Budget Sub-$150 Solid State Drive Round-up

High prices are always a stumbling block to new tech adoption, and with SSDs it hasn't been any different.

We've come a long way from first-generation drives that suffered from severe slowdowns, but solid state drives are still far from replacing traditional storage, and this is easily explained by comparing cost per gigabyte.

Recently, there has been a surging demand for drives that sacrifice space for speed and more affordable price tags, and manufacturers have been racing to deliver just that. The cheapest offering in our last round-up over a year ago came from OCZ. Priced at $US270, the OCZ Agility 120GB cost almost twice the $US150 limit we have imposed on the SSDs featured in this article.

With that price cap, we've been able to include more than half a dozen drives using controllers from the likes of JMicron, Intel, Toshiba, SandForce and Indilinx. But while there is quite a bit of diversity in the controllers used by these affordable SSDs, like we mentioned before, there is also something most of them have in common - a more limited storage capacity.

Most of the drives featured in this round-up offer 32GB-40GB capacities, while a few others top out at 64GB. As limiting as a 32GB drive might appear, they can still be extremely useful in enhancing a PC's performance when set to run as the boot drive. These smaller drives can also accommodate for select programs where they can greatly speed up the use of the application, for example, Adobe Photoshop.

Gamers are likely going to want at least a 64GB drive, considering many titles weigh in at more than 8GB these days. Thankfully, we were able to find a few good options that provide this kind of storage capacity for less than $US150.

Today's round-up is comprised of the following contenders: OCZ Agility 2 40GB ($US135), OCZ Vertex 2 40GB ($US124), OCZ Onyx 64GB ($US130), OCZ Onyx 32GB ($US85), ADATA S596 Turbo 32GB ($US83), Intel X25-V 40GB ($US100) and the Kingston SNV425-S2 64GB ($US125). In addition to these affordable SSD offerings, we have added to the mix the Seagate Momentus XT ($US135), a highly touted hybrid drive that attempts to deliver the best of both worlds by offering huge storage capacity at a reasonable price, with the added performance boost of NAND flash memory for caching data.

We'll be putting each drive through a set of tests including four synthetic benchmark programs plus our own file-copying and load-time tests.

Benchmarks: Real-World Applications

The Windows 7 boot time test begins from the moment the initial loading screen appears to the time the Windows desktop is fully loaded. As you can see, all SSDs perform exceptionally well here, and surprisingly, there is very little difference between them.

The Intel X25-V 40GB stands out as the fastest drive, taking an average of just 11.7 seconds to load a clean copy of Windows 7. The next fastest drive was the ADATA S596 Turbo 32GB, which scored poorly in a couple of our write tests on the previous page.

The OCZ Vertex 2 and Agility 2 40GB drives delivered similar performance to that of the S596 Turbo 32GB, while the Kingston SNV425-S2 64GB and OCZ Onyx 32/64GB drives were only slightly slower.

The Momentus XT does bridge the gap between HDD and SSD performance with a load time of 17.8 seconds. Although this is 27 per cent slower than the worst performing SSD that we tested, it is an incredible 36 per cent faster than the Samsung Spinpoint F1 1TB hard drive, which took 28 seconds to load Windows 7.

For the application load test, we load the following applications into the Windows 7 startup: Internet Explorer, Outlook 2007, Access 2007, Excel 2007, PowerPoint 2007, Publisher 2007, Word 2007 and Photoshop CS4. The test starts when the Windows 7 startup sound loads to the time the final application is loaded.

This is where SSD technology really shines, and we see this with all drives taking just 5-7 seconds to complete the entire task. Interestingly, the ADATA S596 Turbo 32GB and Onyx 32/64GB were the only drives to crack the six-second barrier. However, with close results on all three runs, it is difficult to determine a definitive winner. Let's just say SSD technology wins here.

We were surprised to see that the Momentus XT 500GB was slower than the Samsung Spinpoint F1 1TB hard drive in this test. Taking 32 seconds to load all eight applications at once is pretty slow going, particularly when a standard desktop hard drive did it in 26 seconds.

This test measures the time it takes to load Adobe Photoshop CS4 from the time we click on the icon to the time the program is completely loaded and ready to use. On an average budget SSD, this takes roughly two seconds. The ADATA S596 Turbo 32GB was again the fastest SSD tested, clocking an average time of just 1.9 seconds.

The Intel X25-V 40GB was the slowest, taking 2.8 seconds on average. Still, none of the seven drives tested is going to allow you to make coffee while you wait.

Although the Seagate Momentus XT 500GB struggled with our previous application loading test, it appears that this drive is very snappy when loading a single application, as it delivered SSD-like performance.

This next batch of results was recorded when loading the last level from the single campaign in StarCraft II. The test began the second the load screen appeared and was stopped once the "click to play" message appeared.

Using a 3.5-inch desktop hard drive, the game takes on average about 24 seconds to load this level. The Seagate Momentus XT 500GB was much slower, loading the level in 39 seconds. By comparison, the slowest SSD tested was the OCZ Onyx 32GB, which took 23 seconds, followed by the Intel X25-V 40Gb, which took 22 seconds.

The fastest SSD test was the OCZ Vertex 2 40GB, which completed the test in 18.7 seconds, making it a fraction faster than the Agility 2 40GB and ADATA S596 Turbo 32GB drives.

Check out the rest of the article below.

Article Index

Introduction ADATA S596 Turbo Intel X25-V Kingston SNV425-S2 OCZ Agility 2 OCZ Vertex 2 OCZ Onyx Seagate Momentus XT Test System Specs Benchmarks: File Copy Test Benchmarks: Real-World Applications Benchmarks: CrystalDiskMark 3.0 Benchmarks: AS SSD Benchmark Benchmarks: Atto Disk Benchmark Benchmarks: HD Tune Pro Final Thoughts

Republished with permission from TechSpot.

Steven Walton is the chief hardware editor at TechSpot; he also runs his own review site Legion Hardware. TechSpot is a computer technology publication serving PC enthusiasts, gamers and IT pros since 1998.

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