When it comes to storing data, there is no 'one-size-fits-all' solution. While cloud storage has become more accessible, we’re still very much dependent on local storage and that’s not changing any time soon. With solid state drives now more affordable and finally mainstream, consumers have a broad a mix of high-performance and high-capacity options to choose from, whether in the form of internal storage, external or network attached. With dozens of hours testing storage devices under our belt in the last year alone, we have a pretty clear idea of what are the top devices you should buy right now, divided into five categories:

Best Performance SSD

Samsung SSD 960 Pro

The Samsung SSD 960 Pro goes on sale this month and that’s great news for enthusiasts as this is hands down the best consumer grade SSD money can buy. Speaking of money, at a cost of at least $0.61 per gigabyte the 960 Pro series isn't cheap. It is however blistering fast and moves data at a rate we had not previously seen in our tests before.

For example, an on-disk 38GB file extraction took just 39 seconds thanks to a sustained throughput of almost 1GB/s. This made the 960 Pro almost 30% faster than Samsung’s previous consumer flagship, the 950 Pro. When compared to Intel’s SSD 750 Series the 960 Pro offered twice the performance in this file extraction test.

The most affordable model in the 960 Pro series will set you back $330, though that lands you 512GBs of storage. The 1TB model that we reviewed comes at $629 which works out to be $0.61 per gigabyte, and the 2TB model will set you back $1,299 or $0.63 per gigabyte.

Frankly right now there is no worthwhile alternative to the Samsung SSD 960 Pro for those seeking maximum performance.

Best Value SSDs

Crucial MX300 SSD

If all you are after is zero-millisecond access times for super snappy responsiveness, then we recommend the very wallet friendly Crucial MX300 series. Available in either 2.5” SATA or M.2 (2280) interfaces not much can match the M300 series in terms of bang for your buck.

The 275GB model costs just $70 which is a shockingly low cost per gigabyte of just 25 cents. They get slightly cheaper per gigabyte as well, the 525GB model costs just $123 and the 750GB model can be had for $170. There are also 1TB and 2TB models as well selling for just $250 and $500, respectively.

Truth be told, most users won’t notice any difference in performance between the Crucial MX300 series and say, the new Samsung SSD 960 Evo or even the 960 Pro drive, for the most part. Things like boot up times and game load times will certainly be much the same.

... also bound to be great

Samsung SSD 960 Evo

Also slated for release this month is Samsung’s SSD 960 Evo series, the budget alternative to the 960 Pro series up above and the widely popular mainstream drive many users have opted for in the past few years.

Having been left with an underwhelming feeling by Intel’s SSD 600p Series we feel it is best to hold out for the 960 Evo. Although we are yet to see hard evidence of how good Samsung's 48-layer TLC V-NAND Polaris driven SSD is, we have a pretty good idea. Early indicators of performance include the 960 Pro and the previously released SM961 which is an OEM-only product.

The 960 Evo series starts at just $130 for the 250GB model which is a very reasonable $0.52 per gigabyte for a drive advertised to reach 3.2 GB/s read and 1.9 GB/s write speeds. Meanwhile the 500GB model costs $250 with the largest model priced at $480 for 1TB of storage.

Best Hard Drives

WD Black 6 TB

Buying a mechanical hard drive is more about storage capacity and reliability than performance, but the WD Black 6TB manages to surprise with 220MB/s read and write figures in some benchmarks. That’s almost 50% the performance of today’s fastest SATA 6Gb/s SSDs -- keep in mind we’re comparing a NAND chip versus a 7,200 RPM rotating platter here.

Storage Review conducted some synthetic and real-life tests against hybrid SSHD drives -- the Seagate Desktop SSHD 4TB and WD Blue SSHD Desktop 4TB. Understandably, the WD Black 6TB didn’t always come up on top compared to its NAND-assisted rivals, but it still performed admirably. In synthetic benchmarks the drive had a dominant showing with 214.53MB/s sequential read and 214.91MB/s sequential write speeds, while in an HTPC workload it posted 81.85MB/s and 1,100 IOPS, while average latency was calculated at 7.3ms. Overall it’s a noticeable boost in performance compared to the previous WD Black model with a significant increase in storage.

The drive features an LSI controller, 128MB of DRAM and Dynamic Cache Technology, which improves caching algorithms in real time by allocating and optimizing cache between reads and writes. WD also claims increased reliability and is backing the drive with a 5-year warranty. User reviews on Amazon are overwhelmingly positive as well.

Alternative: Still lots of storage, for less

If you are looking for something to complement that killer-value offered by the Crucial MX300 SSD, then we suggest the WD Blue series. The 3TB model is as small as we would suggest going as you lose quite a bit of value going for 2TB. On the other hand, if you require more space then the 4TB version is also suitable.

Best External Storage

Samsung T3 Portable SSD

There is not a huge difference between the various 3.5" external hard drive solutions that are out there. For those after something big to backup or transfer data, performance likely won't be a huge priority here and something like the Seagate Expansion 3TB or WD My Book 3TB (both USB 3.0) will fit the bill nicely.

For professionals looking to move data quickly or even work off their external storage device then we highly recommend the Samsung T3 series. This portable SSD easily outpaces thumb drives and rival SSDs, runs cool and is super light to boot (our full review is here).

Of course portable SSDs aren’t cheap but the T3 isn’t overpriced either. The 250GB model starts at $118, while the 500GB version will set you back $180. There is also a 1TB model for $370 and you can even get a 2TB model if you can stomach the $730 asking price.

Best Home User NAS

QNAP TS-451A

We happen to test more NAS devices that we end up formally reviewing and without question right now the best NAS server for home users and small businesses is the QNAP TS-451A. This network-attached storage device provides an innovative USB QuickAccess port which can be used to quickly complete the first-time NAS installation. Beyond that it can also be used to directly access files and data stored on the NAS, essentially offering conventional DAS-like functionality.

The TS-451A is powered by the very efficient 14nm Intel Celeron N3060 dual-core 1.6GHz processor allowing it to support 4K video playback and transcoding. Bolstering the devices multimedia capabilities is a HDMI output and infrared remote, essentially making this a HTPC replacement.

We recommend saving by getting the 2GB base model and then upgrading the memory yourself, if need be. Starting at ~$475, the TS-451A might seem like a luxury for home users but we feel it’s well worth the investment for those keen on backing up and sharing their data.