Are You Ready for the SSD Era?
Ask anyone who owns an SSD, and they will tell you that it is the single most noticeable upgrade you can make to your existing PC (provided your PC is no more than a few years old). Unlike many products, which show higher “numbers” than their predecessors, the “numbers” actually mean something. If you are stuck with a mechanical drive, booting into Windows or starting large applications can be measured in times easily perceptible.
The problem, is that acquiring one of these drives with a decent capacity was prohibitively expensive. Until now. While we aren’t quite at the $1 per GB point yet for mid-to-high performance drives, but we are closer than ever. And for around $200, you can purchase an SSD with a 128GB capacity capable of speeds that will bring a very noticeable performance improvement. Having a 128GB drive as your “Programs” drive is perfectly acceptable in my opinion, provided you only put a select number of applications there. The OS will go there of course, along with the more sluggish-to-start applications like Microsoft Office, web browsers, Photoshop, 3DSMax, and other such programs. Smaller apps like Twitter, your IM, uTorrent, etc, can go on a standard drive that costs just pennies per GB.
So now that you’ve been convinced that you want an SSD for your next PC, you have a lot to choose from. Every brand seems to have chosen a different SSD controller to base their products on, along with different types of flash memory. Therefore, the available products are significantly different even within the same price range. Today we will be looking at four different midrange SSDs from four of the most popular manufacturers. Here’s a quick look at the specs:
|Patriot Torqx 2 128GB||OCZ Agility 3 120GB||Kingston SSDNow V100 128GB||Crucial m4 128GB|
|Flash Controller||Phison PS3105-S5||SandForce SF-2281||JMicron JMF616||Marvell 88SS9174-BLD2|
|Flash Type||Toshiba TH58NVG7D2FLA89 32nm MLC toggle NAND||Micron 29F64G08CFAAA 25nm MLC asynchronous NAND||Toshiba TH58NVG6D2FTA20 32nm MLC toggle NAND||Micron 29F64G08CFAAB 25nm MLC synchronous NAND|
|Interface||SATA II||SATA 6 Gbps||SATA II||SATA 6 Gbps|
|Cache||128 MB||N/A||64 MB||256 MB|
|Sequential Read||270 MB/s||525 MB/s||250 MB/s||415 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||230 MB/s||500 MB/s||230 MB/s||175 MB/s|
|Price (August 2)||$240||$210 ($190 MIR)||$190||$219|
|MTBF||1,500,000 hours||2,000,000 hours||1,000,000 hours||1,200,000 hours|
|Warranty||3 Years||3 Years||3 Years||3 Years|
It should be noted that prices of SSDs can fluctuate rapidly. During the final week of assembling this review, I have seen some of the drives go up and down in price as much as $30. Just last night, when I wrote this note on SSD price increases, the OCZ Agility 3 was selling for $280. Now it’s available at Newegg for just $190 with a mail-in rebate. That is a HUGE price drop.
As you can see, even though all of these drives are within the $200 price range, the specs vary substantially. We have four different drive controllers, four different cache sizes, and four different types of NAND.
Here’s a quick look at how they compare in terms of price, when looking at $ per GB. For the rest of this review, we will be using a Western Digital Caviar Black to represent mainstream performance mechanical drives. These drives offer a good ratio of price/performance/capacity, and are among the most popular choices for installation drives (as opposed to storage drives which may have lower performance but more capacity for the price).
Because the OCZ Agility 3 has slightly lower capacity due to its provisioning, the ratio is the highest (the index above is based on the price before mail in rebates). The Kingston V100 is the closest to $1 per GB we’ve seen so far, but was even closer before the price increased last week.
Now let’s take a look at each drive before contrasting their performance: