Best SSDs For The Money: February 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 1
Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 240 GB
OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240 GB
Patriot WildFire 240 GB
Samsung 830 SSD 256 GB
Other 240 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Toggle NAND
Tier 2
Adata S511 240 GB
Corsair Force GT 240 GB
Kingston HyperX SSD 240 GB
OCZ Vertex 3 240 GB
Other 240 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Sync ONFi NAND
Tier 3
Crucial m4 256 GB
Intel SSD 510 250 GB
Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 120 GB
OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 120 GB
Patriot WildFire 120 GB
Samsung 830 SSD 128 GB
Other 120 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Toggle NAND
Tier 4
Corsair Force 3 240 GB
OCZ Agility 3 240 GB
Patriot Pyro 240 GB
Other 240 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Async ONFi NAND
Tier 5
Intel SSD 510 120 GB
Crucial m4 128 GB
Tier 6
Adata S511 120 GB
Corsair Force GT 120 GB
Kingston HyperX SSD 120 GB
OCZ Vertex 3 120 GB
Samsung 470 SSD 256 GB
Other 120 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Sync ONFi NAND
Tier 7
OCZ Agility 2 240 GB
OCZ Vertex 2 240 GB
Tier 8
Corsair Force 3 120 GB
Intel SSD 320 300 GB
OCZ Agility 3 120 GB
OCZ Solid 3 120 GB
Patriot Pyro 120 GB
Samsung 470 SSD 128 GB
Other 120 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Async ONFi NAND
Tier 9
Corsair Force 3 60 GB
Crucial m4 64 GB
Kingston SSDNow V+100 128 GB
Intel SSD 320 160 GB
OCZ Agility 3 60 GB
Patriot Pyro 60 GB
Other 60 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Async ONFi NAND
Tier 10
Intel SSD 320 80 GB
OCZ Agility 2 120 GB
OCZ Vertex 2 120 GB
OCZ Solid 3 60 GB
Other 120 GB first-gen SandForce SSDs
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  • andy5174
    How could Intel 520 be omitted in Hierarchy Chart? It's currently the most reliable and the absolute no. ONE SSD !
  • b8453942
    Here's another resource if you're planning to buy value for money ssds

    This website tracks the daily prices of SSD's to find the best value for money drives on the market. Check You can also view the daily price charts for comparisons

    Here's the #1 ranked drive at the moment 256GB OCZ Synapse priced at $209.99 or $0.82 per gigabyte.
  • hmp_goose
    Why does the $300~400 page even exist when that Chronos Deluxe kicks soooo much ass?
  • b8453942
    Opps here's the correct link
  • compton
    The 240GB Mushkin Chronos D is a hell of a deal. I have the 120GB version, but I'm thinking about stepping up to the 240.
  • belardo
    Reason to buy the intel 320 or 520 drives? RELIABILITY. Check Newegg and other online complaints... constant BSOD, performance drops, TRIM not available or working right, out-right failure... especially from OCZ. I've set up X25M in many systems without a hitch. And in some benchmarks, especially random - the X25M still holds its own.

    I just built two systems with the 320 in one and the 520 in the other, otherwise same mobo Z68 Mobo and i5-2500K CPU. Both booted into Win7 in about 24 seconds (power on) / 11Sec after POST. Run a benchmark afterwards and the 520 is much faster in many categories, but not much better than the 320 in random read... but the i520 can do everything with much less CPU utilization. (0~4%) compared to the i320's 4~35%!

    Intel has excellent SDD tools... which OCZ doesn't have, period. I worked on a rather new system with an OCZ, went to their site for utility tools... nothing.

    Intel also includes a 3.5" bracket and cables (okay $5~10 worth of goods), a CD and a big-ass sticker that says Speed Demon. The removable plastic retainer is handy for different size drive bays. (intel doesn't include smaller screws when its removed... scotch tape works)

    In the store I bought the latest SSDs, they have a basket full of 128GB $110 OCZ Petrol drives in cheap plastic... I don't think anyone would bother to steal them. (The intels are in a cage) - Yep, I'd take the $200 i320 SATA II over the $110 SATA 3 OCZ Petrol... the reviews for that drive are bad... very very slow drives with very fast failure rates. Lots of DOA and lots of deaths 1~50 days of use.

    OCZ, trying to make a few bucks selling cheap drives ends up crapping on their own brand name. Something intel and Samsung try very hard to NOT do.... making crap is a way to drive away customers.

    Intel drives, not the very fastest... but 5year support, minimal failure makes them worth every penny.
    Read the horror stories on newegg.
  • Ragnar-Kon
    belardoIntel drives, not the very fastest... but 5year support, minimal failure makes them worth every penny.Read the horror stories on newegg.

    I agree, 5 year support is hard to beat, and Intel drives are definitively the most reliable.

    My second choice (and the drive I have) is Crucial's M4 line. Yes they had some BSOD problems in the past, but they rolled out a firmware update to fix that awhile back. Now I find them as the next-best option to Intel's SSDs.

    I personally avoid OCZ drives like the plague, as well as any other SandForce-based drives. If I'm going to be spending that much money per GB, I want it to be rock solid.
  • cknobman
    I have no complaints from my Corsair Force 3 120GB SSD that was only $135. Going 6 months strong with not a single BSOD.

    Sorry but Intel is just not worth that big of a price difference. If they were at least a little more competitive I would be willing to pay a few extra bucks but not 150-170% more. Frack that.
  • CaedenV
    120GB Chronos has a 3 year warranty and costs $143
    120GB Intel 520 has a 5 year warranty and costs $225

    Assuming SSDs drop in price by 50% and doubble performance every 2 years (which may be a little optimistic on performance, but should not be too far out of the ballpark on cost), you could buy the cheap drive now, plus a 2nd much faster and potentially much larger drive for ~$50-70 in 3 years and still cost less than the Intel drive did in the first place. For home/small business use this is a much better way to go, but always back up your system drive (even if you are on a traditional HDD).

    For business/enterprise where things are more 'mission critical' and down time costs thousands of dollars per hour, the Intel drive is still the way to go. The idea is not that you would not replace the drive within 5 years (because you probably will), but that you would replace the drive on your time table instead of when the drive fails on you and you need to replace it.
  • BattleshipLorenzen
    Another vote for Corsair Force 3 120GB. Paid $160 - $30 MIR (approved) = $130 back in December. And although their rebate company isn't great, Corsair is known for paying rebates themselves if the company screws you (and you have your copies of the form with UPC stapled, etc., of course).

    No BSOD. Win7 64 login screen ~7-8 seconds after POST with i5-2500k at stock speed. I love my SSD.
  • gsacks
    The 128GB version of the M4 also dropped in price last month as is generally available for around $160. At least is was at the time that I decided to buy. I can't say how it performs, because I haven't installed it yet.
  • OntarioHero
    Cheaper sandforce alternatives don't seem to last as long as their warranties do. For power users who keep regular clones of their drives, SSD dying once in a while is probably not a big deal, but for regular lazy bloke like myself who only have 1 desktop system and no spare drives, and don't do regular backups, spending the extra $100 and getting an intel drive buys so much peace of mind.
  • jaquith
    Best SSD for the money entirely depends on the PRICE to CAPACITY/....PERFORMANCE the DAY you're BUYING the SSD. I've seen what I wanted go up $50 in one day and it's nearest competitor go down by $50 the same day, plus Rebates. $100 savings sure influences my choices on consumer SSD's. Obviously, daily pricing complicates the hell out 'choosing' the 'best' ; assuming money still matters and to me it does!

    Take the $100 saving and buy a better GPU, CPU, HSF, etc. The vast majority of folks couldn't tell the fastest from the slowest SSD 9/10 times. Nor am I recommending purchasing a sub-par aka unreliable SSD. IMO - 1. Reliability 2. Capacity per price, and don't bother with an SSD smaller than 120GB; if one's 550MB/s 120GB @ $190 and another is 500MB/s 180GB @ $190 then get the larger capacity if it's reliable, and don't get hung-up with 550MB/s vs 500MB/s -- reality is it's all about 4KB random R/W -- not ATTO fastest oddball sized R/W speeds.
  • josejones
    Where is the very best place to purchase that Intel 520, 120G "Cherryville" from in order to get the best price? Is it Newegg or that ssdtracker website?

    I have to play it safe and go with an Intel SSD for our small business. I'd rather get a cheaper one but, I can't afford to get cheap on reliability and lifespan.

    I've never had an SSD before so I'm curious about basic maintenance. What all do I need to know before getting my first SSD?
  • balister
    When are you guys going to finally update your read speed on the Crucial M4s? After the M002 firmware, the read speed went to 500 MB/s, it hasn't been at 415 MB/s for over 10 months now.
  • OntarioHero
    421409 said:
    I've never had an SSD before so I'm curious about basic maintenance. What all do I need to know before getting my first SSD?

    Make sure AHCI is enabled in bios, and install Windows 7. That's it. Windows 7 will automatically install in correct partition alignment, enable TRIM, disable defrag etc. You don't have to do any extra work.

    Some people may tell you to do further maintenance (disable indexing, page files, etc), but that's absolutely unnecessary.
  • ph1sh55
    The chronos deluxe is already OOS at both newegg and amazon (and price rose on amazon). Call it the tom's hardware effect
  • Anonymous
    It's exciting to see the Mushkin Chronos Deluxe on the list. I bought one while back during the awesome Xmas and New Years sales (saved well over $300 on my build with rebates) and couldn't be happier with the drive and bought another for a family member's build. Great drive! I hope my checks in the mail Mushkin!
  • A Bad Day
    It would be nice if the price per gigabyte was listed. Although for some people who also take in consideration of the performance, the price per gigabyte would be useful for the budget spenders as the slowest SSDs runs in circles around the fastest HDDs.
  • tsnor
    comptonThe 240GB Mushkin Chronos D is a hell of a deal. I have the 120GB version, but I'm thinking about stepping up to the 240.

    Consider also buying another 120gb for a 2 X 120GB in raid0 array... should be faster and a smaller price for you. Most MBs have raid0 support baked in.