Anyone up for a $239 SSD?

The cost of a decent SSD skipped the $299 mark and zoomed all the way down below $249.

Super Talent’s MasterDrive MX is available in several capacities, but the most interesting one to people who want performance on the cheap is the 30 GB model, which Newegg is selling for $239.While $239 for 30 gigs of storage isn’t very interesting when an 80 GB drive using conventional technology sells for less than 50 bucks, SSDs have never been about the lowest cost per gig. But $239 for an SSD that gives enough capacity to be reasonably useful and reasonable speed is big news, considering many SSDs of similar capacity still cost closer to $500.

There’s a reasonably full review of the MasterDrive MX available at TweakTown. TweakTown reviewed the 60 GB model, which costs closer to $500.

But here’s the short of it. This inexpensive Super Talent drive costs $239 for the 30 GB model, gives consistent read performance of around 100 megabytes per second, gives slower write performance a shade under 40 megabytes per second, and seek times of 0.5 ms.

The read performance is very good. The write performance is less impressive, but for many uses is also a lot less important. The seek time isn’t as good as current high-end SSDs, which weigh in at around 0.2 ms, but 0.5 ms is still far better than a conventional hard drive. A modern high-end 15K SCSI drive offers seek times ranging from 3.3 to 4 ms.

I can see drives like the MasterDrive MX being a huge boon for productivity-oriented desktop and laptop computers. While its 30 GB capacity is small, it’s more than large enough to hold Windows XP, an office suite, and some other productivity software while leaving plenty of room for data files. The resulting system will run cooler and use less power (the Tom’s Hardware test claiming that SSDs don’t decrease power usage has pretty well been discredited because the benchmarks they were using caused the CPU to work a lot harder), which will cut electric bills. Plus the system will be a lot quieter, which is nice in business environments. The system will boot quickly and load applications lightning fast.

How fast? Some of the reviews on Newegg are saying Vista boots in 34 seconds (XP should be similar, and possibly a little faster) and Photoshop CS3, a notoriously slow loader, loads in 5 seconds.

Of course it would be nice to see write speeds higher than 40 megabytes per second, but I still remember when conventional hard drives finally got to the point of delivering read speeds greater than 33 megabytes per second and I’d like to think it wasn’t that long ago. The people who will notice the difference the most are those who are creating and editing large media files, and those are precisely the people who aren’t likely to be using a 30 GB drive because 30 gigs isn’t very much space for those uses.

So what’s the downside?

The thing that keeps me from buying one of these today is the number of reviews on Newegg reporting problems. I always take those reviews with a grain of salt, but nearly half the reviews report the same strange failures: Usually the drive works fine, but then after a number of days it starts reporting itself as a 4 GB drive and stops operating. If one person out of 20 reports the problem, I’m willing to blame that on a weird incompatibility, user error, or something else. But when half the respondents report nearly identical symptoms, there’s probably something to it. So I’m hesitant to be an early adopter of this drive, as much as I’d love to get one.

It’s probably a good time to wait anyway. OCZ just announced a new drive, which they’re calling Core. Directron is taking preorders on them, estimating they’ll be in stock next week. OCZ’s 32 GB model is selling for $220 and promising slightly faster read speeds, but more importantly, write speeds along the lines of 80 MB per second. If Directron has them next week, then I’m sure Newegg will have them too, and it’ll probably only be a few weeks before those reviews start pouring in too.

As much as I hate to wait, I still didn’t anticipate prices falling this far until December. This development makes it look like I may buy one sometime in August. Color me happy.

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