Best SSDs: $110 And Under
Best SSD for ~$50: Boot Drive
|Kingston SSDNow S100||16 GB|
|Sequential Read||230 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||75 MB/s|
|Power Consumption (Active)||2.26 W|
|Power Consumption (Idle)||1.08 W|
Kingston's SSDNow S100 series is really intended for industrial use, and we're told that you'll find these drives in toll booths, Redbox machines, and ATMs. While this is not a performance-oriented SSD, it is a decent choice that can breathe new life into an aging machine. Most of us tend to write less data than we read. If you want a quick way to speed up your home rig, a budget SSD is all you need because drives like this one offer read speeds that outpace conventional disks.
However, you are forced to adopt a dual-drive configuration. With only 16 GB, you can only use this SSD as a Windows 7 32-bit boot drive (64-bit requires 20 GB). All of your programs and personal files need to be installed on a secondary hard drive. We've also had readers write in relaying bad experiences using drives that were too small for Windows to conduct its update operations. Be cautious if you use a drive this small for anything; capacity is sure to become a point of contention pretty quickly.
Best SSD for ~$70: Boot Drive
|OCZ Vertex Plus||60 GB|
|Sequential Read||185 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||90 MB/s|
|Power Consumption (Active)||1.5 W|
|Power Consumption (Idle)||0.5 W|
OCZ's Vertex Plus series is based on the Indilinx Barefoot controller with a slightly tweaked firmware. Even with the improved software, you should have realistic expectations of what Indilinx's older controller can do. The Vertex Plus achieves better performance than a hard drive, but it falls into the lower half of the SSD performance hierarchy. Note that sequential read performance is somewhat slower than the similarly-priced 30 GB Vertex. But, armed with two times the capacity and featuring a slightly better sequential write speed, it's a fair trade-off.
For those willing to accept the caveats of SandForce compression technology, Patriot's 32 GB Torqx 2 is also offered at a similar price. Though, we should point out that the company is overstating sequential write performance, because it provides a single specification for all capacities. Actual sequential writes speed will hover around 100 MB/s.
Best SSD for ~$90: Boot Drive
|OCZ Agility 3||60 GB|
|Sequential Read||525 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||475 MB/s|
|Power Consumption (Active)||2.7 W|
|Power Consumption (Idle)||1.5 W|
At ~$100, your choice is limited to a slew of 60 GB first-gen SandForce drives, Intel's 40 GB SSD 320, and OCZ's 60 GB Agility 3. Even if you don't own a 6 Gb/s-enabled motherboard, we're still going to recommend the Agility 3 because of its ability to fully saturate a SATA 3Gb/s controller, whereas those other two options can't.
Furthermore, the Agility 3 uses asynchronous ONFi 1.0 NAND that can also be found in competing SSDs, such as Corsair's Force 3. To that end, if you see another 60 GB second-gen SandForce SSD at a cheaper price, go with the less expensive option. The difference in real-world performance is relatively small.
If you only have $100 to spend and you're eying a caching-based solution, skip over this MLC-based SSD and look to Intel's 20 GB SSD 311 instead. The small size doesn't matter, since the cache operates transparently; you should be more concerned with the fact that the 311 centers on SLC NAND flash, improving its performance relative to this larger alternative.