Solid-State Drives Go Mainstream

Hits and Misses

In our tests of eight drives, three eclipsed the rest of the field. (To see test results for the top five, check out our solid-state drives chart.) Leading the way was Intel's X25-M Solid State Drive 160GB. The newest Intel SSD drive bested last year's model, whipping through our tests and coming out ahead or in a statistical tie with our number two, the Samsung MLC SSD 256GB. A few seconds behind them was the Corsair P256--not a surprising result given that it has the Samsung drive inside.

In the middle were Patriot's Torqx 128GB and Super Talent's Ultra SATA SSD (also 128GB), decently priced at $405 and $355, respectively.

Bringing up the rear were two Ritek models (the RiData Ultra-S SATA 64GB and 128GB SSD) and Imation's 128GB M-Class Solid State. All three struggled in copying 3GB of files and folders, as well as in copying a single large file; they may not have been doing parallel writing, which can be necessary in a drive for dealing with the fact that flash's erase-write cycle is intrinsically slow.

Imation M-Class Solid State
Even though the Imation drive was slow, I liked two of its features: It sports a housing for use inside and outside a PC, and it includes a USB adapter for external use. You don't get that kind of long-term flexibility from the other drives here.

Given their still-high per-gigabyte price, SSDs have mixed appeal. The greatest value potential comes when you use an SSD in conjunction with an internal, standard hard drive (clearly, a less viable option for laptop users). SSDs are strong performers, especially on disk-read-intensive tasks, and an SSD can give an aging system new life; but before you grab one, you should consider whether the speed gains justify the sacrifice in storage space.

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