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Best SSDs For The Money: August 2011

Best SSDs For The Money: August Updates

Detailed solid-state drive specifications and reviews are great—that is, if you have the time to do the research. However, at the end of the day, what an enthusiast needs is the best SSD within a certain budget.

So, if you don’t have the time to read the benchmarks, or if you don’t feel confident enough in your ability to pick the right drive, then fear not. We at Tom’s Hardware have come to your aid with a simple list of the best SSD offered for the money.

August Updates:

Wow, what a month. A couple of weeks ago, we published Investigation: Is Your SSD More Reliable Than A Hard Drive? This turned out to be one of our most popular storage articles.

There's no debating whether SSDs offer blistering performance. That that doesn't really matter if you can't trust the device holding that important information. When you read about Corsair's Force 3 recall, OCZ's firmware updates to prevent BSODs, Crucial's link power management issues, and Intel's SSD 320 that loses capacity after a power failure, all within a two-month period, you have to acknowledge that we're dealing with a technology that's simply a lot newer (and consequently less mature) than mechanical storage.

The idea has always been that fewer moving parts translate to greater reliability, but that's not supported by research from NAND experts or failure rates in the field. Based on all the information we have so far, it appears that SSD failure rates model those of hard drives.

Of course, our study largely ignores two other issues that were brought up in the comments section: shock resistance and write endurance. We consider these to be separate from media reliability, which was our primary focus. Shock resistance is a form of durability, and when it comes to mobile devices, there is no comparison. SSDs are vastly superior when it comes to reliable operation in extreme environments. That's why solid-state technology is used by space and aircraft. So, if you have a notebook, SSDs are an excellent way to introduce a performance boost and provide a little security against accidental drops. As for write endurance, we showed why it shouldn't be your top concern. Just look pack to the first page of the reliability story if you missed it.

In the end, our investigation shouldn't deter you from adopting solid-state technology; we're still bullish on SSDs overall. For those who want to take that first step, we highly recommend reading Crucial's m4 SSD Tested At 64, 128, 256, And 512 GB and Second-Gen SandForce: Seven 120 GB SSDs Rounded Up. To sum them up, the 120/128 GB capacity point continues to be what we consider a sweet spot, where you get the best performance without overspending. That's why Crucial's 128 GB m4 and OCZ's 120 GB Vertex 3 took our 2011 Recommended Buy awards.

Some Notes About Our Recommendations

A few simple guidelines to keep in mind when reading this list:

  • If you don't need to copy gigabytes of data quickly or load games in the blink of an eye, then there's nothing wrong with sticking with a mechanical hard drive. This list is intended for people who want the performance/responsiveness that SSDs offer, and operate on a specific budget. And now that Intel's Z68 Express chipset is available, the idea of SSD-based caching could come into play for more entry-level enthusiasts, too.
  • There are several criteria we use to rank SSDs. We try to evenly weigh performance and capacity at each price point and recommend what we believe to the best drive based on our own experiences, along with information garnered from other sites. Some people may only be concerned with performance, but that ignores the ever-present capacity conundrum that we often encounter when trying to balance SSD price with the other variables. If you have a mobile system, you can usually only have one drive installed. On a desktop system, you want room for your operating system and your more performance-sensitive apps. That's why we have to consider the major weight of capacity, too.
  • Prices and availability change on a daily basis. Our picks will be valid the month of publication, but we can't make guarantees beyond that. SSD pricing is especially competitive, and a $15 difference can be the reason why one SSD makes the list, while another does not. While you are shopping, use our list as a guide, but always double-check for yourself.
  • The list is based on some of the best U.S. prices from online retailers. In other countries or at retail stores, your mileage will most certainly vary.
  • These are new SSD prices. No used or open-box offers are in the list; they might represent a good deal, but it’s outside the scope of what we’re trying to do.
  • jjb8675309
    got a crucial m4 a few months ago and love it what an improvement
    Reply
  • Where is OCZ Vertex 3, is more faster than Adata and Crucial crap and it's only 200$
    Reply
  • flong
    The Crucial SSDs are interesting but they are slow compared to comparable Sandforce drives. The do well in 4k writes but are slower in all other benchmarks. I am not sure why they are recommended here. The Intel 310 is similarly slow and again and Intel has had recent reliability problems (the 8GB bug) and so they can no longer claim the to be the most reliable.

    So the Crucial and the Intel SSDs are again on this months list and I cannot follow the reasoning as to why. Here is a review of the M4 in today's Hardware Canucks. The 120GB Wildfire absolutely spanks the 256GB M4 in nearly every benchmark and it is half the size. The reviewer does say it is a good alternative to the 2281 Sandforce drives with Trim support - however the third generation Sandforce drives absolutely spank the M4 in almost every situation but non-Trim environments.

    The Kingston Hyper Extreme is now the fastest 120 GB SSD available. To be fair to Tom's, they haven't tested it yet.

    While I respect these choices, the only one I agree with is the recommendation of the Patriot Wildfire or the Mushkin Extreme for an enthusiast. The fact that they use more expensive high quality RAM sells me to them. However the Kingston Hyper 120 GB is testing as significantly faster in pro reviews and it is cheaper.
    Reply
  • flong
    Sorry, I did not post the link for the review, it is here:

    http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/hardware-canucks-reviews/45718-crucial-m4-256gb-ssd-review.html
    Reply
  • Right Now the OCZ Agility 3 is $164.99 after MIR at Newegg http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227726 and TigerDirect for $159.99 http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=557372&CatId=5300. However not for the faint of heart, you will need to do some firmware update most likely, but if you like tinkering....
    Reply
  • Max_DTH
    Guys, what do you think about idea of SSD's in RAID 0?
    2x Crucial m4 64GB in RAID 0 vs Crucial m4 128GB - the same capacity, the same price.
    2x Crucial m4 128GB in RAID 0 vs Crucial m4 256GB - the same capacity, RAID is $75 more expensive.
    RAID would have higher failure rate, but I suppose that in both cases peformance would be higher (with two 128GB a lot I guess, because 256GB is not much faster than 128GB).
    I'm talking here about Intel's build in RAID e.g with P67 (RAID card would made thing pointless price-wise). Can it handle such SSD RAIDs getting most out of it?

    I know, that recommending RAID is not the same as recommending SLI/Crossfire, but is it worth considering when space and ports are not a problem (in my case actually they are, but I would cope with that for noticable price/performance ratio improvement :))?
    Reply
  • greenrider02
    @Max_DTH, I'm doing two 96GB Kingston SSDNow V100+ drives in RAID0 and I've had success. At $215 for a total 192 GB I could not resist. It's not that you will have problems, it's just a risk. You have to make sure you have updated firmware and RAID controllers, and be ready to do a fresh install of your operating system. Since I keep all my data on storage drives and just put OS+programs+games(with Steam backups on the storage drives) on the RAID drives, I have no qualms with wiping the drives and starting over. It only takes a few hours. And I did get an error in my RAID forcing me to do this. From what I understand, most errors in your array will not be a dead drive and can be solved by wiping the array and rebuilding it.

    So I recommend giving it a try. Good luck!

    To the article: I don't know about recommending the OCZ Agility2 240GB, as, looking at newegg reviews, it seems that most capacities of the Agility2 and Vertex2 are prone to failure compared to their competitors
    Reply
  • cknobman
    Wow grammatical and spelling errors are terrible in this piece, was it even reviewed?
    Reply
  • Lutfij
    ^ forget about it being reviewed, you now have a chart to look at to compare your buy against other SSD's...talk about being greatful!
    Reply
  • Scotty99
    Sooo i just got an e-mail from newegg and these SSD's are on sale for less than 1 dollar per GB, problem is they have no reviews and i would like your guys opinion on these:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227738&nm_mc=EMC-IGNEFL082611&cm_mmc=EMC-IGNEFL082611-_-EMC-082611-Index-_-SSD-_-20227738-L0A
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227739&nm_mc=EMC-IGNEFL082611&cm_mmc=EMC-IGNEFL082611-_-EMC-082611-Index-_-SSD-_-20227739-L01C
    Also, would it be a better idea to get two of the 60gb's for raid, or just get the 120?

    Reply