusiasts, Creative Content Professionals, and Power Users

People working with photo and video typically engage in bandwidth-intensive tasks and need a drive than can keep up. This includes complex tasks in Photoshop, such as multi-layer effects rendering, and working with one or more high-res digital photos or film scans, while users running Final Cut or Resolve can find themselves working with Full HD, 4K, 8K, 3D, HFR (high frame rate), and HDR (high dynamic range) video. All these can eat up a great amount of bandwidth, especially once effects and color grading are applied. Users in these fields will be best served with an M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD, such as Samsung’s 980 PRO, with its PCIe 4.0 x4 interface. Also available and still very reliable are Samsung’s 970 PRO, 970 EVO Plus, and 970 EVO. All of these drives have an M.2 2280 form factor.

Samsung 980 PRO

Aside from Samsung, you can expect to find lightning-fast performance from the XPG SX8200 Pro, XPG GAMMIX S11 Pro, Crucial P5, Seagate FireCuda 520, Sabrent Rocket, and PNY Technologies XLR8 CS3030, all of which utilize the PCIe M.2 interface.

XPG 2TB SX8200 Pro

If you need a SATA SSD for these purposes, the Samsung 860 is where it’s at, and it’s available in 2.5" or M.2 2280 form factors.

The Samsung 860 EVO SATA III 2.5" and the 860 EVO SATA III M.2 Internal SSD

One final option is for desktop users whose system may not have an M.2 slot is Intel’s 960GB Optane 905P PCIe 3.0 x4 Internal SSD. The advantage here is it can fit into one of your system’s PCIe slots.

Intel 960GB Optane 905P PCIe 3.0 x4 Internal SSD

Gamers

Gamers looking to use a hard drive should check out WD’s Black/Desktop Performance lineup, available in 3.5" and 2.5" hard drives. The WD Black lineup is also available as the SN750 NVMe M.2 SSD, either with or without a heatsink. Even more exciting is the just-released WD_Black SN850, which features a PCIe 4.0 x4 interface. SSDs would offer the best performance in this lot, and so long as your gaming rig has an appropriate processor and graphics card, graphics-intensive games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War will run without incident.

WD Black SN750 NVMe M.2 Internal SSD with Heatsink

Are you a Seagate disciple? Its BarraCuda drives are available for 3.5" and 2.5" bays, and BarraCuda Pro 3.5" drives feature faster speeds, are more durable, and come in capacities up to 14TB. SSD users also won’t be disappointed, since the BarraCuda 120 is available as a 2.5" SATA III SSD and the BarraCuda Q5 checks boxes for PCIe M.2 users.

Seagate BarraCuda 120 SATA III 2.5" Internal SSD

Seagate has always advertised its FireCuda series as gaming drives, and they have traditionally been available as a hybrid drive, which combines the larger storage capacity of a hard drive with an SSD cache, which helps drive performance. However, the FireCuda series has now been promoted to full SSD status, with the FireCuda 120, a SATA III SSD, and the FireCuda 510, which is for PCIe M.2.

Seagate FireCuda 510 M.2 PCIe NVMe Internal SSD

Also notable for gamers are the Seagate FireCuda Thunderbolt™ 3 Gaming Dock and WD WD_BLACK D50 Game Dock. Both are external solutions and feature Thunderbolt™ 3 host connectivity, HDD or SSD internal storage, plus a plethora of ports to compensate for what your system may not have.

Seagate FireCuda Thunderbolt™ 3 Gaming Dock

Data Storage, Backing up, Redundancy, and Archiving

This is where drives suited for 24/7, always-on environments come into play, which are especially useful for NAS and RAID arrays. WD offers the Red Series, which is available as a 3.5" hard drive or 2.5" or M.2 SATA SSD. Moving up the 3.5" ladder, the mid-tier option is WD Red Plus, and the company’s top-tier drive in this arena is the Red Pro.

WD Red Pro

Seagate also has a big arsenal for this area, which includes the IronWolf 3.5" HDD, IronWolf 110 2.5" SSD, IronWolf 125 2.5" SSD, and IronWolf 510 PCIe M.2 SSD. If you need something more professional from Seagate, go with the IronWolf Pro 3.5" HDD or IronWolf Pro 125 2.5" SSD.

While purpose-built for enterprise, hyperscale, and data center use, WD UltraStar and Seagate Exos drives would more than cover you here. For what it’s worth, I use Seagate Exos X16 drives in my RAID.

Seagate Exos

Surveillance, or I Spy with My Little Eye

Hoping to catch Santa coming down the chimney this year? You’ll need one heck of a surveillance system, plus a drive that can keep up. WD Purple drives have firmware and caching algorithms for write-intensive applications, while Seagate’s SkyHawk and SkyHawk AI drives also fill the bill, depending on the total number of drive bays your array has and how many cameras you have. Just as with data storage and archiving, there’s no reason WD UltraStar and Seagate Exos drives can’t be used here.

WD Purple

Casual and Base-Level Users

These types of users aren’t getting involved with intensive tasks, so there’s no reason to splurge on a drive that delivers more performance than is required. Think of it as storing a gallon of liquid in a five-gallon container—there’s not much point in using something that provides more bandwidth than you need. So, for those whose tasks are relegated to browsing the Internet, checking email, resource-friendly gaming, and using Microsoft Office, WD Blue drives fit the bill quite nicely. They are available as an M.2 2280 SATA III SSD, a 2.5" SATA III SSD, a 2.5" SATA III hard drive, or a 3.5" SATA III hard drive. WD Blue drives are also notable because they have low power requirements and are quiet. In case you’re wondering why I recommended SSDs for low-level tasks, it’s because SSDs are becoming more popular and more affordable. WD Blue was always a solid entry-level hard drive, and those same qualities have been ported over to its SSD sibling.

WD Blue 3D NAND

I also like using WD Blue drives for upgrading the storage within gaming consoles. When upgrading the storage within my PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 consoles, I’ve used WD Blue drives with no issues.

Other great entry-level SSDs include Crucial’s MX500 2.5" SATA SSD and Samsung’s 870 QVO 2.5" SATA III SSD, the latter of which includes an 8TB option. If your system uses NVMe PCIe M.2, then Crucial’s P1 or P2 is worth a look.

Crucial MX500 2.5" Internal SATA SSD

Final Thoughts

Regardless of what kind of tasks you’re engaging in, there are hard drive and SSD options… but which should you get? If your primary concern is storage capacity, go with a hard drive, but if speed is more important, then get an SSD. It really is that simple. However, if your main concern is speed, then you’ll want an NVMe PCIe M.2 drive, regardless of the application. Another advantage of SSDs is they can be used for caching, especially in multi-bay arrays, which helps to boost performance, much like Intel© Optane™ memory. Luckily, we’re starting to see larger SSDs at a lower price point, so I think the eventual move to all-flash storage is inevitable.

Which of these drives are already part of your workflow and why? Do you have a particular favorite? Have we missed any? Let us know in the Comments section, below.

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