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Best SSDs For The Money: October 2011

Tom's Hardware's SSD Hierarchy Chart

We understand that SSD prices make it difficult 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.

Not much has changed since last month. We're still following the same ranking scheme, but we've updated the listing to include Patriot's Pyro line. Remember that performance depends heavily on the following:

  • seek distance (random versus sequential)
  • transfer size
  • queue depth
  • amount of data

This hierarchy chart relies on information provided in 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.

SSD Performance Hierarchy Chart
Tier 1Adata S511 240 GBCorsair Force GT 240 GBMushkin Chronos Deluxe 240 GBOCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240 GB Patriot WildFire 240 GB
Tier 2Kingston HyperX SSD 240 GBOCZ Vertex 3 240 GB
Tier 3Intel SSD 510 250 GBMushkin Chronos Deluxe 120 GBOCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 120 GB Patriot WildFire 120 GB
Tier 4Corsair Force 3 240 GBCrucial m4 256 GBOCZ Agility 3 240 GBPatriot Pyro 240 GB
Tier 5Intel SSD 510 120 GB
Tier 6Adata S511 120 GBCorsair Force GT 120 GBCrucial m4 128 GBKingston HyperX SSD 120 GBOCZ Vertex 3 120 GB
Tier 7OCZ Agility 2 240 GBOCZ Vertex 2 240 GB
Tier 8Corsair Force 3 120 GBIntel SSD 320 300 GBOCZ Agility 3 120 GBOCZ Solid 3 120 GBPatriot Pyro 120 GB
Tier 9Corsair Force 3 60 GBKingston SSDNow V+100 128 GBIntel SSD 320 160 GBOCZ Agility 3 60 GBPatriot Pyro 60 GB
Tier 10Crucial m4 64 GBIntel SSD 320 80 GBOCZ Agility 2 120 GBOCZ Vertex 2 120 GB OCZ Solid 3 60 GBOther first-gen 120 GB SSDs
  • aznshinobi
    Kingston has truly stepped up their SSD game, Their HyperX SSDs are a huge step from where they were with their basic Kingston SSDs. Good Work.
    Reply
  • amk-aka-Phantom
    This is EXACTLY the article I wanted, since I want to get an SSD soon! Great review, though a bit short... maybe could do boot time comparison?

    This 60GB OCZ Agility 3 seems like a great option and costs only $100... well, $156 'round here :( Still, it has the best read/write speeds for the price; anyone having issues with that drive? Don't want to run into some BS for that much money...

    Any other good drive for that money? The hierarchy chart has many models listed, but very few made it in the "Best" categories.
    Reply
  • cumi2k4
    I don't get this sentence: "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"

    does this mean there's only 3% margin difference between low-end and high-end ssd?

    Also i don't get the chart...does this mean OCZ Agility 3 60 GB (tier 9) is worse than OCZ Agility 3 120 GB (tier 8) in speed? or is it just due to less capacity?

    (sorry this is my first time to foray into ssd...budget user here ;))
    Reply
  • Just bought Samsung 470 128GB on Newegg for $179.99.
    Great deal, if you ask me. And the speeds are absolutely amazing!
    Lucky me, sale ended day after I ordered mine. $229.99 at the moment.
    Seq read 200 MB/s
    Seq write 245 MB/s
    Rand read 28000 IOPS
    Rand write 15000 IOPS
    Reply
  • sceen311
    I think breaking it down, Best buy for capacity would be > then for the money.
    Reply
  • radium69
    Crucial M4 hands down ;)
    Reliability is #1 priority
    Don't forget that!

    Can we see some failure and RMA rates please!
    Reply
  • flong
    Finally, an SSD hierarchy that actually matches the data of other professional reviewers with the exception of the M4. A much better job by TH for this article.

    However, the Muskin 120GB is the top dog for 120GB SSDs. It beats most 240GB drives including the Vertex 3 240GB in most benchmarks. This is phenomenal for a 120GB drive.

    I still don't get the obsession with Crucial M4 as it is slower than the top tier SSDs. I am not sure why it keeps getting recommended as it is not faster and there is no reliable data to show it is more reliable. Maybe someone can chime in and explain why TH chose the M4?
    Reply
  • flong
    radium69Crucial M4 hands down Reliability is #1 priorityDon't forget that!Can we see some failure and RMA rates please!
    There are no comprehensive reliability studies for SSDs so why do you think that the M4 is more reliable than any other SSD? Also, if reliability is your top goal then Intel's SSDs supposedly are the most reliable though we have no data to confirm this factually.
    Reply
  • flong
    ViciousDeliciousJust bought Samsung 470 128GB on Newegg for $179.99.Great deal, if you ask me. And the speeds are absolutely amazing!Lucky me, sale ended day after I ordered mine. $229.99 at the moment.Seq read 200 MB/sSeq write 245 MB/sRand read 28000 IOPSRand write 15000 IOPS
    The Kingston Hyer X is $179.99 on Newegg right now and it is more than twice as fast. What is the attraction to the Samsung 470? I am asking sincerely, not in a smart ass way.
    Reply
  • thrawn1799
    Why is Samsung left off this list? Yes, I read about the reason they left off the 830 series but that still doesn't explain why the 470 is excluded.
    Reply