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Best SSDs: $110 And Under

Best SSDs For The Money: May 2012
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Best SSD for ~$55: Boot Drive

Corsair Nova 2 (Check Prices)

Corsair Nova 2
30 GB
Sequential Read
280 MB/s
Sequential Write250 MB/s
Power Consumption (Active)
1.3 W
Power Consumption (Idle)0.2 W

Ever since this Best SSD For The Money series began, Kingston's 16 GB S100 monopolized our most entry-level position. Things changed last month, though, as vendors tried to unload their first-gen SandForce-based models. It costs almost as much to manufacture drives based on the controller company's second-gen hardware, which is significantly faster. The result of this phase-out is creating a few really good deals, and that's why we're switching over to Corsair's 30 GB Nova 2.

Although the Nova 2 gets our recommendation, we have to caution you about Corsair's specs. Sequential write performance for this 30 GB drive is overstated at 250 MB/s. The company provides a single performance number for all of its capacities, but we know that's not accurate. Actual write performance should max out closer to 100 MB/s or so.

The speed of a low-capacity SSD might not compare well to larger models, but it's still going to be significantly better than installing your operating system on a hard drive. Our previously-recommended 16 GB Kingston S100 only worked as a Windows 7 32-bit boot drive due to the OS' space requirements. Windows 7 64-bit requires 20 GB, so shifting up to 30 GB gives you a little more freedom. There's not enough space to install much else; however, if you manually manage your space, booting from a low-capacity SSD can significantly improve system responsiveness.

Best SSD for ~$65: Boot Drive

OCZ Agility 3 (Check Prices)

OCZ Agility 3
60 GB
Sequential Read
525 MB/s
Sequential Write475 MB/s
Power Consumption (Active)
2.7 W
Power Consumption (Idle)1.5 W

According to Ten 60 GB SandForce-Based Boot Drives, Rounded-Up, comparing the out-of-box performance of entry-level drives based on the company's second-gen controller reveals very few differences.

What we do know, however, is that synchronous NAND enables slightly better numbers than asynchronous memory in certain situations. Because it does, in fact, employ asynchronous NAND, OCZ's Agility 3 isn't the fastest model available. But when it's priced at $75, you do get a reasonable amount of capacity for operating system files and a handful of critical apps.

Best SSD for ~$90: System Drive

Mushkin Enhanced Chronos (Check Prices)

Mushkin Enhanced Chronos
90 GB
Sequential Read
560 MB/s
Sequential Write510 MB/s
Power Consumption (Active)
3 W
Power Consumption (Idle)1 W

Many of us find it inconvenient to manually track where apps and data reside across multiple drives. Higher-capacity SSDs cost more, but they also offer the freedom to worry less about where stuff goes, and to simply enjoy the speed and responsiveness of flash-based storage. We consider 90 and 96 GB drives the baseline for installing an operating system and all of your important apps without getting excessively expensive. From there, user data goes on a larger and more cost-effective magnetic disk.

Kingston was one of the first vendors to make this capacity popular, and other vendors have quickly followed suit. Mushkin, though, impresses this month with its 90 GB Enhanced Chronos leveraging SandForce's second-gen technology. At only $1/GB, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better deal under $100.

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