It’s no secret that replacing your notebook’s hard drive with a solid state disk can dramatically transform your computing experience. With even last year’s SSDs, tasks such as opening large files or starting bulky applications take mere moments to complete. And if you own a notebook powered by one of Intel’s 2nd Generation Core Series CPUs, you’re in for a whole new world of fast, courtesy of SATA III, a high-speed interface Intel included in its new chipsets starting in 2011.
While SATA II SSDs were often limited by the 3 GB/s cap imposed by their older interface, a new generation of SATA III drives takes full advantage of this increased bandwidth. For example, the SATA III-based Samsung 830 series was able to copy a 3.1GB file in just 13 seconds, nearly twice as fast as the SATA II-powered Samsung 430 series (24 seconds), which won our previous SSD round-up. That kind of data rate is also over three times as fast as a 7,200-rpm hard drive (71.7 seconds).
However, not all SATA III drives are created equal. We took four of the leading SSDs and put them through a battery of tests to determine which one belongs in your notebook.
Featuring a triple-core Samsung controller designed to improve multitasking, the 830 series seeks to improve upon the 470 series, which was fast enough to win our previous SSD shootout in February. Like its predecessor, the 830 Series has an attractive brushed-metal case that really stands out in a crowd. It also is available with an upgrade kit that features a USB-to-SATA adapter and Norton Ghost software for easily migrating your data, OS, and apps from your old hard drive.
The 830 series carries a highly competitive MSRP of $429 for the 256GB capacity and $229 for the 128GB size. That’s a rate of $1.67 and $1.78 per GB respectively, but we expect those numbers to be even lower at retail.
Since entering the SSD market in 2008, Intel has earned a strong reputation for building high-speed drivers with its own controllers. With the SSD 510, the company decided to go with a Marvell 9174 controller that’s used by other manufacturers such as Corsair and Micron, but continues to use its own firmware.
At $2.27 per GB for the 250GB size ($569) and $2.31 per GB for the 120GB capacity ($278), Intel’s drive is one of the more expensive on the market.
Featuring the popular SandForce 2281 controller chip found in at least a dozen other drives, the Vertex 3 continues OCZ’s tradition of offering high-speed drives at a low cost. At $1.53 per GB for the 240GB capacity ($369) and $1.66 per GB for the 120GB size, this is one of the best deals you can score.
The Wildfire also features a SandForce 2281 controller, but with different NAND flash memory and firmware than the Vertex 3. At $1.99 per GB for the 120GB capacity and $1.96 per GB for the 240GB size ($469), this drive is one of the more affordable options in its class.
To get an idea of what to expect we also compared the four SATA III drives to the Samsung 470 series, a SATA II SSD which won our previous SSD roundup, and to a 500GB 7,200 rpm hard drive.