October didn't give us much in the way of storage excitement, but the most mundane news is perhaps the best: prices are falling on SSDs again. Even if they weren't, we're still at all-time lows on solid-state pricing. It remains a good time to buy an SSD.
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.
October Updates: A Lull In The Market
Our last update to this column was two months ago, and little has happened in the storage market since then. As we shift from the summer doldrums into the fourth-quarter shark tank, that will change. The industry has shown that it can continue cranking out high-performance SSDs using 20 nm-class NAND, and the next generation of flash is just around the corner to keep things interesting. Of course, there remain a number of older drives on the market that still haven't made that transition, namely Intel's SSD 520.
As far as new releases go, the company's SSD 530 is perhaps the most noteworthy recent launch, even though it was pretty low-key. In contrast, Intel's SSD 520 was one of 2012's highest-profile introductions, beginning an era of SandForce-based SSDs that continues today. Thanks to consumer acceptance, and the perception that Intel's spin on SandForce's technology was more reliable, the SSD 520 (formerly known as Cherryville) became a gold standard for SandForce-powered desktop drives. Although it wasn't any faster, and in fact cost more, it did become a popular product.
Now, equipped with 20 nm flash and a, er, flashier exterior, Intel's SSD 530 is set to become the 520's replacement. Our review on that product is in-progress and should go live soon.
In other news, the average price of 1 TB-class SSDs is better than ever. Crucial's 960 GB M500 can be found at $549, which is $50 less than the drive's MSRP. The same goes for Samsung's 840 EVO 1 TB. At $590, that's about $60 less than MSRP. Happy times are definitely here for folks hunting for more solid-state capacity, and there hasn't been a better time to get some SSD love.
Storage Reviews For The Month:
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 most Intel's 115x chipsets have caching baked in, 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.