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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  • poohbear - Sunday, June 6, 2010 - link

    When u say in the end "if you're running an OS without Trim support", im sorry are there any other OS other than Win7? if not why even mention "an OS without Trim support" as if to imply there are more than 1 that do provide Trim support? comments like this really confuse ppl about the tech landscape and what's happening. Just say if u're using an OS other than Win7 so it makes it clear what's happening right now.
  • nexox - Monday, June 7, 2010 - link

    To be fair, I'm using TRIM on my 30GB OCZ Vertex in Linux right now. Yes, other OS's do support TRIM.
  • ashegam - Sunday, June 6, 2010 - link

    are moving fast towards the sweet point of price/performance, but we're not there yet. Can't wait until SSD's are the norm and as cheap as regular HD's right now :) I know it will be a few more years.
  • Hrel - Monday, June 7, 2010 - link

    If someone could do a review on the laptop that I currently suspect is the best "bang for your buck" out there. It's made by compal, and available on who's machines you've reviewed before. If you'd like it configured like I did, which I think is the best bang for buck, do this: Go to the website. mouse over 15.6" Laptops and click on the $999 Xplorer X6-8500. It has a 1080p screen. (I'm not sure why the people who run this site do this, but even though the other configurations use the same chassis when personalized they come out to cost more than this one; annoying since it makes me configure all 3 or 4 machines built on the same base chassis to figure out which one is cheapest/best for me.) Then I configured it with the Core i7-620M CPU. (to get it over 1K so I can take advantage of the 5% off.) 4GB 0DDR3-1333, hopefully 7-7-7-21, probably not, but hopefully. ATI MR HD5650 1GB GDDR3 320GB 7200rpm HDD (I did this cause I'm gonna take that HDD out and use the Seagate Momentus XT 500GB, thanks for that review!!) Everything else on that page I left untouched. The only thing I did on page 2 was switch to Intel wifi with bluetooth; Though I'm curious if the MSI option is equal/better; 17 bucks isn't nothing. It has HDMI out and a fingerprint reader. This page says 3 USB ports, the specs sheet says 4USB ports; not sure which is true. (I do wish they were USB 3.0 ports, but I was hoping you guys would test some stuff and tell me if that even matters for use with an external hard drive, mechanical disk 7200rpm. Transferring large files like movies and games mostly.) On page 3 I select "none, format only" for the OS. And select "LCD perfect assurance" cause even 1 dead pixel is unacceptable to me. This brings the total to $1008.90 after 5% off, or $992.75 if you get the MSI network card. So yeah, I really hope you guys can get a hold of one of these for review; as a loner or given as a review unit or maybe someone will just buy one and review it cause it's really tempting me right now... like a lot! If you're review is good I'm gonna start saving up and hopefully be able to buy it around Christmas. Thanks guys! A loyal reader. - Brian
  • czesiu - Thursday, June 10, 2010 - link

    "If you don't have TRIM support in your OS, the Onyx isn't a good choice."

    doesnt OCZ Onyx have garbage collection?
  • criticaluser - Friday, June 11, 2010 - link

    I bought one of these Kingston SSDs recently and wanted to take the opportunity to tell gamers to stay away from them especially for games like Crysis. The game stutters and is really unplayable a known good system apart from the newly installed Kingston SSD. It even did a BSOD during a shutdown of Crysi

    Frankly with all of the critisism about JMicron controllers, it is suprising to see him softpedal (and even promote during one of his last articles with CPU Magazine) the clearly poor random read/write preformance of the Kingston drives. His specs tell the truth but his words are misleading.
  • criticaluser - Saturday, June 12, 2010 - link

    I can't edit or revoke my previous comment but | found the solution to getting the Kingston 64GB SSDNow to run properly with Crysis.

    I set my system for no paging file and Crysis is running like gangbusters now. The game must have been doing incremental transfers from RAM to the hard drive page file as I filled up RAM by running through the various screens. I guess that constant random writes to the page file caused all the stuttering.

    I don't know if leaving the page file this way will cause other programs to have errors but for the most part I seldom use all 4GB of RAM necessitating the page file so I am going to leave it this way and see what happens
  • fsardis - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    I am not really sure what difference it makes or if it makes any difference at all but I have read in other places that Garbage Collection is dependant upon the file system and as such most of the SSDs out there (if not all) have garbage collection for NTFS only.

    If this is true then it means Linux and Mac users alike are left in the cold. Anand, could you please write an article on the matter or perhaps make sure you mention the details of garbage collection in future SSD reviews for the ones that do have the feature.

    I am looking to replace the disk on my MBP and I am really confused. My understanding is that the Kingston V+ has great garbage collection and would work nicely with the MBP and as an added bonus I can get the upgrade kit and keep my old disk as an external drive. However, does the garbage collection on the V+ function only on NTFS volumes?
  • Marburg U - Wednesday, June 16, 2010 - link

    Quite interestingly, but Intel decided not to introduce value X25-V 80GB SSDs either in Q4 2010 or Q1 2011 and instead of it the firm plans to release X25-V 40GB drive with 25nm MLC NAND.

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