SSD prices down 38% in 2012, but up in Q4

2012 was a big year for solid-state drives. Multiple new models were released, some featuring fresh controller technology, and others with next-generation NAND. These drives were generally faster than their predecessors, but improved performance wasn’t what made SSDs such a hit. Instead, it was plummeting prices.

At the beginning of the year, the median cost per gigabyte for a consumer-grade SSD was $1.64. By December 31, that figure had fallen 38% to $1.02. Drives in the 240-256GB range enjoyed the biggest decrease, dropping 44% to just $0.83 per gig by year’s end. 120-128GB models didn’t quite break the dollar-per-gig threshold in December, but their prices were cut by 34% over the course of the year. At least that’s better than the 40-64GB SSDs we track; those currently ring in at about $1.29 per gig, a more modest 28% reduction from the beginning of 2012.

Although SSD prices fell steadily through the first three quarters of the year, they rebounded in Q4—and quite sharply in some cases. Here’s a look at the numbers courtesy of the folks at Camelegg, who provided us with a bounty of data for analysis. Camelegg tracks prices at Newegg, which is a pretty good indicator of prevailing market conditions. Mail-in rebates and coupon codes aren’t taken into account, though. We’ve limited this particular selection to drives that were in stock for the entire fourth quarter.

Whoa. Only a handful of SSDs got cheaper between October 1 and December 31 last year. The majority of drive prices went up, and most of them increased by double-digit percentages. These numbers are pretty stunning given the downward trajectory of the previous three quarters. Don’t forget that Q4 was filled with Black Friday and other holiday sales, too.

OCZ’s drives regressed the most, and they seem to have led the charge. Really, we shouldn’t be surprised. OCZ CEO Ryan Petersen was ousted this fall, in part for “boosting” discount programs to increase market share. Those programs resulted in substantial losses for the company, and OCZ has pursued a more conservative pricing strategy ever since. The competiton, it seems, has been eager to follow.

We can get a better sense of the data by plotting the day-to-day price changes for individual SSDs. The data has been truncated to show only the previous year, and you’ll want to pay particular attention to the last three months. We’ve also included a number of drives left out of our quarterly calculations: new models that were released mid-way through Q4 and those that were out of stock at the end of the quarter. You can click on the buttons below each graph to switch between the various drive families.

OCZ was the catalyst for Q4’s rising prices, so that’s where we’ll start. The higher-end Vertex drives suffered the biggest price increases, but the budget Agility models weren’t immune. You can actually see the Black Friday discounts toward the end of November. Too bad they didn’t last.

The new Vector SSD hasn’t been around long enough for its price to change dramatically. This is a premium model, and it’s substantially more expensive than OCZ’s other offerings.

Unlike OCZ, Intel largely resisted the urge to slash SSD prices earlier in the year. That’s probably why its drives didn’t become much more expensive in Q4. The 320 Series stayed flat, undoubtedly due to its appeal to deep-pocketed enterprise customers, while the other models went up and down by relatively small margins.

Look at how closely the recently released Intel 335 Series matches the price of its 330 Series predecessor. The former uses smaller 20-nm NAND chips that should be cheaper to produce than the latter’s 25-nm flash. That hasn’t led to lower prices yet, though. Just because next-gen flash memory costs less to produce doesn’t mean the savings will be passed on to consumers right away.

On multiple occasions in the past couple years, Corsair representatives expressed doubt about whether OCZ would be able to continue competing so aggressively on price. It looks like they were right—and following OCZ’s lead, to some extent. The Force Series 3 and GT both rose in price starting around mid-October. Some models have dropped a bit since, but not enough for a full recovery.

In October, the Samsung 830 Series was easily the best SSD bargain around. 830 Series drives were on sale to clear inventory ahead of the new 840 family, and the old models flew off the shelves. Prices did rebound as stocks became scarce, though. 830 Series drives can still be found here and there, but Ebay will be the only source before long.

Like the Intel 335 Series, the Samsung 840 family uses next-gen NAND. The 19-nm chips haven’t translated to dramatically lower prices for the 840 Pro Series. However, the 840 Series is reasonably affordable thanks to its use of TLC memory, which squeezes an extra bit into every cell.

Crucial’s m4 is one of very few drives to hold mostly steady throughout the fourth quarter. The drive is due to be replaced next month by the M500 SSD, and it will be interesting to see if prices are slashed to clear stock.

Plextor’s M5S and M5P also bucked the trend of increasing prices. To be fair, Newegg ran out of several models in Q4, and some stocks have yet to be replenished. I guess consumers know good deals when they see them. It’s worth noting that the M5P uses 19-nm NAND yet still costs more than the M5S, which is based in last-gen flash memory. Clearly, shrinking the flash lithograph doesn’t guarantee lower prices for consumers.

We opened with the cost per gigabyte, and we’ll come full circle to finish things off. For our final calculations, we used the median price for the last week of 2012. Newegg tends to keep sale prices listed even when drives are unavailable, so we’ve excised out-of-stock models from the results.

Almost half of the drives are below the dollar-per-gigabyte threshold. That’s not bad, all things considered, but it’s a bit of a disappointment given the path we were on at the end of Q3. All good things must come to and end, I guess—or at least slow to a more reasonable pace.

As was the case throughout the year, higher-capacity drives offer more value for your money. Given the direction prices are heading overall, we may have to start tracking 480-512GB models in 2013.

Comments closed
    • chelseyox9aa
    • 7 years ago
    • tanya93001
    • 7 years ago
    • mollywilkso00
    • 7 years ago
    • tarateh00aa
    • 7 years ago
    • ronch
    • 7 years ago

    I think I’ll hold out until prices reach 50 cents/GB. I’m ok with my mech for now.

    • not@home
    • 7 years ago

    Looks like I bought my Samsung 830 256GB at the right time. I paid $195 in November for it.

    • south side sammy
    • 7 years ago

    how soon we forget that the “great flood” stalled the production of and raised the prices of HD’s. and now I have my doubts that the ruined, damaged product components were scrapped. I also wouldn’t pay the premium they want right now either. They’re still priced high.

      • ronch
      • 7 years ago

      We’re talking SSDs here. As for mech HDD prices, they’re just a little bit higher than they were pre-flood. I don’t think it’s such a big deal anymore unless you’re buying a truckload.

        • south side sammy
        • 7 years ago

        with the high prices of the HD’s more people broke down and started purchasing the SSD’s. That, along with manufacturers trying to bring stock down on existing products also helped spur on a greater demand for the SSD.
        In the past 4 month’s greater and better changes have come forth on the SSD market place. With a better product comes a higher price. Can’t force the price with “older” stock on hand.

    • FranzVonPapen
    • 7 years ago

    That’s a lotta loonies.

    • mika8311o
    • 7 years ago
    • Thresher
    • 7 years ago

    Capacity is still the main issue for me. I bit the bullet and got a Crucial M4 512GB and while I love it, I really need a terabyte to hold all programs, games, etc. Swapping stuff off to other drives is a PITA, but not a big enough PITA yet for me to break down and get another 512GB drive for RAID 0.

    • Deanjo
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]Crucial's m4 is one of very few drives to hold mostly steady throughout the fourth quarter. The drive is due to be replaced next month by the M500 SSD, and it will be interesting to see if prices are slashed to clear stock.[/quote<] I'm holding out on a couple of new m4 512's waiting for this to happen.

    • sircharles32
    • 7 years ago

    What the graphs depict, is typical of what I’ve noticed of most computer components, over the last few years: Prices drop over the summer, and then jump just as the Christmas shopping season begins. Since I’ve noticed it over the past several years, I know it’s not coincidence.

    PS: Made sure to jump on the Samsung 830 clearing. I was able to pick-up two 128GB models for only $90/each, back in August. Prices now look like nothing happened (completely reversed the trend of lower prices).

    • HisDivineOrder
    • 7 years ago

    I miss OCZ’s influence on pricing, but not their products. I won’t buy another OCZ product. Not ever.

    I wish Samsung would finish the promise of the 840 (non-Pro) and give us pricing that truly proves why TLC needs to exist. I mean, dramatically lower prices. Right now, it seems like a raw deal when I expect 840 Pro’s to drop in no time as more SSD makers start showing up with new hardware.

    Right now, it’s a two-man race of who’s the high end. Samsung and OCZ. And a lot of people are like me, not going near OCZ no matter how hard they cry they’re different now or how they’ve changed. Because a lot of us have seen them to do this before after their crappy memory from a long, long time ago.

    So really, for the majority it’s just a one-man race right now for the high end. As new high end products begin to hit the market, then you’ll see price drops, competition, and awesomeness.

      • moose17145
      • 7 years ago

      I disagree with your two horse race analogy. My laptop is running a 128GB Crucial M4. A LOT of people are running Crucial M4s, and like me, absolutely love them and are VERY pleased with them. And I bought mine back when that 128GB drive cost 165 dollars!

      I understand what you mean about missing OCZ’s influence on pricing, but honestly I never considered them to be in the top runners for SSDs. Samsung is definitely one of the top dogs right now, but Crucial, Corsair, and especially Intel are front runners as well. In fact I would say that all four of those companies are considered higher end players than OCZ.

    • jjj
    • 7 years ago

    Don’t expect much of a drop this year, the NAND market is controlled by a few big players and they aren’t expanding production much. They messed up last year creating oversupply and tanking prices but now they are cautious.
    Prices will drop as more SSDs transition to 19/20nm and some to TLC but not like last year.

    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    I know MIRs are excluded from this, but they make sure a HUGE difference in prices and they pop up so often, it’s hard to ever consider them excluded when making a purchasing decision. It would be really nice if they included MIRs.

    I’m sure OCZ had a lot to do with how cheap SSDs are right now and I’m actually quite grateful, even though they got their company in a lot of trouble for it and people give them way too much crap for their Sandforce issues.

    • albundy
    • 7 years ago

    ocz ssd’s on sale = horror stories galore! there’s a reason why they were so cheap in the first place. saving me lucky charms now for a new m500 480gb.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 7 years ago

    Too bad Camelegg and its sister Amazon price tracker don’t count MIRs. (Why they don’t is beyond me, the data is readily available on Newegg’s site.) I know some people will count them and some people won’t, but it should at least be made clear that these prices don’t include MIRs. I got an Intel 330 240GB in November for $130 after MIR – that’s $0.54/GB. (It was actually from TigerDirect, but I know Newegg had similar prices.) The 330 180GB could be found easily enough for $90-100 after MIR making it $0.50-0.56. Granted that’s for the 330 which was on its way out for the 335, although the only difference was really the flash process node, but it’s a significant difference from the prices charted. There were other drives with great MIR deals too.

    • Firestarter
    • 7 years ago

    of course I bought my 830 just before the prices took a nose-dive :-/

      • bcronce
      • 7 years ago

      If you purchased it from NewEgg, you could have gotten a refund of the difference if your purchase was within a week of the price-fall.

      • OmarCCX
      • 7 years ago

      I bought my 256gb M4 2 months before it dropped $50. Don’t mind that much though. It’s a brilliant drive.

    • chuckula
    • 7 years ago

    Good review of price trends. The upswing in Q4 may be that there were a bunch of new product introductions that caused the upswing for 2 reasons:
    1. New products tend to come with higher prices that drop over time.
    2. During Q3 there were a bunch of clearance sales going on (Remember the great 830 deals?) to get ready for the new parts.

    • maxxcool
    • 7 years ago

    This reads to me : “We have a new chipset that we have not screwed up yet and we have liquidated all our old stock that failed 40% of the time in sleep mode and resume from hibernation.”

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