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Best SSDs For The Money: April 2012

Best SSDs: $300 To $400

Best SSDs for ~$330: Performance & Capacity Option

Samsung 830 (Check Prices)

Samsung 830256 GB
Sequential Read520 MB/s
Sequential Write400 MB/s
Power Consumption (Active)0.12 W
Power Consumption (Idle)0.08 W

At the 240/256 GB capacity point, Samsung's 830 is the fastest model in our internally-generated trace, outpacing the 256 GB m4 by roughly 20%. Yet, getting this performance advantage requires that you pay an extra 15%. SandForce-based drives make for a good comparison, too, but the 256 GB 830 outperforms OCZ's 240 GB Vertex 3, while only commanding a 3% premium.

For some people, that's a justifiable reason to spend a little more money on Samsung's prosumer-oriented SSD. Others might find it smarter to set aside that cash for a faster processor. In our opinion, you should try to balance performance as much as you can.

For most enthusiasts, this really tops out the budget, especially since we imagine that you'll want even more storage for user data, necessitating a couple of 1.5 or 2 TB hard drives. There are larger SSDs out there, but the performance picture really doesn't get much better.

Best SSDs for ~$400: Honorable Mention, High Capacity mSATA

Muskin Atlas (Check Prices)

Mushkin Atlas256 GB
Sequential Read560 MB/s
Sequential Write530 MB/s
Power Consumption (Active)2 W
Power Consumption (Idle)0.7 W

Intel's SSD 310 was recently phased out. Fortunately, other SSD vendors have have stepped in to address mSATA-based SSDs since our original look at the interface. Although we haven't yet had the chance to test Mushkin's Atlas, and therefore cannot officially recommend it, we're willing to give competing mSATA-based solutions a shot.

Mushkin's Atlas is particularly interesting because it's really the first mSATA SSD that we've seen employing SandForce's second-generation controller, making it a SATA 6Gb/s stunner. In comparison, OCZ's Noci and Intel's SSD 313 (successor to SSD 310) still employ SATA 3Gb/s controllers.

In the past, every mSATA SSD we saw used only half of its available NAND channels, which is why we didn't substitute mSATA drives for 2.5" SSDs on the desktop. But Mushkin seems to have addressed throughput by using speedy 24 nm Toggle NAND from Toshiba, resulting in performance specs identical to its 2.5" Chronos Deluxe series. That's impressive in our book. mSATA lets you keep your notebook's high-capacity SATA-based conventional disk, facilitating access to the best of both worlds.