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Best SSDs For The Money: April 2012

Best SSDs For The Money: April 2012

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.

April Updates

Earlier this month, OCZ unveiled the Vertex 4 (check out OCZ Vertex 4 Review: A Flagship SSD Powered By...Indilinx?), a notable SSD for the company considering its new flagship wasn't based on SandForce's technology.

Leveraging a second-generation Everest controller, the drive's performance results are pretty impressive. Sure, it trailed the Vertex 3 a bit when we presented both drives with compressible data, but that's where the SandForce controllers shine, so we weren't particularly surprised. More important to many folks is consistency, and the Vertex 4 demonstrated consistently-good results. As a result, we were quick to praise OCZ's efforts in forging ahead with its own controller. But that only turned out to be partially true.

Shortly after our piece went live, OCZ confirmed that its Everest controller (first- and second-gen) were based on Marvell logic, and issued the following statement: 

OCZ has a strong relationship with Marvell who we have collaborated with on both the Everest and Kilimanjaro platforms. Just as any product, a complete platform consists of many components, and in this case includes silicon that is run at higher speeds and Indilinx proprietary firmware, which was developed completely in-house, and allows OCZ to enable enhanced features, performance, and endurance. All of these elements come together to form the complete platform that can only be found in SSD products like the Octane and Vertex 4.

It may seem a little strange that OCZ essentially switched from one third-party controller provider to another. To be fair, though, Marvell provides the basic firmware framework for its logic, and vendors are allowed to optimize as much as they'd like. That's not possible with SandForce's controllers, since the nature of its technology results in a common foundation shared across every partner.

In a world where SSD vendors continue trying to differentiate themselves, we certainly understand why OCZ wants to move away from a me-too approach. And maybe that's the bottom line here. If we spend less time focusing on the hardware specifics and emphasize performance more prominently, then there's no question that OCZ has an impressive product on its hands. With that said, we're still looking forward to a day when OCZ uses the IP it acquired from Indilinx to show off its own controller hardware, rather than simply using the brand to describe one-of-a-kind firmware build.

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. 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 issue that mobile users face ever-presently. Even on the desktop, other variables have to be considered.
  • Prices and availability change on a daily basis. Our picks will be valid the month of publication, but we can't extend our choices very far beyond that time frame. SSD pricing is especially competitive, and a $15 difference can be the reason why one SSD makes the list, while another does not. As you shop, use our list as a guide, but always double-check for yourself.
  • The list is based on some of the best U.S. prices from online retailers. In other countries or at retail stores, your mileage will most certainly vary.
  • These are new SSD prices. No used or open-box offers are in the list; they might represent a good deal, but it’s outside the scope of what we’re trying to do.
  • for me reliability & gigabyte/$ 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 :)