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52 solid state drives tested, compared, contrasted and evaluated

In June, 2012, Hardware.Info published a large group test of SSDs with capacities of 120/128 GB and 240/256 GB. Those are still the most popular sizes, judging from what people search for on Hardware.Info. The world of SSDs didn't stand still though, and since then a number of interesting high-end SSDs have appeared with significantly better performance.

Coupled with ever falling prices, it fuelled the need for another comprehensive new Hardware.Info SSD round-up, to get an exhaustive overview of the solid state drive market. We found out which one is the fastest, which one is the cheapest, and which one gives you the best value for your money. We tested 52 128 GB and 256 GB SSDs currently on the market.

The cheapest SSD is currently the Crucial v4 256 GB, which costs £0.52 per GB, based on its average price. If you shop around, you'll undoubtedly find even better deals. It doesn't look like this trend is stopping anytime soon, so it will be interesting to see how SSD prices develop in 2013.

The past year has proven that the performance of SSDs hasn't hit a ceiling yet, and thanks to continual hardware developments, we expect this trend to continue as well. The OCZ Vertex 4, for example, set a new record in the AS SSD benchmark, only to be beaten by the Plextor M5 Pro, which was then beaten by the Samsung 840 Pro.

The increase in performance is quite impressive, and is reaching the point where the SATA600 interface is becoming the bottleneck. It's no surprise then that work on its successor, SATA Express, is already underway.

Serial ATA 600 has a maximum transfer rate of about 550 MB/s, and particularly with sequential reading, this limit is achieved by almost all recent SSDs. There is still significant leeway though when it comes with writing data, especially uncompressed data, is a different matter.

We tested 52 SSDs with multiple benchmarks and while the scores differ, we have to emphasize that measurable differences are not the same as noticeable differences. That means that it's almost impossible to tell whether one SSD is faster than another when you are using it on a daily basis.

The PCMark 7 benchmark has proven to be the test that is closest to real-life experience. The majority of SSDs that we tested score between 4,900 and 5,600 points in this benchmark, about a 10 percent difference. Choose an SSD with a score within that range from a reliable brand for a good price. However, if you use your PC a lot and work with large files, then getting the fastest SSD will have a small but noticeable impact.

Most SSDs have capacities of 128 GB or 256 GB. Keep in mind that, like manufacturers of conventional hard drives, 1 GB equals one billion bytes and not 1.074 billion bytes. As a result, a 128 GB SSD shows only 119 usable Gigabytes available in Windows. The seven per cent difference is used for over-provisioning, or extra memory cells that can be used when other cells fail or in order to decrease the load on the other cells.

In addition, many of the SandForce-based SSDs have 120 GB or 240 GB, which translates to 112 and 224 of usable GBs in Windows. It's a fail-safe measure that allows a complete chip to break without losing any data, in other words, RAID 5 with flash chips. Some, like the new Samsung 840 with TLC memoryoverprovision, to compensate for the shorter lifespan of TLC memory.

The past year we witnessed the introduction of new SSD controllers, but also a new type of flash memory chips. To learn more about that, and the performance of the 52 different SSDs, check out the full article on Hardware.Info.