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Best SSDs: $110 And Under

Best SSDs For The Money: April 2011
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This is the first installment in a new series recommending the best solid-state drives you can buy at any given budget level. With so many SSDs piling up, all based on the same few controllers, it’s time for us to start identifying the real winners.

Best SSD for ~$50: Boot Drive

Kingston SSDNow S100
16 GB
Sequential Read
230 MB/s
Sequential Write75 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 your current system. Most of us tend to write less data to a disk than we read. If you want a quick way to speed up your home rig, a budget SSD is all you need because the read speed of a cheap SSD is still faster than a hard drive.

However, you will need 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 and will need to be installed on a secondary hard drive.

Best SSD for ~$75: Boot Drive

Corsair Nova Series V32
32 GB
Sequential Read
195 MB/s
Sequential Write70 MB/s
Power Consumption (Active)
2.0 W
Power Consumption (Idle)0.5 W

Corsair's Nova series is based on the Indilinx Barefoot controller. This doesn't make it a bad SSD, but you should have realistic expectations of what it can do. You'll still achieve better performance than a hard drive, but it's in the lower half of the SSD performance hierarchy.

Note that the Nova series comes in three capacities: 32, 64, and 128 GB. The 32 GB model uses only half of the available NAND channels, which is why performance isn't as high as the 128 GB model. However, if you want a bit more capacity than 16 GB, this is a good choice. It's also a cheaper alternative to OCZ's 30 GB Vertex, which happens to use the same controller.

Best SSD for ~$100: Boot Drive

SSD 320
40 GB
Sequential Read
200 MB/s
Sequential Write45 MB/s
Power Consumption (Active)
0.15 W
Power Consumption (Idle)0.10 W

At ~$100, your choice is limited to A-Data's 40 GB S599, OCZ's 40 GB Agility 2, and Intel's 40 GB SSD 320. We're recommending the SSD 320, because it has proven itself a worthy successor to the X25-M (G2). These drives are more expensive than $2/GB, but that's to be expected for SSDs that cost about $100. Remember that drives in this price range use less than the total available NAND channels, so performance is slower than what gets reflected from the higher-capacity models that most often get reviewed.

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  • 7 Hide
    opmopadop , April 27, 2011 4:41 AM
    Any chance you can add a summary table to see the best SSD sorted by price group?

    Makes it easier rather than clicking around on multiple tabs ;-)
  • -1 Hide
    scook9 , April 27, 2011 4:46 AM
    Makes me feel better about the Intel 320 160GB I will be buying soon
  • 5 Hide
    magmcbride , April 27, 2011 4:57 AM
    Great article, and I had wondered when we would start seeing these pop up!

    Personally, I would like to see a graph showing the history for price/GB of SSD's. Maybe even sorted by performance brackets (low/mid/high). The beginning of the article would be a fine place to see it updated monthly.

    I see a lot of articles talking about how much cheaper newer SSD's are to manufacture using smaller tech. We consumers could use the chart(s) to see if these savings are being passed on to us, and if so by how much.
  • 5 Hide
    billj214 , April 27, 2011 5:08 AM
    Would it be possibly to build an SSD Hierarchy based on speed and not price similar to GPU charts?
    Are there any drives which support raid?
    Do functions like Trim make any drive more reliable or a better drive?

    Excellent article, definitely helps consumers with all the choices.
  • 1 Hide
    biao39 , April 27, 2011 5:58 AM
    What about OCZ RevoDrive X2 $409.99
    Sequential Access - Read up to 740MB/s
    Sequential Access - Write up to 690MB/s
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?
    Item=N82E16820227659&cm_re=ocz_revo-_-20-227-659-_-Product
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , April 27, 2011 6:32 AM
    > a file operation completes 85% faster on a high-end SSD than it does on a high-end hard drive, but there is only an 88% speed difference between a high-end hard drive and a low-end SSD.

    Typo? This doesn't make any sense to me.
  • 1 Hide
    agnickolov , April 27, 2011 6:55 AM
    I just got a 240GB OCZ Vertex 2 for $410 on newegg.com, and that's before $30 rebate! It's a better value than the 200GB one in the $400 category and of similar value to the 256GB RealSSD for $420.
  • 3 Hide
    hmp_goose , April 27, 2011 7:46 AM
    I think it would be handy to have a list of "recommends" by capacity.
  • 3 Hide
    damric , April 27, 2011 8:31 AM
    Snagged an OCZ Agility2 120GB for $140 a few months ago on the egg with a promo code :D 
  • 0 Hide
    tijuana , April 27, 2011 8:56 AM
    I would love to know what you guys think of the revodrive aswell
  • 0 Hide
    ripudaman , April 27, 2011 9:27 AM
    Nice article...I have q9300 & few TB's of HHD, will a new SSD help increase my overall preformance
  • 3 Hide
    Helltech , April 27, 2011 9:35 AM
    I know it would be difficult, but we all want an SDD Heirarchy Chart. I feel once it gets "started" it would be easy to maintain. :D 
  • 1 Hide
    assafbt , April 27, 2011 10:06 AM
    Nice on identifying a need and posting this new article series, however one thing will make the notes on the smaller drives obsolete in a very short while, and also requires mentioning on the higher capacities.

    I mean Z68 Chipset's SSD caching. I refer readers to the article from this very site:
    Soon smaller cheap drives will be able to give a significant boost to a whole system's performance, and your cheapest drive is just shy of the 18.6GB minimum to qualify to it. Furthermore, you consider the pros and cons of smaller SSD-s only in the mindset of how are they as boot drives, or system drives, and soon they will have a whole new role as HDD boosters.

    Considering cache brings whole new factors into the deal - for instance, for cache you should have a look at sole read performance as write speed is bound to the HDD write speed for write-through scenario which might be the popular scenario. Also, suddenly 32GB that is barely enough for boot drive, gets reconsideration as it may very well be more than enough to cache an HDD. Which brings another question to light - how much SSD cache is optimal for a certain HDD size? Is 32GB good only upto, say 1TB, or is 40GB needed already for 512GB, but is also enough for 2TB, and so forth.

    So - clearly smaller SSDs require another look with caching, but also bigger SSD-s. Consider someone who purchased a 160GB, but requires performance for 600GB of software? 3 super sized SSD-s are not a rational expense for anyone - Z68 allows for partial allocation for caching if I remember correctly, and giving 30GB from the 160GB to cache a 1TB HDD may be a solution that allows a system drive + certain crucial apps on pure SSD, plus a cached HDD for the lower priority performance requirement. So thinking about these things applies (even if to a lesser extent) also to the bigger SSD-s.

    Just my thoughts for improvements, otherwise a good read on readers needs, and a good article.

    Assaf
  • 0 Hide
    assafbt , April 27, 2011 10:07 AM
    Oops - the link for those who don't know SSD caching got dropped, again, in text format:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/z68-express-lucidlogix-virtu-ssd-caching,2888-2.html
  • 5 Hide
    TopGun , April 27, 2011 11:27 AM
    Count me as another who is interested in a SSD hierarchy chart.

    I'd actually like to see hierarchy charts for cases, PSUs, heatsinks, mobos, dvd burners, etc. I know a lot of those categories would be pretty subjective, but they'd be soooo helpful.
  • 6 Hide
    virtualban , April 27, 2011 12:05 PM
    Count me as another who is interested in raid setups suggestion for SSDs. :) 
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 27, 2011 12:11 PM
    "Steam has a bad habit of not letting you choose where to put your games once it's installed"

    not true, you can drag and drop the steam directory anywhere, even onto a totally new computer and it will work.
  • 4 Hide
    bullwinkel , April 27, 2011 12:25 PM
    This was extremely helpful. The SSD market is just too confusing when it comes to value and performance
  • 2 Hide
    jednx01 , April 27, 2011 12:31 PM
    I really wish that prices would drop on the prices of SSDs. I can't wait for the day when SSDs (or whatever new and faster option comes out) get as cheap as modern standard HDDs.
  • 4 Hide
    Onus , April 27, 2011 12:41 PM
    Nice addition to the monthly "Best" series.
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