Best SSDs: $315 To $450
Best SSDs for ~$330: Middle of the Road
|Intel SSD 320||160 GB|
|Sequential Read||270 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||165 MB/s|
|Power Consumption (Active)||.15 W|
|Power Consumption (Idle)||.10 W|
At around $330, you have three choices: the 120 GB SSD 510, 180 GB Agility 2, and the 160 GB SSD 320. If you are willing to give up some capacity for performance, the 120 GB SSD 510 is a good choice. On the other hand, why not give up performance for more capacity with the 180 GB Agility 2? If this is decision is too difficult, we recommend buying the 160 GB SSD 320. It's a solid choice, delivering a great balance of performance and capacity, so you won't have to feel like you had to excessively compromise.
Best SSDs for ~$400: More than 180 GB
|OCZ Vertex 2||200 GB|
|Sequential Read||285 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||275 MB/s|
|Power Consumption (Active)||2.0 W|
|Power Consumption (Idle)||.5 W|
The number of choices available between $330 and $400 are pretty poor. If you have to have an SLC-based drive, you could always buy the 32 GB X25-E for $375.
Otherwise, you have to two choices: a 180 GB SandForce-based drive Mushkin or Intel's 160 GB X25-M (G2). Neither of these two SSDs are particularly attractive options. But once you move up to $400, we see prices drop down to $2/GB again. There, OCZ's 200 GB Vertex 2 is the cheapest drive you'll find with a capacity greater than 180 GB.
Best SSDs for ~$420: Bargain 256 GB
|Crucial RealSSD C300||256 GB|
|Sequential Read||355 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||215 MB/s|
|Power Consumption (Active)||4.3 W (write)|
|Power Consumption (Idle)||.09 W|
If you have a bit more money to spare, we recommend the 256 GB RealSSD C300. It isn't just the best-performing 256 GB SSD under $500; it's also the cheapest (we found our price on Newegg; everyone else seems to be significantly more expensive). It's even priced better than the 256 GB Agility 2, Vertex 2, Samsung 470, and Kingston SSDNow V+.
All of those drives cost more and deliver slower performance. While $420 is a lot to spend, 256 GB is the minimum space necessary if you want to completely forgo a second hard drive and rely on something like networked storage for your massive collection of movies and music.