Best SSD for ~$50: Boot Drive
|Kingston SSDNow S100||16 GB|
|Sequential Read||230 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||75 MB/s|
|Power Consumption (Active)||2.26 W|
|Power Consumption (Idle)||1.08 W|
Kingston's SSDNow S100 series is really intended for industrial use, and we're told that you'll find these drives in toll booths, Redbox machines, and ATMs. While this is not a performance-oriented SSD, it is a decent choice that can breathe new life into your current system. Most of us tend to write less data than we read. If you want a quick way to speed up your home rig, a budget SSD is all you need because this cheap SSD's read speed is still faster than a hard drive.
However, you are forced to adopt a dual-drive configuration. With only 16 GB, you can only use this SSD as a Windows 7 32-bit boot drive (64-bit requires 20 GB). All of your programs and personal files need to be installed on a secondary hard drive. We've also had readers write in relaying their bad experiences using drives that were too small for Windows to conduct its update operations. Be cautious if you use a drive this small for anything; capacity is sure to become a point of contention pretty quickly.
Best SSD for ~$70: Boot Drive
|OCZ Vertex||30 GB|
|Sequential Read||210 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||75 MB/s|
|Power Consumption (Active)||2.0 W|
|Power Consumption (Idle)||0.5 W|
OCZ's Vertex series is based on the Indilinx Barefoot controller. That doesn't make it a bad SSD family, but you should have realistic expectations of what Indilinx's older controller can do. You'll still achieve better performance than a hard drive, but this drive falls into the lower half of the SSD performance hierarchy.
Best SSD for ~$100: Boot Drive
|OCZ Agility 3||60 GB|
|Sequential Read||525 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||475 MB/s|
|Power Consumption (Active)||2.7 W|
|Power Consumption (Idle)||1.5 W|
At ~$100, your choice is limited to a slew of 60 GB first-gen SandForce drives, Intel's 40 GB SSD 320, and OCZ's 60 GB Agility 3. Even if you don't own a 6 Gb/s-enabled motherboard, we're still going to recommend the Agility 3 because of its able to fully saturate a SATA 3Gb/s controller, whereas those other two options can't.
Furthermore, the Agility 3 uses asynchronous ONFi 1.0 NAND that can also be found in competing SSDs, such as Corsair's Force 3. To that end, if you see another 60 GB second-gen SandForce SSD at a cheaper price, go with the less expensive option. The difference in real-world performance is relatively small.
If you only have $100 to spend and you're eying a caching-based solution, skip over this MLC-based SSD and look to Intel's 20 GB SSD 311 instead. The small size doesn't matter, since the cache operates transparently; you should be more concerned with the fact that the 311 centers on SLC NAND flash, improving its performance relative to this larger alternative.