SSDs are below $1 per gigabyte

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s getting easier and easier to find SSDs priced at or below $1 per gigabyte. You’ll generally have to buy at least 120 GB of storage to hit that price point, but at this point in time, that’s about the smallest drive I would consider anyway.

I predicted in March 2011 that we would reach $1 per gigabyte in late 2012. Here we are at mid-2012, and we’re a bit below that, so the industry got us there a few weeks ahead of schedule. I’m not the least bit unhappy that I was wrong. And yes, they will someday be cheaper than hard drives.

I own two Samsung 830s, a Kingston V+100, an Intel 320, and a first-generation OCZ Vertex. If I were buying one today–I have little reason to–I’d stick with Samsung, Intel, or Crucial. The biggest reason is because those three companies make flash memory chips, so they get the first pick of any chips they make. That’s not to say the chips they sell everyone else are junk, but if there is any perceptible difference in quality, they’re going to save the best chips to put in their own drives.

I’ll also note that Samsung has been making conventional hard drives for about 20 years, so they know how mass storage devices are supposed to operate. Intel has been making hard drive controllers for about the same length of time, so they at the very least know how the motherboard expects a mass storage device to operate. So, all else being equal, I’d pick Intel or Samsung for that reason.

Then again, there are some outstanding deals out there right now on Crucial’s M4 drive. It’s no longer the fastest drive on the market, but it’s still competitive, and it’s been on the market about 14 months, which is a very long time for an SSD. It’s a mature drive that hasn’t had much in the way of issues throughout its lifetime. I don’t own an M4 but wouldn’t hesitate to buy one if I needed another SSD.

The up-front price on Intel’s 330 series is higher than Crucial, but their drives come with rebates that knock the prices well below the $1 per gigabyte level if you’re willing to deal with rebates.

Samsung was pricing drives aggressively a couple of months back; they’ve backed off for the time being on the 830. It’s a good drive, but unless you know the 830 outperforms the others for something specific that you do, there’s no reason to pay extra for it.

I don’t obsess over SSD performance; any current or recent-generation SSD will trounce conventional HDD performance. I do concern myself with reliability, which is why I stick with companies who make the chips themselves. They get first pick, and their lower overhead allows them to spend more on engineering. I don’t know for a fact that they spend more on engineering, but OCZ’s recent troubles make me nervous.

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