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Best SSDs For The Money: April 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.

At the end of the day, the real-world characteristics between SSD don't differ by a large degree. The biggest change that you'll see will be from upgrading from a hard drive. That said, there are differences between SSDs, but they have to be taken as a whole sum. Within individual apps, you'll hardly notice the difference between a Vertex 2 and Samsung's 830, but if you look at performance over an entire month, you will find the 830 to be a faster performer.

The hierarchy chart below relies on information provided by 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.

In order to simplify the landscape, we're going to omit brand names for those vendors leveraging SandForce. There are simply too many to list. At a given capacity, performance breaks down based on memory type, and this is their order of performance, from highest to lowest.

  1. SandForce controller with Toggle DDR NAND (Mushkin Chronos Deluxe, Patriot Wildfire, OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS, OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G)
  2. SandForce controller with Synchronous ONFi NAND (OCZ Vertex 3, Corsair Force GT, Kingston HyperX/HyperX 3K, Intel SSD 520)
  3. SandForce controller with Asynchronous ONFi NAND (OCZ Agility 3, Corsair Force 3, Mushkin Chronos, Patriot Pyro, OWC Mercury Electra 6G)
SSD Performance Hierarchy Chart
Tier 1240 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Toggle NANDSamsung 830 SSD 256 GB
Tier 2240 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Sync ONFi NAND
Tier 3Crucial m4 256 GBOCZ Vertex 4 512/256 GBSamsung 830 SSD 128 GB120 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Toggle NAND
Tier 4240 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Async ONFi NAND
Tier 5Crucial m4 128 GB
Tier 6Samsung 470 SSD 256 GB120 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Sync ONFi NAND
Tier 7240 GB first-gen SandForce SSDs
Tier 8Intel SSD 320 300 GBSamsung 470 SSD 128 GBSamsung 830 SSD 64 GB120 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Async ONFi NAND
Tier 9Crucial m4 64 GBKingston SSDNow V+100 128 GBIntel SSD 320 160 GB60 GB second-gen SandForce SSDs with Async ONFi NAND
Tier 10Intel SSD 320 80 GB120 GB first-gen SandForce SSDs
  • for me reliability & gigabyte/$ are the only criteria that should matter for most consumers looking for SSDs .
    especially 1st time buyers.
  • eddieroolz
    I think I'd be going with a Crucial m4 for its superb reliability.
  • hellfire24
    i agree that crucial drives are not the fastest but they are a great value with high quality and reliability.
  • kyuuketsuki
    Those Mushkin drives that consistently sit at or under the $1/GB mark are simply killer. If I had some money to burn, I'd have already popped a 240GB one in my system.
  • hmp_goose
    I'm still lost, after all these months: Why are there drives with higher prices listed after the Chronos Deluxe?

    Honorable Mentions for laptop use? The price premium surely doesn't cover 16GB of extra capacity …
  • sirencall
    I got an OCZ Agility III for my aging laptop and made that thing into a screamer and boots faster than my cell phone. I paid 150 for it and it is 120gb so I think it was a pretty sweet deal and a great also managed to double my battery life somehow lol. What I want to see is a review of msata SSD's for those who have a mobo with a built in msata port since its hard to find a which ones would fit the board since there are various types that are not true msata and thus result in wasted money
  • slomo4sho
    How is the reliability on the Samsung drives?
  • ikyung
    Currently using an M4 on my laptop and the Samsung 830 which I got couple months ago in my desktop. Both are superb devices.
  • noobnerd
    call me when they're 50 cents per gig. i r broke
  • SkyWalker1726
    Agility 3 User , boots fast , Read/Write Fast :)