Best SSDs: $110 To $200
Best SSD for ~$110: Performance Boot Drive
Samsung 830 (Check Prices)
|Samsung 830||64 GB|
|Sequential Read||520 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||160 MB/s|
|Power Consumption (Active)||.11 W|
|Power Consumption (Idle)||.08 W|
We know that SSDs based on SandForce's DuraClass technology demonstrate different behavior depending on the data with which they're presented. That is to say incompressible data like media-oriented files and actively-encrypted partitions isn't handled as elegantly as compressible information.
In contrast, the behavior of Samsung's drive doesn't change based on the data it handles. And, as if to illustrate its all-around performance, this SSD won our 2012 Recommended Buy Award in a recent 60/64 GB SSD round-up.
Mobile Users: Honorable Mention for $120: System Drive (OS + Programs)
OCZ Nocti (Check Prices)
|OCZ Nocti (mSATA)||60 GB|
|Sequential Read||280 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||260 MB/s|
|Power Consumption (Active)||1.5 W|
|Power Consumption (Idle)||0.3 W|
Intel's SSD 310 seems to be in short supply, as we can't find it for sale at any major retailer. Fortunately, since our first look at the mSATA interface, other SSD vendors have have stepped in to fill that space. Although we haven't yet had the chance to test OCZ's Nocti, and therefore cannot officially recommend it, we're willing to give competing mSATA-based solutions a shot. Just bear in mind that this product is based on a lower-end SandForce controller only capable of 3 Gb/s speeds. Moreover, it employs MLC-based NAND.
Every mSATA SSD we've seen (including the Nocti) uses only half of its available NAND channels, which is why we wouldn't ever substitute a drive like this for a 2.5" SSD on a desktop. But our inclination here is based on form factor, not performance. mSATA lets you keep your notebook's high-capacity SATA-based conventional disk, facilitating access to the best of both worlds.
Best SSDs for ~$140: Performance 90 GB
Corsair Force GT (Check Prices)
|Corsair Force GT||90 GB|
|Sequential Read||555 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||505 MB/s|
|Power Consumption (Active)||2.5 W|
|Power Consumption (Idle)||0.6 W|
Last month, OCZ broke new ground by pricing its 90 GB Vertex 3 at $140. In 2011, you could also get a second-gen SandForce-based drive, but you had to buy a lower-end model like the Agility 3, armed with slower asynchronous memory. Compare that to the Vertex 3, which employs more performance-oriented synchronous memory.
Prices shuffled around a bit this month. The 90 GB Vertex 3 now sells for $150, while the 90 GB Force GT drops to $140. As a result, Corsair gets our recommendation. When it comes to SandForce-based drives, don't dwell too long on the vendor specifically. At the end of the day, NAND is what determines the performance of these drives, not the brand manufacturing them. Both the Force GT and Vertex 3 employ synchronous memory, which makes them functionally equivalent.
Best SSDs for ~$170: Performance 120 GB
OCZ Vertex 3 (Check Prices)
|OCZ Vertex 3||120 GB|
|Sequential Read||550 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||500 MB/s|
|Power Consumption (Active)||3 W|
|Power Consumption (Idle)||1.65 W|
Although OCZ loses its recommendation between $140 and $150, the 120 GB Vertex 3 also dropped $15 this month. That's pretty good in light of the fact that slower drives based on asynchronous memory, such as Adata's 120 GB S510 and OCZ's 120 GB Agility 3 sell around the same price. As a result, the 120 GB Vertex 3 with its synchronous memory easily wins our approval.
On a side note, this is the same SSD that earned our 2011 Recommended Buy award, and it's easily one of our favorite SSDs. It performs near the top of the 120 GB SandForce-based crowd, and 120 GB is just enough to let you install your operating system and several apps without worrying about available capacity.