The Great High-end SSD Shootout


Conclusion

Not All SSDs Are Created Equal

As we’ve mentioned at the start of the article, with prices of SSDs dropping to all-time lows, there has never been a better time to upgrade to one. As we’ve seen from the performance charts, not all SSDs are created equal. They might have the same controller and type of memory, but their performance can still differ.

Why is that so, you may wonder. For one, not all hardware are equal. Specifically, not all memory are created equal and companies like Intel and Hynix (Strontium), who have their own memory-making facility, will undoubtedly keep the best chips for themselves.

Secondly, performance of a drive is largely affected by its firmware too and certain makers such as Intel, OCZ and Plextor, claim to have firmware exclusive to their drives and that have been specially tweaked to improve performance.

To that end, let’s take a look at our detailed ratings breakdown for the drives. Do note that we have revised the ratings of some of the drives that were previously reviewed to better factor in the newer price points at this point of time, improved performance from newer firmware and a refreshed comparison. This is because the previous review ratings and findings are applicable for products reviewed at that point of time. All revisions have been noted in brackets for proper clarity and accountability.

Detailed Ratings Breakdown
 

ADATA XPG SX900

Corsair Neutron GTX Crucial M4 Intel SSD 520 Series Kingston HyperX 3K OCZ Vector Plextor M5 Pro SanDisk Extreme Strontium Hawk Transcend SSD720
Performance 8 9 6 8.5 8 8.5 8 8.5 8 8.5
Features 6.5 6.5 6 7 6.5 7 6.5 6 (adjusted downwards from 7) 6 6.5
Value 6 8 5 8 6 6.5 7 8.5 (adjusted upwards from 7) 8 7.5 (adjusted downwards from 8)
Price S$329 $345 $275 $313 $349 $399 $289 $259 $219 $335
Overall Rating 7.5 8.5  6 8 7.5 8 7.5 8 7.5 8


The Corsair Neutron GTX was chosen as the overall winner because of its all-round performance. Looking at raw performance alone, the Corsair Neutron GTX was the standout drive because for most of our benchmarks it was nearly always the fastest or amongst the quickest drives. Its performance on AS SSD, PCMark 7 and Iometer was especially noteworthy. And while it may be a tad pricey at S$345, we feel that its slight premium over the other drives is well justified considering the performance it packs.

The Intel SSD 520 Series is a perennial favorite amongst enthusiasts and for good reason. Mainly it is because it is still amongst the fastest drives available in the market right now. Furthermore, it is backed by Intel’s hallowed reputation for making reliable drives. Sadly, it lost out to the Corsair only by the slightest of margins because in terms of performance, it just wasn’t as consistent.

The OCZ Vector is the company's first in-house effort and it is a compelling and interesting one, mainly because its new Indilinx Barefoot 3 controller shows lots of promise. In our testing, we noticed that it was amongst the fastest drives, but it was a little inconsistent as it failed to complete PCMark Vantage and had problems running HD Tune Pro, and that cost it some points. And at S$399, it costs significantly more than its competitors.

The SanDisk Extreme is one of the few drives to use Toggle-Mode MLC NAND memory and it combines decent performance and a very attractive price tag. However, that is not enough to differentiate it from this crowded playing field.

The Transcend SSD720’s combination of the SandForce SF-2281 controller and Toggle-Mode NAND memory makes it a formidable drive as it was one of the quicker drives with above average performance. It was consistent too as it could complete all the benchmarks without a hitch. While its price and overall performance makes it a solid recommendation, it is however not our overall winner.

Overall, the ADATA XPG SX900 is a competent drive with decent performance characteristics, but it does little to stand out in this crowded playing field. Furthermore, considering its performance, it’s priced a little too high since they are good alternatives from SanDisk and Strontium.

The Kingston HyperX 3K is one of the faster drives in this shootout, but other that, there’s not much else going for it. Its price is also a little too steep to be truly competitive considering there are so many fine alternatives around.

As far as Marvell-powered SSDs go, the Plextor M5 Pro is one of the best. It boasts very fast write performance and comes at an attractive price. However, despite numerous firmware updates, the drive continued to experience problems on certain benchmarks.

The Strontium Hawk is Hynix’s first SSD offering and it has good performance and very attractive pricing. This drive is highly recommended especially if you are on a budget, but if you have the cash to splash, do know that there are more capable drives around.

Rounding up our shootout is the disappointing Crucial M4. Its performance was almost always below average and its packaging was truly basic, since it didn’t come with any accessory whatsoever - not even a 3.5-inch HDD bay adapter. Hence, even though it is one of the more affordable drive, its affordability alone is not enough to redeem itself. 

Final Ratings