Best SSDs of 2013

SSDs are still considered a luxury when compared to hard disks but, in 2013, they’re more affordable than ever – every drive here costs well below £1 per gigabyte. Benchmark-busting speed is on offer from these drives, too, so read on to find out which of these SSDs is worth a place in your PC.

Best SSDs of 2013

Corsair Neutron GTX


Price: £180 inc VAT
Rating: 4/6

Corsair’s latest SSD is a little smaller than the three other drives here, with its 240GB capacity translating to 223GB of formatted space, and this isn’t the only area where the Neutron GTX stands out – its dual-core LM87800 controller comes from obscure Californian company Link_A_Media Devices.

The eight NAND flash chips inside the Neutron GTX are constructed from Toshiba’s 24nm Toggle Mode NAND, which lowers power consumption by eliminating the clock signalling required by other types of flash memory.

However, we found that Corsair’s hi-tech NAND didn’t perform in our benchmarks. Its AS SSD sequential read and write results of 393MB/sec and 435MB/sec lag behind this test’s winners, and it fell behind when working with small files, too. In CrystalDiskMark’s 4K file-read test, the Corsair’s 29MB/sec result couldn’t compete with the 40MB/sec pace of the Samsung; its 94MB/sec write pace wasn’t able to match OCZ’s 134MB/sec rate.

The Neutron GTX has a generous five-year warranty, but it can’t compete on price. It costs £180, which works out at 80p-per-gigabyte, and makes it the most expensive drive in this group.

OCZ Vector

Price: £190 inc VAT
Rating: 5/6

OCZ’s previous SSDs have ostensibly used Indilinx controllers, but these parts were rebranded Marvell chips. OCZ has since purchased Indilinx, and the Vector is the first SSD with a genuine homegrown controller – the Barefoot 3. This ARM-powered chip is partnered with 25nm MLC NAND flash, and is wrapped up in the smartest, strongest-feeling enclosure we’ve seen. OCZ includes a 2.5in-to-3.5in bracket in the box, and it’s supplied with a five-year warranty.

The Vector’s AS SSD sequential read and write results of 521MB/sec and 503MB/sec are a sliver behind the Samsung, and it was a similar story with 4K file performance: the Vector’s 27MB/sec read score was pipped by the Samsung’s 37MB/sec result, and the OCZ drive wrote at 110MB/sec – only slightly worse than the Samsung’s 122MB/sec. The pattern was repeated in CrystalDiskMark, with the Vector behind in sequential and small file-read tests; it closed the gap when writing small files, however.

With such similar scores to the Samsung, it’s value for money that decides the overall winner. The Vector isn’t far behind the 840 Pro in performance terms, but its slightly higher price knocks it down to second place.

Samsung 840 Pro

Price: £180 inc VAT
Rating: 6/6 – A List

Samsung is the only company in this group to develop its SSDs entirely in-house, and the 840 Pro combines 256GB of 22nm NAND with a proprietary three-core ARM Cortex-based MDX controller.

Samsung’s design showed its might in our benchmarks. Scores of 523MB/sec and 504MB/sec in AS SSD’s sequential read and write tests are exemplary, and it didn’t struggle with smaller files: its 4K file-read score of 37MB/sec is the best here, as is its 4K write result of 122MB/sec.

The 840 Pro impressed in the CrystalDiskMark tests, too, topping the tables in seven out of eight benchmarks. In our final test, ATTO Disk Benchmark, the Samsung continued to excel – its average read pace of 344MB/sec is the best here, and only the OCZ Vector’s 426MBs/sec beat its 410MB/sec write average.

It’s a great showing, and the five-year warranty is generous, although we’re a little miffed there’s no sign of a 2.5in to 3.5in bracket – something that’s included with the OCZ Vector.

The Samsung’s benchmark performance is lightning-quick, though, and its £180 inc VAT price works out at a reasonable 75p per gigabyte – right in the middle of this round-up. It’s a worthy winner, and our new A-List champion.

SanDisk Ultra Plus

Price: £130 inc VAT
Rating: 5/6 – Recommended award

SanDisk’s Ultra Plus is unusually affordable by SSD standards. Instead of employing a high-end controller, this 256GB drive makes use of the Marvell 9175 – an upgraded version of the chip used in the Crucial M4, which first appeared in 2011.

SanDisk has written its own firmware for the controller, and it’s tweaked the 19nm NAND: while most is MLC, a portion of the drive runs in SLC mode, which aids small-file performance.

In our benchmarks, the Ultra Plus returned mixed results. Scores of 502MB/sec and 447MB/sec in AS SSD’s sequential read and write tests put the SanDisk squarely behind the Samsung and OCZ drives, but performance with smaller files was more erratic. The Ultra Plus raced through AS SSD’s 4K file read test at 32MB/sec, which is the second-best result here, while its 4K write score of 85MB/sec saw it drop behind the pricier Samsung and OCZ drives. The SanDisk also languished at the bottom of our results table in all of CrystalDiskMark’s small-file write tests.

SanDisk’s Ultra Plus can’t challenge top-tier SSDs for absolute performance, but, at 54p-per-gigabyte, it’s great value. If you’re looking for a decent SSD on the cheap, this is the one to buy.

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