The Best SSDs and Hard Drives For Your Money: March 2014: More prices drops!

| March 9, 2014 | (12)

Updated on March 9th 2014

The new Intel 730 series SSD.

The new Intel 730 series SSD.

The Best SSDs and HDDs For Your Money?

By that, I mean the drives that offer the best performance, reliability and/or most capacity at a set price. Why would you want that?

Because you want the best bang for the buck, because you want the best SSD and best HDD for your money and because you want the highest performance, reliability and capacity possible, right?

If you have the time to do research… but who does in this busy world?

However, I do realize that not everyone has the time to read detailed SSD / HDD reviews nor does everyone can make sense of their complex specifications.

This is why I write this guide for you: To help you save your time, sanity and money by letting you know what are the best SSD / HDD for your money.

Keep in mind:
1. This list is based on the best prices from B&H, NewEgg and/or Amazon that I’ve seen on March 9th 2014. Prices and availability change all the time. While I can’t keep up with ever changing prices, I can suggest to you great drives that you won’t regret buying.
2. All prices are based on new drives prices, no used or open box drives are listed; they might be a good deal but come with trade offs such as limited return policy, limited warranty, etc.

This article is in three parts:

1. The Best Solid State Drives (SSDs) For Your Money.
2. The Best Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) For Your Money.
3. RAID 0,1,5 and 10: A quick and easy summary.

The Best SSDs For Your Money:

SSD FAQ:

If you wondering “Who are SSDs for?”, if you want a quick recap on what a SSD is, wonder about reports of SSDs slowing down over time or want to learn more about TRIM and/or TRIM with RAID, I invite you to read our SSD FAQ.

What size should I get for my SSD?
Common sizes are: 60/64GB, 120/128GB, 250/256GB, 500/512GB, 750GB and 960GB/1TB.

I recommend leaving about 20% of your SSD unused, to keep its performance high.

  • 64GB: Good to install the OS and a few select programs. Another drive for additional storage is a must.
  • 120GB: Good for the OS and some programs/games with a bit of music. Another drive for additional storage is highly recommended.
  • 250GB: Good choice for a some programs, some games, some music files and some TV shows/movies. Another drive for additional storage is recommended, especially if you have a lot of TV/movies, even more so in HD.
  • 500GB: Great for many programs, games, your music collection and some TV shows/movies. Another drive for additional storage can be useful for HD content.
  • 750GB: A good mid-way option between 500GB and 1TB.
  • 1TB: Best option if your SSD is your only drive and have many programs, games, a music collection and High-definition TV shows/movies. Another drive for additional storage isn’t necessary, unless you have a vast collection of HD content.

Note that you can save some space by moving “My Documents” to another drive. One of our forums members, mwhals, posted a great tutorial on how to do so on the forums here.

March 2014 Update:

- Corsair: The Neutron isn’t a bad SSD, but suffers from rather poor write speeds and is overpriced. The Neutron GTX offers better writes speeds and higher performance, but is priced high compared to competitors offering similar performance at lower prices or superior performance at similar prices, which is why I don’t recommend the Corsair Neutron and Neutron GTX SSDs. Avoid the older Nova, Force and Force GT SSDs.
- Crucial: Crucial’s M500 series performance is average but their prices keeps dropping and they are a good choice for a low cost SSD. They also support the Microsoft’s eDrive spec for encryption. Avoid the older V4 and M4 SSDs.
- Intel: Intel new 730 series SSDs offer good read but poor write performance, as well as high power consumption and it doesn’t support encryption. Worse, they are priced far above the competition, which makes them hard to recommend. Avoid older Intel SSDs, as their performance isn’t that great and they are way overpriced for the performance that they offer. Even reliability wise, Samsung SSDs tops them.
- Kingston: The HyperX SSDs offer good performance, but prices aren’t competitive vs the competition . The V300 series offers lower performance at lower prices, interesting for a 60GB SSD.
- Mushkin: Mushkin hasn’t launched anything interesting lately and their older SSDs aren’t competitive from a performance/price point of view. On top of that, the reliability of Mushkin SSDs is far from top-notch.
- OCZ: OCZ just went bankrupt and were bought by Toshiba. Toshiba will cover warranties for some of OCZ SSDs, but considering OCZ terrible reliability in the past, I still recommend avoiding their products..
- Plextor: The M5S and MP5 series get beaten by the Samsung 840 EVO both on performance and prices.
- Samsung: Samsung has been dropping the prices on their 840 EVO series of SSDs, which continues to be one of the fastest SSD. It also now supports TCG Opal and thus Microsoft’s eDrive spec for encryption with the latest firmware. Performance wise, the 840 EVO is nearly, but not quite as fast as the Samsung 840 Pro, which continue to offers unmatched performance. On top of that, Samsung SSDs reliability is unmatched. Finally, The Samsung 840 EVO and 840 Pro SSDs also offer some of the lowest power consumption for SSDs, making them ideal for notebooks.
- Sandisk: The Extreme II line-up offers performance that trades blows with the Samsung 840 EVO and 840 Pro, being faster than the 840 EVO, but not quite as fast as the 840 Pro. It is priced accordingly and it offers the same 5 years warranty as the 840 Pro, hence why I now recommend it. Avoid for Macbook Pro users: There appears to be an issue with Macbook pro users with the their laptops taking 20-30 seconds to come back from sleep mode.

SSD Failure Rates:

From Marc Prieur, of hardware.fr, here are the SSDs failures rates according to a French e-tailer as of October 2013:
- Samsung 0,28%
- Intel 0,63%
- Kingston 1,00%
- Corsair 1,88%
- Crucial 2,26%
- OCZ 2,27%

The failure rates are based on parts sold between October 1st 2012 and April 1st 2013, for returns before October 2013, which represents 6 months to one year of usage. The statistics per brand are based on a sample of at least 500 sales.

Do note that although these numbers don’t paint the complete picture of world wide failure rates, but they are still an interesting sample to look at.

All hard drives and all SSDs are prone to failure though, which is why you should Have a Backup System that you can rely on!

Best SSD for $50:

- $49.99 – Kingston Digital 60GB SSDNow V300

  • Price: $49.99
  • Capacity: 60GB
  • Price per GB: $0.83/GB
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter? No.

At $50, this is the least expensive SSD that I recommend.

Recommended if you want a reliable 60GB SSD with good performance, at a low price.

If you’re looking for a SSD to upgrade an older machine, or simply to host the OS along with a few important applications/games, at a minimum cost, this is my recommendation.

It’s not the largest nor fastest SSD, but for $50, it offers great performance for a SSD its size and it’s a great choice to give a second life to an older machine or laptop that doesn’t need much capacity, or as a boot drive that hosts the OS along with a few important applications/games.

It does not includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter, so if you want to use it in a desktop, make sure that either your case supports 2.5″ drives or get a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter for $8 at B&H (International Shipping).

Best SSD for $75:

Crucial M500 120GB

- $74.99 at Amazon (USA Shipping)
- $74.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

  • Price: $74.99
  • Capacity: 120GB
  • Price per GB: $0.62/GB
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter? No.

At $75, this is the least expensive 120GB SSD that I recommend.

Recommended if you want a reliable 120GB SSD with average performance (for a SSD, still far better than a hard drive), at a very low price.

If you’re looking for a SSD to upgrade an older machine, or simply to host the OS along with a few important applications/games, at a minimum cost, this is my recommendation.

While the Kingston V300 is available for $7 less, you’re better off spending $7 more to get higher performance, as well as encryption support with the M500.

It does not includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter, so if you want to use it in a desktop, make sure that either your case supports 2.5″ drives or get a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter for $8 at B&H (International Shipping).

Best SSD for $90:

Samsung 840 EVO 120GB

- $89.89 at Amazon (USA)
- $89.89 at B&H (International Shipping)

  • Price: $90
  • Capacity: 120GB
  • Price per GB: $0.75/GB
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter? No.

The Samsung 840 EVO 120GB offers great performance, great reliability and it offers 120GB of storage capacity for only $90, or $0.75 per GB.

Recommended if you want a reliable and high performance 120GB SSD at a great price.

It does not includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter, so if you want to use it in a desktop, make sure that either your case supports 2.5″ drives or get a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter for $8 at B&H (International Shipping).

Best SSD for $100:

Sandisk Extreme II 120GB

$99.00 at Amazon (USA)

  • Price: $99
  • Capacity: 120GB
  • Price per GB: $0.82/GB
  • Warranty: 5 years
  • Includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter? No.

Offering higher performance than the Samsung 840 EVO, as well as a longer 5 years warranty, the Sandisk Extreme II is an excellent choice if you want higher performance and/or a longer warranty without spending even more on the Samsung 840 Pro.

Avoid for Macbook Pro users: There appears to be an issue with Macbook pro users with the their laptops taking 20-30 seconds to come back from sleep mode.

It does not includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter, so if you want to use it in a desktop, make sure that either your case supports 2.5″ drives or get a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter for $8 at B&H (International Shipping).

Best SSD for $115:

Samsung 840 Pro 128GB

- $114.99 at Amazon (USA)
- $114.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

  • Price: $114.99
  • Capacity: 128GB
  • Price per GB: $0.90/GB
  • Warranty: 5 years
  • Includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter? No.

The Samsung 840 Pro is the fastest 2.5″ SSD available on the market right now, it offers top-notch reliability and a 5 years warranty.

Recommended if you want the fastest 128GB 2.5″ SSD.

It does not includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter, so if you want to use it in a desktop, make sure that either your case supports 2.5″ drives or get a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter for $8 at B&H (International Shipping).

Best SSD for $125:

Crucial M500 240GB

- $126.99 at Amazon (USA Shipping)
- $129.00 at B&H (International Shipping)

  • Price: $126.99
  • Capacity: 240GB
  • Price per GB: $0.53/GB
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter? No.

At $140, this is the least expensive 240GB SSD that I recommend, at only $0.53 per GB.

Recommended if you want a reliable 240GB SSD with average performance (for a SSD, still far better than a hard drive), at a very low price.

Support the Microsoft’s eDrive spec for encryption.

It does not includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter, so if you want to use it in a desktop, make sure that either your case supports 2.5″ drives or get a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter for $8 at B&H (International Shipping).

Best SSD for $140:

Samsung 840 EVO 250GB

$139.99 at Amazon (USA)
$149.00 at B&H (International Shipping)

  • Price: $139.99
  • Capacity: 250GB
  • Price per GB: $0.56/GB
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter? No.

The Samsung 840 EVO offers great performance and outstanding reliability at a low price of $140 for 250GB of storage capacity or $0.56/GB.

Recommended if you want a reliable and high performance 250GB SSD at a great price.

It does not includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter, so if you want to use it in a desktop, make sure that either your case supports 2.5″ drives or get a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter for $8 at B&H (International Shipping).

Best SSD for $170:

Sandisk Extreme II 240GB:

$167.31 at Amazon (USA)

  • Price: $167.31
  • Capacity: 240GB
  • Price per GB: $0.70/GB
  • Warranty: 5 years
  • Includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter? No.

Offering higher performance than the Samsung 840 EVO, as well as a longer 5 years warranty, the Sandisk Extreme II is an excellent choice if you want higher performance and/or a longer warranty without spending even more on the Samsung 840 Pro.

Avoid for Macbook Pro users: There appears to be an issue with Macbook pro users with the their laptops taking 20-30 seconds to come back from sleep mode.

It does not includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter, so if you want to use it in a desktop, make sure that either your case supports 2.5″ drives or get a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter for $8 at B&H (International Shipping).

Best SSD for $200:

Samsung 840 Pro 256GB

$205.99 at Amazon (USA)
$205.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

  • Price: $205.99
  • Capacity: 256GB
  • Price per GB: $0.80/GB
  • Warranty: 5 years
  • Includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter? No.

Offering top-notch performance and top-notch reliability, the Samsung 840 Pro is the fastest 2.5″ SSD, comes with a 5 years warranty and at $199.99 for 256GB, it’s also an excellent deal for such high-performance.

It does not includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter, so if you want to use it in a desktop, make sure that either your case supports 2.5″ drives or get a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter for $8 at B&H (International Shipping).

Best SSD for $250:

Crucial M500 480GB

- $249.99 at Amazon (USA Shipping)
- $249.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

  • Price: $249.99
  • Capacity: 480GB
  • Price per GB: $0.52/GB
  • Warranty: 5 years
  • Includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter? No.

At $259, this is the least expensive 480GB SSD that I recommend, at only $0.54 per GB.

Recommended if you want a reliable 240GB SSD with average performance (for a SSD, still far better than a hard drive), at a very low price.

Support the Microsoft’s eDrive spec for encryption.

It does not includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter, so if you want to use it in a desktop, make sure that either your case supports 2.5″ drives or get a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter for $8 at B&H (International Shipping).

Best SSD for $285:

$283.00 – SanDisk Extreme II 480 GB

  • Price: $283
  • Capacity: 480GB
  • Price per GiB: $0.60/GB
  • Warranty: 5 years
  • Includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter? No.

Replacing the Samsung 840 EVO at this price point, with its higher performance and longer warranty (5 years vs 3)

Avoid for Macbook Pro users: There appears to be an issue with Macbook pro users with the their laptops taking 20-30 seconds to come back from sleep mode.

It does not includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter, so if you want to use it in a desktop, make sure that either your case supports 2.5″ drives or get a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter for $8 at B&H (International Shipping).

For International Readers:
If you live outside the USA and can’t order from Amazon, consider the $299 – Samsung 840 EVO 500GB from B&H, who offers international shipping and accepts Paypal (as well as credit cards and other forms of payment).

If you’ll settle for nothing less than THE fastest 2.5″ SSD:
If you don’t want the 2nd fastest SSD and would rather get THE fastest 2.5″ SSD, the Samsung 840 Pro 512GB ( $397.00 at Amazon (USA) or $397.00 at B&H (International Shipping) ) is the way to go.

Best SSD for $350:

Samsung 840 EVO 750GB

- $349.99 at Amazon (USA)
- $389.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

  • Price: $349.99
  • Capacity: 750GB
  • Price per GB: $0.47/GB
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter? No.

The Samsung 840 EVO offers great performance and top-notch reliability at a low price of $350 for 750GB of storage capacity or $0.47/GB!

It does not includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter, so if you want to use it in a desktop, make sure that either your case supports 2.5″ drives or get a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter for $8 at B&H (International Shipping).

Best SSD for $460:

Crucial M500 960GB

- $454.99 at Amazon (USA Shipping)
- $454.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

  • Price: $454.99
  • Capacity: 960GB
  • Price per GB: $0.47/GB
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter? No.

At $455, this is the least expensive 960GB SSD that I recommend, at only $0.47 per GB.

Recommended if you want a reliable 960GB SSD with average performance (for a SSD, still far better than a hard drive), at a very low price.

Support the Microsoft’s eDrive spec for encryption.

It does not includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter, so if you want to use it in a desktop, make sure that either your case supports 2.5″ drives or get a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter for $8 at B&H (International Shipping).

Best SSD for $530:

Samsung 840 EVO 1TB

$484.00 at Amazon (USA)
$539.00 at B&H (International Shipping)

  • Price: $484
  • Capacity: 1TB
  • Price per GB: $0.48/GB
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter? No

The Samsung 840 EVO offers great performance and top-notch reliability at a low price of $484 for 1TB of storage capacity or $0.48/GB!

It does not includes a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter, so if you want to use it in a desktop, make sure that either your case supports 2.5″ drives or get a 2.5″ to 3.5″ bracket adapter for $8 at B&H (International Shipping).

Updating the SSD firmware

Recommended to get the latest bug fixes and the best performance possible out of your SSD.

Before you start using your SSD, I strongly urge you to double-check for an update to the SSD’s firmware, in order to get the latest bug fixes and the best performance. Make sure to read the instructions available on each update page, in order to understand how to properly update the firmware.

Some SSDs have newer firmware available than the one that they are shipped with, so make sure to double-check your SSD’s firmware version and to update it if’s not the latest.

If you update your SSD’s firmware after starting to use it, make sure to backup your data beforehand, as something could go wrong during the update process and you could lose the data on the SSD.

If you have questions regarding firmware updates, contact the manufacturer or visit their support forums.

To find the latest firmware for your SSD, simply visit the manufacturer’s website, find your SSD and look for the latest firmware. Instructions on how to update the firmware should be found on the same page, or in a link to a .pdf file.

The Best Hard Drives For Your Money

March 2014 update: What’s new?

Now with 2.5″ hard drive recommendations!

We now recommend 2.5″ hard drives, for laptops, ultrabooks and tablet users.Hard drive prices:

Price have been slowly dropping compared to prices in January 2013.

Performance

Performance wise, Western Digital Caviar Black took back the performance crown, followed by Seagate 7,200rpm hard drives then by Hitachi and Toshiba drives in last place.

Hard Drive Failure Rates:

From Marc Prieur, of hardware.fr, here are the hard drives failures rates according to a French e-tailer as of October 2013:

  1. Seagate 0.95%
  2. Hitachi 1.16%
  3. Western Digital 1.19%
  4. Toshiba 1.54%

The failure rates are based on parts sold between October 1st 2012 and April 1st 2013, for returns before October 2013, which represents 6 months to one year of usage. The statistics per brand are based on a sample of at least 500 sales.

Do note that although these numbers don’t paint the complete picture of world wide failure rates, but they are still an interesting sample to look at.

All hard drives and all SSDs are prone to failure though, which is why you should Have a Backup System that you can rely on!

The Best Hard Drives For Your Money:

Prices as of March 9th 2014:

3.5″ Hard Drives:

High performance 7,200rpm hard drives:

500GB Hard Drives:

  1. Seagate 500GB 7200rpm ST500DM002: $41.95 at Amazon (USA) or $50.95 at B&H (International Shipping) – Less expensive and faster than other alternatives, the Seagate Barracuda 500GB 7200rpm ST500DM002 is the way to go if you want a fast reliable 500GB hard drive.

1TB Hard Drives:

  1. Seagate ST1000DM003 1TB 7200rpm: $59.24 at Amazon (USA) or $59.99 at B&H (International Shipping) - 2nd fastest alternative at a much lower price than the fastest (WD Caviar Black), the Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200rpm ST1000DM003 is the way to go if you want a fast reliable 1TB hard drive without paying a premium.
  2. Western Digital Caviar Black WD1003FZEX 1TB 7200rpm: $85.99 at Amazon (USA)or $85.99 at B&H (International Shipping) - If you want the fastest 1TB hard drive on the market and/or a longer 5 years warranty.

2TB Hard Drives:

  1. Seagate ST2000DM001 2TB 7200rpm: $87.96 at Amazon (USA) or $87.96 at B&H (International) – 2nd fastest alternative at a much lower price than the fastest (WD Caviar Black), the Seagate Barracuda 2TB 7200rpm ST2000DM001 is the way to go if you want a fast reliable 2TB hard drive without paying a premium.
  2. Western Digital Caviar Black WD2003FZEX 2TB 7200rpm: $149.99 at Amazon (USA) or $144.99 at B&H (International) – If you want the fastest 2TB hard drive on the market and/or a longer 5 years warranty.

3TB+ Hard Drives:

  1. Seagate ST3000DM001 3TB 7200rpm: $109.99 at Amazon (USA) or $109.99 at B&H (International) – 2nd fastest alternative at a much lower price than the fastest (WD Caviar Black), the Seagate Barracuda 3TB 7200rpm ST3000DM001 is the way to go if you want a fast reliable 3TB hard drive without paying a premium.
  2. Western Digital Caviar Black WD3003FZEX 3TB 7200rpm: $192.99 at Amazon (USA Shipping) or $194.99 at B&H (International) – If you want the fastest 3TB hard drive on the market and/or a longer 5 years warranty.
  3. Western Digital Caviar Black WD4003FZEX 4TB 7200rpm: $249.99 at Amazon (USA Shipping) or $249.99 at B&H (International) – If you want the fastest 4TB hard drive on the market and/or a longer 5 years warranty.

Lower performance/lower power consumption hard drives, ideal for a single drive external enclosure:

Low power/moderate performance hard drive, designed for 24/7 usage, ideal for a multiple drives enclosures (NAS), workstations and RAID:

2.5″ Hard Drives:

Make sure to double-check that your laptop supports a hard drive with a height of 9.5mm. Most but not all laptops do support hard drives with a 9.5mm height, some are limited to drives with a 7mm height.

A unique dual drive (hard drive and SSD) in one 2.5″ drive!

The Western Digital Black 2: $224.95 at Amazon (USA) or $224.95 at B&H (International Shipping) is the world’s first 2.5-inch dual drive, with a 120 GB SSD and a 1 TB HDD in a single 2.5″ drive. An ideal solution if you only have a single hard drive bay in your laptop and want the high performance of a SSD with the large storage capacity of a hard drive. It’s not inexpensive, but it’s the best of both worlds if you’re limited to a single 2.5″ drive bay. If it’s too expensive, see alternatives below.

The drive initially shows up as a 120GB drive (the SSD part) when you install Windows. Once that is done, you install software from Western Digital to enable the 1TB drive (the hard drive part).

Fast boot-up times, fast program launch for often used programs and average performance otherwise:

If you’re looking for a less expensive alternative to the Western Digital Black 2, the Seagate Solid State Hybrid Hard Drives: 500GB: $74.95 at Amazon (USA) or $74.95 at BH (International Shipping), 1TB: $94.99 at Amazon (USA) or $94.99 at BH (International Shipping) is an interesting option.

It combines a 500GB/1TB hard drive with a 8GB SSD-like cache system, which puts into cache Windows (for faster boot-up speed, nearly as fast as a SSD) as well as often used programs/games. This is all done automatically, you have nothing to do to gain the benefits of the cache, but it also means that you have no control over it. Also note that when the files/program/game isn’t cached, performance is similar to a slower 5,400rpm hard drive. Still, you get faster boot times and faster program/game launch for the apps that you use often, at a reasonable price.

Note that it’s 7mm thick, allowing you to use in ultrabooks, tablets and other devices that require thinner 7mm hard drives.

High performance 2.5″ 7,200rpm hard drives with 5 years warranty:

250GB 2.5″ Hard Drive:

  1. Western Digital Black 7200rpm WD2500BEKT: $44.49 at Amazon (USA)

320GB 2.5″ Hard Drive:

  1. Western Digital Black 320GB 7200rpm WD3200BEKT: $50.99 at Amazon (USA)or $58.89 at B&H (International Shipping)

500GB 2.5″ Hard Drive:

  1. Western Digital Black 500GB 7200rpm WD5000BPKT: $58.99 at Amazon (USA) or $63.95 at B&H (International)

750GB 2.5″ Hard Drive:

  1. Western Digital Black 750GB 7200rpm WD7500BPKX: $70.99 at Amazon (USA) or $71.95 at B&H (International)

Low cost, lower performance, lower power consumption 2.5″ 5,400rpm hard drives:

500GB 7mm thick 2.5″ Hard Drive:

  1. Seagate 500GB 2.5″ 5400rpm 7mm ST500LT012: $51.99 at Amazon (USA) – 7mm thick, perfect for a low-cost hard drive that fits in thinner laptops and tablets.

750GB 2.5″ Hard Drive:

  1. Western Digital Blue 750GB 5400rpm 2.5″: $49.49 at Amazon (USA)or $62.99 at B&H (International Shipping) – Low cost, highly reliable 750GB 2.5″ hard drive with a 2 years warranty.
  2. Western Digital Red 750GB 5400rpm 2.5″ WD7500BFCX: $66.99 at Amazon (USA)or $76.30 at B&H (International Shipping) – Slightly higher cost, even more reliable as it is designed for 24/7 usage, comes with a 3 years warranty. Perfect for external enclosures where reliability is highly important.

1TB 2.5″ Hard Drive:

  1. Western Digital Blue 1TB 5400rpm 2.5″ WD10JPVX: $73.99 at Amazon (USA) or $72.88 at B&H (International) – Low cost, highly reliable 1TB 2.5″ hard drive with a 2 years warranty.
  2. Western Digital Red 1TB 5400rpm 2.5″ WD10JFCX: $82.99 at Amazon (USA) or $84.99 at B&H (International) – Slightly higher cost, even more reliable as it is designed for 24/7 usage, comes with a 3 years warranty. Perfect for external enclosures where reliability is highly important.
  3. Western Digital 2.5″ Blue 1TB 5400rpm 7mm thick WD10SPCX: $115.99 at Amazon (USA) – This variant is more expensive, but you only need it if you need a 7mm thick hard drive. Otherwise, pick the option above.

1.5TB 2.5″ Hard Drive:

  1. HGST Travelstar 5K1500 1.5TB 2.5″ 5400rpm 0J28001: $118.25 at Amazon (USA) or $89.49 at B&H (International) – High performance and a 5 years warranty.

RAID 0,1,5 and 10: A quick and easy summary

I’ve been asked by a few of you to explain RAID and the different modes in simple terms. In short, RAID consists of combining two or more hard drives (or SSDs) to improve performance and/or reliability.

While there are other modes than 0, 1, 5 and 10 (1+0), these are the main ones that usually come integrated on motherboards (Not all motherboards support RAID) , so they are the modes that most of you have access to, hence why I’ll focus on these. Let’s get started!

Regarding RAID and SSDs:
While RAID 0 can be used to improve performance and RAID 1 for data redundancy, RAID 5 and other higher levels of RAID are not recommended for SSDs, as they greatly increase the quantity of data writes, reducing the lifespan of SSDs.

An important note on using RAID for data loss protection:

Hard drives and SSDs do fail and RAID is not perfect. Sometimes, multiple drives will fail at once (Due to a faulty power supply, power surge, etc.). RAID has limits and is not a 100% fool proof solution for data backup.

It should only be used as one of many steps to protect your data, along with a Backup System that you can rely on!

Note:

In most cases, with motherboard’s integrated RAID controller, you must set up RAID within the BIOS and/or disk manager (i.e. Intel Matrix) prior to installing the OS. Consult your motherboard manual for details on how to set up RAID.

An example of how data is distributed with a RAID 0 array.

RAID 0:

Using a minimum of two drives and as many as you can install (3,4,5,6,etc.), the data is spread across all the drives, basically combining their read and write performance into one ultra-fast array.

The easiest and cheapest option to improve performance, you keep 100% of the combined drives capacity, but if any drive fails, you lose all data.

Important:

The more drives that you have in your RAID 0 array, the more likely it is to fail. You also get diminishing returns as you add more and more drives:

  • Two drives, get a theoretical 100% I/O performance gain but double risk of failure.
  • Three drives, get a theoretical 50% further performance gain but triple risk of failure.
  • Four drives, get a theoretical 25% further performance gain but quadruple risk of failure.
  • Five drives, get a theoretical 20% further performance gain and so on…

So you’ll want to avoid putting critical data that you can’t afford to lose on a RAID 0 array or at the very least, you’ll want to back it up somewhere else as well, since this is the least reliable solution, even less than a single drive.

An example of how data is distributed using RAID 1

RAID 1:

Using two drives, the second drive is a live backup of the first one, being an exact copy of it.

You lose a bit of write speed compared to a single drive (due to the overhead of copying the same data in real-time to two different drives), do gain read performance (Since the OS can read from both the drives) but you only get the capacity of one of the two drives (Two 1TB drives in RAID 1 =1TB total capacity).

The main pro is that you get a higher level of redundancy/reliability, compared to a single drive.

If one drive fails you do not lose data, you are still able to use the PC, but you will need to replace the drive and rebuild the RAID array before regaining redundancy and data loss protection from RAID 1.

An example of how data is distributed with a RAID 5 array.

RAID 5:

Requires a minimum of three drives. Unlike RAID 1 where data is identical on every drive, with RAID 5, data is spread across the drives, with parity bits spread across the drives in a way that if one drive fails, the RAID array will continue to function without any apparent change, other than some performance loss.

However, like with RAID 1, if you lose a drive, you’ll need to replace it before regaining redundancy and data loss protection from RAID 5.

RAID 1 vs RAID 5:

Both RAID 1 (mirroring or duplexing) or RAID 5 (striping with parity) offer good data redundancy should a single drive in a RAID array fail. The major difference however can be found in the system performance between RAID 1 and RAID 5.

RAID 5 experiences more heavy write overhead because of the additional parity data that has to be created and is then written to the disk array. RAID 1 does not experience this overhead.

Read performance, on the other hand, is usually better with a RAID 5 setup. This gets even better if your RAID 5 array has more than 3 disk.

RAID 5 read performance increases with more drives in an array because the more drives there are, the more read/write heads there are, and RAID 5 arrays have the awesome ability to read simultaneously from all the drives at the same time.

RAID 1 only has two drives by nature and is therefore limited in the number of read/write heads.

So in short, if all you want is decent redundancy and don’t care that much about performance, RAID 1 will be just fine. If you want more read performance (For faster applications launch, faster OS and game loading) and capacity (since RAID 1 is limited to two drives in most cases and more would be somewhat pointless), RAID 5 is the best out of the two.

RAID 10 (1+0):

However, if you want top notch performance and redundancy, RAID 1+0 (or 10, same thing) is the way to go. Basically, it’s a combination of RAID 1 redundancy with RAID 0 performance.

While RAID 1+0 is possible with two drives, four drives is preferable if you want the performance benefits.

Category: The Best PC Parts For Your Money

About Mathieu Bourgie: HR Founder - Computer expert with 13 years of experience in building, fixing and modifying PCs. Over the years, I’ve developed a passion for PC hardware and now I enjoy helping others build their own PCs! In April 2008, I launched Hardware Revolution and ... Read more at my about page .

  • Jay_S

    Any thoughts on the family of SSDs from Otherworldcomputing?

    • https://www.facebook.com/Mathieu.HR MathieuB

      From what I can tell, they have nothing interesting. Their Mercury Electra SSDs were launched in 2012 and support only 3Gbps, so they are two or at best one generation behind the latest SSDs. Performance is lackluster (even the “slower” Crucial M500 has no problem crushing them), power consumption is high and prices are not competitive. In other words, to avoid.

  • jangelelcangry

    According to your list, you won’t reccomend any pcie ssd no matter how fast those are because of Sandforce controller. Am I correct?

    • https://www.facebook.com/Mathieu.HR MathieuB

      That was the case in the past, when that was the only option available. Right now, I simply haven’t had the time to add them to this article and just like the mSATA and M.2 SSDs, I want to add them in future updates.

      • jangelelcangry

        Ok. Thanks for replying. Keep it up :) .

  • sriddle

    This is an awesome article – I’m the person you describe in the beginning.. no time to research .. I REALLY appreciate straight forward articles like this!

    • https://www.facebook.com/Mathieu.HR MathieuB

      Cheers, glad that you enjoyed this article. We have similar ones on video cards, APU/CPUs, etc.

  • Steve

    No mention of the Seagate 600 series? I have been very impressed with my 240gb thus far. Although I have found the random read/write is not as good as the 840, I have been quite impressed by the sequential rates. Although I guess with Samsung’s recent price drops, the price is not as different as it was before.

    • https://www.facebook.com/Mathieu.HR MathieuB

      I remember that when they first launched, I wanted to wait a month or two to see how reliable they were, considering that this was Seagate first in-house SSDs. Reliability looks okay, some issues with not being recognized or SMART errors. Samsung has the edge here, their reliability is top-notch.

      Then I saw that their prices were not competitive vs Samsung. I just took a look and that’s no longer the case, their 240GB and 480GB drives are actually slightly less expensive than the 840 EVO.

      Performance wise, the 600 and 840 EVO trade blows but I’d say that the 600 slightly comes on top.

      The main downside (other than reliability) to the 600 is its high idle power consumption (1.05W vs 0.31W), which is bad for notebooks, but not a problem for a desktop.

      So in the end, the Seagate 600 is a tad faster than the 840 EVO, at slightly lower prices (slightly lower capacities too), but with a higher idle power consumption and lower reliability.

      I’ll keep recommending the 840 EVO over the Seagate 600, as reliability is what matters the most in my opinion. Still, the Seagate 600 is a good alternative for desktop users looking for a slightly faster alternative to the 840 EVO.

      • Steve

        True. I guess I would have probably gone with an EVO too if I didn’t pick up my 240 for $110 on black friday.

        • https://www.facebook.com/Mathieu.HR MathieuB

          Can’t blame you for jumping on that deal, I would have too if I had been looking for a 240GB SSD at that time.

  • Alan Gintoki Sakata

    Hello. I would really appreciate an answer. My situation is this. I wanna buy a system raid array of at least 24TB. I’ve looking many brands like pegasus, buffalo, lacie with a cost between 2800 to 3500. Which one from those or if there are other brands is the best and how long is the lifetime from each HDD This price is somehow affordable to me. I didn’t know anything about raid system until just 3 weeks ago. And this device seems very useful, little expensive but seems worth. I’m using a HP laptop. How does I connect it to my laptop? Just like an USB?. Thanks. BTW I’m an anime, movie, photography, freak,