May 24 2013 - Solid state drives may still not equal traditional drives in terms of their capacity or price but they do offer some solid performance and reliability now. If you are looking at getting a drive for your laptop or desktop PC, check out which drives I think are the best for their value, performance and capacity. Please note that solid state drives should really only be used with computers running Windows 7/8 or Mac OS X 10.7 for best results.
Value is best defined by the price per gigabyte in a storage device. This used to be held by smaller capacity drives but now higher ones are starting to offer a overall value. With a 256GB capacity and a $170 price tag, the Sandisk Ultra Plus reaches a $.67 per gigabyte which was unheard of for a SSD last year. The drive uses a less common Marvel controller which provides it with a bit less performance but it still is fast enough for most buyers with write speeds up to 445MB/s and read speeds up to 530MB/s. If you don't mind spending a bit more for a better price per gigabyte that also gives a much higher capacity rating, then the Mushkin Enhanced Chronos 480GB drive can be found for around $300.
Performance in solid state drives are reliant upon the memory chips, the drive controller and what interface version it uses. The highest performance drives now require that the systems have a SATA III or 6.0 Gbps interface on the computer and drive. If you want the best performance possible without getting too expensive from the capacity, than the Samsung 840 Pro 256GB drive offers a good balance between performance and price. Burst read speeds reach up to 540MB/s while write speeds are a bit slower at 520MB/s. It is important to note that this is a Pro version rather than the standard 840 series which has less write performance and a shorter warranty. If you don't need the write speeds, the Samsung 840 250GB non-Pro version is more affordable at just $180.
If you really want to replace a hard drive entirely with a solid state drive, then you are going to want some really high capacities. Thankfully the prices have come down such that it is possible to get nearly a terabyte of storage from the Crucial M500 drive for just $600. The drive even has some very reasonable performance thanks to a Marvell 88SS9187 controller that provides up to 500MB/s read and 400MB/s write speeds. If price is no object and you want faster performance, than the OCZ Octane 1TB offers as much storage space as your typical desktop class drive but at a ridiculous $2500 price. It uses the Indilinx Everest 2 controller and offers much faster read and write speeds compared to the Intel drive but you could buy two of the Crucial drives and put them into a RAID 0 array for greater storage for half the cost of the OCZ drive.
A number of desktops that use Intel processors can accelerate a hard drive with a solid state drive through a caching system called Smart Response Technology. Essentially, a small SSD drive up to 64GB in size can be used as cache for frequently used data to improve performance. In this size range, the ADATA XPG SX900 offers the best price for its performance. The drive uses the ubiquitous SandForce controller with read speeds of up to 550MB/s and write speeds up to 510MB/s. Priced around $80 the feature is becoming less useful as larger drives become less expensive. In fact, a good alternative is to buy something like the Sandisk Ultra Plus 128GB drive for just $20 more and have both a 64GB cache plus an extra 64GB of fast storage space.