Best SSDs For The Money: July 2012
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.
While the price you pay per gigabyte of capacity continues to drop, the SSD scene is relatively quiet (for now). We did just put up another look at OCZ's Vertex 4 after upgrading to firmware version 1.5, so if you missed that, check out OCZ Vertex 4 128 GB: Revisiting Write Performance With Firmware 1.5. There aren't really any new drives to discuss this time around, though.
As a result, we're going to use this opportunity to go off on a bit of a tangent. Our monthly recommendations are made in the spirit of helping you get the most value from your purchase. However, several readers encountered a certain issue problem after purchasing Samsung's 830 SSD, which we included in our list of recommended drives last month. Part of the reason we gave the Samsung drive a thumbs-up was its bundled Ghost Recon: Future Soldier key, a $50 freebie added to get gamers interested in the 830.
Many readers reported back that they bought the drive and didn't get a game key, though. We wanted to get to the bottom of the issue (it was our recommendation, after all), and so we purchased the 128 GB desktop kit (MZ-7PC128D/AM) from Newegg and Amazon. As you can see in the picture above, the free offer is retailer-specific. Only the box from Newegg has the sticker indicating a bundled game key.
We contacted Samsung, which helped figure out what was happening. Apparently, the retail kits that include the key have a special internal SKU. Some retailers are not stocking these drives. This is causing confusion because Samsung originally announced that all 128, 256, and 512 GB retail kits would include the offer.
Samsung is stepping up in a big way to make the situation right, though. We're pleased to announce that everyone who purchased a valid retail kit is eligible for the free game key. If your drive is missing the sticker and you made a purchase after June 5th, all you need to do is call 1-800-SAMSUNG and provide proof of purchase. Again, this is a limited time promotion, and a special thanks goes to loyal reader Matthew P., who first brought it to our attention.
The following 830 SSD SKUs qualify to receive the game key (check the bottom of the box):
- MZ-7PC128D/AM, 128 GB Desktop Installation Kit
- MZ-7PC256D/AM, 256 GB Desktop Installation Kit
- MZ-7PC512D/AM, 512 GB Desktop Installation Kit
- MZ-7PC128N/AM, 128 GB Notebook Installation Kit
- MZ-7PC256N/AM, 256 GB Notebook Installation Kit
- MZ-7PC512N/AM, 512 GB Notebook Installation Kit
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. 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 issue that mobile users face ever-presently. Even on the desktop, other variables have to be considered.
- Prices and availability change on a daily basis. Our picks will be valid the month of publication, but we can't extend our choices very far beyond that time frame. SSD pricing is especially competitive, and a $15 difference can be the reason why one SSD makes the list, while another does not. As you shop, 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.