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Tom's Hardware's SSD Hierarchy Chart

Best SSDs For The Money: June 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, 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)
  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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  • 1 Hide
    mjmjpfaff , June 28, 2012 5:19 AM
    On the "Best SSDs: $200 To $300" page there is a typo in the "Best SSDs for ~$270: Gaming Option 256 GB" option. In the chart it says it is a 240gb SSD but it is a 256gb SSD. I'm sure its just a typo...
  • 1 Hide
    bim27142 , June 28, 2012 5:30 AM
    Is this accurate?

    Samsung 830 240 GB
    Sequential Read 560 MB/s
    Sequential Write 525 MB/s
    Power Consumption (Active) 3 W
    Power Consumption (Idle) 1 W
  • 1 Hide
    hmp_goose , June 28, 2012 5:31 AM
    I never noticed before, but does the Samsung 830 really change power consumption as capacity grows?
  • -5 Hide
    DjEaZy , June 28, 2012 5:33 AM
    ... and... still... my Vertex 3 is strong... by the prices now, i maybe buy a nother one for RAID 0...
  • 8 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , June 28, 2012 5:51 AM
    bet you cant tell the difference between RAID0 SS's and a single SSD without benchmarking.
  • 2 Hide
    acku , June 28, 2012 6:27 AM
    mjmjpfaffOn the "Best SSDs: $200 To $300" page there is a typo in the "Best SSDs for ~$270: Gaming Option 256 GB" option. In the chart it says it is a 240gb SSD but it is a 256gb SSD. I'm sure its just a typo...

    Fixed! Thanks for being so cool about everything. :) 

    Andrew Ku
    Tom's Hardware
  • 0 Hide
    Pawessum16 , June 28, 2012 7:00 AM
    I think this is definitely your best article in the "Best SSD's For the Money" series. I can finally agree with the majority of your recommendations, and even though you don't explicitly state it, I feel like you finally took user feedback on reliability into consideration for the different recommendations. i.e. fewer OCZ recommendations, and no ridiculous pedestal recommendations for Intel's ridiculously overpriced ssd's that provide nothing over the likes of Crucial and Samsung.
    Two thumbs up!
  • 3 Hide
    acku , June 28, 2012 7:05 AM
    We'll I always try. Not saying I'm always right. There simply are too many SSD vendors out there. It's hard to cover them all. But I'm glad you like the changes. :) 

    I think for some people the confidence that Intel is going to back your play should something go wrong means a lot. Not saying it's worth the premium, but for some people, it is. That said, I do like the idea of game bundles. I think it's a great way to get more value from an SSD.

    Andrew Ku
    Tom's Hardware
  • 1 Hide
    palladin9479 , June 28, 2012 8:58 AM
    I love my Samsung 830 256GB's. I got one for my main gaming box awhile back, liked its performance and eventually bought a 2nd one for my DV6z notebook.
  • 0 Hide
    erunion , June 28, 2012 9:04 AM
    The product name and link for your $115 drive is in error. The drive is actually the Chronos Deluxe MX.

    Your link shows virtually every Mushkin drive except that one.
  • 0 Hide
    radon_antila , June 28, 2012 9:08 AM
    ackuI think for some people the confidence that Intel is going to back your play should something go wrong means a lot. Not saying it's worth the premium, but for some people, it is.

    This is true for enterprises, certainly. Essentially, if the data is more valuable than the storage, the Intel SSD is worth the premium. For everyone else, the Crucial and Samsung SSDs are better value propositions.
  • 0 Hide
    Onus , June 28, 2012 11:55 AM
    Two points and a question:
    1. Yes, please incorporate reliability into your ratings. I've had 2/4 Sandforce drives I bought fail, so I will choose an alternate.
    2. I like my Samsung 830, although I am not getting its claimed performance. I suspect it is because I'm running an AMD system, even though it's a 990FX. As the article points out, the performance of a SSD beats the snot out of a mechanical HDD.
    Finally, and this article wouldn't be the place to cover it, but I'd like more information on the performance of SRT using a 64GB SSD along with a mainstream (i.e. not "green") HDD. Does such a system generally perform closer to the speed of a SSD, or more like just a fast HDD?
  • 0 Hide
    pinkfloydminnesota , June 28, 2012 12:10 PM
    Microcenter has ocz 4 gen's for $100 to $120 for the 128 GB size.
  • 1 Hide
    LordConrad , June 28, 2012 2:33 PM
    Why recommend the Mushkin Enhanced Chronos 90GB when you can get the 120GB version for $3 more?
  • 0 Hide
    LordConrad , June 28, 2012 2:50 PM
    jtt283 Yes, please incorporate reliability into your ratings. I've had 2/4 Sandforce drives I bought fail, so I will choose an alternate.

    Reliability is subjective and Track Records are just statistics. I've installed 4 SandForce drives, each in a different computer, and never had a single problem. The computers include one desktop and two laptop PCs and one Mac Mini, all of which continue to work without problems.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , June 28, 2012 2:59 PM
    Geez I just bought a 256G Samsung 830 for $190. Newegg. Cool
  • 1 Hide
    josejones , June 28, 2012 3:18 PM
    There's a distinction between the "Mushkin Enhanced Chronos Deluxe" DX version and the MX version:

    Mushkin vs. Intel SSD
  • 1 Hide
    Isaiah4110 , June 28, 2012 4:13 PM
    The ~$115 recommendation "Mushkin Enhanced Chronos Deluxe" has some incorrect information. The drive referenced here is actually the "Mushkin Enhanced Chronos MX" (model MKNSSDCR120GB-MX, currently selling for $115 on Newegg). This drive isn't a "Toggle-mode SF-22xx-based SSD", but actually uses "synchronous mode NAND flash" according to Mushkin's website.

    The 120GB version (model MKNSSDCR120GB-DX) of the Chronos Deluxe SSD, which actually uses Toggle-mode flash memory, currently sells for $190 on Newegg (and roughly the same everywhere else).
  • 0 Hide
    grody , June 28, 2012 4:20 PM
    OCZ Agility 3 90GB for $55:

    I'm sure most people check newegg anyway, though.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , June 28, 2012 5:12 PM
    With the SSD price drop/war right now, I'm in dilemma of choosing btw Corsair, Kingston and OCZ for 120GB SSD (~$90). Which of these are best for this price point?
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