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Tom's Hardware's SSD Hierarchy Chart

Best SSDs For The Money: July 2012

We understand that SSD prices make it difficult to adopt the latest technology, which is why many enthusiasts are hesitant to blow several hundred dollars on solid-state storage (especially when they can get a quartet of 2 TB hard drives or a high-performance processor for the same price). 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.

At the end of the day, the real-world differences between SSDs in a desktop environment aren't altogether very large. The most important jump happens when you go from a hard drive to (almost) any SSD. With that said, there are measurable attributes that separate one SSD from another. However, they have to be digested as a sum of many parts. Within individual apps, you'll hardly notice the difference between a Vertex 2 and Samsung's 830. But if you look at performance over an entire month, you will find the 830 to be a better performer.

The hierarchy chart below relies on information provided by our Storage Bench v1.0, as it ranks performance in a way that reflects average daily use for a consumer workload. This applies to gamers and home office users. The chart has been structured so that each tier represents a 10% difference in performance. Some rankings are educated guesses based on information from testing a model at a different capacity or a drive of similar architecture. As such, it is possible that an SSD may shift one tier once we actually get a chance to test it. Furthermore, SSDs within a tier are listed alphabetically.

There are several drives that we're going to intentionally leave out of our hierarchy list. Enterprise-oriented SLC- and 512 GB MLC-based SSDs are ignored due to the extreme price they command (and the difficult we have getting samples in from vendors). Furthermore, SSDs with a capacity lower than 60 GB are left off because of the budget nature of that price range.

In order to simplify the landscape, we're going to omit brand names for those vendors leveraging SandForce. There are simply too many to list. At a given capacity, performance breaks down based on memory type, and this is their order of performance, from highest to lowest.

We're making a special exception to list Intel's SSD 330 separately because it's special case of a SandForce-based SSD that runs with reduced performance specs. The 60 GB SSD 520 is also being called out separately because it offers performance somewhat higher than the norm.

  1. SandForce controller with Toggle DDR NAND (Mushkin Chronos Deluxe, Patriot Wildfire, OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS, OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G, Corsair Force GS)
  2. SandForce controller with Synchronous ONFi NAND (OCZ Vertex 3, Corsair Force GT, Kingston HyperX/HyperX 3K, Intel SSD 520)
  3. SandForce controller with Asynchronous ONFi NAND (OCZ Agility 3, Corsair Force 3, Mushkin Chronos, Patriot Pyro, OWC Mercury Electra 6G)
SSD Performance Hierarchy Chart
Tier 1
240 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Toggle NAND
Samsung 830 SSD 256 GB
Plextor M3 Pro 128 GB/256 GB
Tier 2
240 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Sync ONFi NAND
Plextor M3 128 GB/256 GB
Tier 3
Crucial m4 256 GB
OCZ Vertex 4 512/256 GB
Samsung 830 SSD 128 GB
120 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Toggle NAND
240 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Async ONFi NAND
Corsair Performance Pro 128 GB
Tier 4
Tier 5
Crucial m4 128 GB
Intel SSD 330 180 GB
Samsung 830 SSD 64 GB
120 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Sync ONFi NAND
Tier 6
Intel SSD 330 120 GB
Samsung 470 SSD 256 GB
Tier 7
240 GB first-gen SandForce SSDs
Intel SSD 320 300 GB
Samsung 470 SSD 128 GB
120 GB & 180 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Async ONFi NAND
Tier 8
Tier 9
Crucial m4 64 GB
Intel SSD 320 160 GB
Intel SSD 520 60 GB
Tier 10
Intel SSD 320 80 GB
Intel SSD 330 60 GB
60 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs (with Sync or Async ONFi NAND)
120 GB first-gen SandForce SSDs
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