Best SSDs For The Money: December 2011

Tom's Hardware's SSD Hierarchy Chart

We understand that SSD prices make it difficult to adopt the latest technology. Maybe that's why you aren't too keen on blowing a couple hundred dollars on solid-state storage, especially when you can spend the same amount and buy four 2 TB hard drives or a high-performance processor. 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.

As a point of comparison, a file operation completes 85% faster on a low-end SSD than it does on a high-end hard drive, but there is only an 88% speed difference between a high-end hard drive and a high-end SSD. That why you shouldn't let less aggressive benchmark results at the low-end deter you from making the switch. You don't have to have the best SSD to get great performance relative to a hard drive.

This hierarchy chart relies on information provided in 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.

SSD Performance Hierarchy Chart
Tier 1
Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 240 GB
OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240 GB
Patriot WildFire 240 GB
Samsung 830 SSD 256 GB
Other 240 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Toggle NAND
Tier 2
Adata S511 240 GB
Corsair Force GT 240 GB
Kingston HyperX SSD 240 GB
OCZ Vertex 3 240 GB
Other 240 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Sync ONFi NAND
Tier 3
Crucial m4 256 GB
Intel SSD 510 250 GB
Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 120 GB
OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 120 GB
Patriot WildFire 120 GB
Samsung 830 SSD 128 GB
Other 120 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Toggle NAND
Tier 4
Corsair Force 3 240 GB
OCZ Agility 3 240 GB
Patriot Pyro 240 GB
Other 240 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Async ONFi NAND
Tier 5
Intel SSD 510 120 GB
Crucial m4 128 GB
Tier 6
Adata S511 120 GB
Corsair Force GT 120 GB
Kingston HyperX SSD 120 GB
OCZ Vertex 3 120 GB
Samsung 470 SSD 256 GB
Other 120 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Sync ONFi NAND
Tier 7
OCZ Agility 2 240 GB
OCZ Vertex 2 240 GB
Tier 8
Corsair Force 3 120 GB
Intel SSD 320 300 GB
OCZ Agility 3 120 GB
OCZ Solid 3 120 GB
Patriot Pyro 120 GB
Samsung 470 SSD 128 GB
Other 120 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Async ONFi NAND
Tier 9
Corsair Force 3 60 GB
Crucial m4 64 GB
Kingston SSDNow V+100 128 GB
Intel SSD 320 160 GB
OCZ Agility 3 60 GB
Patriot Pyro 60 GB
Other 60 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Async ONFi NAND
Tier 10
Intel SSD 320 80 GB
OCZ Agility 2 120 GB
OCZ Vertex 2 120 GB
OCZ Solid 3 60 GB
Other 120 GB first-gen SandForce SSDs
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31 comments
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  • 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