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Solid State Drive Buyer's Guide

A Criteria Breakdown

Now you’re armed, dangerous, and ready to go shopping. Presumably, the SSD benefits we just reviewed outweigh the technology’s price premium in your mind. As you go combing the aisles, how should you assess your priorities?

First, you need to be honest with yourself in how you plan to use the drive. If it’s going to be the only drive in your system, then you need to weigh performance with capacity. However, many users are increasingly using SSDs as boot drives meant only to house the operating system and applications. All other data, especially the large libraries such as your music and video archives, can get stashed on secondary hard drives. You simply don’t need an SSD’s performance in order to stream a movie or manage your iTunes collection. A relatively small SSD backed by a large HDD might offer the best of all worlds.

We mentioned the Kingston V-Series already as a low-end entry option. Kingston isn’t shy about marketing this line as a consumer-friendly boot drive option, which is why several of its models bundle a copy of Acronis True Image and guide users through copying the contents of an existing primary hard drive onto the new SSD. (Intel is also coming out with a similar package for the X25-M that includes an Apricorn EZ Upgrade kit.) For those of you who really do your homework, you’ll find that “JMicron controller” is one of the most hated phrases in SSD circles. Many of the first wave of consumer SSDs used a microcontroller from JMicron that was, by essentially all relative performance measures, horrible. In the year or so since these SSDs hit the fan, the controller has been updated numerous times and no longer performs as it once did. So if you learn that the Toshiba controller in the V-Series is actually a JMicron in disguise, don’t panic. The old problems have been fixed. Just remember that this applies to Kingston, not necessarily older JMicron-bearing drives still saddled with the buggy firmware.

       

Some users are going to want even more performance than what the modest V-Series can deliver. This is where a close study of those sustained read and write numbers pays off. There are many SSDs competing for the mid-market now, and most of them have become quite decent. One of our favorites in the “best bang for the buck” category is OCZ’s 120GB MLC Vertex at $499. Yeah, $4.16 per gig isn’t cheap, but the Vertex is wicked fast: up to 250 MB/sec reads and 180 MB/sec writes with sustained writes of up to 100 MB/sec. For another $50, you can goose the sustained writes up to 120 MB/sec thanks to the 64MB of 180 MHz on-drive cache, an improvement over the 166 MHz cache on the regular Vertex.

  • Shadow703793
    Imo, I'd keep away with any SSD drive using a JMicron. Dosen't matter if the stutering,etc issues were fixed. Indylinx and Intel controllers are the best right now.

    Anyways, I got an X25-M G2 (OEM) for $220 @Newegg during Black Friday.
    Reply
  • grimjester
    The point about getting a small SSD for software and a larger disk for data can't be stressed enough. The price per GB looks completely different if you only need 64G. There's little difference in price between the cheapest hard drive you can get and the cheapest 500G one.

    An SSD is just an extra cost of $150-300. It has no practical effect on the storage space your computer has.
    Reply
  • nonxcarbonx
    This is an even better ssd article than anandtech's ssd anthology. Nice work.
    Reply
  • Eggrenade
    I wouldn't say it's better than Anandtech's; there's no mention of random reads or writes, which is why performance just after startup is so good. It's also a lot less technical, which is probably better for most Tom's Guide readers.
    Reply
  • Tomsguiderachel
    EggrenadeI wouldn't say it's better than Anandtech's; there's no mention of random reads or writes, which is why performance just after startup is so good. It's also a lot less technical, which is probably better for most Tom's Guide readers.Exactly :)
    Reply
  • Tomsguiderachel
    nonxcarbonxThis is an even better ssd article than anandtech's ssd anthology. Nice work.Thank you. I hope it was a good fit for Tom's Guide readers' needs.
    Reply
  • Next page broken http://www.tomsguide.com/us/ssd-value-performance,review-1455-11.html, sorry couldnt find anywhere to submit feedback. Page not working on firefox 3.5.5 (does not scroll).
    Reply
  • Tomsguiderachel
    none007Next page broken http://www.tomsguide.com/us/ssd-va 55-11.html, sorry couldnt find anywhere to submit feedback. Page not working on firefox 3.5.5 (does not scroll).I'm using the same browser and that page works for me. I will report the bug, thanks.
    Reply
  • Tomsguiderachel
    TomsguiderachelI'm using the same browser and that page works for me. I will report the bug, thanks.Oh--I see that you mean the final page of the article not the penultimate page. FYI There is no content on that last page so you didn't miss part of the article.
    Reply
  • tommysch
    I think Ill stick to my 4x1TB RAID 0 array for now. BTW they are ghosted each week. o_0
    Reply