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Best SSDs For The Money: June 2012

Tom's Hardware's SSD Hierarchy Chart

We understand that SSD prices make it difficult to adopt the latest technology, which is why many enthusiasts are hesitant to blow several hundred dollars on solid-state storage (especially when they can get a quartet of 2 TB hard drives or a high-performance processor for the same price). 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 differences between SSDs in a desktop environment aren't altogether very large. The most important jump happens when you go from a hard drive to (almost) any SSD. With that said, there are measurable attributes that separate one SSD from another. However, have to be digested as a sum of many parts. 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 better 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.

We're making a special exception to list Intel's SSD 330 separately because it's special case of a SandForce-based SSD that runs with reduced performance specs. The 60 GB SSD 520 is also being called out separately because it offers performance somewhat higher than the norm.

  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 1240 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Toggle NANDSamsung 830 SSD 256 GBPlextor M3 Pro 128 GB/256 GB
Tier 2240 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Sync ONFi NANDPlextor M3 128 GB/256 GB
Tier 3Crucial m4 256 GBOCZ Vertex 4 512/256 GBSamsung 830 SSD 128 GB120 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Toggle NAND240 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Async ONFi NANDCorsair Performance Pro 128 GB
Tier 4-
Tier 5Crucial m4 128 GBIntel SSD 330 180 GBSamsung 830 SSD 64 GB120 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Sync ONFi NAND
Tier 6Intel SSD 330 120 GBSamsung 470 SSD 256 GB
Tier 7240 GB first-gen SandForce SSDsIntel SSD 320 300 GBSamsung 470 SSD 128 GB120 GB & 180 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Async ONFi NAND
Tier 8-
Tier 9Crucial m4 64 GBIntel SSD 320 160 GBIntel SSD 520 60 GB
Tier 10Intel SSD 320 80 GBIntel SSD 330 60 GB60 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs (with Sync or Async ONFi NAND)120 GB first-gen SandForce SSDs
  • mjmjpfaff
    On the "Best SSDs: $200 To $300" page there is a typo in the "Best SSDs for ~$270: Gaming Option 256 GB" option. In the chart it says it is a 240gb SSD but it is a 256gb SSD. I'm sure its just a typo...
    Reply
  • bim27142
    Is this accurate?
    Samsung 830 240 GB
    Sequential Read 560 MB/s
    Sequential Write 525 MB/s
    Power Consumption (Active) 3 W
    Power Consumption (Idle) 1 W
    Reply
  • hmp_goose
    I never noticed before, but does the Samsung 830 really change power consumption as capacity grows?
    Reply
  • DjEaZy
    ... and... still... my Vertex 3 is strong... by the prices now, i maybe buy a nother one for RAID 0...
    Reply
  • mayankleoboy1
    ^
    bet you cant tell the difference between RAID0 SS's and a single SSD without benchmarking.
    Reply
  • acku
    mjmjpfaffOn the "Best SSDs: $200 To $300" page there is a typo in the "Best SSDs for ~$270: Gaming Option 256 GB" option. In the chart it says it is a 240gb SSD but it is a 256gb SSD. I'm sure its just a typo...
    Fixed! Thanks for being so cool about everything. :)

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    Tom's Hardware
    Reply
  • Pawessum16
    I think this is definitely your best article in the "Best SSD's For the Money" series. I can finally agree with the majority of your recommendations, and even though you don't explicitly state it, I feel like you finally took user feedback on reliability into consideration for the different recommendations. i.e. fewer OCZ recommendations, and no ridiculous pedestal recommendations for Intel's ridiculously overpriced ssd's that provide nothing over the likes of Crucial and Samsung.
    Two thumbs up!
    Reply
  • acku
    We'll I always try. Not saying I'm always right. There simply are too many SSD vendors out there. It's hard to cover them all. But I'm glad you like the changes. :)

    I think for some people the confidence that Intel is going to back your play should something go wrong means a lot. Not saying it's worth the premium, but for some people, it is. That said, I do like the idea of game bundles. I think it's a great way to get more value from an SSD.

    Cheers
    Andrew Ku
    Tom's Hardware
    Reply
  • palladin9479
    I love my Samsung 830 256GB's. I got one for my main gaming box awhile back, liked its performance and eventually bought a 2nd one for my DV6z notebook.
    Reply
  • erunion
    The product name and link for your $115 drive is in error. The drive is actually the Chronos Deluxe MX.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820226318

    Your link shows virtually every Mushkin drive except that one.
    Reply