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Best SSDs For The Money: January 2012

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 few 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.

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 1Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 240 GBOCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240 GB Patriot WildFire 240 GBSamsung 830 SSD 256 GBOther 240 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Toggle NAND
Tier 2Adata S511 240 GBCorsair Force GT 240 GBKingston HyperX SSD 240 GBOCZ Vertex 3 240 GBOther 240 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Sync ONFi NAND
Tier 3Crucial m4 256 GBIntel SSD 510 250 GBMushkin Chronos Deluxe 120 GBOCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 120 GB Patriot WildFire 120 GBSamsung 830 SSD 128 GBOther 120 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Toggle NAND
Tier 4Corsair Force 3 240 GBOCZ Agility 3 240 GBPatriot Pyro 240 GBOther 240 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Async ONFi NAND
Tier 5Intel SSD 510 120 GBCrucial m4 128 GB
Tier 6Adata S511 120 GBCorsair Force GT 120 GBKingston HyperX SSD 120 GBOCZ Vertex 3 120 GBSamsung 470 SSD 256 GBOther 120 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Sync ONFi NAND
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 GBSamsung 470 SSD 128 GBOther 120 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Async ONFi NAND
Tier 9Corsair Force 3 60 GBCrucial m4 64 GBKingston SSDNow V+100 128 GBIntel SSD 320 160 GBOCZ Agility 3 60 GBPatriot Pyro 60 GBOther 60 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Async ONFi NAND
Tier 10Intel SSD 320 80 GBOCZ Agility 2 120 GBOCZ Vertex 2 120 GB OCZ Solid 3 60 GBOther 120 GB first-gen SandForce SSDs
  • compton
    The 830 is a very impressive specimen, and the newer Marvel + Toggle NAND drives are excellent as well. But I want a big plate of Cherryville, and I was hoping the NDA would lift tonight...

    The best value in a new drive is probably whichever SF2281 with sync NAND is cheapest, but avoid the 60GB models. The price/performance mix at the 64GB level is the 830. At higher capacities it's a toss-up though.
    Reply
  • sincreator
    I think that reliability should be a big factor in all the categories. I've read from numerous sites that the M4 crucial drives and Intel drives are the most reliable, and I also know that the sandforce drives have a firmware update that fixes the issues that once existed. What I don't know and what alot of other people don't know is how reliability stands up between all the drives. Would be interesting to find out though, I guess after 3 or 4 years we'll start finding out.
    Reply
  • sincreator
    I almost forgot...Why is it that SSD drives typically only have 3 year warranties, and higher end conventional spinning drives get 5 years? Anyone?
    Reply
  • Dacatak
    SuperTalent has been selling a 64GB SSD rated at 540/490 MB/s read/write for under $110 for a while now, yet this is never mentioned for some reason. Shouldn't this take the Samsung 830's position at the $110 mark?
    Reply
  • lunyone
    Where does this SSD below fit into the equation?
    $130-140 shipped ~$1.16/GB
    SanDisk Ultra SDSSDH-120G-G25 2.5" 120GB SATA II Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
    Reply
  • lashabane
    lunyoneWhere does this SSD below fit into the equation?$130-140 shipped ~$1.16/GBSanDisk Ultra SDSSDH-120G-G25 2.5" 120GB SATA II Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)You should check out their oh so informative video on their website:

    sandisk-solid-state-drive
    I wasn't able to find any info anywhere in regards to what kind of flash memory it uses so no clue where it would stand in the charts.
    Based on size and pricing, I would imagine it being tier 9 or 10
    Reply
  • jammur
    Are you sure the crucial m4 256GB is really better than the 240GB OCZ Agility 3. The reads and writes MB/s in your table are both SIGNIFICANTLY lower. So I'm paying ~$60 more for an extra 16GB that are A LOT slower. Is that right?
    Reply
  • RealBeast
    sincreatorI think that reliability should be a big factor in all the categories. I've read from numerous sites that the M4 crucial drives and Intel drives are the most reliable, and I also know that the sandforce drives have a firmware update that fixes the issues that once existed. What I don't know and what alot of other people don't know is how reliability stands up between all the drives. Would be interesting to find out though, I guess after 3 or 4 years we'll start finding out. The best information that I've found on ssd reliability is a study of a large etailer and its returns (all drives had over 500 sales) and they update the table a couple times a year HERE. Intel and Crucial really stand out in their reliability measure.
    Reply
  • Nintendo Maniac 64
    No love for the OCZ Onyx 32GB? Its read performance is about only half as fast as the Kingston 16GB, but the write speed is about the same and has twice as much space.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227510

    It also seems to be one of, if not OCZ's most reliable SSD. (all of their other models are under par reliability-wise)
    Reply
  • sincreator
    RealbeastThe best information that I've found on ssd reliability is a study of a large etailer and its returns (all drives had over 500 sales) and they update the table a couple times a year HERE. Intel and Crucial really stand out in their reliability measure.
    Thanks for that. :) Pretty interesting write up for sure. I was really surprised to see Asus motherboards have 4 out of the top 6 returned motherboards, and not just their low end boards either.lol. I also thought that Corsair would of beat out Antec/Thermaltake in the PSU department...I guess not. Either way I guess we have to take those figures with a grain of salt though since it's just information from one e-tail outlet, and not the numbers from the companies themselves. It's not like they would share the real numbers anyway though. haha.
    Reply