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Best SSDs For The Money: August 2011

Best SSDs For The Money: August 2011
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We've added more SSDs to our database and observed a number of significant price changes in the past month. As a result, this months recommendations undergo a notable revamp. And to those of you waiting for a hierarchy table at the end, it's here!

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.

August Updates:

Wow, what a month. A couple of weeks ago, we published Investigation: Is Your SSD More Reliable Than A Hard Drive? This turned out to be one of our most popular storage articles.

There's no debating whether SSDs offer blistering performance. That that doesn't really matter if you can't trust the device holding that important information. When you read about Corsair's Force 3 recall, OCZ's firmware updates to prevent BSODs, Crucial's link power management issues, and Intel's SSD 320 that loses capacity after a power failure, all within a two-month period, you have to acknowledge that we're dealing with a technology that's simply a lot newer (and consequently less mature) than mechanical storage.

The idea has always been that fewer moving parts translate to greater reliability, but that's not supported by research from NAND experts or failure rates in the field. Based on all the information we have so far, it appears that SSD failure rates model those of hard drives.

Of course, our study largely ignores two other issues that were brought up in the comments section: shock resistance and write endurance. We consider these to be separate from media reliability, which was our primary focus. Shock resistance is a form of durability, and when it comes to mobile devices, there is no comparison. SSDs are vastly superior when it comes to reliable operation in extreme environments. That's why solid-state technology is used by space and aircraft. So, if you have a notebook, SSDs are an excellent way to introduce a performance boost and provide a little security against accidental drops. As for write endurance, we showed why it shouldn't be your top concern. Just look pack to the first page of the reliability story if you missed it.

In the end, our investigation shouldn't deter you from adopting solid-state technology; we're still bullish on SSDs overall. For those who want to take that first step, we highly recommend reading Crucial's m4 SSD Tested At 64, 128, 256, And 512 GB and Second-Gen SandForce: Seven 120 GB SSDs Rounded Up. To sum them up, the 120/128 GB capacity point continues to be what we consider a sweet spot, where you get the best performance without overspending. That's why Crucial's 128 GB m4 and OCZ's 120 GB Vertex 3 took our 2011 Recommended Buy awards.

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. And 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 conundrum that we often encounter when trying to balance SSD price with the other variables. If you have a mobile system, you can usually only have one drive installed. On a desktop system, you want room for your operating system and your more performance-sensitive apps. That's why we have to consider the major weight of capacity, too.
  • Prices and availability change on a daily basis. Our picks will be valid the month of publication, but we can't make guarantees beyond that. SSD pricing is especially competitive, and a $15 difference can be the reason why one SSD makes the list, while another does not. While you are shopping, use our list as a guide, but always double-check for yourself.
  • The list is based on some of the best U.S. prices from online retailers. In other countries or at retail stores, your mileage will most certainly vary.
  • These are new SSD prices. No used or open-box offers are in the list; they might represent a good deal, but it’s outside the scope of what we’re trying to do.
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  • 0 Hide
    jjb8675309 , August 26, 2011 4:19 AM
    got a crucial m4 a few months ago and love it what an improvement
  • -5 Hide
    Anonymous , August 26, 2011 7:40 AM
    Where is OCZ Vertex 3, is more faster than Adata and Crucial crap and it's only 200$
  • -6 Hide
    flong , August 26, 2011 8:15 AM
    The Crucial SSDs are interesting but they are slow compared to comparable Sandforce drives. The do well in 4k writes but are slower in all other benchmarks. I am not sure why they are recommended here. The Intel 310 is similarly slow and again and Intel has had recent reliability problems (the 8GB bug) and so they can no longer claim the to be the most reliable.

    So the Crucial and the Intel SSDs are again on this months list and I cannot follow the reasoning as to why. Here is a review of the M4 in today's Hardware Canucks. The 120GB Wildfire absolutely spanks the 256GB M4 in nearly every benchmark and it is half the size. The reviewer does say it is a good alternative to the 2281 Sandforce drives with Trim support - however the third generation Sandforce drives absolutely spank the M4 in almost every situation but non-Trim environments.

    The Kingston Hyper Extreme is now the fastest 120 GB SSD available. To be fair to Tom's, they haven't tested it yet.

    While I respect these choices, the only one I agree with is the recommendation of the Patriot Wildfire or the Mushkin Extreme for an enthusiast. The fact that they use more expensive high quality RAM sells me to them. However the Kingston Hyper 120 GB is testing as significantly faster in pro reviews and it is cheaper.
  • -1 Hide
    flong , August 26, 2011 8:17 AM
    Sorry, I did not post the link for the review, it is here:

    http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/hardware-canucks-reviews/45718-crucial-m4-256gb-ssd-review.html
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , August 26, 2011 10:45 AM
    Right Now the OCZ Agility 3 is $164.99 after MIR at Newegg http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227726 and TigerDirect for $159.99 http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=557372&CatId=5300. However not for the faint of heart, you will need to do some firmware update most likely, but if you like tinkering....
  • 3 Hide
    Max_DTH , August 26, 2011 11:46 AM
    Guys, what do you think about idea of SSD's in RAID 0?
    2x Crucial m4 64GB in RAID 0 vs Crucial m4 128GB - the same capacity, the same price.
    2x Crucial m4 128GB in RAID 0 vs Crucial m4 256GB - the same capacity, RAID is $75 more expensive.
    RAID would have higher failure rate, but I suppose that in both cases peformance would be higher (with two 128GB a lot I guess, because 256GB is not much faster than 128GB).
    I'm talking here about Intel's build in RAID e.g with P67 (RAID card would made thing pointless price-wise). Can it handle such SSD RAIDs getting most out of it?

    I know, that recommending RAID is not the same as recommending SLI/Crossfire, but is it worth considering when space and ports are not a problem (in my case actually they are, but I would cope with that for noticable price/performance ratio improvement :) )?
  • 0 Hide
    greenrider02 , August 26, 2011 12:39 PM
    @Max_DTH, I'm doing two 96GB Kingston SSDNow V100+ drives in RAID0 and I've had success. At $215 for a total 192 GB I could not resist. It's not that you will have problems, it's just a risk. You have to make sure you have updated firmware and RAID controllers, and be ready to do a fresh install of your operating system. Since I keep all my data on storage drives and just put OS+programs+games(with Steam backups on the storage drives) on the RAID drives, I have no qualms with wiping the drives and starting over. It only takes a few hours. And I did get an error in my RAID forcing me to do this. From what I understand, most errors in your array will not be a dead drive and can be solved by wiping the array and rebuilding it.

    So I recommend giving it a try. Good luck!

    To the article: I don't know about recommending the OCZ Agility2 240GB, as, looking at newegg reviews, it seems that most capacities of the Agility2 and Vertex2 are prone to failure compared to their competitors
  • 0 Hide
    cknobman , August 26, 2011 12:50 PM
    Wow grammatical and spelling errors are terrible in this piece, was it even reviewed?
  • 3 Hide
    Lutfij , August 26, 2011 12:55 PM
    ^ forget about it being reviewed, you now have a chart to look at to compare your buy against other SSD's...talk about being greatful!
  • -1 Hide
    Scotty99 , August 26, 2011 1:23 PM
    Sooo i just got an e-mail from newegg and these SSD's are on sale for less than 1 dollar per GB, problem is they have no reviews and i would like your guys opinion on these:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227738&nm_mc=EMC-IGNEFL082611&cm_mmc=EMC-IGNEFL082611-_-EMC-082611-Index-_-SSD-_-20227738-L0A

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227739&nm_mc=EMC-IGNEFL082611&cm_mmc=EMC-IGNEFL082611-_-EMC-082611-Index-_-SSD-_-20227739-L01C

    Also, would it be a better idea to get two of the 60gb's for raid, or just get the 120?

  • 0 Hide
    banthracis , August 26, 2011 1:53 PM
    @flong you obviously read a different review than the rest of us. Straight from the hardware canucks article

    Quote:

    The benchmark and real world performance numbers ... make the M4 a much better option than the Performance 3 in nearly every situation. It also ends up being a very good alternative to SF2281-based drives for people who have TRIM-enabled OSes.

    A combination of power and performance across a wide swath of operating environments will make the Crucial M4 a great choice for many consumers. But the most important selling point here is price. The 256GB version of this drive retails for significantly less than many comparable enthusiast level SF2281 drives and also undercuts similar Marvell-based SATA6G SSDs as well. And what’s not to like about that?

    http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/hardware-canucks-reviews/45718-crucial-m4-256gb-ssd-review-13.html

    Real world results shows very little difference between the best and worst SSD's with the only exception being large file transfer times, but who the heck buys an SSD to store large amounts of media files on it?

    Wildfire 120gb is $2.30 per gb after MIR.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820220599

    M4 240gb is $1.29 per gb right now.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820148443

    If anything, given the minimal real world difference, it's the wildfire and other SF drives that look like horrendous deals.
  • 4 Hide
    cadder , August 26, 2011 4:25 PM
    I think we focus too much on the speed of the SSD's. A drive that transfers 230MB/s and has very small access times might not sound good compared to a drive that transfers 550MB/s, but it is very much faster than rotating hard drives. But even at that much speed more than a rotating hard drive it doesn't make that much difference to the speed of the computer. From 230MB/s to 550MB/s might be difficult for the computer user to actually detect.

    I think the most important rating for SSD's right now should be the reliability. For instance look at the recommendation above for the OCZ Agility 3 60GB. My contention is that 39% of the users on newegg are dissatisfied with this drive. I could never consider purchasing a product where 39% of the users hated it. Another recommendation above is the Adata S511 120GB. It has similar user review statistics but there may not be enough reviews for the statistics to be valid.
  • -1 Hide
    Taracta , August 26, 2011 4:50 PM
    Are the read/write speeds given for the drive size shown? If not, WHY NOT?
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , August 26, 2011 5:37 PM
    What no OWC products? Hardly comprehensive...
  • -1 Hide
    youssef 2010 , August 26, 2011 6:02 PM
    scotty99Sooo i just got an e-mail from newegg and these SSD's are on sale for less than 1 dollar per GB, problem is they have no reviews and i would like your guys opinion on these:http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 227738-L0Ahttp://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 27739-L01CAlso, would it be a better idea to get two of the 60gb's for raid, or just get the 120?


    Get the 120GB Vertex 3. I recommend you stay away from Indilinx controlled drives. Also, as the article mentioned, 120Gigs is the sweet spot of performance and price
  • -1 Hide
    flong , August 26, 2011 6:02 PM
    banthracis@flong you obviously read a different review than the rest of us. Straight from the hardware canucks articlehttp://www.hardwarecanucks.com/for [...] ew-13.htmlReal world results shows very little difference between the best and worst SSD's with the only exception being large file transfer times, but who the heck buys an SSD to store large amounts of media files on it?Wildfire 120gb is $2.30 per gb after MIR. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6820220599M4 240gb is $1.29 per gb right now.http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6820148443If anything, given the minimal real world difference, it's the wildfire and other SF drives that look like horrendous deals.


    You have a point - especially about cost. If cost is the primary concern, then the M4 256 GB is the best choice.

    That being said - go back and check the benchmarks. The 120GB Patriot Wildfire absolutely spanks the 256 GB M4 in almost every benchmark - which is kind of embarrassing for a 256 GB drive. Will a user notice the difference? Maybe if they are used to a faster SSD. The new Kingston Hyper blows the doors off of the Wildfire and it is $256 on Newegg.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820139601

    The Kingston 120 GB SSD just flat out embarrasses the M4 as far as speed in every benchmark and it is $130 less (but it is only 120GB)

    Since we have the SATA III standard, I would like my SSD to push that standard as far as speed. The M4 doesn't. Still I can see why people like it - jeeesh $390 for a 256 GB SSD is cheap. To be fair I did acknowledge the conclusion of the review in Hardware Canucks in my above post - but I disagree with some of their points
  • -1 Hide
    larkspur , August 26, 2011 6:31 PM
    Max_DTHGuys, what do you think about idea of SSD's in RAID 0??


    Tom's has reviewed SSD RAID performance scaling here: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ssd-raid-iops,2848.html

    Enjoy!
  • 1 Hide
    larkspur , August 26, 2011 6:35 PM
    Hi Tom's! Thanks for putting the SSD hierarchy chart in there. I was thinking it would also be really useful to add a column to that chart for controller type. A possibility?
  • -1 Hide
    banthracis , August 26, 2011 6:38 PM
    @flong
    The article is title best SSD for the money though.

    Sure some people want the absolute best damn the cost and if this article was title best performing SSD's out there, your argument is valid.

    However, in a best SSD for the money article, an average 20% performance increase on artificial benchmarks for a 78% price increase per gb makes no sense.
  • -1 Hide
    buzznut , August 26, 2011 7:23 PM
    Max_DTHGuys, what do you think about idea of SSD's in RAID 0?2x Crucial m4 64GB in RAID 0 vs Crucial m4 128GB - the same capacity, the same price.2x Crucial m4 128GB in RAID 0 vs Crucial m4 256GB - the same capacity, RAID is $75 more expensive.RAID would have higher failure rate, but I suppose that in both cases peformance would be higher (with two 128GB a lot I guess, because 256GB is not much faster than 128GB).I'm talking here about Intel's build in RAID e.g with P67 (RAID card would made thing pointless price-wise). Can it handle such SSD RAIDs getting most out of it?I know, that recommending RAID is not the same as recommending SLI/Crossfire, but is it worth considering when space and ports are not a problem (in my case actually they are, but I would cope with that for noticable price/performance ratio improvement )?


    One word: Trim. Or the lack thereof. This is the number one reason not to recommend raid for SSD's because trim can not function for raided SSDs. So what? Performance degradation, otherwise why pay extra for an SSD if its not for performance edge.
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