SSD pricing continues to be competitive, and if I were buying an SSD today, I would have a tough decision ahead of me. The Crucial BX100 would be the obvious choice, with its good speed, super-low power consumption, and attractive price, at $99 for the 250GB model and around $185 for the 500GB model.

But there’s an underdog: the PNY CS1111. Bear with me on that one: It’s a little slower than the Crucial, but costs 15% less.

First, the advantages of Crucial: Micron makes the chips, so they get the best chips and sell the mid-grade stuff to companies like PNY. They’ve been making SSDs a few years longer than PNY, and have a great track record. You also know exactly what you’re getting with Crucial.

But let’s talk about PNY. They’ve been making memory modules a very long time. I upgraded the first PC I bought back in 1994–I was a Commodore and Amiga guy before 1994–with PNY modules. They were fine. Since then, I’ve bought PNY modules here and there and done fine with them. I prefer to buy Crucial and Kingston memory because it’s never failed for me and my employers can always get one or the other from one of their preferred suppliers, but PNY has done fine for me when I’ve needed memory for myself and PNY was available and the others weren’t. I’ve also bought PNY video cards and done fine with them.

The same companies that make DRAM generally make flash, so PNY has relationships with all of the major manufacturers. If the phone rings and it’s PNY, they’re going to answer.

The caveats with PNY are that they will use whatever controller and memory meet a minimum performance threshold, so you can buy two of the same drive and one might outperform the other one noticeably. The hardware review sites all get the best drives, of course, so the drive the hardware sites get may very well perform with a BX100, but the drive you get might be 15-20% slower. This annoys some people. It would annoy me more if it weren’t a budget-oriented drive. If I’m looking for price, I’ll deal with the luck of the markets. If I’m looking for performance, I’m not looking at PNY in the first place–I’m looking at Crucial and Samsung.

You have to be careful with consumer reviews but I also think if you know what you’re talking about, you can tell the reviewers who don’t and eliminate those. I see a handful of DOA PNY drives reported, but not an epidemic. Most of the reviews from purchasers seem to be satisfied with the drive.

Either drive will be far faster than a traditional, old-fashioned hard drive. If I were buying for myself, I’d probably go Crucial, but if I had a tight budget and the PNY allowed me to stay on budget, or if I were buying a drive for a machine I use for experimentation, I’d be willing to buy the PNY.