Two years ago the best SSD you could buy was made by Intel and it cost $7.44 per GB of MLC NAND. Today Intel is actually the value leader. The 80GB X25-M G2 will set you back $205 at Newegg, or $2.56 per GB. The performance crown now belongs to companies like Micron and SandForce. Although Intel hopes to have performance leadership once more with its 25nm SSDs due out in Q4, the priorities have shifted. Intel’s focus is on bringing SSDs to the mainstream; it wants a bigger slice of the HDD pie. At the end of the day, that’s where the money is.

At just over $200 that’s affordable enough for high end notebooks and desktops but what about more mainstream price points? For many the $99 mark is key. Luckily as SSDs have gotten faster, a new breed of small, affordable SSDs have emerged right around the $100 mark. Today we’re going to take a look at three of those devices.

Intel’s X25-V 40GB

We’ll start off with Intel’s X25-V, currently only offered in a 40GB flavor. We’ve reviewed this drive before and it currently sells for $125 at Newegg. A bit more expensive than our other competitors, the X25-V uses Intel’s standard X25-M G2 controller but only has 5 of its 10 channels populated. The end result is a drive that performs similarly to the X25-M G2 in small file accesses but is about half the speed in large transfers.

The other disadvantage to the X25-V is its capacity. Intel uses all available capacity as spare area until it’s used up, which on a 40GB drive isn’t that much. Once you’ve got Windows 7 and a few applications on the drive you are lucky to have 15GB free. The less free space on the drive, the lower the controller’s performance will be and there are some areas where the X25-V will be less than half the speed of the X25-M G2.

The drive supports TRIM and comes with a 3-year warranty.

Kingston SSDNow V Series Boot Drive 30GB

Kingston used to sell a rebranded X25-V however in an interest to drive prices down even further Kingston switched to a cheaper Toshiba controller - the T6UG1XBG. The drive supports TRIM but not NCQ, which won’t be an issue for very light usage models but could be a problem for heavier workloads.

The most attractive part of the SSDNow V Series Boot Drive is its price. The drive alone will set you back $90 at Newegg, although you can get it in an upgrade kit for $115 (3.5" bay adapter). Like the X25-V, the 30GB drive comes with a 3-year warranty.

OCZ’s Onyx

The final drive in today’s roundup is the only one we haven’t previously reviewed here: OCZ’s Onyx. The Onyx uses an Indilinx Amigos controller, which is basically half of a Barefoot controller. You get four NAND channels instead of eight and maximum read/write speeds of 100/80MBps instead of 200/160 for Barefoot based drives.

The drive carries an $85 retail price for the 32GB version and comes with a 3-year warranty. OCZ also offers a 64GB version for $185.

Indilinx Barefoot

Indilinx Amigos

I owe OCZ an apology with regards to the Onyx. Here’s what happened. The first Onyx I got my hands on had a firmware bug that resulted in data corruption. A simple Windows install on my testbed revealed it. The install wouldn’t complete successfully. OCZ hadn’t seen the issue internally at first but eventually saw the same thing I did and immediately halted shipments. OCZ even contacted those customers who had received Onyx drives and replaced them.

The second Onyx I received supposedly fixed the data corruption bug I ran into before. It completed my Windows install but I got a CRC error during a SYSMark install. I incorrectly assumed that this was a problem with the Onyx drive once again and not an issue with my setup. I immediately contacted OCZ and told them that I was still having problems with the drive. After duplicating the same problem on another value drive it became clear that it was an issue with my SYSMark install and not the drive. I jumped to conclusions based on my previous experience with the Onyx drive without thoroughly testing the conclusion first. In fact, I did the very thing that we often accuse SSD makers of doing: not testing. In this case I wasn’t shipping a product but in my book, coming to a conclusion is the same thing. So to OCZ: I am sorry.

Now let’s get to the roundup.

Value SSD Spec Sheet Comparison
  Intel X25-V Kingston SSDNow V Series Boot Drive OCZ Onyx
Controller Intel 34nm Toshiba T6UG1XBG Indilinx Amigos
Channels 5 4 4
Sequential Read Speed Up to 170MB/s Up to 180MB/s Up to 100MB/s
Sequential Write Speed Up to 35MB/s Up to 50MB/s Up to 80MB/s
Random Read Speed Up to 25K IOPS Not Listed Not Listed
Random Write Speed Up to 2.5K IOPS Not Listed Not Listed
Warranty 3-years 3-years 3-years
Price $125 $90 $85

The Test

CPU Intel Core i7 965 running at 3.2GHz (Turbo & EIST Disabled)
Motherboard: Intel DX58SO (Intel X58)
Chipset: Intel X58 + Marvell SATA 6Gbps PCIe
Chipset Drivers: Intel + Intel IMSM 8.9
Memory: Qimonda DDR3-1333 4 x 1GB (7-7-7-20)
Video Card: eVGA GeForce GTX 285
Video Drivers: NVIDIA ForceWare 190.38 64-bit
Desktop Resolution: 1920 x 1200
OS: Windows 7 x64
Sequential & Random Read/Write Speed
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  • R-Smith - Tuesday, July 6, 2010 - link


    Then again, the best idea might be to avoid an SSD because then PC's without SSD's won't seem so slow.
  • MobiusStrip - Monday, June 7, 2010 - link

    "They simply are way to small" TOO. TOO small. T, O, O
  • racerx_is_alive - Thursday, June 3, 2010 - link

    Seems like the 30GB OCZ Vertex is another good option in this price range. If its performance is anywhere close to the 120GB version in your SSD Bench, I wonder if it isn't a better option than the Onyx and the Kingston?
  • Taft12 - Friday, June 4, 2010 - link

    Performance of the 30GB Vertex is not close to the 120GB version.
  • Mugur - Thursday, June 3, 2010 - link

    Does the non-Intel drives have a tool equivalent with the Intel SSD Toolbox? I mean, if I'm not sure if TRIM works, I just run that utility (it takes about 3 seconds :-) )...
  • Chloiber - Thursday, June 3, 2010 - link

    The drives with Indilinxcontrollers (the normale one and ECO, I don't know about "Amigos" though!) have a "TRIM"-tool. You can manually trim under windows. It is beta though and should be used with care. For me, it always worked.

    Under Linux, you can issue a manual TRIM command anytime you want (google for hdparm and/or linux ). Also here, there are still problems, but again it worked for my Ultradrive perfectly well.
  • teohhanhui - Thursday, June 3, 2010 - link

    And yes, I'll wait until the new Intel drives come out at the end of this year (presumably).
  • Phate- - Thursday, June 3, 2010 - link

    What about ssd's with the JMicron JMF612/JMF618 controllers? These are the real budget-ssd's, the Kingston SNV425-S2 64GB is by far the cheapest ssd (with only the 128GB version offering more GB/euro). And what about the Corsair Reactor Series R60, Corsair Performance series P64 and Corsair Extreme series E64. These drives have cost about the same as the Intel Postville 80GB when you look at GB/euro.

    I am not interested in the 30-40GB ssd's, they are to small. Neither am I interested in the high-end ssd's. I'm interested in an ssd with more then 40GB (and less then 80GB) with a decent capacity/performance/euro ratio.

    Well to be precise, I AM interested in the smaller and faster ssd's, because ssd's interest me, and it are mostly wonderful articles, but these reviews hardly help me in my search for the perfect ssd for me. Namely the midrange.
  • loimlo - Thursday, June 3, 2010 - link

    Kingston uses the same controller across their SSD series. In other words, SSDNOW V series 30/64/128GB drives share identical controller. You can base 64/128GB performance on Anand's 30GB review. That said, 64/128GB should be faster given higher read/write speed compared to 30GB version.
  • Phate- - Thursday, June 3, 2010 - link

    If so, then explain the difference between de V+ second series and the newer V second series. If they are exactly the same, why would they bother with releasing 2 exactly the same, but different named series?

    Too bad they didn't compare the ssd's with eachother though.

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