Best SSDs For The Money: June 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.
With the introduction of its Agility 4, OCZ now has a full product portfolio not based on SandForce's controllers to entice enthusiast and mainstream customers. Some folks have postured that the Vertex 4 and Agility 4 are nothing to get excited about, though. Although it's true that OCZ really only switched from one third-party's controller hardware to another company's (Marvell), you can't ignore the fact that OCZ is perhaps most aggressively pushing down SSD prices.
It's also putting constant effort into updating existing products to improve their performance and reliability. The company recently pushed out its 1.4RC firmware for the Vertex 4, which bolstered sequential write performance significantly. We were able to confirm the performance increase. However, we also explored certain situations where the drive gives up those promised gains. That's not to say we think any less of the Vertex 4, but we do feel that customers should have as complete of a story as possible. For more on our findings, check out OCZ Vertex 4 128 GB: Testing Write Performance With Firmware 1.4.
Although we haven't yet had an opportunity to review the Agility 4, the information we have suggests that it's a slight upgrade to the Agility 3 thanks to improved random I/O performance.
With that in mind, we recognize that low prices on their own, especially when it comes to storage, cannot be the sole determinant of whether a product is right for you. In the interest of ensuring the long-term safety of important data, most folks are willing to pay extra for trouble-free operation and the guarantee that a company's customer service department will go the extra mile to keep them happy.
Admittedly, that's really hard to quantify, and consequently almost impossible to incorporate into our ranking system. However, SSD vendors are finding other ways to add concrete value to their products. Last Christmas, for example, Intel bundled Battlefield 3 with its SSD 320. More recently, Samsung updated its retail 830 kits with a key for Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. If you were planning to buy that game anyway and need an accomplished SSD, that's a $50 freebie worth considering.
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.