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Best SSDs: $110 To $200

Best SSDs For The Money: November 2011
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Best SSD for ~$115: Performance Boot Drive

Crucial m4
64 GB
Sequential Read
415 MB/s
Sequential Write95 MB/s
Power Consumption (Active)
.150 W
Power Consumption (Idle).065 W

Even if you aren't planning to upgrade to a SATA 6Gb/s-capable motherboard quite yet, the 64 GB m4 offers good SATA 3Gb/s performance. Of course, it's really designed to plug into third-gen SATA controllers, though, enabling read speeds in excess of 400 MB/s.

We've heard readers complain that SSDs based on SandForce's technology are affected by performance degradation when they're forced to operate on incompressible data. That's mostly an issue for folks moving lots of media-oriented information or employing a form of active encryption, such as TrueCrypt. The behavior of Crucial's drive doesn't change based on the data it handles.

Best SSDs for ~$150: Single-Drive Configuration

Corsair Force 3
90 GB
Sequential Read
550 MB/s
Sequential Write500 MB/s
Power Consumption (Active)
3.6 W
Power Consumption (Idle)0.05 W

The price on 90 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs dropped since last month. If you want to use your SSD for more than simply installing an operating system and a few apps, the 90 GB capacity point is your next stop.

At $150, OCZ's 90 GB Agility 3 and Corsair's Force 3 are excellent choices. Both drives employ asynchronous memory, so real-world performance is near identical. We pick the latter simply because it's available for $150 through our PriceGrabber shopping engine, while the Agility is listed for $165. In reality, either drive is a great choice.

Best SSDs for ~$180: Single-Drive Configuration

OCZ Agility 3
120 GB
Sequential Read
525 MB/s
Sequential Write500 MB/s
Power Consumption (Active)
2.0 W
Power Consumption (Idle)0.5 W

There are some decent deals for 120 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs right around $180. Everything in this range still centers on asynchronous flash memory, but it's hard to beat the price per gigabyte and performance offered by these drives.

Be aware that 120 GB first-gen SandForce SSDs are also being sold in this price range, so you need to make sure that you're purchasing second-gen SandForce hardware if you really want a good deal on elevated performance.

Mobile Users: Honorable Mention for $190: System Drive (OS + Programs)

Intel SSD 310 (mSATA)
80 GB
Sequential Read
200 MB/s
Sequential Write70 MB/s
Power Consumption (Active)
0.15 W
Power Consumption (Idle)0.075 W


The 40 GB SSD 310 only uses half of its available NAND channels, and it costs too much to be a value contender in the desktop space. The performance of the 80 GB model feels much closer to the X25-V in a much smaller form factor. If our recommendation was based on price alone, this wouldn't make our list. But mSATA lets you keep your notebook's high-capacity SATA-based hard drive too, which means you get the best of both worlds.

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  • 4 Hide
    compton , November 23, 2011 3:57 AM
    I would just add that to anyone looking for a super cheap SSD, look for older drives on sales before buying some of the cheaper solutions. I just bought two excellent SATA II models for less than a $1/GB. The OCZ Solid 3 and Corsair Force 3 are routinely found for $120 for the 120GB models. Occasionally, you can find the Agility 30 for $40 as well. I would much prefer people go that route than the deceptively-named Vertex Plus or JMicron controlled drives. If you have a Z68 board, caching is a good option if you can get a good deal on a fast, 60GB or less drive. After a couple days, routine tasks will get SSD-fast. One time(ish) data won't be accelerated, but there's a lot of value there.

    Tom's recommendations can't recommend one time sales or the like, but my best advice is shop around before buying a low end drive for MSRP. And stay away from Jmicron and the Vertex Plus.
  • 0 Hide
    The Greater Good , November 23, 2011 4:22 AM
    Can we please get some SSD RAID benchmarks?
  • 2 Hide
    compton , November 23, 2011 4:36 AM
    I would also like to add that I was one of those unlucky few who were affected by the myriad SF2281 issues. Despite the nonsense that it was all Intel's fault, the last FW did fix all of my issues with 2nd gen SandForce drives. As such, I highly recommend the awesome Mushkin Chronos Deluxe. As is pointed out in the performance section, the Wildfire and the Chronos D are identical but for price. As an added bonus, both drives are manufactured here in America (how much of your computer hardware is anymore??). I can't recommend the 2281 + 32nm Toshiba Toggle NAND drives enough (except the MaxIOPS, which is not made in the USA).
  • 0 Hide
    compuservant , November 23, 2011 7:40 AM
    Sorry, I missed the tier 2 rating for the 240 GB drive but the 120 performs just as well and at $180, can you imagine 2 in a RAID configuration?
  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , November 23, 2011 8:05 AM
    I see you're quoting the manufacturer's speed of 500 MB/s for the OCZ Agility 3. I bought one on that basis, then found I got way lower speed (250 write/350 read at best, much less typically, below 50 for small R/W), even though I was using SATA 3. OCZ say to get the rated speed you must be using a particular Intel SATA controller, and a benchmark that uses highly compressible data (all 1's or all 0's) - it won't run that fast with typical real data. Have a look on the OCZ Forum for people's real experiences before trusting the "too good to be true" headline speed.
  • 3 Hide
    csm101 , November 23, 2011 8:36 AM
    so i guess since there is no big price riase as a result of the recetn HD crysis in Thailand, we can get the SSD's as per the above prices. anyone bought SSD's recently ?(like last week or this week)
  • 2 Hide
    stany , November 23, 2011 9:32 AM
    DaveOCZcustomerI see you're quoting the manufacturer's speed of 500 MB/s for the OCZ Agility 3. I bought one on that basis, then found I got way lower speed (250 write/350 read at best, much less typically, below 50 for small R/W), even though I was using SATA 3....


    I was just going to ask about Agility 3. I bought it a week ago but couldn't get more than ~260MB/s from it. I was thinking it's because there's another SATA II HDD on the same controller.
  • 0 Hide
    ojas , November 23, 2011 9:38 AM
    ok. i have some problems with charts. Could the tiers be sub-classified into random r/w performance, sequential performance and then an overall rank? Because this is a bit weird...see,

    The Intel 510 and Crucial m4 (both 120/128 GB) are put in tier 5. the m4 smokes the elm crest drive by a HUGE margin in random stuff and both are averagely the same in sequential ops (m4 better at reads and intel at writes). Yet they're in the same tier.
    The Intel 320 120GB and Samsung 470 128GB both have higher IOPS than the 510, but look where they are.
    The 160GB 320 is placed a tier below the 470 128 GB, but it beats it at everything except slightly lagging behind in sequential writes.

    Now the article says it's based on storage bench. But, at the 120GB capacity point, wouldn't random IOPS have more significance? especially reads, since you'll mostly be reading small files to load programs, boot the OS, etc.
    Large sequential writes would most probably be bottlenecked by other devices. Same may apply to reads.

    Either more random IOPS don't always mean better random performance, or i'm not understanding things correctly.

    Another thing. The last i checked, intel's 20GB 311 was sitting at about $115. Why not just buy an 64GB m4 for a cache drive (or heck, just use it as a boot drive)? Doesn't make sense using the 311. The m4 isn't slower than a HDD by any means....If the 311 was priced at $40 that would be great (and actually make sense), but at about $6 per GB...the 34nm flash version of the vertex 2 (i.e. non E-series) is priced at $170 on newegg. Intel prices 16% of that capacity at 67% of the price. It's just dumb.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , November 23, 2011 12:32 PM
    What about the Kingston HyperX SSD's? They've gotten a lot of good press recently, and while not the cheapest, their performance seems to be top-notch ... and the bundled "upgrade" kits are well packaged.
  • 1 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , November 23, 2011 1:00 PM
    Glad to see the Samsung 830 make the list. The 470 series has a stellar record of reliability. Let's hope Samsung can repeat it with the 830.
  • 8 Hide
    cadder , November 23, 2011 2:34 PM
    I can't believe you guys are still recommending the highly unreliable OCZ drives. You are doing your readers a big disservice.
  • -2 Hide
    mutex7 , November 23, 2011 3:24 PM
    You don't need Intel's Z68 chipset if you want to go the caching route. The OCZ Synapse works with any Windows 7 computer and any SATA boot drive. Obviously SATA III would be preferable but it isn't a requirement.

    This SandForce SF-2281 caching solution strikes me as the perfect transition solution for users not yet ready to get an SSD for a boot drive. It's relatively inexpensive, provides a performance boost on par with most SSDs, solves the capacity issue and it's EASY.

    Don't get me wrong, within 5 years virtually all computers will move to SSD boot drives but in the mean time caching seems to be a great option. The only question remaining for me is reliability given that caching is write-intensive. I guess this is why OCZ uses 50 per cent of the disk for over-provisioning.

    Read about it here: http://thessdreview.com/our-reviews/sata-3/ocz-synapse-cache-64gb-ssd-review-top-caching-solution-at-a-great-price/

  • 0 Hide
    acku , November 23, 2011 4:05 PM
    Quote:
    ok. i have some problems with charts. Could the tiers be sub-classified into random r/w performance, sequential performance and then an overall rank? Because this is a bit weird...see,

    The Intel 510 and Crucial m4 (both 120/128 GB) are put in tier 5. the m4 smokes the elm crest drive by a HUGE margin in random stuff and both are averagely the same in sequential ops (m4 better at reads and intel at writes). Yet they're in the same tier.
    The Intel 320 120GB and Samsung 470 128GB both have higher IOPS than the 510, but look where they are.
    The 160GB 320 is placed a tier below the 470 128 GB, but it beats it at everything except slightly lagging behind in sequential writes.

    Now the article says it's based on storage bench. But, at the 120GB capacity point, wouldn't random IOPS have more significance? especially reads, since you'll mostly be reading small files to load programs, boot the OS, etc.
    Large sequential writes would most probably be bottlenecked by other devices. Same may apply to reads.

    Either more random IOPS don't always mean better random performance, or i'm not understanding things correctly.

    Another thing. The last i checked, intel's 20GB 311 was sitting at about $115. Why not just buy an 64GB m4 for a cache drive (or heck, just use it as a boot drive)? Doesn't make sense using the 311. The m4 isn't slower than a HDD by any means....If the 311 was priced at $40 that would be great (and actually make sense), but at about $6 per GB...the 34nm flash version of the vertex 2 (i.e. non E-series) is priced at $170 on newegg. Intel prices 16% of that capacity at 67% of the price. It's just dumb.


    If you want separate rankings, I'd recommend looking at our reviews. Second, I'd never go by the spec sheet. It's always more inflated than actual performance. Third, our Storage Bench is an actual benchmark that looks at real-world performance. Think of it like an in house rendition of PCMark 7 (we actually use the same code base as Futuremark.)

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
  • 0 Hide
    acku , November 23, 2011 4:07 PM
    Quote:
    What about the Kingston HyperX SSD's? They've gotten a lot of good press recently, and while not the cheapest, their performance seems to be top-notch ... and the bundled "upgrade" kits are well packaged.


    The dirty secret is that all SF drives of the same NAND flavor are basically identical in performance. Kingston uses sync ONFi NAND on the HyperX, so it's equivalent to the Vertex 3.
  • 0 Hide
    acku , November 23, 2011 4:11 PM
    Quote:
    You don't need Intel's Z68 chipset if you want to go the caching route. The OCZ Synapse works with any Windows 7 computer and any SATA boot drive. Obviously SATA III would be preferable but it isn't a requirement.

    This SandForce SF-2281 caching solution strikes me as the perfect transition solution for users not yet ready to get an SSD for a boot drive. It's relatively inexpensive, provides a performance boost on par with most SSDs, solves the capacity issue and it's EASY.

    Don't get me wrong, within 5 years virtually all computers will move to SSD boot drives but in the mean time caching seems to be a great option. The only question remaining for me is reliability given that caching is write-intensive. I guess this is why OCZ uses 50 per cent of the disk for over-provisioning.

    Read about it here: http://thessdreview.com/our-reviews/sata-3/ocz-synapse-cache-64gb-ssd-review-top-caching-solution-at-a-great-price/


    Have you seen the price on the Synapse? 64 GB is $154. That's really sucks in comparison to a 60 GB Agility 3 at $104. Caching doesn't even give you a speed up on everything, only stuff that you do repeatedly. And if you change your routine, performance "resets" and starts at hard drive levels again.

    If caching were cheaper, I'd have no problem recommending it. As it stands, you're paying more for less performance.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
  • 2 Hide
    acku , November 23, 2011 4:17 PM
    __-_-_-__no SSD's above 256Gb wtf...


    I explained on the ranking page why we left those drives out. If you can buy a 512 GB drive, I'd say that price clearly isn't a problem.
  • 2 Hide
    acku , November 23, 2011 4:28 PM
    cadderI can't believe you guys are still recommending the highly unreliable OCZ drives. You are doing your readers a big disservice.

    Let's be fair, all second-gen based SSDs had the same problems that OCZ had. Second, Sandforce was really the one responsible for fixing the bug. Third, OCZ is the launching partner of SF, but the company has gotten a bad rap because they had the most aggressive firmware and largest install base.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , November 23, 2011 4:34 PM
    We need to know which brands are the least most reliable. I'd pay more for reliability!
  • 2 Hide
    acku , November 23, 2011 4:41 PM
    avjguyWe need to know which brands are the least most reliable. I'd pay more for reliability!


    There's no definitive data backing this up other than my own experience and what's generally reported by larger enterprise clients like data centers, who ALWAYS pay more for reliability. The top choices remain Intel and Micron/Crucial.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
  • -1 Hide
    acku , November 23, 2011 4:43 PM
    DaveOCZcustomerI see you're quoting the manufacturer's speed of 500 MB/s for the OCZ Agility 3. I bought one on that basis, then found I got way lower speed (250 write/350 read at best, much less typically, below 50 for small R/W), even though I was using SATA 3. OCZ say to get the rated speed you must be using a particular Intel SATA controller, and a benchmark that uses highly compressible data (all 1's or all 0's) - it won't run that fast with typical real data. Have a look on the OCZ Forum for people's real experiences before trusting the "too good to be true" headline speed.


    We list manufacturer specs but the rankings and choices are based on our in house benchmarks, because we can't possibly test every single capacity point. However, we do have data for all drives say at 128 GB.

    stanyI was just going to ask about Agility 3. I bought it a week ago but couldn't get more than ~260MB/s from it. I was thinking it's because there's another SATA II HDD on the same controller.


    What hardware are you running?

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