Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Best SSDs For The Money: January 2012

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!

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.

January Updates

Last year, the performance potential of SATA 6Gb/s was almost completely realized by solid-state storage technology, just two years after the third-gen spec was finalized. Compare that to a 1.5 Gb/s SATA link, which the fastest mechanical hard drives are only just able to saturate eight years later. OCZ was the first vendor to release an SSD based on SandForce's second-gen controller.Crucial followed up with its m4, and Samsung ended the high-speed race with its 830 series. Each drive family is capable of delivering blistering sequential transfers in excess of 500 MB/s.

What can we expect from SATA-based SSDs in 2012? Naturally, there's not a whole lot of room left to push drives employing the current-generation interface to higher transfer rates. So, we expect to see the next major battle fought on pricing. You still pay at least $1.50/GB or so for mainstream solid-state storage today, and many industry experts are looking to $1/GB before SSDs see their next big adoption push. Advancements in manufacturing, such as IMFT's recent 20 nm announcement, should help facilitate making higher capacities much more affordable in the next 12 months.

The "limitation" of SATA 6Gb/s isn't going to hold back vendors who want to push performance even harder, though. PCI Express-based drives will become increasingly prevalent as well this year, as the most inventive companies explore the possibilities of third-gen links to push unprecedented throughput in enterprise environments.

And although we've anticipated consolidation in the SSD space for some time now, you can still look forward to new products making the competitive landscape more interesting. OCZ showed us its upcoming Everest 2 controller at this year's CES, for example, and told us to expect the drive in the middle of 2012. Building on the architecture we first reviewed in OCZ Octane 512 GB SSD Review: Meet Indilinx's Everest Controller, Everest 2 tentatively promises 550 MB/s and 90 000 random write IOPS. We'll see how that pans out.

Some Notes About Our Recommendations

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

  • If you don't need to copy gigabytes of data quickly or load games in the blink of an eye, then there's nothing wrong with sticking with a mechanical hard drive. This list is intended for people who want the performance/responsiveness that SSDs offer, and operate on a specific budget. Now that Intel's Z68 Express chipset is available, the idea of SSD-based caching could come into play for more entry-level enthusiasts, too.
  • 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.
Display all 38 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
  • 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.
Display more comments