It’s weird how variable the price of computer components is. If you want to buy, say, a PlayStation 5 or a new couch, you’re gonna pay the sticker price unless you find a store that puts it on sale. But components like RAM, graphics cards, and storage have prices so fluid, you might wonder why retailers don’t just slap “market price” on the listing, like it’s a surf-and-turf entree at a restaurant. Case in point: SSD prices seem to have been in freefall for the last few months.
The reason is that, very much like seafood and livestock, the price of the raw materials and manufactured parts that go into your computer’s guts is part of a worldwide market that shifts in both the short and long term. And for a variety of reasons, there’s a huge abundance of NAND flash storage right now — the kind of storage that goes into SSD drives and flash drives of all sizes. Most of the major manufacturers of this hardware are experiencing a huge drop in demand from both consumers and enterprise customers.
With industrial chip manufacturing unable to nimbly lower its output to match that demand, the result is an overabundance of NAND flash hardware on the market. As Anton Shilov of AnandTech notes, pretty much every storage maker is seeing huge drops in revenue as a result. And that sucks if you’re a flash memory manufacturer…but it’s a really good time to be in the market for a new storage drive.
SSDs in all capacities are currently at multi-year lows in prices. That’s true even for super-speedy popular models like the 2TB Samsung 980 Pro, which was $240 last October and is now sitting pretty at $170. The SK hynix Gold P31 2TB, one of PCWorld’s favorites, dropped from $208 all the way down to $120, or just $72 for a 1TB model. More capacious drives are seeing similar drops: The Western Digital Black 4TB SN850X, which is about as big and fast as you can get in a consumer drive without going for a bleeding-edge PCIe 5 design, is down to $380. That’s more than $220 off its initial retail price despite being the best PCIe 4.0 SSD around.
While you can find similar price reductions in other flash storage devices, like older SATA drives or external USB-based drives, this rule isn’t being applied everywhere. More niche products, like super-tiny M.2 2230 drives that can be squeezed into a Steam Deck, are as hard to find as ever. If you can find one, don’t expect much of a discount, if any. And the brand new PCIe 5.0 drives, which can melt your face (figuratively) and your PC’s components (literally) with their blazing speed, aren’t really on the market except for one drive. Even when more of them arrive later this year, expect to pay a pretty penny for that cutting-edge hardware. And that’s assuming you’ve got a motherboard that can actually use it.
But if you happen to be in the market for a standard NVMe or SATA SSD, or you can scrounge together a few bucks just for the heck of it, it’s a great time to upgrade. Most desktops sold in the last four years or so should have an M.2 drive available, and so do many laptops, though some ultraportable models (especially 2-in-1s and tablets) have storage soldered into place and can’t be upgraded.