Budget Solid State Drive Roundup: The Best SSD for Less Than $100

Computers relying solely on age old hard disk drive technology should be deemed a thing of the past. Mechanical devices suffer from slow response times, so if and when performance matters, spending a small amount of money on upgrading a PC's boot drive could pay off enough to render other potential upgrades useless.

TechSpot's first SSD review was published in early 2009, a roundup no less. Back then we tested Intel's first generation consumer-level solid state drive, the X25-M. The first-gen OCZ Vertex also made the cut, along with drives from G.Skill and Super Talent. These last three were companies that had a background on selling computer memory (RAM) but that sought the opportunity of entering the performance flash-based storage market.

But of course, the major issue with SSD adoption over the past few years has been price, the astronomically high price when you are counting in hundreds of gigabytes.

Some 2 years ago we published a budget sub-$150 SSD roundup that included half a dozen popular SSDs of the time. Although they all cost less than $150, they also had in common a very limited storage capacity.

The OCZ Vertex 2 40GB came at $3.10 per gigabyte and was still one of the best drives featured in our review. The Kingston SNV425-S2 64GB was one of the better value drives at $125 ($1.95 per gigabyte) and was also amongst the highest capacity SSDs tested.

At best, these sub-$150 SSDs could be used as a boot drive, but beyond that getting all your favorite applications and games installed on a budget SSD was going to be a stretch. Thankfully a lot of progress has been made since then and while drives have become considerably faster they have also become significantly cheaper.

In today's comparison review we are going to look at 8 popular SSDs that cost $100 or less and feature capacities of up to 128GB. The table below will give you a snapshot of the drives, models, capacities and key differentiating features:

Budget Solid State Drive Roundup: The Best SSD for Less Than $100

The SSDs have been arranged by price and you will notice that the top three, which includes the OCZ Vertex 4 128GB, Samsung 840 120GB and Crucial m4 128GB are currently listed just above the $100 mark. However, we decided to include them as numerous online deals have enabled buyers to purchase these SSDs at under $100 over the past few weeks.

Moreover, these tend to offer exceptional value even at their list prices and are likely to drop in price permanently sooner rather than later.

The most affordable high-capacity SSD featured in our roundup is the Kingston SSDNow V+200 120GB, while the OCZ Vertex 4 64GB, Crucial m4 64GB and Samsung 830 64GB should all offer stellar performance for under $80.

Testing Notes & Atto Benchmark

Along with the array of flash drives that compose our roundup, we've included the Western Digital Velociraptor 1TB 3.5" 10,000RPM hard drive for comparison's sake. Other SSDs tested have controllers such as the OCZ Indilinx Everest 2, Samsung MDX, Samsung MCX, Marvell 88SS9174, SandForce SF-2281. Our testing suite consists of three synthetic benchmark programs and our own file copying and load time tests.

As you likely know, while manufacturers claim impressive peak I/O performance out of the box, this performance can diminish over time. Unlike a conventional hard drive, any write operation made to an SSD is a two-step process: a data block must be erased and then written to. Obviously if the drive is new and unused there will be nothing to erase and therefore the first step can be bypassed, but this only happens once unless the drive is trimmed.

Considering this, we'll test how much performance you can expect to lose from each SSD over time. We'll examine all drives in their clean unused state, and then run the HD Tach full benchmark several times to fill the entire drive. This simulates heavy usage and clearly indicates how performance will be affected after normal long-term use.

All drives in this review support the Windows 7 TRIM function, which is meant to counteract these negative effects.

Test System Specs

  • Intel Core i7-3960X (LGA2011)
  • x4 4GB DDR3-1600 G.Skill (CAS 8-8-8-20)
  • Asrock X79 Extreme11 (Intel X79)
  • OCZ ZX Series (1250w)
  • Western Digital Velociraptor 1TB (6Gb/s)
  • Crucial m4 256GB (6Gb/s)
  • Crucial m4 128GB (6Gb/s)
  • Crucial m4 64GB (6Gb/s)
  • Kingston HyperX 3K 240GB (6Gb/s)
  • Kingston HyperX 3K 90GB (6Gb/s)
  • Kingston SSDNow V+200 120GB (6Gb/s)
  • OCZ Vertex 4 256GB (6Gb/s)
  • OCZ Vertex 4 128GB (6Gb/s)
  • OCZ Vertex 4 64GB (6Gb/s)
  • Samsung SSD 840 Pro 512GB (6Gb/s)
  • Samsung SSD 840 120GB (6Gb/s)
  • Samsung SSD 830 512GB (6Gb/s)
  • Samsung SSD 830 64GB (6Gb/s)
  • Asus GeForce GTX 680 (2048MB)

Software
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 (64-bit)
  • Nvidia Forceware 310.33

Budget Solid State Drive Roundup: The Best SSD for Less Than $100 The Atto Disk Benchmark read performance test shows that most of these SSDs are capable of achieving speeds in excess of 500MB/s. The only SSDs to fall short of that figure were the OCZ Vertex 4 64GB and Kingston SSDNow V+200 120GB. The Vertex 4 64GB maxed at 408MB/s while the 128GB version managed 504MB/s.

The SSDNow V+200 120GB did better reaching 456MB/s, though the SandForce-driven Kingston HyperX 3K drive was even faster hitting 492MB/s. The fastest drive in this test was the Samsung SSD 830 64GB which reached 545MB/s.

Budget Solid State Drive Roundup: The Best SSD for Less Than $100

Whereas there was less than 100MB/s separating the fastest from the slowest SSD in the Atto read test, the write results are very different. The fastest drives in this test came from Kingston as the SandForce HyperX 3K and SSDNow V+200 both hit 520MB/s.

The next fastest SSD was the OCZ Vertex 4 128GB which maxed out at 415MB/s, while the 64GB model was considerably slower reaching just 221MB/s. However, the 64GB Vertex 4 wasn't the slowest SSD in this test and in fact it was still one of the faster drives.

The Crucial m4 128GB hit just 204MB/s, while the 64GB version was slower reaching just 113MB/s making it the slowest SSD tested. The Samsung SSDs were not much better with the SSD 830 64GB hitting 166MB/s and the new 840 120GB managing 134MB/s.

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Budget Solid State Drive Roundup: The Best SSD for Less Than $100Steven Walton is a writer at TechSpot. TechSpot is a computer technology publication serving PC enthusiasts, gamers and IT pros since 1998.