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Tom's Hardware's SSD Hierarchy Chart

Best SSDs For The Money: April 2012
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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.

At the end of the day, the real-world characteristics between SSD don't differ by a large degree. The biggest change that you'll see will be from upgrading from a hard drive. That said, there are differences between SSDs, but they have to be taken as a whole sum. Within individual apps, you'll hardly notice the difference between a Vertex 2 and Samsung's 830, but if you look at performance over an entire month, you will find the 830 to be a faster performer.

The hierarchy chart below relies on information provided by 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.

In order to simplify the landscape, we're going to omit brand names for those vendors leveraging SandForce. There are simply too many to list. At a given capacity, performance breaks down based on memory type, and this is their order of performance, from highest to lowest.

  1. SandForce controller with Toggle DDR NAND (Mushkin Chronos Deluxe, Patriot Wildfire, OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS, OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G)
  2. SandForce controller with Synchronous ONFi NAND (OCZ Vertex 3, Corsair Force GT, Kingston HyperX/HyperX 3K, Intel SSD 520)
  3. SandForce controller with Asynchronous ONFi NAND (OCZ Agility 3, Corsair Force 3, Mushkin Chronos, Patriot Pyro, OWC Mercury Electra 6G)
SSD Performance Hierarchy Chart
Tier 1
240 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Toggle NAND
Samsung 830 SSD 256 GB
Tier 2
240 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Sync ONFi NAND
Tier 3
Crucial m4 256 GB
OCZ Vertex 4 512/256 GB
Samsung 830 SSD 128 GB
120 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Toggle NAND
Tier 4
240 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Async ONFi NAND
Tier 5
Crucial m4 128 GB
Tier 6
Samsung 470 SSD 256 GB
120 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Sync ONFi NAND
Tier 7
240 GB first-gen SandForce SSDs
Tier 8
Intel SSD 320 300 GB
Samsung 470 SSD 128 GB
Samsung 830 SSD 64 GB
120 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Async ONFi NAND
Tier 9
Crucial m4 64 GB
Kingston SSDNow V+100 128 GB
Intel SSD 320 160 GB
60 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Async ONFi NAND
Tier 10
Intel SSD 320 80 GB
120 GB first-gen SandForce SSDs
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Top Comments
  • 12 Hide
    Anonymous , April 26, 2012 4:47 AM
    for me reliability & gigabyte/$ are the only criteria that should matter for most consumers looking for SSDs .
    especially 1st time buyers.
  • 12 Hide
    eddieroolz , April 26, 2012 4:49 AM
    I think I'd be going with a Crucial m4 for its superb reliability.
Other Comments
  • 12 Hide
    Anonymous , April 26, 2012 4:47 AM
    for me reliability & gigabyte/$ are the only criteria that should matter for most consumers looking for SSDs .
    especially 1st time buyers.
  • 12 Hide
    eddieroolz , April 26, 2012 4:49 AM
    I think I'd be going with a Crucial m4 for its superb reliability.
  • 4 Hide
    hellfire24 , April 26, 2012 4:55 AM
    i agree that crucial drives are not the fastest but they are a great value with high quality and reliability.
  • 4 Hide
    kyuuketsuki , April 26, 2012 5:00 AM
    Those Mushkin drives that consistently sit at or under the $1/GB mark are simply killer. If I had some money to burn, I'd have already popped a 240GB one in my system.
  • 1 Hide
    hmp_goose , April 26, 2012 5:43 AM
    I'm still lost, after all these months: Why are there drives with higher prices listed after the Chronos Deluxe?

    Honorable Mentions for laptop use? The price premium surely doesn't cover 16GB of extra capacity …
  • 1 Hide
    sirencall , April 26, 2012 6:33 AM
    I got an OCZ Agility III for my aging laptop and made that thing into a screamer and boots faster than my cell phone. I paid 150 for it and it is 120gb so I think it was a pretty sweet deal and a great investment.....it also managed to double my battery life somehow lol. What I want to see is a review of msata SSD's for those who have a mobo with a built in msata port since its hard to find a which ones would fit the board since there are various types that are not true msata and thus result in wasted money
  • 3 Hide
    slomo4sho , April 26, 2012 6:42 AM
    How is the reliability on the Samsung drives?
  • 2 Hide
    ikyung , April 26, 2012 7:51 AM
    Currently using an M4 on my laptop and the Samsung 830 which I got couple months ago in my desktop. Both are superb devices.
  • 2 Hide
    noobnerd , April 26, 2012 8:22 AM
    call me when they're 50 cents per gig. i r broke
  • 2 Hide
    SkyWalker1726 , April 26, 2012 8:54 AM
    Agility 3 User , boots fast , Read/Write Fast :) 
  • -5 Hide
    __-_-_-__ , April 26, 2012 9:13 AM
    crucial m4 better then samsung 830?!?!? WHAT A JOKE. wonder how much crucial paid toms. I upgraded from a crucial to a samsung and I can see clearly the improvements.
  • -9 Hide
    Anonymous , April 26, 2012 9:47 AM
    ssd drives now still do not give the bang for buck in terms of capacity compared to HDDs..
  • 1 Hide
    blackbirden , April 26, 2012 10:05 AM
    Does Toms have any idea how well the Plextor M3 Pro series performs compared to the rest of the crowd,
    it seems a bit intresting. But i cant tell from reviews ,
    some shows very exelent performance others not so good.

  • -3 Hide
    ubercake , April 26, 2012 12:36 PM
    SSDs are kind of ugly. This is one of those monthly articles that could use one of the Tom's models to spice it up a bit.
  • 1 Hide
    catchphrase , April 26, 2012 1:18 PM
    Recently bought an Intel 820 120GB from Newegg, on sale for under $140. It's now the boot and gaming drive for a Core Duo system. In my opinion, even operating on SATA3, it has proven a very effective upgrade.
  • -5 Hide
    catchphrase , April 26, 2012 1:18 PM
    Recently bought an Intel 820 120GB from Newegg, on sale for under $140. It's now the boot and gaming drive for a Core Duo system. In my opinion, even operating on SATA3, it has proven a very effective upgrade.
  • 2 Hide
    Onus , April 26, 2012 1:32 PM
    I'd like to see more focus on reliability. I've had to RMA 2/5 SSDs, and lost some data when they died. I added a Samsung 830 recently, and I hope it holds up; it is backed up weekly onto a mechanical drive.
  • 2 Hide
    grizzlebee , April 26, 2012 2:03 PM
    As Kyuuketsuki said, I'd go with the Mushkin for $1/GB. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820226236
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , April 26, 2012 2:12 PM
    Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 240gb for CAN$199 after MIR... just ordered one... for once we are getting some deals. http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=62972&vpn=MKNSSDCR240GB%2DDX&manufacture=Mushkin%20Enhanced&promoid=1058
  • 0 Hide
    inflexion , April 26, 2012 2:38 PM
    I was fortunate enough to pick up a Crucial M4 128gb last month for $1 per gigabyte to my doorstep a little over a month ago. I have been using it as my primary drive in my work laptop and I have been very impressed. Good performance and rock solid. I would recommend if you can find it in that price range. I wanted the Samsung 830 that Toms recommends this month. I am in the market for 2 more 128 gb drives and maybe I can get one for $1 a gig in the coming months.
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