Welcome to the second installment of our list of top SSDs at at any given price point. This month we see the announcement of several new drives from OCZ, availability of Crucial's m4 lineup (at expected prices), and the emergence of new SF-2200 options.
Detailed solid state drive specifications and reviews are great—that is, if you have the time to do the research. However, at the end of the day, what an enthusiast needs is the best SSD within a certain budget.
So, if you don’t have the time to research the benchmarks, or if you don’t feel confident enough in your ability to pick the right drive, then fear not. We at Tom’s Hardware have come to your aid with a simple list of the best SSD offered for the money.
|OCZ||Sequential Read||Sequential Write||Random Read||Random Write|
|Vertex 3 120 GB||550 MB/s||500 MB/s||20 000 IOPS||60 000 IOPS|
|Vertex 3 Max IOPS 120 GB||550 MB/s||500 MB/s||35 000 IOPS||75 000 IOPS|
|Vertex 3 240 GB||550 MB/s||520 MB/s||40 000 IOPS||60 000 IOPS|
|Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240 GB||550 MB/s||500 MB/s||55 000 IOPS||65 000 IOPS|
In the last two months, we saw the launch of three major performance SSDs: OCZ's Vertex 3, Crucial's m4 (also known as Micron's RealSSD C400), and Intel's SSD 510. Of these, OCZ's Vertex 3 maintains its performance leadership. Other vendors are slowly starting to launch their own second-gen SandForce-based SSDs though, so it remains to be seen if any of them are able to usurp the established champion.
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. The Max IOPS edition is tweaked to deliver better random read/write performance at the cost of sequential write performance (for the 240 GB model).
|OCZ||Market||SATA||Sequential Read||Sequential Write||Random Read||Random Write|
|Agility 2 120 GB||Mainstream Performance||3 Gb/s||285 MB/s||275 MB/s||?||10 000 IOPS|
|Agility 3 120 GB||Mainstream Performance||6 Gb/s||550 MB/s||500 MB/s||20 000 IOPS||50 000 IOPS|
|Onyx 128 GB||Value||3 Gb/s||150 MB/s||120 MB/s||?||?|
|Solid 3 120 GB||Value||6 Gb/s||500 MB/s||450 MB/s||20 000 IOPS||20 000 IOPS|
OCZ also announced its Agility 3 and Solid 3 SSDs, which are are intended to tier SATA 6Gb/s performance for those operating on a limited budget. Let's face it, none of the fastest SF-2200-based drives are going to be cheap. The pricing OCZ originally provided was too ambitious; its 120 GB model sells for $50 more at $299, and its 240 GB version is even more expensive this month than it was last month: $60 higher than originally planned, at $559.
If the sequential performance of the Agility 3 and Solid 3 match up close to OCZ's top-dog, the company will be in a competitive value position. We're still waiting to test those drives though, so we'll hold off on a recommendation until they land in our lab.
In other news, Crucial deserves some praise. Its m4 SSDs do sell for the prices the company told us to expect. Interestingly, that means the m4 sells for the same price as its older RealSSD C300; the 240 and 120 GB are each selling for $499 and $249, respectively. In terms of performance, the m4 is able to content with OCZ's Vertex 3, making Crucial's drive all the more attractive, given its lower price tag. OCZ will likely rely on its more value-oriented families to wage war on the pricing front.
Some Notes About Our Recommendations
A few simple guidelines to keep in mind when reading this list:
- If you don't need to copy gigabytes of data quickly or load games in the blink of an eye, then there's nothing wrong with sticking with a mechanical hard drive. This list is intended for people who want the performance/responsiveness that SSDs offer, and operate on a specific budget. And now that Intel's Z68 chipset is available, the idea of SSD caching could come into play for more entry-level enthusiasts, too.
- There are several criteria we use to rank SSDs. We try to evenly weigh performance and capacity at each price point and recommend what we believe to the best drive based on our own experiences, along with information garnered from other sites. Some people may only be concerned with performance, but that ignores the ever-present capacity conundrum that we often encounter when trying to balance SSD price with the other variables. If you have a mobile system, you can usually only have one drive installed. On a desktop system, you want room for your operating system and your more performance-sensitive apps. That's why we have to consider the major weight of capacity, too.
- Prices and availability change on a daily basis. Our picks will be valid the month of publication, but we can't make guarantees beyond that. SSD pricing is especially competitive, and a $15 difference can be the reason why one SSD makes the list, while another does not. While you are shopping, use our list as a guide, but always double-check for yourself.
- The list is based on some of the best U.S. prices from online retailers. In other countries or at retail stores, your mileage will most certainly vary.
- These are new SSD prices. No used or open-box offers are in the list; they might represent a good deal, but it’s outside the scope of what we’re trying to do.