SSDs for the masses, 2014 edition

If you’re looking for alternatives to nasty platters of spinning rust for storing your data, I have good news for you: SSDs are getting cheaper, and fast. They aren’t as cheap as rust, but there’s probably a good reason for that if you think about it for a minute.

PNY has been tempting me all year with the PNY XLR8, a 240 GB drive that typically sells for $80-$90 after a rebate. It uses an inexpensive controller to deliver middling performance, but compared to the speed that spinning rust can deliver, it’s still going to be pretty good. Then Micron came along with its Crucial MX100, which delivers 240 GB for $110, or 480 GB for $225, along with enthusiast-grade performance. Buying a drive from PNY makes me a bit nervous because they’re buying memory from Micron. Micron makes good memory of course, but Micron and Intel get first dibs because they jointly own the factory. So the best Micron-branded memory goes into Micron’s own drives. The rest of the best gets Intel’s branding on it and goes into Intel drives. Companies like PNY get the second-best stuff.

So, all things being equal, I always recommend buying drives from companies that own the factories. That means buying drives from Micron, Intel, Samsung, Toshiba, and Sandisk. They get the best chips, so their drives will probably last longer than drives made with the chips they chose to sell to someone else. On top of that, they know their chips better than anyone else does so they can wring more performance out of their chips than a company like PNY can.

For the price PNY was asking, I seriously considered buying the drive anyway. But not when Micron can offer its reliablity and performance for $10 more at the 240 GB level, or double me to 480 GB while only charging a $5 premium for the highest available capacity. (You still almost always pay a premium for the highest capacity SSDs in a family of drives.)

Micron has always delivered good drives that delivered a good combination of reliability and performance, but I can’t remember there ever being a time that they were a value leader. Suddenly they are, and I think this means things are about to get interesting.

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