Size does matter. And when it comes to SSDs, size costs too. At least, it did. Back in 2008, Intel launched its first solid state drive aimed at mere punters rather than enterprise customers. You forked out £400 and you received 80GB in return.
Yeah, just 80GB, that's equates to around £5000 per terabyte. Fast forward to 2016 and you'd pay almost 25x less, which represents a nice 3x improvement every year.
Okay, conventional hard disks were also pricier per gigabyte in 2008, but it was still roughly a case of swapping the 'GB' and '£' symbols around. Less than £80 bought you more than 400GB of spinning magnetic platters even then.
So size has definitely been a source of insecurity for SSDs. Sure, you can combine a tiny SSD with a fat old magnetic drive and theoretically have the best of both worlds: speed and performance (that's what hybrid drives are for).
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Even the tiniest solid state drive will soak up a Windows installation. Simply chuck the rest in the big old data bin that is a cheap conventional hard disk.
The problem with that theory is applications. They like storage performance too - especially games - and a decent games library needs some fairly serious space. For us, that means an absolute minimum of 250GB, and ideally closer to the 500GB mark.
Note that for the sake of simplicity, we will be looking at SATA models only. No mSATA, M.2 SATA or PCIe or standard PCIe models. Keep in mind that PCIe drives will generally perform better than SATA drives but also cost far more.
Best SSD for low capacity
- Patriot Torch LE 120GB
- Buy from Amazon for £28.49
Anything smaller than 120GB is probably too small if you want to use only one hard drive in your computer.
When it comes to price, the Patriot Torch LE range remains the one to be beaten. Its 120GB model is the cheapest SSD in the UK with a very competitive £0.24/GB pricing. Expect minimal packaging or instructions, which makes it perfect for DIYers.
The drive, which uses a Phison S10 controller, is backed by a three-year warranty and Patriot is a well-known memory computer hardware manufacturer. The 120GB model is rated at up to 425MBps and 560MBps for write and read respectively.
As expected, it comes with a slew of other features including end-to-end data path protection (ETEP), advanced wear-levelling and garbage collection, smart ECC, refresh and flush.
Best SSD for medium capacity
- Hynix SL301
- Buy from Novatech for £49.37
Hynix is not a household name but the South Korean company is actually a big player in the world of memory chipmakers, ranking second only to might Samsung.
No surprise that, like their arch rivals, they use their own memory – TLC NAND - in their products. The storage controller is an unknown quantity.
The SL301, with a 250GB capacity, has one of the cheapest per GB price in this category at 20p but that doesn't mean that corners have been cut.
The drive has a rated read/write speed of 540MBPs and 470MBps with a read/write IOPS of up to 95K and 85K respectively, all backed by a solid three-year warranty.
Best SSD for high capacity
- Toshiba Q300
- Buy from Amazon for £89.99
Asian SSD manufacturers score another winner here as Toshiba nabs that place with the Q300 (2016 version) which, despite being just a relatively new product, has one of the cheapest per GB price of any SSD in the UK.
The inventor of the Flash memory doesn't cut corners on this one, using 3-bit-per-cell 15 nm NAND Flash and advanced-speed and Adaptive Size SLC Write Cache technology as well as its own controller, the Toshiba TC58NC1000, a customised version of the popular Phison S10 controller.
As for other SSDs listed here, this one comes with a three-year warranty and the firm, which purchased SSD specialist OCZ not long ago, claims that the SSD is capable of read/write IOPS of 87K and 83K respectively with sequential R/W speeds topping 550MBps and 530MBps respectively.
Best SSD for extra high capacity
- Sandisk Ultra II
- Buy from Amazon for £173.91
Sandisk is one of the better known SSD vendors out there; it also produces memory cards and other storage devices. Now, as part of Western Digital, it is likely to collaborate with HGST, the other WD company acquired which has some valuable solid state expertise.
Sandisk's Ultra II has the second cheapest per GB price at just £0.18, offering sequential read/write speeds of 550MBps and 500MBps as well as random read/write speeds of 99K and 83K IOPS respectively.
nCache 2.0 technology, Sandisk claims, will deliver enhanced speed and endurance with the SSD dashboard providing with data in real-time about the drive itself. Coupled with a 3-year warranty, this is one of the better deals on the market.
Best SSD for performance
If you are after speedy drives rather than just capacity, then there's really only two models on the market: Samsung's 850 Pro (£309 for the 1TB model at Amazon) and the Sandisk Extreme Pro (£283.35 for the 960GB model at Ebuyer).
Pair either of those drive in RAID-0 mode and you would have a pretty compelling storage subsystem (although the law of diminishing returns dictates that the improvement is likely to be less than 100%).
The former uses 3D V-NAND memory to deliver some of the best performance on the market despite being more than one-year old. Its sequential R/W speeds reach 550MBps/520MBps while its random R/W speeds top 100K/90K IOPS. Add in a 10-year warranty and a useful 256-bit AES self-encryption feature and it's easy to see its appeal.
As for the Sandisk Extreme Pro, it has remarkably similar specs, at least on paper, to the 850 Pro. Same warranty, similar sequential read/write performance and random read/write speeds. It uses a two-tiered cache architecture called nCache Pro and offers a nifty SSD dashboard to assess your drive's health and performance in real time.
Jeremy Laird contributed to this article
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