Best 256GB Class SSD's for under $200
Of the ten good products below that meets our criteria, five stand out from the group and are excellent products. Let's take a look and then narrow down the list.
- SanDisk Ultra Plus 256GB
Sequential Read / Write (MB/s): 530 / 445
Random Read / Write (IOPS): 82K / 39K
We reviewed the SanDisk Ultra Plus 256GB when it first hit the market, but the drive has a new, higher performing firmware. This is SanDisk's first SSD to use ABL NAND flash and a feature SanDisk calls nCache. nCache uses a section of MLC flash in SLC mode to cache data writes. This increases performance and allows the 4-channel controller to perform like faster 8-channel drives.
The SanDisk Ultra Plus 256GB is a very good product and it's in our top five. The performance is lower than some of the drives on this list, but as the lowest priced, we're moving it to the next round.
- Samsung 840 250GB
Sequential Read / Write (MB/s): 530 / 240
Random Read / Write (IOPS): 95K / 44K
The Samsung 840 is the first consumer SSD to use TLC NAND flash and the 250GB capacity size gets high marks for read performance. The rated 95K read IOPS is one of the best ratings on the market and easily the highest rating on our list today. The high read performance is due to the tri-core controller developed by Samsung. The Samsung 840 is also a big seller in the retail channel. My local Fry's insiders tell me the 840 and 840 Pro SSD's easily outsell every other SSD they carry.
Sadly, the TLC NAND has a dark side. The sequential write performance of the Samsung 840 250GB is only 240MB/s. If this product didn't deliver exceptional battery life in notebooks, it would be left off our list.
- Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 240GB
Sequential Read / Write (MB/s): 560 / 520
Random Read / Write (IOPS): NA / 90K
Not to be confused with the asynchronous non-Deluxe model or the higher priced 7mm model, the DX version of Chronos gives validity to our prophecy of CES 2011. At the start of 2011 we stated that Mushkin would be the premier LSI partner and take the still very fast SF-2281 into the mainstream market. With OCZ's troubles and the higher prices that appear to come with them, Mushkin's low prices are starting to draw attention. The Chronos DX has always been one of the lowest priced synchronous NAND flash SF-2281 drives, but with some of the competitors feeling the flash shortage, this product is really starting to stand out.
Mushkin was very quick to release the TRIM firmware fix when available and delivers high quality products with every release. This one goes to the next round.
- Seagate 600 Series 240GB
Sequential Read / Write (MB/s): 530 / 440
Random Read / Write (IOPS): 80K / 70K
The newest player on the consumer SSD market and the most experienced storage company on the list today, Seagate. I'd have to say it's a bit ironic, but I've already ruffed enough feathers with that kind of talk. Codenamed Wolf, the 600 SSD consumer product shares many of the same components as the enterprise specific 600 Pro. This product also shares many of the same primary components with the Corsair Neutron GTX. The Linx_A_Media Devices controller is the same model number and the 19nm Toshiba Toggle Mode NAND are the same as well. Seagate programmed their own unique firmware though and managed to get the price well under the Corsair Neutron GTX that has a higher price than our requirements for this article.
The Seagate 600 SSD 240GB costs less than we estimated last week and the performance is higher than the specs would lead you to believe. This one makes it to the next round.
- Corsair Neutron 256GB
Sequential Read / Write (MB/s): 540 / 450
Random Read / Write (IOPS): 83K / 95K
With new 22nm SK Hynix flash, the non-GTX Neutron received a boost in both user capacity and write performance. The original model was fast for its time, but products like the Samsung 840 and others moved Neutron to the middle of the pack. Instead of following suit and moving this series to new 20nm IMFT flash, Corsair went with new 22nm Hynix flash. The new Hynix flash delivers higher performance than 20nm IMFT and compliments the Hynix owned, Link_A_Media Devices controller very well.
The new flash and the low price put this drive on the next round list, but the GTX like performance of the Seagate 600 put this one on the fence.