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 Write||95 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 Write||260 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 Write||500 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 Write||510 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.