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Best SSDs: $300 To $400

Best SSDs For The Money: January 2012
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Best SSDs for ~$300: High-Capacity Option

OCZ Agility 3 (Check Prices)

OCZ Agility 3
240 GB
Sequential Read
525 MB/s
Sequential Write500 MB/s
Power Consumption (Active)
2.7 W
Power Consumption (Idle)1.5 W

If you are willing to spend more to get a better deal, you're going to want more capacity, and a recent price drop on OCZ's 240 GB Agility 3 immediately caught our attention. This month, you're being asked to pay $300 for 240 GB, which comes out to $1.25 per gigabyte. That's 9% less than last month's 240 GB Force 3 at $315.

Now, we've seen a few first-gen SandForce drives priced a few bucks cheaper at the same capacity point. However, even if you don't own a 6 Gb/s-capable motherboard, we still recommend the Agility 3 because of its ability to fully saturate a SATA 3Gb/s controller, whereas older solutions options can't.

Best SSDs for ~$360: Performance & Capacity Option

Crucial m4 (Check Prices)

Crucial m4
256 GB
Sequential Read
415 MB/s
Sequential Write260 MB/s
Power Consumption (Active)
.15 W
Power Consumption (Idle).10 W

If you're looking for a higher-capacity SSD with a more performance-oriented flavor, we're torn between Crucial's 256 GB m4 and OCZ's 240 GB Vertex 3. Both hover around the same price and offer similar performance. Last month, our decision was simple. The 256 GB m4 and 240 GB Agility 3 were comparably-priced, and the m4 won without contest. Things got more interesting this month, though, thanks to price drops by OCZ on the Vertex 3 line.

Now we're weighing the pros and cons a bit more carefully, as both drives are clearly performance leaders. In a desktop environment, most data written sequentially tends to be compressible, favoring the Vertex 3. When it comes to reads, the two drivers perform similarly. But once you take into account that the m4 also offers more user-accessible space, we think Crucial's drive takes a victory.

For most enthusiasts, this really tops out the budget, especially since we imagine that you'll want even more storage for user data, necessitating a couple of 1.5 or 2 TB hard drives. There are larger SSDs out there, but the performance picture really doesn't get much better.

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  • 2 Hide
    compton , January 24, 2012 3:11 AM
    The 830 is a very impressive specimen, and the newer Marvel + Toggle NAND drives are excellent as well. But I want a big plate of Cherryville, and I was hoping the NDA would lift tonight...

    The best value in a new drive is probably whichever SF2281 with sync NAND is cheapest, but avoid the 60GB models. The price/performance mix at the 64GB level is the 830. At higher capacities it's a toss-up though.
  • 6 Hide
    sincreator , January 24, 2012 3:31 AM
    I think that reliability should be a big factor in all the categories. I've read from numerous sites that the M4 crucial drives and Intel drives are the most reliable, and I also know that the sandforce drives have a firmware update that fixes the issues that once existed. What I don't know and what alot of other people don't know is how reliability stands up between all the drives. Would be interesting to find out though, I guess after 3 or 4 years we'll start finding out.
  • 0 Hide
    sincreator , January 24, 2012 3:33 AM
    I almost forgot...Why is it that SSD drives typically only have 3 year warranties, and higher end conventional spinning drives get 5 years? Anyone?
  • 0 Hide
    Dacatak , January 24, 2012 4:01 AM
    SuperTalent has been selling a 64GB SSD rated at 540/490 MB/s read/write for under $110 for a while now, yet this is never mentioned for some reason. Shouldn't this take the Samsung 830's position at the $110 mark?
  • 1 Hide
    lunyone , January 24, 2012 8:25 AM
    Where does this SSD below fit into the equation?
    $130-140 shipped ~$1.16/GB
    SanDisk Ultra SDSSDH-120G-G25 2.5" 120GB SATA II Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
  • 0 Hide
    lashabane , January 24, 2012 8:39 AM
    lunyoneWhere does this SSD below fit into the equation?$130-140 shipped ~$1.16/GBSanDisk Ultra SDSSDH-120G-G25 2.5" 120GB SATA II Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)

    You should check out their oh so informative video on their website:

    sandisk-solid-state-drive

    I wasn't able to find any info anywhere in regards to what kind of flash memory it uses so no clue where it would stand in the charts.
    Based on size and pricing, I would imagine it being tier 9 or 10
  • 2 Hide
    jammur , January 24, 2012 11:46 AM
    Are you sure the crucial m4 256GB is really better than the 240GB OCZ Agility 3. The reads and writes MB/s in your table are both SIGNIFICANTLY lower. So I'm paying ~$60 more for an extra 16GB that are A LOT slower. Is that right?
  • 6 Hide
    RealBeast , January 24, 2012 12:40 PM
    sincreatorI think that reliability should be a big factor in all the categories. I've read from numerous sites that the M4 crucial drives and Intel drives are the most reliable, and I also know that the sandforce drives have a firmware update that fixes the issues that once existed. What I don't know and what alot of other people don't know is how reliability stands up between all the drives. Would be interesting to find out though, I guess after 3 or 4 years we'll start finding out.

    The best information that I've found on ssd reliability is a study of a large etailer and its returns (all drives had over 500 sales) and they update the table a couple times a year HERE. Intel and Crucial really stand out in their reliability measure.
  • 0 Hide
    Nintendo Maniac 64 , January 24, 2012 1:11 PM
    No love for the OCZ Onyx 32GB? Its read performance is about only half as fast as the Kingston 16GB, but the write speed is about the same and has twice as much space.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227510

    It also seems to be one of, if not OCZ's most reliable SSD. (all of their other models are under par reliability-wise)
  • 0 Hide
    sincreator , January 24, 2012 1:15 PM
    RealbeastThe best information that I've found on ssd reliability is a study of a large etailer and its returns (all drives had over 500 sales) and they update the table a couple times a year HERE. Intel and Crucial really stand out in their reliability measure.


    Thanks for that. :)  Pretty interesting write up for sure. I was really surprised to see Asus motherboards have 4 out of the top 6 returned motherboards, and not just their low end boards either.lol. I also thought that Corsair would of beat out Antec/Thermaltake in the PSU department...I guess not. Either way I guess we have to take those figures with a grain of salt though since it's just information from one e-tail outlet, and not the numbers from the companies themselves. It's not like they would share the real numbers anyway though. haha.
  • 0 Hide
    ctbaars , January 24, 2012 1:45 PM
    Get a Tier 1 SSD for the same price as a Teir 3's recommended here. While the sale lasts. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820226226
  • 1 Hide
    rmpumper , January 24, 2012 2:11 PM
    I don't get it, maybe someone can help:
    - why do they label the SSD's differently, i.e. "Performance Boot Drive" or "System Drive (OS + Programs)" - what's the difference in real world? Does that mean that you can't use Samsung 830 for software/games or something?
  • 0 Hide
    LukeCWM , January 24, 2012 2:35 PM
    Any word on the SATA 3 replacement?
  • 1 Hide
    jaquith , January 24, 2012 2:48 PM
    LukeCWMAny word on the SATA 3 replacement?

    SATA Express will increase the speeds to 8Gb/s and 16Gb/s. My best guess is 2013 at the earliest.

    The 180GB Corsair Force Series GT CSSD-F180GBGT-BK has an excellent Cost/GB : Performance, I just ordered a couple the other day.
  • 0 Hide
    Onus , January 24, 2012 3:24 PM
    Interesting, Realbeast. As an admitted Antec fanboy, the PSU results don't really surprise me, but WD return rates going up fully explains why they are decreasing their warranty coverage. It looks like they've decided they are no longer interested in my business. Once I start buying drives again, I'll keep it to Samsung and/or Seagate.
    Hopefully some Newegg managers are seeing this; I'd love to see something similar done with Newegg return rates (although I suppose that might cost them all or most of their Diablotek and Logisys PSU sales).
  • 0 Hide
    josejones , January 24, 2012 3:45 PM
    When will the PCIe SSD Interface support PCIe 3.0?
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , January 24, 2012 4:36 PM
    What about OCZ's Octane (with the new firmware)? Not enterprise...

    And whether or not the SSDs have native encryption or not is very important - since they can't be erased. This should certainly be included in the chart.
  • 1 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , January 24, 2012 5:58 PM
    "When will the PCIe SSD Interface support PCIe 3.0?"

    PCI-e 3.0 slots require the use of an Intel Ivy Bridge CPU. Currently there are no Intel Ivy Bridge CPU's. It's going to be a while before the new standard is fully implemented.
  • 3 Hide
    Pawessum16 , January 24, 2012 6:53 PM
    I'm sorry but with no weight on reliability for these drives, this review makes absolutely no sense. It also doesn't make sense when you give an honorable mention to a drive for mobile use just because it has 2x the write performance when the "performance" drive above it gets 10x better power consumption. I think most of us here know that if you want to buy an SSD, go to Newegg, list the drives in order of rating, and go from there. PS from user reviews I've seen Intel is no longer the holy grail of reliable drives. They're highly overpriced and putting a recommendation on them is questionable (at most honorable mention worthy). I've seen pretty good consistent reviews from other drive makers, and OCZ seems to be consistently the worst in reliability. Then again this all comes from a person with no first hand experience, but from others' experiences, it appears to me.....
  • 2 Hide
    deanjo , January 24, 2012 7:43 PM
    Without comparitive benchmarks of the drives with data that can and can't be compressed this article is useless as not everyone's uses for these drives are the same. Someone using it for a boot drive and someone using it for video editting for example have very different requirements.
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