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Best SSDs For The Money: May 2011

Best SSDs For The Money: May 2011
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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.

May Updates:

OCZ
Sequential Read
Sequential WriteRandom 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/s500 MB/s35 000 IOPS75 000 IOPS
Vertex 3 240 GB
550 MB/s520 MB/s40 000 IOPS60 000 IOPS
Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240 GB
550 MB/s500 MB/s55 000 IOPS65 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 WriteRandom Read
Random Write
Agility 2 120 GBMainstream Performance
3 Gb/s
285 MB/s275 MB/s?10 000 IOPS
Agility 3 120 GB
Mainstream Performance
6 Gb/s550 MB/s
500 MB/s
20 000 IOPS
50 000 IOPS
Onyx 128 GB
Value
3 Gb/s150 MB/s120 MB/s??
Solid 3 120 GBValue
6 Gb/s500 MB/s450 MB/s20 000 IOPS20 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.
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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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