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Best SSDs: $110 And Under

Best SSDs For The Money: May 2012

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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Top Comments
  • 12 Hide
    _zxzxzx_ , May 29, 2012 6:46 AM
    Great how Tom's hardware has an article on this every month :) 
Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    DjEaZy , May 29, 2012 5:23 AM
    ... my vertex 3 still strong...
  • 2 Hide
    barracks510 , May 29, 2012 5:27 AM
    vertex=75 or 65 dollars. shows both
  • 4 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , May 29, 2012 6:00 AM
    what about Vertex4 drives?
  • 5 Hide
    acku , May 29, 2012 6:42 AM
    what about Vertex4 drives?

    I need to retest the 256 GB Vertex 4 because of weird results. Couldn't make it in time this month. Definately will be in next month's feature.

    Andrew Ku
  • 12 Hide
    _zxzxzx_ , May 29, 2012 6:46 AM
    Great how Tom's hardware has an article on this every month :) 
  • 2 Hide
    vestibule , May 29, 2012 7:13 AM
    Gotta love random deals on Newegg, I narrowly missed a 128 GB Crucial M4 for $110 a couple weeks ago, it was out of stock just seconds before I decided to get it. A week later they had a 256 GB one for $210 which is an even sweeter deal, it took days for that to be out of stock.

    Both were the newest version BTW, and I'm just holding on to the SDD for a bit for a build I'll do in a month or so.
  • -2 Hide
    iamtheking123 , May 29, 2012 8:50 AM
    "But if you look at performance over an entire month, you will find the 830 to be a faster performer"

    Still going to do 4x SSD's in raid 0 in my next build for the e-peen.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , May 29, 2012 9:07 AM
    darn, should have waited, I could have got double the space for $10 more, good to see SSD prices come down though
  • -2 Hide
    deepb , May 29, 2012 9:08 AM
    Is there a reason why the Mushkin 90GB version is recomendded over the OCZ Agility 3 90 GB version as the OCZ one is available at Amazon for 85$
  • 0 Hide
    wmfoster2001 , May 29, 2012 10:10 AM
    Would the 180Gb Intel 520 SSD belong in Tier 2 or 3?
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , May 29, 2012 11:23 AM
    There's a cheaper option for the 120GB drive:
    The only listed "Mushkin Enhanced Chronos Deluxe" is not available also.
  • -2 Hide
    juan83 , May 29, 2012 12:17 PM
    At 1$/GB i think is time to talk about raid 0, but i know little about reliability of this disks.

    2 x 90GB = 180GB and ~ 900 Mb/sec and spending 180$
  • 1 Hide
    notsleep , May 29, 2012 12:32 PM
    i managed to snag a brand new samsung 830 128 gb for $119 a couple weeks ago for my new build. it's my very first desktop ssd. one of the best thing performance wise that i noticed in my new build was the ssd. :) 
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , May 29, 2012 12:51 PM
    Remember that with Raid 0 you lose TRIM functionality and performance will degrade overtime.
  • 1 Hide
    eddieroolz , May 29, 2012 1:44 PM
    Bought a Crucial m4 128GB for $148CAD, then prices dropped to $128CAD this month. Ah well.
  • 6 Hide
    jaquith , May 29, 2012 2:00 PM
    There are so many sales that it's impossible to justify "Best" based upon MSRP. I truly wish the maximum R/W wasn't listed in this review as the headliners, especially since IOPS (R/W) and 4K (R/W) are what's important -- not to mention Reliability, $/GB, and Warranty.

    Choosing the "Best SSD" per price range needs to be a weighted scoring.
  • 3 Hide
    RaidenSix , May 29, 2012 2:06 PM
    Any particular reason the Corsair Performance Pro series was not included?
  • 3 Hide
    samuelspark , May 29, 2012 3:03 PM
    deepbIs there a reason why the Mushkin 90GB version is recomendded over the OCZ Agility 3 90 GB version as the OCZ one is available at Amazon for 85$ [...] 637&sr=1-6

    Mushkin Enhanced Chronos has sychronous flash and offers much better performance, comparable to the Vertex 3.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , May 29, 2012 3:29 PM
    The Mushkin Enhanced Chronos has asynchronous NAND.
  • 2 Hide
    TheBigTroll , May 29, 2012 3:41 PM
    mushkin chronos deluxe is awesome
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