Best PC upgrades under £100: get a faster PC for less

This kit is rated at 1,600MHz, but is capable of running at much higher frequencies - we had the 8GB modules running at 2,133MHz without trying. Because they're low-voltage they can be pushed when it comes to overclocking. They're pretty low latency too, and that's arguably more important than raw speed.


Crucial Ballistix Tactical LP 8GB
Price: £39
Manufacturer: Crucial
Capacity: 8GB (2x 4GB)
Speed: 1,600MHz
Latency: 8-8-8-24
Voltage: 1.35v

Solid state drive

Sub-£100 SSDs are no longer the tiny, slow devices they used to be


The solid state drive market is probably the most vibrant of all sectors of the PC components landscape, and that means it's also the fastest moving. Which can make it both good and bad news for the consumer. More specifically, that's bad news for the early-adopter as new technology is rolling around at a rate of knots.

This makes your latest performance SSD purchase effectively obsolete almost by the time you unwrap it and jam a Windows installation on it. But for the rest of us, it's great news as we can then get the top drives of the last generation - which, let's not forget, are still quality examples of SSD-dom - for a fraction of the price they once retailed at. It also means that where we were once scrabbling around for storage space for both our OS and a handful of games on a 64GB SSD, we can now look to spread out a bit more with 120 to 128GB drives now dropping below the £100 mark.

We've had SandForce drives knocking around the £70 mark for a 120GB drive - something like the Kingston HyperX - for a while now. And though they're definitely decent drives, especially for the money, they don't represent the pinnacle of SSD controller technology any more. For that you've got to be looking towards the likes of Marvell, Samsung and the OCZ-owned Indilinx.

Now that those guys are tossing out new SSD memory controllers that are toppling the SandForce stranglehold, we're seeing prices drop once more. But what's the benefit of an SSD upgrade?

Well, it depends on your starting point. If you've yet to take the plunge then it's a great time to make the upgrade from your existing mechanical hard drive. The difference between booting your PC and your games from an SSD over an HDD is practically night and day, but in general day-to-day use you'll notice your PC is much faster and more responsive too.

The easy example is the classic virus check. Originally, checking for viruses took forever, because the whole system was bottlenecking around the spinning platters of your hard drive. With solid-state storage, the bottleneck has been shifted to how fast your CPU can churn through the data the solid-state drive is throwing at it. Run a check on a rig with a HDD, and the CPU utilisation will hover around 15 per cent - chuck that onto a PC with an SSD, and the CPU will max out if you let it.

Lean on me

If you were worried about taking the plunge because of reliability fears, you can probably relax now. SSD failure rates are now below that of HDDs, and the performance degradation that used to accompany the early drives has more or less been eradicated.

So what do we recommend? Well, right now OCZ's Vector is the finest SSD around, but it's only just ahead of its older Vertex 4 stablemate - and you can pick up that excellent drive for less than £100 in 128GB trim. And because it's running on a Marvell controller with Indilinx firmware, it's a lot more versatile than an equivalent SandForce-based drive.