Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Best SSDs For The Money: December 2011

Best SSDs For The Money: December 2011
By

Welcome to the last column of 2011. We updated our recommendations to reflect the recent price drops on second-gen SandForce hardware. There are several good deals to be found for right about $150-200 bucks. Prices are falling, and we keep you informed.

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 read 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.

December Updates

OCZ's Octane is really the only interesting bit of news since our last update. Based on the new Everest controller from Indilinx, Octane represents an effort by the company to make itself less reliant on SandForce, particularly as it tries to distinguish itself from a crowded market also using the same controller technology.

In terms of overall performance, Octane is fast. On a SATA 6Gb/s-equipped motherboard, it achieves sequential speeds similar to a Vertex 3 at the same capacity. Unfortunately, when it comes to random data, Octane gives up its position, as performance is pretty typical of most SATA 3Gb/s SSDs.

It's going to be interesting to see where OCZ goes from here. According to SandForce itself, OCZ sells the most SandForce-based drives. So, its own efforts to promote good performance wind up benefiting its competitors' products. Depending on the type of NAND inside, we've seen some variation in the performance of SandForce-based drives. For the most part, however, they behave fairly similarly, meaning OCZ's been doing a lot of marketing work for its competition. Although Octane isn't a Vertex 3 replacement, it does represent OCZ's first SSD with the company's own controller hardware. Might OCZ take this opportunity to start pushing prices on mainstream SSDs lower? We certainly hope so.

In the short term, if you're in the market for a storage expansion, it's a good time to consider an SSD. Although you'll still pay more than a dollar for every gigabyte of capacity, falling prices on solid-state storage are more tolerable in the fact of rising prices on conventional hard drives. Western Digital reports that it's slowly resuming production after the catastrophic flooding in Thailand, but there's no telling when we'll see disks drop to their pre-disaster levels. SSD vendors are taking advantage of the interruption in hard drive production, along with the holiday season, to offer great deals. As a result, we've seen prices fluctuate several times in the past 30 days.

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. Now that Intel's Z68 Express chipset is available, the idea of SSD-based 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 issue that mobile users face ever-presently. Even on the desktop, other variables have to be considered.
  • Prices and availability change on a daily basis. Our picks will be valid the month of publication, but we can't extend our choices very far beyond that time frame. SSD pricing is especially competitive, and a $15 difference can be the reason why one SSD makes the list, while another does not. As you shop, 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.
Display 31 Comments.
This thread is closed for comments
  • 1 Hide
    hmp_goose , December 29, 2011 3:29 AM
    Why is the m4-256GB considered "faster" then the Force 3-240GB?
  • 4 Hide
    acku , December 29, 2011 3:40 AM
    Compressible vs. Incompressible
  • 6 Hide
    alidan , December 29, 2011 6:09 AM
    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.
  • 4 Hide
    alidan , December 29, 2011 6:11 AM
    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
  • -8 Hide
    pocketdrummer , December 29, 2011 6:29 AM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    crisan_tiberiu , December 29, 2011 6:37 AM
    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...
  • -3 Hide
    drrrtyfgt , December 29, 2011 7:08 AM
    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.
  • 4 Hide
    tzhu07 , December 29, 2011 7:19 AM
    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.
  • 5 Hide
    kyuuketsuki , December 29, 2011 8:07 AM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , December 29, 2011 12:04 PM
    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 Hide
    CaedenV , December 29, 2011 1:19 PM
    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.
  • 2 Hide
    tsnor , December 29, 2011 2:19 PM
    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.
  • -1 Hide
    andywork78 , December 29, 2011 2:21 PM
    Yeah !! OCZ Vertex 3 ~!!!
  • 1 Hide
    sublime2k , December 29, 2011 3:22 PM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    ammaross , December 29, 2011 3:43 PM
    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
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , December 29, 2011 4:19 PM
    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?
  • 2 Hide
    ojas , December 29, 2011 4:32 PM
    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
  • 3 Hide
    zloginet , December 29, 2011 5:18 PM
    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...
  • 2 Hide
    pdxoutdoors , December 29, 2011 7:52 PM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    Hendel , December 29, 2011 10:38 PM
    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.
Display more comments