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Best SSDs For The Money: June 2012

Best SSDs: $110 And Under

Best SSD for ~$50: Boot Drive

Corsair Nova 2 (Check Prices)

Corsair Nova 230 GB
Sequential Read280 MB/s
Sequential Write250 MB/s
Power Consumption (Active)1.3 W
Power Consumption (Idle)0.2 W

The slow phase-out of SSDs based on SandForce's first-gen controller hardware is prompting really good prices on those products, since it costs almost as much to manufacture drives armed with a second-gen chip. As a result, Corsair's 30 GB Nova 2 serves as our entry point on the charts this month. 

A word of caution about the way Corsair words its specs, though: this 30 GB SSD's sequential write performance is overstated at 250 MB/s. The company provides a single performance number for all of its capacities. We know that's not accurate, though. Its actual write performance should max out closer to 100 MB/s or so.

Although the raw throughput of a low-capacity SSD might be as great as as larger model, it's still a lot more responsive than a mechanical hard drive, and that's what you can actually "feel." The 16 GB Kingston S100 we recommended previously was only large enough to hold Windows 7 32-bit. Windows 7 64-bit requires 20 GB, so shifting up to 30 GB gives you a little more freedom. There's not enough space to install much else; however, if you manually manage your spare capacity, booting from a low-capacity SSD can significantly improve system responsiveness.

Best SSD for ~$65: Boot Drive

OCZ Agility 3 (Check Prices)

OCZ Agility 360 GB
Sequential Read525 MB/s
Sequential Write475 MB/s
Power Consumption (Active)2.7 W
Power Consumption (Idle)1.5 W

According to Ten 60 GB SandForce-Based Boot Drives, Rounded-Up, comparing the out-of-box performance of entry-level drives based on SandForce's second-gen controller reveals very few differences.

What we do know, however, is that synchronous NAND enables slightly better numbers than asynchronous memory in certain situations. Because it does, in fact, employ asynchronous NAND, OCZ's Agility 3 isn't the fastest model available. But when it's priced at $65, you do get a reasonable amount of capacity for operating system files and a handful of critical apps.

Best SSD for ~$90: System Drive

Mushkin Enhanced Chronos (Check Prices)

Mushkin Enhanced Chronos90 GB
Sequential Read560 MB/s
Sequential Write510 MB/s
Power Consumption (Active)3 W
Power Consumption (Idle)1 W

Many of us find it inconvenient to manually track where apps and data reside across multiple drives. Higher-capacity SSDs cost more, but they also offer the luxury of worrying less about where stuff goes, letting you simply enjoy the speed and responsiveness of flash-based storage. We consider 90 and 96 GB drives the baseline for installing an operating system and all of your important apps without getting excessively expensive. From there, user data goes on a larger and more cost-effective magnetic disk.

Kingston was one of the first vendors to make this capacity popular, and other vendors have quickly followed suit. Mushkin, though, impresses this month with its 90 GB Enhanced Chronos leveraging SandForce's second-gen technology. At only $1/GB, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better deal under $100.