Which SSD Should I Buy?
Despite the wide range of controllers, and the different levels of performance each delivers, SSD pricing is dominated by one thing: the price of NAND flash memory. Sadly the world’s huge demand for high-performance NAND makes the price very steep, and as every SSD manufacturer has to pay roughly the same for its NAND, SSD prices are more dependent on capacity rather than which drive controller it uses.
This means that opting for slower drive controllers rarely makes for a hefty saving, and that those drive manufacturers that can afford to buy their NAND in in larger quantities invariably get better deals, and so can offer lower prices. There are still some instances of suspect pricing though, with the Crucial C300 128GB well off the £2.10/GB price of the 64GB and 256GB versions of the same drive. Below we’ve listed the three most popular capacities of drive, and the SSDs we’d buy today.
So many drives, but which one to choose?
256GB SSDCrucial RealSSD C300 256GB
Crucial Real SSD C300 256GB Review
UK Price: £500.80 (Inc. VAT)
US Price: $659.99 (ex .Tax)
There’s no contest here. As we saw in our review, the C300 is a monster of an SSD, packing amazing sequential speeds and excellent random performance. With a formatted capacity of 238.47GB it weighs in at around £2.10/GB, which is decent value in comparison to the rest of the market, and with the newest firmware update the C300 handles heavy use very well.
You will require a high quality SATA 6Gbps (also known as SATA 3) port to get all the performance that the C300 has to offer though, for which we recommend the Highpoint Rocket 620
. Backed by the excellent three-year warranty, there’s plenty of peace of mind too. Unusually for Crucial though, right now it doesn’t pay to buy direct; you can save over £50 by shopping via etailers.
120GB/128GB SSDCorsair F120 120GB
UK Price : £282.14 (Inc. VAT)
US Price: $349.99 (ex .Tax)
OCZ Vertex 2E 120GB
UK Price : £276.27 (Inc. VAT)
US Price: $329.00(ex .Tax)
These two drives are the first SandForce based SSDs
to hit shelves with the more sensible amount of over provisioning, offering 111.79GB of formatted capacity rather than the 93.16GB of the first SandForce drives.
SandForce’s performance may be reliant on on-the-fly compression, but there’s no arguing that it works brilliantly (so long as you’re not working solely with heavily compressed or mostly uncompressible files), delivering superb speeds right across the board.
Both the Corsair F120 and the OCZ Vertex 2E 120 run the SF-1500 firmware for improved random write speeds, and the fact that OCZ has already deployed a firmware update for its line of Vertex drives shows SandForce will likely continue to support its drives.
At £276 (£2.46/GB) for the OCZ or £282 (£2.52/GB) for the Corsair they’re roughly the same price, and a better buy than even slightly cheaper Indilinx-based drives
due to the faster all-round speeds.
Corsair Reactor R60 6GB
UK Price (as reviewed): £94.99(Inc. VAT)
US Price(as reviewed): $134.99 (ex .Tax)
64GB SSDs have their uses and help reduce the cost of upgrade. A 64GB storage device is perfectly fine for housing Windows, or you can use it as a high-speed drive for games (swapping them in and out as you complete them or get bored) and demanding applications.
While the Crucial RealSSD C300 64GB delivers awesome sequential read speeds for just £120, as with the 256GB model you’ll need a fast SATA 6Gbps port to get the full performance of the drive, which likely means you'll need to spend another £40 on a card like the Highpoint Rocket 620
. Similarly, there are now 60GB SandForce SSDs available that deliver the full SandForce speeds, but cost significantly more at around £150.
This is where the Corsair Reactor R60 comes in. Based on the capable JMicron JMF612 drive controller
, it’s able to deliver decent sequential speeds of 250MB/sec read and 110MB/sec write for just £110. While the JMF612 controller isn’t the fastest out there, it is routinely the cheapest, while still delivering passable random read/write performance and TRIM support.
If you want to get onto the SSD ladder without blowing the bank, this is a great place to start, although a little extra cash can get you a fair bit more performance from the alternatives we've discussed.