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 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 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 Write||70 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 Write||45 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.