We've been following the evolution of solid state drives for some time now, highlighting the most relevant offerings at any given time, and noting the impact newer controllers had in improving performance. The last few months have been particularly busy with Intel, OCZ, and Crucial launching their next-gen offerings at different price points and capacities.
For now it appears SSDs will continue to get faster, but in terms of pricing they're still far from becoming mainstream. The good news is that the introduction of new SATA 6Gb/s drives will surely help to push down the price of older, yet still speedy models. With an investment of just over $100 you can already jump in with a small boot drive and notice a huge performance improvement relative to a traditional hard drive.
We've put together a condensed list with some of what we consider the best SSDs in the market right now, basing our picks on performance and highlighting a slightly slower alternative offering a better cost per gigabyte value.
|Performance choice||Price||Better $/GB Value||Price|
|Corsair Force F40 (40GB)||$110||Intel SSD 320 Series (40GB)||$100|
|Crucial m4 (64GB)||$120-$150||OCZ Vertex 2 Series (80GB)||$140-$160|
|Intel SSD 320 Series (120GB)||$220-$240||OCZ Vertex 2 Series (120GB)||$190-$215|
|OCZ Vertex 3 Series (120GB)||$270-$300||Intel SSD 320 Series (160GB)||$290|
|Crucial RealSSD C300 (256GB)||$465||Samsung 470 Series (256GB)||$410-$450|
|OCZ Vertex 3 Series (240GB)||$560||Intel 320 Series (300GB)||$560|
At the bottom end we've picked the SF-1200 based Corsair Force F40 and Intel's new SSD 320 Series. The former has proven to be an excellent performer in the boot drive category, and though we don't have any numbers on the 40GB Intel SSD 320 we're confident recommending it after testing its big brother. Its innards are pretty similar to those of the X25-M G2 it replaces, and it brings some new on-die features like full disk encryption and NAND redundancy.
Next up we have Crucial's m4 64GB, powered by a Marvell chip, which performs just slightly better than its RealSSD C300 predecessor and supports SATA 6Gb/s. It's a great deal starting at around $120, or $1.87 per gigabyte, though if your system doesn't support the latest SATA interface and upgrading it isn't on your near term plans then the 80GB OCZ Vertex 2 is a solid option. It will get you more storage and similar performance for roughly the same money.
The next couple of brackets include the 120GB Intel SSD 320 or 120GB OCZ Vertex 2 in the $190 to $240 price point and the 120GB OCZ Vertex 3 or 160GB Intel SSD 320 covering the $270 to $300 budget. Again, the decision will come down to whether your system supports SATA 6Gb/s and if you'll prioritize performance over capacity and cost per gigabyte.
For the next step up we've considered Crucial's 256GB RealSSD C300 at $465, despite that the newer m4 model is already out. The latter will cost you close to $500 and in our tests it simply wasn't worth the premium, and in fact it was often slower in real-world situations. The Samsung 470 Series 256GB is a solid alternative if SATA 6Gb/s is not a priority, offering high-end performance at a reasonable $1.71 per gigabyte.
Finally, the fastest option in our selection would have to be the 240GB OCZ Vertex 3 for a whopping $560. It's a no-brainer decision over the similarly priced Intel 510, and though it's around $60 more expensive than the Crucial m4 256GB we feel it's worth the relatively small premium at this price point. The Intel SSD 320 we've selected as an alternative doesn't really compete in performance, but if you are willing to sacrifice some speed for capacity, it will get you almost 50GB extra space for the same price -- and it's still a hell of a lot faster than a spinning hard disk drive.
There are a couple of considerations to keep in mind here. You should know that a drive's performance could vary significantly depending on its intended usage. Some may handle typical desktop workloads with ease, for example, but see a noticeable drop in performance when you start mixing in data that's not easily compressed/deduped. So it'd be a good idea to take this as a mere reference and consult a detailed review before making your purchase.
The second consideration is that pricing can be very volatile in the SSD market, especially as companies are still rolling out their next-generation drives and need to price them according to the competition. A significant cut or bump in price will certainly affect the value perception of these drives, so keep an eye out for any deals at retailers before shopping.