Welcome to the sixth iteration of our highest-ranked SSDs at any given price point. We updated our recommendations to reflect the recent price drops on second-gen SandForce hardware. There are several good deals to be found for right about $200 bucks.
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.
Over the last month, a few SSD vendors released new drive models. Internally, however, they don't represent anything we haven't already seen from competing brands. For example, Patriot is leveraging a second-gen SandForce controller along with synchronous memory in its Pyro SE SSDs. That makes it quite similar to OCZ's Vertex 3 and Corsair's Force GT.
If you're on a limited budget, be aware that some low-end SSDs may perform worse than mechanical hard drives in random read and write operations (which is why we suggest reading reviews here and elsewhere). Traditionally, those are the disciplines where SSDs absolutely trash their mechanical predecessors. However, we've seen clear cases where that generalization turns out to be false. If you don't believe us, take a look at the performance of SanDisk's P4 SSD on page eight of Asus' Eee Slate EP121: A Windows 7-Based Tablet PC. So far, we've only seen this happen with cheap OEM SSDs, which is why we're going to recommend sticking to more established SSD vendors.
If you're absolutely cash-strapped, go the caching route with an Intel SSD 311 before rolling the dice on what could be a backwards-step in performance.
|Endurance||Intel SSD 320 300 GB|
|Endurance Rating: 128 KB Sequential Write|
Queue Depth of One
|364 Terabytes Written|
|Estimated Life: 128 KB Sequential Write|
Queue Depth of 32 @ 10 GB per day
|Endurance Rating: 4 KB Random Write|
Queue Depth of 32
|132 Terabytes Written|
|Estimated Life: 4 KB Random Write|
Queue Depth of 32 @ 10 GB per day
If you're still on the fence about solid-state storage because of perceived worries over write endurance, you might want to check out page four of Intel SSD 710 Tested: MLC NAND Flash Hits The Enterprise. The figures for consumer SSDs like the Intel SSD 320 are very encouraging, given the right context. An average desktop only sees 10 GB of writes per day. Translated, that means you're looking at write endurance that extends well beyond the drive's warranty.
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.