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Best SSDs For The Money: June 2012

Best SSDs For The Money: June 2012
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We saw a number of price drops over the last month. Case in point: Crucial's 512 GB m4 now sits under $400. We have plenty of other recommendations, including a special bundle for gamers. If you've held off on an SSD upgrade, this month's deals look good.

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.

June Updates

With the introduction of its Agility 4, OCZ now has a full product portfolio not based on SandForce's controllers to entice enthusiast and mainstream customers. Some folks have postured that the Vertex 4 and Agility 4 are nothing to get excited about, though. Although it's true that OCZ really only switched from one third-party's controller hardware to another company's (Marvell), you can't ignore the fact that OCZ is perhaps most aggressively pushing down SSD prices.

It's also putting constant effort into updating existing products to improve their performance and reliability. The company recently pushed out its 1.4RC firmware for the Vertex 4, which bolstered sequential write performance significantly. We were able to confirm the performance increase. However, we also explored certain situations where the drive gives up those promised gains. That's not to say we think any less of the Vertex 4, but we do feel that customers should have as complete of a story as possible. For more on our findings, check out OCZ Vertex 4 128 GB: Testing Write Performance With Firmware 1.4.

Although we haven't yet had an opportunity to review the Agility 4, the information we have suggests that it's a slight upgrade to the Agility 3 thanks to improved random I/O performance.

With that in mind, we recognize that low prices on their own, especially when it comes to storage, cannot be the sole determinant of whether a product is right for you. In the interest of ensuring the long-term safety of important data, most folks are willing to pay extra for trouble-free operation and the guarantee that a company's customer service department will go the extra mile to keep them happy.

Admittedly, that's really hard to quantify, and consequently almost impossible to incorporate into our ranking system. However, SSD vendors are finding other ways to add concrete value to their products. Last Christmas, for example, Intel bundled Battlefield 3 with its SSD 320. More recently, Samsung updated its retail 830 kits with a key for Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. If you were planning to buy that game anyway and need an accomplished SSD, that's a $50 freebie worth considering.

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 48 Comments.
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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. :) 

    Cheers,
    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.

    Cheers
    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.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820226318

    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?
    Thanks.
  • 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?

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820226236
  • 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
    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/284841-32-mushkin-intel
  • 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.

    http://www.mushkin.com/Digital-Storage/SSDs.aspx

    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:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227757

    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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