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Best SSDs: $200 To $300

Best SSDs For The Money: November 2011
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Best SSDs for ~$205: Performance 120 GB

Adata S511 Series
120 GB
Sequential Read
550 MB/s
Sequential Write510 MB/s
Power Consumption (Active)
3.62 W
Power Consumption (Idle).66 W

Choices are pretty limited between $175 and $215. In our opinion, you're better off buying two smaller SSDs or saving up for a more expensive drive like Adata's 120 GB S511. While this drive has received less press than the Vertex 3, it's functionally the same. In our recent SandForce round-up, we gave the 120 GB Vertex 3 our 2011 Recommended Buy award due to better pricing. But Adata dropped its price by $35 since then. As a result, this month's recommendation goes to the 120 GB S511.

Best SSDs for ~$205: Performance Alternative 128 GB

Crucial m4
128 GB
Sequential Read
415 MB/s
Sequential Write175 MB/s
Power Consumption (Active)
.150 W
Power Consumption (Idle).085 W

The 128 GB m4 recently got our 2011 Recommended Buy award, which is one of the reasons it makes our list this month. If you prefer something SandForce-based, you still can't go wrong with that previously-mentioned Adata S511 drive.

Based on our Storage Bench v1.0, the 128 GB m4 performs ~44% faster than its 64 GB variant, while only offering 11% less performance than its 256 and 512 GB big brothers. The extra capacity is what you're paying for, sure. But it's good to know that buying up higher in the stack also gives you more speed, too.

Best SSDs for ~$220: Premium Performance Option

Mushkin Chronos Deluxe
120 GB
Sequential Read
560 MB/s
Sequential Write515 MB/s
Power Consumption (Active)
3 W
Power Consumption (Idle)1 W

The Patriot Wildfire and Mushkin Chronos Deluxe are two of the fastest 120 GB SSDs that we've ever tested. Both demonstrate what SandForce's newest controller can do when matched up to Toggle Mode flash.

If you're willing to pay a little more per gigabyte to get better performance, both drives come highly recommended. However, the Chronos Deluxe is $60 cheaper than it was last month, while the Wildfire is $20 more expensive, making the former $70 more affordable than the latter. Both drives effectively offer the same real-world performance, which is why Mushkin gets our pick this month.

Best SSDs for ~$275: Reliable Option

Intel SSD 320
160 GB
Sequential Read
270 MB/s
Sequential Write165 MB/s
Power Consumption (Active)
0.15 W (Typical)
Power Consumption (Idle)0.1 W (Typical)

Despite our recent piece contending that SSDs aren't necessarily more reliable than hard drives simply because they lack moving parts, we continue to believe that Intel's SSDs are the most reliable. Our opinions are shared by data center managers in the enterprise world, who we interviewed for that story. Almost exclusively, they let us know that they lean on Intel drives.

As such, we recommend Intel's 160 GB SSD 320 for anyone willing to sacrifice the performance of a 6 Gb/s drive in favor of a more mature controller with several new firmware-enabled nods to data security. The ability to map up to one die's worth of failed blocks to redundant flash is one such improvement. Additionally, on-board capacitors keep the drive running for long enough to write cached data to nonvolatile memory in the event of a power loss.

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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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