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Best SSDs For The Money: July 2011


If you have more than $450 to spend on an SSD, your budget allows for a little less focus on price per gigabyte, and more emphasis on performance. Enthusiasts fortunate enough to enjoy that luxury will want to shift their mindset a bit from what we've discussed so far. While you can certainly find larger SSDs, we're still confident in the decision to suggest a joint SSD/HDD operating environment. A 240 GB is plenty large for operating systems, applications, and games. You can still make better use of your money by moving user data over to a large hard drive.

So, beyond our recommendations, start looking at ways of augmenting performance while staying in that 240/250 GB range. OCZ's Vertex 3, for instance, sells for $530 in its 240 GB trim. It continues to be the fastest SSD we've seen in the lab, and if you want to take advantage of the 6 Gb/s interface, it is the drive you'll want.

We understand that SSD prices don't make it easy to adopt the latest technology. Maybe that's why you aren't too keen on blowing a couple 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.

As a point of comparison, a file operation completes 85% faster on a low-end SSD than it does on a high-end hard drive, but there is only an 88% speed difference between a high-end hard drive and a high-end SSD. That why you shouldn't let less aggressive benchmark results at the low-end deter you from making the switch. You don't have to have the best SSD to get great performance relative to a hard drive.

  • wintermint
    Can't wait for the $/gb ratio improve :]
  • naidnerb
    I guess someone didn't do the homework...Mr. Andrew Ku, haven't you heard of the 8 MB bug? So how come you're still recommending The Intel SSD 320 series? Aren't you aware they are in the phase of collecting the precise number of drives affected. I'll tell Tom you made me disappointed...:)
  • lunyone
    Waiting for the $1/gb to hit before I'll be buying any of these HD's. Just doesn't make sense, unless $ doesn't mean much to you.
  • alyon
    I apologize if it was mentioned in the article but I would not recommend any new OCZ sata III drives. The reliability and defects with the controller make it a bad buy. Sure it is fast IF it works but that is a big IF. Reliability for expensive storage such as SSDs is extremely important.

    Due to this I ended up buying a Crucial M4 with its good random 4k read/writes and acceptable sequential reads/writes. At first I was looking at the Vector series but the very high amount of DoAs (which is incredibly understated in comparison to what OCZ will claim... 1%). After a ton of research it really came down to buying Crucial or Intel. But hell, that is just my 2 cents.

    Happy shopping Toms readers!
  • boletus
    I'm still waiting for some serious, objective stress and reliability tests. $/GB and Gb/s matter, but do not make a whit of difference if the drive is DOA or goes kaput after a few weeks or months. I have seen way to many reports of failure for me to invest the time and money for this leap forward. All of the claims and hype are enticing, but setting up a fresh OS/programs drive is not a trivial task, and of course possible data loss can be heartbreaking.
  • flong
    I am sorry but I do not understand Tom's choices for best SSD as they are contradictory to almost all other professional review recommendations.

    While the 3rd generation Sandforce drives have had their problems - the second generation Sandforce drive STILL have their own problems and are no more reliable. There is every indication the the 3rd generation drives are better than the second generation Sandforce drives in every respect which brings us to the question.

    WHY are there NO 3rd generation Sandforce drives in ANY price category????

    Let's just take the $210 category. Why didn't you think to recommend the Corsair Force 3 which is $209 NOT ON SALE???? It is faster in every benchmark including the "fill" benchmarks. You recommend the Samsung 470 - no professional review I have read recommends the 470 for anything.

    Here is a review that shows that the 100 GB Vertex 2 beats the 240GB 470 in real world benchmarks: This is a 100 GB VERTEX 2 kicking the 240 GB 470s ass. That's just sad. I don't understand it.

    I'm sorry but these recommendations are surreal. You actually recommend a second generation OCZ Agility 240 GB drive -WHY???? It is the weakest of all the second generation drives and as it fills it's efficiency drops like a rock. Read Anandtech's review of the Agility 3 - it gets a 4 out of 10. The Agility 3 is OCZ's worst drive and it is much faster than the Agility 2.

    I am not sure whether Tom's is trying to be conservative or what, but no one else is recommending second generation drives - and I am talking about professional reviews.

    I love you Tom's Hardware, but I don't get this particular review.
  • LuckyDucky7
    For some reason I don't get these recommendations either- in fact, from a performance standpoint, they're almost asinine!

    For example, at the 75-dollar pricepoint, it's interesting to note that the Patriot Torqx 2, which is 10 dollars more and built on a SandForce controller, is a far better drive than that Vertex 1.

    At the $100 price point, where you suggest an Intel 320, you could get an OCZ Solid 3 60 GB drive that has TWICE the performance of the Intel drive for about 10 bucks more? If the 100-dollar price point is that strict I'll direct your attention to the Corsair Nova 2 60 GB drive. It's still faster and larger than the Intel 320 is.

    Also, why suggest the Samsung 470 @ 64 GB when the Solid 3 crushes that one too for the same price?

    And then, at the 200 dollar price point, why are you suggesting drives that are again crushed by the 120 GB Solid 3/Agility 3?

    If it's OCZ's reliability you're worried about, why aren't you suggesting the Corsair Force 3 120 GB drive that's also the same price?

    I don't get it either. Is Tom's Hardware afraid of second-gen SandForce controllers or something?
  • #flong your comments solely based on performance. if you have not noticed, the title of the $210 group says, "Best SSDs for ~$210: Reliable Option". IMO Corsair Force 3 drive should be avoided at all cost if you take a look at newegg's user review.
  • "why isn't the Force 3 listed?" Because they were recalled is a pretty good reason.
  • flong
    You are right the early Force 3s had problems. I just bought the Force 3 from Newegg and while the early version had a problem, Corsair has fixed it. I carefully checked on the reliability of the Force 3 before I made the purchase.

    As a side note, the real knock on the Force 3 is not its reliability, the knock is its cheaper 25 nm NAND which lowers its fill efficiency more qickly the 32 nm NAND. But in loading Windows 7, it is only 1 second slower than the mighty 240 GB Vertex 3 and it only cost me $180 after rebates. The 120 GB Vertex 3 will maintain better efficiency as it fills.

    The Reliability you point out for the second generation Sandforce drives is likely worse than the 3rd generation drives because the 3rd generation drives corrected a lot of problems inherit in the 2nd generation drives. I repeat, the second generation drives recommended have been proven to be no more reliable than the 3rd generation drives.

    As far as I know there is no comprehensive reliability study of any generation SSD set.