Best SSDs For The Money: December 2011

Best SSDs: $110 To $200

Best SSD for ~$110: Performance Boot Drive

Crucial m4 (Check Prices)

Crucial m4
64 GB
Sequential Read
415 MB/s
Sequential Write95 MB/s
Power Consumption (Active)
.150 W
Power Consumption (Idle).065 W

Even if you aren't planning to upgrade to a SATA 6Gb/s-capable motherboard quite yet, the 64 GB m4 offers good SATA 3Gb/s performance. Of course, it's really designed to plug into third-gen SATA controllers, though, enabling read speeds in excess of 400 MB/s.

We know that SSDs based on SandForce's DuraClass technology aren't as fast when they operate on incompressible data. That's mostly an issue for folks moving lots of media-oriented information or employing a form of active encryption, such as TrueCrypt. The behavior of Crucial's drive doesn't change based on the data it handles.

Mobile Users: Honorable Mention for $120: System Drive (OS + Programs)

OCZ Nocti (Check Prices)

OCZ Nocti (mSATA)
60 GB
Sequential Read
280 MB/s
Sequential Write260 MB/s
Power Consumption (Active)
1.5 W
Power Consumption (Idle)0.3 W


Intel's SSD 310 seems to be in short supply, as we can't find available at any major retailer. Fortunately, since our first look at mSATA, other SSD vendors have have stepped in to fill the gap. While it hasn't been tested in our lab, and therefore doesn't quality for an official recommendation, we've heard good buzz about OCZ's Nocti line. However, it's based on a lower-end second-gen SandForce controller only capable of 3Gb/s speeds.

Every mSATA SSD we've seen (including the Nocti) only uses half of its available NAND channels, which is why this wouldn't fly on the desktop. But our mention here is based on form factor, not performance. mSATA lets you keep your notebook's high-capacity SATA-based hard drive, giving you the best of both worlds.

Best SSDs for ~$135: Single-Drive Configuration

OCZ Agility 3 (Check Prices)

OCZ Agility 3
90 GB
Sequential Read
550 MB/s
Sequential Write500 MB/s
Power Consumption (Active)
3.6 W
Power Consumption (Idle)0.05 W

The price on 90 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs recently dropped again. If you want to use your SSD for more than simply installing an operating system and a few apps, the 90 GB capacity point is your next stop.

OCZ's Agility 3 and Corsair's Force 3 are both excellent choices. The two drives employ asynchronous memory, so real-world performance is nearly identical. We pick the first simply because it's available for $135 through our PriceGrabber shopping engine, while the Force 3 is listed for $150. In reality, you can't go wrong either way.

Best SSDs for ~$170: Single-Drive Configuration

Corsair Force 3 (Check Prices)

Corsair Force 3
120 GB
Sequential Read
550 MB/s
Sequential Write510 MB/s
Power Consumption (Active)
2.0 W
Power Consumption (Idle)0.5 W

There are some decent deals on 120 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs right around $170. Everything in this range still centers on lower-performance asynchronous flash memory, but you can't beat the price-per-gigabyte these drives offer. Moreover, speed is still pretty phenomenal.

Confusingly, 120 GB first-gen SandForce SSDs are also being sold in this price range, so you need to make sure that you're purchasing second-gen SandForce hardware if you really want a good deal on elevated performance.

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31 comments
    Your comment
  • hmp_goose
    Why is the m4-256GB considered "faster" then the Force 3-240GB?
    1
  • acku
    Compressible vs. Incompressible
    4
  • alidan
    hey toms, I don't know if it's just me, but with the GPU hierarchy chart, I don't know where each of the GPU's comes in performance wise, but with the SSD one, I have next to no clue.

    If possible in future charts could you add a second column that would tell you about how many megabytes per second read and write is, and how many input output operations per second it does. You don't have to do it for every drive just every tier.

    I believe this would help a lot.
    6
  • alidan
    alidanhey toms, I don't know if it's just me, but with the GPU hierarchy chart, I don't know where each of the GPU's comes in performance wise, but with the SSD one, I have next to no clue.If possible in future charts could you add a second column that would tell you about how many megabytes per second read and write is, and how many input output operations per second it does. You don't have to do it for every drive just every tier.I believe this would help a lot.


    sorry about that I'm using Dragon, it's still not completely used to the way I talk, and I don't catch everything. I correct this sentence

    but with the GPU hierarchy chart, I pretty much know where each of the GPU's comes in performance wise
    4
  • pocketdrummer
    256gb is still too little to be useful. And at $375, it's still absurdly overpriced.

    Unfortunately, HDDs are ridiculously overpriced as well, so this is essentially a terrible time to buy storage.
    -8
  • crisan_tiberiu
    I am a fan of Tom's but when i decided to buy the Kingston Hyper X 120 GB Sata 3 SSD i did not take this chart in mind :). I was thinking between the Kingston and the Mushkin Chronos 120 GB SSD... Corsair and OCZ were out of the question..Intel aswell because the ridiculous price...
    0
  • drrrtyfgt
    At $110 the Crucial m4 is an absolutely terrible choice in value/performance, especially when there's the Super Talent TeraNova 64GB: http://www.superbiiz.com/detail.php?name=FTM06N325H

    The write speeds are so much higher with the TeraNova than with the m4 that it's almost embarrassing to compare the two at the same price range.
    -3
  • tzhu07
    I just recently jumped on the SSD bandwagon after years of using a 5400RPM drive, and let me tell you SSD tech truly is a LEAPFROG advancement in technology. No small steps here.

    It doesn't matter what you use a computer for, it's time everyone make the switch already.
    4
  • kyuuketsuki
    Pocketdrummer256gb is still too little to be useful.
    Too little for what? It's plenty to hold the OS and, for most people, their entire library of programs, games, etc. No, you don't want to store your Blu-ray rips, ISOs, home video/picture collections, and iTunes library on an SSD, because those take up a lot of room and don't really benefit much from the improved I/O.
    And at $375, it's still absurdly overpriced.
    FFS could people get past the $/GB thing. Yes, we all want it to be cheaper, but that doesn't make it overpriced.
    5
  • Anonymous
    Thanks Tom's, this article hurts. I now feel that I live in a Tier 10 world. Now when I fire up my rig, I will feel inadequacy. How many levels up will you notice a difference in performance Is a good question? (considering you have the 6gbs connection on your mobo.
    0
  • CaedenV
    I picked up an OCZ Solid 3 60GB for my wife's 'office' computer over the summer when they were on sale+rebate, and even as a Tier 10 device on the speed charts it is still a smoking fast drive compared to a traditional HDD, and it is plenty of space for win7, office, browsers, and some other productivity software. Personally I am holding out of a faster/larger drive to come down in price for my rig rebuild, but for those of you with a home/family PC that is getting slow there is nothing better than a cheap 60GB SSD, and then dedicate your old system HDD to be your Documents drive. So long as you already have a duel core processor and 4GB of ram, and SSD is the best single purchase you could make to bring things up to date.
    0
  • tsnor
    Hi,

    I love the best cpu/price and best gpu/price articles.

    I love the SSD performance hierarchy at the end of the article, but can't really use the article itself. The best $200 SSD could be the fastest one without concern for size, or the largest one available without concern for speed. You do say you try to weight performance and size evenly, but I'm not sure that helps anyone.

    Maybe you could pick a few size points (60-boot, 120-single dive, 240-large drive, or whatever) and then give the best SSDs at different price points within size. Then the recommendation becomes 'If you want to spend $100 for a boot drive buy this, if you want to spend $60 for a boot drive buy that'.

    If someone asks me 'whats the best SSD to use to replace the 100GB spinning disk in my laptop?' the current format really doesn't help me answer.
    2
  • andywork78
    Yeah !! OCZ Vertex 3 ~!!!
    -1
  • Anonymous
    Why do I keep seeing Vertex Plus recommended by Tom's when it gets absolutely horrible reviews everywhere else? From what I've read just about anywhere, I wouldn't place important data on it even if you paid me to do it.
    1
  • ammaross
    Ajflick42Thanks Tom's, this article hurts. I now feel that I live in a Tier 10 world. Now when I fire up my rig, I will feel inadequacy. How many levels up will you notice a difference in performance Is a good question? (considering you have the 6gbs connection on your mobo.

    Read the article and look at the performance charts relative to HDDs. The difference in performance (on scale with hdds) between low-end SSDs and high-end SSDs is 3% (88%-85% faster than HDDs). So even at Tier10, you're still better off than any HDD owner. (if you bought into the hidden Tier11 of craptastic SSDs with
    0
  • Anonymous
    I’m wondering why the Adata S511 240 GB is in tier 2, but the Adata S511 120 GB is in tier 6? They both use synchronous flash and their read right speeds are the same. Why the different tiers?
    1
  • ojas
    alidanhey toms, I don't know if it's just me, but with the GPU hierarchy chart, I don't know where each of the GPU's comes in performance wise, but with the SSD one, I have next to no clue.If possible in future charts could you add a second column that would tell you about how many megabytes per second read and write is, and how many input output operations per second it does. You don't have to do it for every drive just every tier.I believe this would help a lot.

    +1
    2
  • zloginet
    tzhu07I just recently jumped on the SSD bandwagon after years of using a 5400RPM drive, and let me tell you SSD tech truly is a LEAPFROG advancement in technology. No small steps here.It doesn't matter what you use a computer for, it's time everyone make the switch already.


    LOL, a 7200rpm fast drive would have been a LEAPFROG for you too...
    3
  • pdxoutdoors
    Just FYI, there's a typo in the last sentence of the first paragraph of this article, "Prices are falling, and we keep you informed."

    I think that you wanted to have the word "will" in there.

    Also, I agree very much with tsnor's suggestion about organizing the review in a more helpful manner. Budget is important, but function (size + speed) is more important when you're considering investing in a new drive.
    2
  • Hendel
    No Corsair Force 3 Series 180gb?
    Its $250 and hit's the sweet spot between
    120gb drives that still feel a little too small for holding your Applications
    and 240+gb drives that are just tooooooo expensive.
    0