Best cheap SSD: 6 drives reviewed and rated
11th Sep 2011 | 07:00
Solid state drives which offer great value
Best cheap SSD: 6 drives reviewed and rated
We recently ran our roundup of best SSDs where we looked at six of the top solid state drives, but what if you're after something a little cheaper?
We shopped around and found six solid state drives which offer great value, but which is the top performer?
Read on as we test six affordable, last-generation SSDs to see which one is the best.
Corsair Nova V64 64GB - £92
At first glance, Corsair's budget-oriented drive nails every feature you'd want from a storage device: capacity, performance and price.
It's powered by the proven Indilinx Barefoot controller - not the fastest SSD chip in town, perhaps; but thanks to frequent firmware polishing, it's now a very consistent performer. In fact, the Nova V64 beats all comers in our file decompression benchmark.
We don't think the V64 is actually the fastest drive here in any objective sense. But then, it's now a sub-£100 drive. When it comes to real-world performance, it's clearly no slouch.
Subjectively, the end-user experience is up there with the best. It also packs support for the crucial TRIM command along with a cleaner tool enabling you to buff the drive manually. All of which means our only major concern is the drive's capacity. Is 59.5GB formatted truly enough?
Corsair P128 128GB - £143
With the Force F100 drive and its SandForce controller slotting in as Corsair's mainstream SSD in the 100GB-ish segment, the P128's days are numbered. But it still has lots to offer, for around £150 less than at release.
In fact, now Kingston's bargain basement SSDNow V+ isn't available, this is the cheapest 128GB drive of the old school.
You're also getting a drive that delivers fantastic real-world performance. It's the cream of last gen's crop for file decompression, app installation and game level loading. And thanks to its Samsung controller chipset, the drive not only supports the TRIM command, but also benefits from self-healing technology claimed to restore it to full performance if left idle.
Put it all together and you have a decent drive. That said though Corsair's latest SF-2281 powered Force 3 is only £30 more expensive in 120GB trim.
Crucial RealSSD C300 128GB - £166
Benefiting from all the lessons learned during the dodgy early days of SSD engineering, the C300 is still relatively new technology. The fact that Crucial still managed to cock things up early on with the RealSSD C300 just goes to show how difficult it is to knock up a decent solid state drive.
There were several firmware updates before the C300 got back on track, addressing TRIM support issues and a problem with the update tool. One of the most obvious benefits of the Marvell controller is support for SATA-III and thus 6Gbps I/O, as SATA-III mobos become more commonplace.
However, in 128GB form the C300 is nothing special, clocking 145MB/s (its bigger 256GB brother breaches the 200MB/s barrier). As far as the synthetics go, it's 4k random performance that shows off the C300 best. Sadly, its application performance isn't quite as world-beating.
Intel X25-V 40GB - £59
Fancy Intel's second generation SSD tech for less than a ton? After all, it certainly had the performance chops upon release.
The 4k random read and write numbers are impressive for a budget drive, which bodes well for real-world workloads. Sequential write performance of under 50MB/s is less competitive, but with fewer channels than a full-fat Intel drive, raw write throughput has never been the X25-V's strong point.
No, the real problem for Intel's value-orientated 40GB drive is, well, value. The price hasn't dropped nearly as much as its rivals' since release. What's more, it's a bit of stinker in our application tests.
When you factor in everything, it doesn't live up to its X25 name - it's hard to ignore such poor results. It was actually our favourite of the sub-50GB drives upon release. But price is the big problem today, as it was then.
Kingston SSDNow V Series 30GB - £50/ £100 (RAID)
RAIDing up a pair of SSDs in 0 configuration is a sexy idea and there's no better drive to do it with than Kingston's bargainous 30GB V Series, at just £50 a pop.
What you won't get with those single drives is the insane maximum throughput of a pair of V Series SSDs. 372MB/s sequential reads, anyone?
Unfortunately, peak read performance is the V Series' single party trick. Even in RAID 0, you only get write performance of 108MB/s, while 4K throughput is a measly 5MB/s. The news wasn't much better in our application tests, either. One minute and nine seconds in the software install test, for instance, leaves the RAIDed Kingstons over 30 seconds off fellow last-generation SSDs.
With a capacity of 30GB, it'd be well suited as a cache device for a larger capacity hard disk with Intel's Smart Response tech, where raw performance isn't quite as important.
OCZ Onyx 32GB - £47
There's little room for manoeuvre with 32GB drives like OCZ's old Onyx. Fully formatted, you're left with 29.7GB of storage. That sounds reasonable for a 32GB drive - but once Windows 7's installed you're only left with around 15GB for other programs.
It's a shame, the Onyx has plenty going for it. For starters, it's powered by an Indilinx controller, designed for smaller, cheaper drives. So the Onyx not only supports TRIM, but also cranks out reasonable results in the toughest of our synthetic performance tests - the 4K random read and write benchmarks, where it scores 16MB/s and 6MB/s respectively.
It lags behind in most performance tests, but does at least have the edge on its closest rival, Kingston's 30GB SSDNow V Series. Sadly, there's no getting away from that claustrophobic capacity: plump for a 64GB drive if you want more than a Smart Response cache device.
First published in PC Format Issue 255
Liked this? Then check out Best SSD: 6 of the top SSDs on test
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