There is no question that MLC-based SSD storage has come a long way in recent times. As we showed along in this round-up, from the first generation G.Skill drive to the much improved Titan and even newer products like the OCZ Vertex and Super Talent UltraDrive ME are helping to strengthen the reputation of MLC-based drives.
SLC drives are also becoming cheaper, and while they will continue to drop in price, paying well over $700 for the 64GB Intel X25-E is just not feasible for most, not to mention a little crazy.
The Intel X25-M 80GB not only offers more storage space, but more importantly costs less than half of its SLC counterpart at around $390. When looking at the value aspect of these MLC drives it is hard to go past the OCZ Vertex 120GB for $340, as it not only offers performance that is comparable to the Intel X25-M, but at around $50 less you get 50% more storage space.
Then there is the Super Talent UltraDrive ME, which is based on the same hardware as the OCZ Vertex with a slightly different PCB design and firmware. This clearly made a difference though, as the OCZ Vertex was the superior performer in every single test we ran. If it were not for the Vertex we would be raving about the UltraDrive ME, even when compared to the Intel X25-M. Unfortunately for Super Talent, the UltraDrive ME was always in the shadow of the faster OCZ Vertex.
The firmware used by the UltraDrive ME was older than that of the Vertex, so we are not quite sure how different they are. However both manufacturers support firmware upgrades, so it will be possible to make updates to these SSDs.
For our testing we used firmware v1275 of the OCZ drive while there is now a new version "1.10" released on April 7th that adds a feature called TRIM. This feature is merely a command that instructs the OS to wipe invalid flash blocks when they are no longer needed. Without TRIM all SSDs become slower over time as they are filled with data.
This is a feature that we plan to test in the near future, but be aware that while it is possible to update the firmware to improve compatibility, performance and add new features such as TRIM, doing so means that the entire drive has to be formatted. Therefore backing up your data is vital, though finding somewhere to store such a small amount of data should not be too difficult.
Now, despite of the fact the G.Skill Titan 128GB is a tremendous improvement over previous generation SSDs, even the 20% savings it brings over the OCZ Vertex is not enough to recommend it as a value option.
To give you a real-life example, the 256GB version of this SSD has been installed in my Core i7 gaming system for about 2 months now. It is the only drive in the system and therefore the OS and games are installed on it. Now given that this system is primarily used for playing games, the Titan works perfectly. It loads games and levels in the blink of an eye. Even when messing around in Windows the system is also lightning fast, with no noticeable delays. However as you start to do more and more, the poor write performance when working with small files does start to become apparent. In short, the drive is not as good at multi-tasking.
Outstanding products: Intel X25-M 80GB & OCZ Vertex 120GB
The OCZ Vertex has emerged as the best value option, delivering world-class performance at a reasonable price. Not only does the Vertex provide impressive read and write throughputs, but it does so without any shuddering problems, just as the Intel X25-M does.
For now at least the Intel X25-M will remain the king of performance as far as MLC-based SSD storage is concerned. However, should you need some extra storage without any price increment, the OCZ Vertex offers a very good alternative to the almighty Intel solid state drive.