Solid-State Drives Go Mainstream

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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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