SSD prices continue tumbling in Q3

Majority slips under $1/GB

For years, PC enthusiasts complained that solid-state drives were too expensive. Call us when prices drop below a dollar per gigabyte, they scoffed. Well, their phones have probably been ringing off the hook lately. SSD prices have plummeted to the point where most mainstream drives fall under the dollar-per-gig threshold.

We took our first look at the decline of SSD prices back in June, illustrating the trend with a mountain of data tracing drives all the way back to early 2011. A full quarter has passed since that article, so it's high time for an update. To find out if prices have continued their downward trajectory, we once again called upon the gracious folks at Camelegg, who provided us with another data dump for analysis—this time with even more drives. Camelegg tracks prices at Newegg, which is a pretty good indicator of prevailing market conditions.

First, let's look at how much prices fell during the third quarter, from July 1 to October 1. Ready your scroll wheel; this graph's a doozy.

But worth it, no? The data is clear: all but one of the nearly 40 SSDs we're monitoring costs less now than it did three months ago. The price drops amount to only single-digit percentages for a small handful of drives, mostly lower-capacity models. However, prices declined by at least 12% for the overwhelming majority.

OCZ appears to be the most aggressive discounter of the bunch. Several of its drives are effectively half-off, and many more have experienced reductions in the 17-42% range. Intel and Samsung SSDs have also benefited from substantial price drops. The cuts haven't been as dramatic on drives from Corsair and Crucial, though.

Our Technicolor chart doesn't tell the entire story, especially when it comes to those OCZ SSDs. Let's take a closer look at the day-to-day price changes for each drive since the beginning of 2012. Pay particular attention to the last quarter, from July onward. You can click on the buttons below each graph to switch between the various drive families.

Seriously, click on a few of the buttons and look at the beginning of July. The price of just about every one of OCZ's drives spiked on July 1, the first day of the third quarter. Those spikes taint our quarterly percentage-drop numbers somewhat, and we don't see similar behavior from any of the other drive makers.

Those brief flirtations with higher prices are just that. There are other spikes here and there, but none lasting more than a few days. Most of the time, the drives spend only a day living large before falling back down to reality. If you ignore those outliers, the decline over the past three months is still apparent, especially for the newer Vertex 4 and Agility 4 models.

Intel has had success in holding CPU prices steady, but there's a lot more competition in the SSD market. The ongoing price war between makers of SandForce-based drives has put downward pressure on the 520 Series, which uses the same controller silicon. Even after the deep cuts that followed the 520 Series' launch, there was still room for prices to drop substantially over the course of the third quarter.

The Intel 330 Series hasn't been around for as long, but the 60GB and 120GB versions both got notably cheaper in the past three months. The 240GB model only arrived in August, and it hasn't seen much action since. Neither has the 320 Series, whose prices have largely flat-lined, save for occasional cuts to the 300GB model.

Corsair's Force Series 3 and GT SSDs have been around for a while now, and they're getting more affordable with each passing month. The magnitude of the recent price reductions isn't as big as for some of the other drives, but the prices are very low overall. Corsair has added a number of new models to its SSD lineup since these Force Series drives were introduced, and we may need to track the fresh additions in our next update.

Our last set of plots covers a collection of popular favorites. The Crucial m4 is more than a year and a half old, and its days of dramatic price drops seem to be over, apart from one-day discounts. Samsung's 830 Series is only about a year old, and it's due to be replaced by the 840 Series in a couple weeks. Perhaps to prepare for the newcomer's arrival, the 830 Series' price has fallen over the past three months. As we've seen with all of the other drive families, the higher-capacity models are dropping more than those in the 64GB range.

We added the M5S to get a sense of the latest from Plextor. This particular model has only been on the market since August, and it's interesting to note that prices have been slashed and have then bounced back a couple of times during that relatively short span. Only the 64GB variant has resisted rebounding. There aren't enough data to call it a trend just yet, though.

Since I opened with a discussion of cost per gigabyte, that's a fitting place to end. We've run the numbers on all the drives using the median price for the last seven days.

The higher-capacity models dominate the top of the chart, as do most OCZ offerings. What impresses me most is the sheer number of SSDs costing less than a dollar per gig right now. 22 of the 38 drives meet that arbitrary mark, and all but two of those run $0.86/GB or less. A handful of drives is just a few cents shy of the $1/GB threshold, too. Indeed, only Intel's 320 Series, plus a collection of 40-64GB models, cost north of $1.11/GB.

We should note that Camelegg's data doesn't include specials like coupon codes or mail-in rebates. Those deals can lower prices even further, and there's usually at least one every week.TR

Tags: Storage

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