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Best SSDs For The Money: July 2014

Best SSDs For The Money: July 2014

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.

July Updates: A Couple Of Big Names Resurface

This month, a few big names launched fast SSDs. The two most notable were Samsung's 850 Pro and SanDisk's Extreme Pro. As you might expect, developments in NAND manufacturing play a central role in both products.

The former employs 3D V-NAND. If you want to learn more about that (and what it means to performance), check out Samsung 850 Pro SSD Review: 3D Vertical NAND Hits Desktop Storage. Samsung has been working on this technology for years, and the Korean firm is gradually disclosing more information as it becomes relevant in new markets. While other vendors have designs not entirely dissimilar (from what information I've heard), it’s unlikely we’ll see a solid-state drive using 3D NAND from other companies until late next year.

SanDisk's Extreme Pro picks up where last year’s Extreme II left off. It wields the same Marvell 88SS9187 controller used to great effect across the industry, but packs revised firmware and a substantial overclock to squeeze out more performance. SanDisk’s 1Y flash makes its debut as well. It’s similar to Toshiba’s A19 NAND, which cleverly repackages memory cells to reduce die size, ideally enabling higher yields.

Both Pro-branded drives include incredibly long 10-year limited warranties, and we know that Samsung and SanDisk are sandbagging when it comes to endurance. Their official Total Bytes Written stats are kept artificially low. Because the 850 Pro and Extreme Pro have enterprise counterparts, limiting coverage based on writes helps "guide" IT professionals away from the more desktop-oriented offerings.

Samsung was originally set to introduce the 850 Pro with five years of warranty. However, SanDisk’s announcement that the Extreme Pro would include 10 years compelled action, and company reps informed us of the change just prior to launch. It's a trend that we hope continues, even if the guarantee is bound by time and a maximum write limit. You get 10 years or 150 TBW, whichever comes first. Will you even have a system with legacy SATA 6Gb/s in 10 years? More than likely, no.

Of course, by the time you read this Samsung's 850 Pro still probably won't be available, though units should show up through the end of July and beginning of August. Better still, the estimated prices are notable lower than list. The 128 GB model is projected to sell near $130. Newegg already has the 256 GB version for pre-order at $200, the 512 GB drive at $400, and a 1 TB repository tagged at $700.

Naturally, it's difficult to pin down prices without availability, but it's probable that early adopters will get taxed more severely. SanDisk’s Extreme Pro, already for sale, shipped at similar MSRPs, but has already come down quite a bit. A 960 GB drive goes for $600, slotting in at a class-competitive $0.63/GB. After Samsung's preemptive price cuts, the 1 TB 850 Pro lands around $0.68/GB.

SanDisk’s Pro family doesn’t include a 128 GB-class SSD. But both SanDisk and Samsung's quarter-terabyte models should bounce around the $200 mark, and that's where the 240 GB Extreme II sits now. Per-gigabyte parity on the half-terabyte drives is a safe bet, too. Samsung is still ramping up production of the 850 Pro's 32-layer V-NAND, while the 19 nm flash SanDisk employs is more prevalent. It's not clear how much that affects the bottom line in either case, though.

Elsewhere, IMFT’s L85A flash is responsible for incredibly low prices on mainstream and performance-oriented SSDs. Apparently, it's dirt cheap, despite Micron’s intent to drastically cut shipments to third parties. Crucial, as Micron’s consumer-facing brand, is the primary beneficiary.

The M550 equipped with L85A flash is matched by drives from Adata, PNY, and a few others utilizing that same family of IMFT memory. They might not boast the speed or endurance of the 850 Pro and Extreme Pro, but in some cases, those mainstream SSDs undercut the top-end products by nearly 50%. It’s hard to imagine much more meat to cut from prices on the desktop. However, we've been surprised before.

Some Notes About Our Recommendations

A few simple guidelines to keep in mind when reading this list:

  • We only recommend SSDs we've actually used. Recommending SSDs we've never put hands on wouldn't be incredibly helpful.
  • 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.
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  • 0 Hide
    adamovera , July 19, 2014 12:13 AM
    Archived comments are found here:
  • 5 Hide
    kalmquist , July 19, 2014 2:01 AM
    "We only recommend SSDs we've actually used."

    Is that why you don't mention Crucial's MX100 line? With the current pricing on the 256GB and 512GB MX100 drives, it's hard to justify buying anything else at those capacity points.
  • 3 Hide
    envy14tpe , July 19, 2014 3:58 AM
    I agree with kalmquist. At the price of the MX100 it is tempting to buy a 512GB SSD. (never would have said that last year)

    MX100 256GB is ~$115 and the 512GB is $215. Hard to beat those prices.
  • 3 Hide
    dusty13 , July 19, 2014 5:14 AM
    leaving out the mx100 here actially spoils the list i think. please update after a test, i have seen it perform practically on par with samsungs evo but being even cheaper. this drive i think is the way to go for 500gb and up at the moment.
  • 3 Hide
    Sakkura , July 19, 2014 6:09 AM
    As the others have said, the Crucial MX100 is a MAJOR omission here. Even more so when both the slower M500 and the pricier M550 make the list. The MX100 performs practically identically to the M550 for a price almost identical to that of the M500.
  • 0 Hide
    AsTheDeath , July 19, 2014 6:41 AM
    With regards to the "Other solid state options", do you reckon another USB 3.0 drives roundup/review would be doable? The last one has been some time ago, but I did find that really helpful and I'm in fact typing this from Windows 8.1 installed on my SanDisk Extreme 32GB USB :D 

    Going by the fact that you're still recommending that stick, I'll assume I'm not doing too badly, but an overview of the current state of USB 3.0 would be nice.
  • 0 Hide
    kamhagh , July 19, 2014 8:30 AM
    where's crucial M500 250gb?:(  thats so cheap and good at same time ! only 100$
  • 1 Hide
    kamhagh , July 19, 2014 8:31 AM
    wait :o  MX100 is only 110$? i tought its like 180$ !!! thats amazing !(250gb)
  • 0 Hide
    CodeMatias , July 19, 2014 9:24 PM
    When will we get a real cost/performance chart rather than the ridiculous thing that's been used for ages? Just take the performance, divide by price, and divide by the number of GB, and let people sort by 4k composite, sequential composite, and a test bench score. And best to group them by capacity, since cost per gb drastically decreases between 64gb and 1tb
  • -2 Hide
    msroadkill612 , July 20, 2014 3:55 PM
    a/ hard to believe u need more than 64gb for a boot drive

    b/ the killer factor is access speed vs a HDD - who gives a rats about transfer speed? - huge is huge

    given the above, despite the scoffers, i still think raid 1 w/ a ssd primary & a hdd secondary could work well in some apps. none seem to have tried it & benched it meaningfully i can see

    most realtime work is done by primary (ssd) drive

    fast & cheap always up redundancy

    d/ i hear rumors than the sandisk cache thingo has weird firmware - flushes the cache a lot - defeats the purpose? Many say its great.

    loved the idea when first heard it, now not so sure
  • 0 Hide
    youcanDUit , July 20, 2014 7:48 PM
    so the 10 year warranty isn't really a 10 year warranty?
  • 0 Hide
    youcanDUit , July 20, 2014 7:48 PM
    so the 10 year warranty isn't really a 10 year warranty?

    flushes cache? is that bad?
  • 1 Hide
    Onus , July 20, 2014 9:22 PM
    The difference in idle power between a Samsung (0.34W) and an AData (1.21W) could be a big deal in a laptop, and is worth mentioning.
  • 0 Hide
    Brogan , July 22, 2014 12:28 AM
    So why aren't the 850 Pro's included in the charts? Based on the review a few weeks ago, their numbers top virtually every drive on this list.
  • 0 Hide
    Sakkura , July 22, 2014 8:16 AM
    Probably has to do with the "for the money" part. The 850 Pro is pricey. You can get a 512 GB Crucial MX100 for about the same money as a 256 GB Samsung 850 Pro. For most people, the MX100 would be a much better option.
  • 1 Hide
    arcus1200 , July 24, 2014 11:49 AM
    Crucial MX100 is almost as fast as the more expensive M550, the only downside is that they don't make a 1Tb SSD (I really hope they will produce it in the end for a price around $300,00 :p ).
  • 1 Hide
    kamhagh , July 26, 2014 3:22 AM
    Your ssd list makes me realize how fast life goes!!!
  • 0 Hide
    cypeq , July 30, 2014 3:10 AM
    Samsung 840 Pro data displays writes speed instead of IOPS
  • 0 Hide
    msroadkill612 , August 3, 2014 5:27 AM
    being silly. as many are, say u r broke or trying to stretch an old pcS life ...

    As they say, lottsa ram wins, even if slow.

    So what say a big swap file on an ssd?

    My 2gb, soon to be replaced, 98xp PC has a 4gb HDD swap file (suggested by windows) & it crawls - u can hear it
    at least the ssd can be re-used - ram upgrades cannot
  • 0 Hide
    msroadkill612 , August 3, 2014 8:18 AM
    Mabe the conventional logic of ssdS is all wrong?

    An entire copy of your system disk on cheap/fast, but niggardly on space, storage - really?

    that means being anal with what goes where for ever more - time & hassle & maybe risk?

    why not make it their problem?

    seagate etc. hybrid 1tb drive - 8 gb cache onboard - $~100

    something like sandisk intellicache~? 32gb ~$45 - not a drive - just a cache

    maybe a small ssd for known scratch files like win swap etc - $45 64gb - $85 128gb - kingston?

    would make a great raid 1 rig

    I am told win 8 installs on 128gb can be a struggle - absurd

    In theory, only cache what needs caching, not clutter.

    Dont quote me if i am wrong (tho i cant see where, if they work ok)

    Very fast almost all the time

    Time is money - this is KISS

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