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Tom's Hardware's SSD Hierarchy Chart

Best SSDs For The Money: January 2012
By

Welcome to the year's first SSD recommendations. We updated our list to reflect recent price drops on second-gen SandForce-based hardware. There are several good deals in the $150-200 range. Prices are falling, so we're letting you know!

We understand that SSD prices make it difficult to adopt the latest technology. Maybe that's why you aren't too keen on blowing a few hundred dollars on solid-state storage, especially when you can spend the same amount and buy four 2 TB hard drives or a high-performance processor. That's why it's important to put things into perspective.

Over the past five years, CPU performance has hit new and unforeseen heights, and processors are increasingly spending time waiting on data from hard drives. This is what makes storage today's most glaring bottleneck. Overcoming it requires an SSD.

As a point of comparison, a file operation completes 85% faster on a low-end SSD than it does on a high-end hard drive, but there is only an 88% speed difference between a high-end hard drive and a high-end SSD. That why you shouldn't let less aggressive benchmark results at the low-end deter you from making the switch. You don't have to have the best SSD to get great performance relative to a hard drive.

This hierarchy chart relies on information provided in our Storage Bench v1.0, as it ranks performance in a way that reflects average daily use for a consumer workload. This applies to gamers and home office users. The chart has been structured so that each tier represents a 10% difference in performance. Some rankings are educated guesses based on information from testing a model at a different capacity or a drive of similar architecture. As such, it is possible that an SSD may shift one tier once we actually get a chance to test it. Furthermore, SSDs within a tier are listed alphabetically.

There are several drives that we're going to intentionally leave out of our hierarchy list. Enterprise-oriented SLC- and 512 GB MLC-based SSDs are ignored due to the extreme price they command (and the difficult we have getting samples in from vendors). Furthermore, SSDs with a capacity lower than 60 GB are left off because of the budget nature of that price range.

SSD Performance Hierarchy Chart
Tier 1
Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 240 GB
OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240 GB
Patriot WildFire 240 GB
Samsung 830 SSD 256 GB
Other 240 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Toggle NAND
Tier 2
Adata S511 240 GB
Corsair Force GT 240 GB
Kingston HyperX SSD 240 GB
OCZ Vertex 3 240 GB
Other 240 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Sync ONFi NAND
Tier 3
Crucial m4 256 GB
Intel SSD 510 250 GB
Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 120 GB
OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 120 GB
Patriot WildFire 120 GB
Samsung 830 SSD 128 GB
Other 120 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Toggle NAND
Tier 4
Corsair Force 3 240 GB
OCZ Agility 3 240 GB
Patriot Pyro 240 GB
Other 240 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Async ONFi NAND
Tier 5
Intel SSD 510 120 GB
Crucial m4 128 GB
Tier 6
Adata S511 120 GB
Corsair Force GT 120 GB
Kingston HyperX SSD 120 GB
OCZ Vertex 3 120 GB
Samsung 470 SSD 256 GB
Other 120 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Sync ONFi NAND
Tier 7
OCZ Agility 2 240 GB
OCZ Vertex 2 240 GB
Tier 8
Corsair Force 3 120 GB
Intel SSD 320 300 GB
OCZ Agility 3 120 GB
OCZ Solid 3 120 GB
Patriot Pyro 120 GB
Samsung 470 SSD 128 GB
Other 120 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Async ONFi NAND
Tier 9
Corsair Force 3 60 GB
Crucial m4 64 GB
Kingston SSDNow V+100 128 GB
Intel SSD 320 160 GB
OCZ Agility 3 60 GB
Patriot Pyro 60 GB
Other 60 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Async ONFi NAND
Tier 10
Intel SSD 320 80 GB
OCZ Agility 2 120 GB
OCZ Vertex 2 120 GB
OCZ Solid 3 60 GB
Other 120 GB first-gen SandForce SSDs
Display all 38 comments.
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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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