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Summary

Best SSDs For The Money: May 2011
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If you have more than $450 to spend on an SSD, you are clearly not worried about price. Enthusiasts enjoying that luxury should probably take a look at OCZ's Vertex 3 at 240 GB, which sells for $550. It continues to be the fastest SSD we've seen in the lab, and if you want to take advantage of the 6 Gb/s interface, it is the drive you'll want.

We understand that SSD prices don't make it easy to adopt the latest technology. Maybe that's why you aren't too keen on blowing a couple hundred dollars on solid-state storage, especially when you can spend the same amount and buy four 2 TB hard drives or a high-performance processor. That's why it's important to put things into perspective. Over the past five years, CPU performance has hit new and unforeseen heights, and processors are increasingly spending time waiting on data from hard drives. This is what makes storage today's most glaring bottleneck. Overcoming it requires an SSD.

As a point of comparison, a file operation completes 85% faster on a low-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 high-end SSD. That why you shouldn't let less aggressive benchmark results at the low-end deter you from making the switch. You don't have to have the best SSD to get great performance relative to a hard drive. 

As a final note, we're still trying to figure out a way to add an SSD hierarchy (which was one of the big requests from last month). This is a large undertaking, though, and it really requires consideration of not just controllers, but really every model from every vendor. That's the only way to weigh the three most prolific performance variables: firmware, NAND, and controller, and then weigh them against pricing. Keep the feedback coming, though, and we'll do what we can to accommodate your requests!

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  • 0 Hide
    James296 , May 31, 2011 4:40 AM
    funny, I was just looking for a $100-$150 SSD not more then 5 mins ago.
  • 0 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , May 31, 2011 5:15 AM
    The best ssd for $100.00 category is a bit off. I just got the Kingston SSDNow V100+ 96GB SATA II ssd at newegg for $99.99 after mail-in rebate.That's just a hair over $1.00/GB.
  • 0 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , May 31, 2011 5:23 AM
    Looks like the best ssd for $180.00 single drive configuration is off too. You must be using MRSP instead of street or sale prices for the Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 96GB SATA II ssd.
  • 2 Hide
    acku , May 31, 2011 5:59 AM
    JohnnyLuckyLooks like the best ssd for $180.00 single drive configuration is off too. You must be using MRSP instead of street or sale prices for the Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 96GB SATA II ssd.


    We don't include mail-in rebates. Sale prices are included.
  • 9 Hide
    ZeroLag , May 31, 2011 6:40 AM
    I'm actually disappointed in the lack of effort in this article. Even as a new system builder, my 2 month research into SSD performance easily allows me the knowledge of measuring SSD true performance.

    You measure it in 4kb random read/write and 4k sequential read/write. Window 7 is natively read in these sectors. If you compare these SSDs to 4k performance/"current" market price, then you're actually giving us consumers a viable way to compare SSDs. This article just seems to list prices of SSDs without a mention of performance. Also, Max Write and Max Read are not ways to measure SSDs. Rarely do these SSDs function at that capacity.

    I love Tom's Hardware. Let's keep the standards high.

    This article = Epic Fail
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , May 31, 2011 6:43 AM
    I'd say any of the 60-64 GB SSDs with the Sandforce 1200 series controllers are the hot items for boot drives. They can almost always be had for around $100 with a mail in rebate, and sometimes for less. These are actually more than large enough for almost anyone's boot drive and have loads of room left for all of your personal data-with some of your games to boot!

    Patriot, OCX, Vertex and a host of others meet these criteria.
  • 1 Hide
    nitrium , May 31, 2011 7:22 AM
    The most important metric for day to day usage is the 4kb read/write performance at queue depth 1 (QD 1). Windows 7 averages QD 1.04 when booting/loading games and apps etc. It only rarely goes above a QD of 1, and VERY rarely above QD 5. Surprise, surprise, the performance of almost every SSD at QD 1 is near enough the same (in fact some 1st gen drives outperform "higher spec" 3rd gen drives at QD 1!!!). There is not much (if any) performance to be gained for typical users getting high-end SSDs. For the vast majority of users, the best advice is to get the cheapest per GB drive you can get. Ignore synthetic benchmarks (or at least focus only on QD 1 performance).
  • 0 Hide
    Olle P , May 31, 2011 9:00 AM
    The 16GB Kingston SSDNow S100 should be great for use with Intel SRT.
  • 0 Hide
    twile , May 31, 2011 12:24 PM
    Friendly suggestion to Tom's. Instead of going through and listing off the suggested drive for each dollar range, make a chart instead. Don't just tell us the recommended drive for each range, go through the different primary criteria--capacity, performance, and reliability at the least--and let users figure out what's most important to them. For example, I don't care much about reliability because my data isn't mission-critical and I have it backed up nightly, so if a drive dies then I just do an Advance RMA and use another system for a few days.
  • 0 Hide
    ProDigit10 , May 31, 2011 12:29 PM
    All these superspeeds and super iops are nice, but I wonder when they will start manufacturing affordable SSD's with a good capacity?

    I'm thinking in the line of sub $100, for 64GB. If they could only trade off some of the speed, to get the cost down!
    Just as long as it uses less power than a harddrive, and has higher iops (which would result in faster program and OS boot times), I'd be happy!
  • 1 Hide
    Onus , May 31, 2011 12:32 PM
    I've had a couple of SSDs fail, the second after only two months of office-type use, so I'd like to see more information on reliability as it becomes available.
  • 0 Hide
    schwizer , May 31, 2011 12:47 PM
    Quote:
    jtt283 05/31/2011 2:32 PM
    I've had a couple of SSDs fail, the second after only two months of office-type use, so I'd like to see more information on reliability as it becomes available.


    Were they OCZ Vertex 2 drives?
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 31, 2011 1:54 PM
    Had one ocz drive fail, and 3 crucial c300 drives fail. so far owned 6 intel ssd's and 0 failures.
  • 0 Hide
    Onus , May 31, 2011 2:06 PM
    No, they were not OCZ. The first was a two-year old Crucial, and the second was a two-month old AData. The deaths were "different," in that it was easy to get the data off the Crucial, but not the AData. I finally managed to get most of it off, but the AData flash utility can't even see the drive, and it drops out in Windows after a limited number of operations too.
  • 0 Hide
    Kisakuku , May 31, 2011 2:39 PM
    Quote:
    However, OCZ recently made a play to lock in its I/O performance leadership with a Max IOPS edition of the Vertex 3. The only difference between this drive and the regular Vertex 3 is its firmware.


    Vertex 3 and Vertex 3 Max IOPS have identical firmware. It's the NAND (25nm Micron MLC NAND in Vertex 3, 32nm Toshiba Toggle Mode MLC NAND in Vertex 3 Max IOPS) that differentiates the two.
  • 0 Hide
    hdawood , May 31, 2011 3:25 PM
    At $240, I think the newly released Corsair Force 3 is a better option, with Read 550 MB/s , Write 510 MB/s and 85,000 4k random IOPS. Also, it's SATA 6Gbps
  • 0 Hide
    hdawood , May 31, 2011 3:27 PM
    Link for Corsair Force 3, 120GB:

    http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820233181
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 31, 2011 4:15 PM
    link to Force 3 poor performance:
    http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=ja&u=http://www.coneco.net/ReviewList/1110520151/&ei=yBPlTZbKJqjc0QHkhry6Bw&sa=X&oi=translate&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CB4Q7gEwAA&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dhttp://www.coneco.net/ReviewList/1110520151/%26hl%3Den%26biw%3D1440%26bih%3D783%26prmd%3Divns
  • 0 Hide
    sanityvoid , May 31, 2011 4:28 PM
    ZeroLagI'm actually disappointed in the lack of effort in this article. Even as a new system builder, my 2 month research into SSD performance easily allows me the knowledge of measuring SSD true performance. You measure it in 4kb random read/write and 4k sequential read/write. Window 7 is natively read in these sectors. If you compare these SSDs to 4k performance/"current" market price, then you're actually giving us consumers a viable way to compare SSDs. This article just seems to list prices of SSDs without a mention of performance. Also, Max Write and Max Read are not ways to measure SSDs. Rarely do these SSDs function at that capacity. I love Tom's Hardware. Let's keep the standards high. This article = Epic Fail


    I agree with this comment. Reading Anandtech.com and you will find the random read/write, mentioned above, is much more important than the metric you have provided in the article.

    Please incorporate random read/write into the next month's article.

    Buying the cheapest GB/$ is not the way to go. Reliability and other metrics must factor in.
  • 3 Hide
    dgingeri , May 31, 2011 5:18 PM
    I went with 2X Vertex 2 120GB drives in RAID 0 for my SSD setup. It works beautifully. ~400MB/s transfer rates where there is data even after 6 months of use. (The unused portions of the drives show 535MB/s, but that's kind of a trick of the Sandforce controller because it is transferring nothing but 0's.) Since these drives are going for $200 each, that's a better performing setup, with the same capacity, than a single 240GB Agility 3.
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