60/64 GB SSD Shootout: Crucial, Samsung, And SandForce

It's easy to forget that lower-capacity SSDs are also usually slower. Today we're testing the most prolific 60/64 GB configurations to gauge where they fall in the big picture. We emerge at the other end with a recommendation based on our testing, too.

So, there's this huge deal being made about the prices of hard drives in the wake of flooding in Thailand. Indeed, we struggled to fit as much capacity into our most recent System Builder Marathon series as we did in the past, even after increasing all of our budget points. 

But even in spite of those spikes, magnetic storage remains incredibly affordable. A 2 TB Seagate Barracuda Green drive, for example, sells for about $135. At almost $0.07 per gigabyte, that’s still very cheap compared to solid-state storage, which generally require that you pay at least $100 for 64 GB.

You should know by now, though, that we still consider the massive premium on SSDs worth paying. And there's a smart way to go about adding solid-state capacity without breaking your budget. We're big proponents of using SSDs and hard drives together to handle different storage tasks. That's why, even though we sometimes review massive 256 and 512 GB drives, the models we spend our own money on are usually between the 64 and 128 GB range. 

There's one issue that bears mention, though. The lower-capacity SSDs we prefer aren't as fast as the big ones that most drive vendors submit for reviews. We know why that's the case on very small SSDs, like Intel's old X25-V, which only sees five of 10 available NAND channels populated. However, why do even fully-configured architectures still exhibit performance variance up and down the capacity scale? From our round-up of Crucial m4 SSDs:

"...simply exploiting every channel isn't enough to saturate them all. The number of packages residing on each channel matter. The number of memory dies in each package matter. The density of each die matters. And the firmware-level modifications a company like Crucial implements to help control performance scaling up and down the stack matter."

Crucial, Samsung, and SandForceCrucial, Samsung, and SandForce

Nevertheless, we're comfortable enough with the performance we've seen from 60 and 64 GB SSDs that they continue serving as an entry-level point in our lab and office builds. But that doesn't mean you should just take our word for it. Instead, we wanted to grab solutions based on Samsung, Marvell, and SandForce controller hardware to show you exactly what you can expect when you make that very understandable compromise on capacity to get in the door with solid-state storage. 

Perhaps surprisingly, the number of choices is fairly small. We end up with a 64 GB Crucial m4, a 64 GB Samsung 830, and two 60 GB drives based on second-gen SandForce controllers. Why just two of those SSDs, and not a model from every vendor selling SandForce-based hardware? We're glad you asked. First, we actually have a round-up of SandForce-based drives in the works. But that's not the complete story...

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  • GhosT94
    what about ocz vertex 3 ?
    -1
  • acku
    GhosT94what about ocz vertex 3 ?

    Read page 2.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
    6
  • Anonymous
    Wow. Absolutely wonderful article. I did second guess my decision on SSD for my next build for a few. But honestly I'm just using it as a boot drive.
    2
  • acku
    kixofmyg0tWow. Absolutely wonderful article. I did second guess my decision on SSD for my next build for a few. But honestly I'm just using it as a boot drive.


    Glad to hear that!

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
    1
  • xtreme5
    gr888888!
    0
  • rossi004
    Ok, so I have the whole SSD for boot, HDD for storage and less intensive programs, but I have a practicality question:

    Is there a way to have files and programs automatically downloaded, installed, and run from the HDD without doing it manually every time if I have the SSD as the base drive?
    0
  • james_1978
    rossi004Ok, so I have the whole SSD for boot, HDD for storage and less intensive programs, but I have a practicality question:Is there a way to have files and programs automatically downloaded, installed, and run from the HDD without doing it manually every time if I have the SSD as the base drive?


    You can move your personal folders to your HDD (my documents, my music, downloads, ...), so downloads will end up there automaticaly, but programs will go to your C drive (SSD) by default.
    1
  • james_1978
    james_1978You can move your personal folders to your HDD (my documents, my music, downloads, ...), so downloads will end up there automaticaly, but programs will go to your C drive (SSD) by default.

    Ok, sorry, but actually you can move your program files by editing the registry:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/6643-63-windows-boot-drive-user-files-program-files-normal
    Moving only user files is far easier nevertheless, just using "move" in the folder properties...
    0
  • james_1978
    james_1978Ok, sorry, but actually you can move your program files by editing the registry:Moving only user files is far easier nevertheless, just using "move" in the folder properties...

    "Add an url" didn't quite work for me :-)
    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/6643-63-windows-boot-drive-user-files-program-files-normal
    0
  • Soul_keeper
    nice article

    Worth mentioning, plextor PX-M3S are micron based and use toggle nand
    I don't think they make a 64GB version however
    0
  • exban224
    Are the tests on the m4 with the new firmware, if not then is you update the firmware the m4 is overall better. 120gb sandforce speeds anyone in a 64gb package.
    0
  • ojas
    Hey great in-depth article Andrew, really liked it!

    BTW: Intel lists different IOPS for its drives. They say, for example, that:
    Random Write (8GB Span)=21000 IOPS
    Random Write (100% Span)=600 IOPS

    Reads seem to be unaffected. What's this about?


    p.s. The graphs in any article (in general) aren't readable using the iOS app :( have to open it in safari then use the reader...and some comments aren't displayed entirely...i'm using an ipod touch, maybe it works fine on a tablet? :O Just thought i'd let someone know, didn't who develops the app...
    0
  • Dacatak
    What kind of flash does Super Talent use in their 64GB SATA III drives? They are hardly any slower than the higher capacity drives, which shows lower capacity doesn't always have to mean lower speed.
    0
  • burnley14
    Confirms my good decision to buy the 64GB m4! :)
    0
  • john4real4ipok
    my Nokia 2688 is hot and faitning
    1
  • a4mula
    http://www.hardocp.com/article/2011/08/07/nand_flash_faces_off_synchronous_vs_asynchronous/1

    Something that isn't even mentioned in the article is how full these drives were when benched. A fresh installed SSD with most of its capacity available will perform wonderfully. In real world scenarios where the drive is at 50% capacity however, the asynchronous drives performance falls off the map while the synchronous drives continue to perform well.

    Another issue that really could have been tackled here is RAID0 and performance per dollar of the 60/64GB drives vs their 128/256GB counterparts. I know there is a RAID0 scaling article already out there it would have been nice to see that incorporated here.

    Looking strictly at these benches it would seem as though a 256 m4 is the automatic choice. Maybe straight out of the box, not taking RAID0 into consideration that's the case. Once the drives start filling and considering the near 100% scaling of RAID I think you'd come to a different conclusion.
    2
  • peevee
    So, it is pretty clear that at the current flash density 64GB is both too slow (even slower than an old-tech HDD in some cases!) and too inconvenient (fits almost nothing you want to be faster).
    If you cannot afford at least 120GB, just wait and save money, with money saving and prices falling soon you will be able to buy it and enjoy your speed with almost everything except videos and backups/archives (for which HDDs are absolutely adequate).
    Or 240GB better yet.
    2
  • BlackHawk91
    *&^*&, should have bought it back on Black Friday when it was $100 bundled with Batman: Arkham City, but didn't had the money at the time.
    0
  • Reynod
    Thanks Andrew.

    I'm getting a Samsung ... this looks to good to miss as a new boot drive, and I'll keep my Momentus XT for storage.

    I'm thinking of 2 of the Seagates in RAID0.

    Does that seem good value for the money ?

    cheers.

    :)
    1
  • jjb8675309
    I have had a single crucial m4 64 GB running for a little over a year now as a rock solid and fast OS/APP drive
    0