Storage products bargain hunters should look for

CNET editor Dong Ngo's list of storage devices that consumers should look for during the shopping season.

For virtually anything to happen as expected in our daily life, computer storage is needed. If you think that's a grand statement, you, like most of us, have been taking storage for granted.

Despite the massive recent flood in Thailand that affected many storage vendors, hard drives, the most common form of computer storage, are still generally affordable (and abundant in terms of capacities). However, not all other forms of storage applications share the similar pricing as hard drives. And they can get progressively pricier the faster and the cooler they get.

Here's a list of storage devices that you should definitely consider getting when there are deals come the holidays, especially during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Solid-state drives
Solid-state drives (SSDs) are the future of internal storage. In fact, most if not all tablets and smartphones use solid-state as their main storage device that hosts the operating system and user data. The SSDs that you can buy, however, are those made with the same standard as 2.5-inch hard drives, commonly used inside laptops. Any computer that can use a SATA hard drive (basically all computers on the market made in the last 4 to 5 years) can have its internal hard drive replaced by an SSD. And when this happens, that would be the single most significant improvement in terms of performance.

The only reasons that you wouldn't want to use SSDs are their prices and the relatively limited amount of storage space, even though they are large enough to be used as a computer's main drive. Currently the two most popular SATA standards are SATA 2 (3Gbps) and SATA 3 (6Gbps). These standards share the same connection types and are compatible with each other, however.

1. Samsung 830 series

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The SATA 3 (6Gbps) Samsung 830 series SSD is the fastest SSD I've reviewed and is also the best-looking one on the market. In fact, it's so good-looking that it's sad. Since it's an internal hard drive, it's most likely hidden inside a computer's chassis when in use. You'll have no chance of showing it off. You can show off in terms how fast the your computer is when it comes to booting up, waking up from sleep, and application loading as well as overall performance, though. The drive's sleek packaging will definitely make it a great gift, too. The unique feature of the Samsung is the fact that it allows users to take control of the drive's overprovisioning, a technology designed to enhance a SSD drive's lifespan and performance. Read the full review of the Samsung 830 series here.

2. Plextor PX-256M2S

Josh Miller/CNET

The Plextor PX-256M2S is the opposite of the Samsung 830 series in terms of appearance. It looks just like any internal storage, gray and non-ostentatious. However, it excels where it matters the most for a storage device: performance, being the second fastest SSD I've reviewed. The Plextor also supports the SATA 3 standard. Read the full review.

3. OCZ Vertex 3 Series

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The SATA 3 OCZ Vertex 3 comes with built-in overprovisioning and, apart from speed, offers RAID 1-like data redundancy. The drive also comes with a mounting accessory to help it fit in desktop computers' drive bays. Read the full review.

4. Crucial m4

Josh Miller/CNET

The Crucial m4 is actually one of the most competitively priced SATA 3 SSDs on the market, and if you can get it for a deal, that's even better. The drive didn't ace my testing but still, as an SSD, it will help significantly improve any computer's overall performance. Read the full review.

5. Samsung 470 series

The Samsung 470 series is one of the first SSDs reviewed by CNET and is the only SATA 2-based SSD mentioned here. While not as fast as other SATA 3 SSDs, the drive makes a great investment for those who have computers that don't support SATA 3, which is still the majority of computers on the market. On top of that, similar to the Samsung 830 series, the 470 is also gorgeous-looking and comes in a package that looks like an expensive jewelry box. This makes it an excellent choice for a gift. Read full review.

Internal drive-based storage solutions
While the hard drives themselves are generally affordable, hard-drive-based storage solutions can be very expensive. There are two main types of these solutions: network storage devices (aka NAS servers) that provide storage for a network, and external storage devices that connect directly into a computer. Prices of these devices changes depends on the performance speed, amount of storage, and other features.

1. Synology DS1511+

Josh Miller/CNET

Though released earlier this year, the Synology DS1511+ is still now one of the best, if not the best, NAS servers on the market. The server combines the top amount of storage space (up to 15TB of internal storage), stellar data throughput performance over a network (faster than that of USB 3.0 external hard drive), and a vast amount of features. The server itself is just representative of other DiskStation NAS servers from the same company that also offer similar benefits. Examples of these are the DS410, DS710, and so on. Over the years, Synology has been making by far the best NAS servers for home and business environments. Read the full review of the DS1511+.

2. Promise Pegasus R6

Josh Miller/CNET

The Promise Pegasus R6 is by far the fastest consumer-grade storage device to date. Though it supports Thunderbolt, which is only available to select Mac computers for now, this external storage device is actually much faster than even the fastest SSD, something that has never happened before. The R6 also offers up to 12TB of storage, and there's another version, called the R4, that offers up to 8TB. It's also the most expensive storage device on the market, and without a deal, you probably won't be able to justify buying it. Read the full review.

3. LaCie Little Big Disk SDD

Josh Miller/CNET

The LaCie Little Big Disk SDD is the second Thunderbolt-based storage device I've seen and it's completely the opposite of the Pegasus R6 in terms of sizes, both physical and capacity. If the R6 is huge and offers a ton of storage space, the Little Big Disk SSD is tiny and offers just 240GB, less than 2 percent of of the R6's top storage. The SSD-based LaCie Little Big Disk costs about $900, much more expensive than the R6 when comparing cost per gigabyte. It would be somewhat insane if you bought it at the full price. Read the full review.

4. Netgear ReadyNAS NV+ V2

Josh Miller/CNET

The Netgear ReadyNAS NV+ V2 is the latest from Netgear and offers very good performance as well as XRAID 2, which allows for upgrading hard drives without having to rebuilt the RAID from scratch. It's also simple to use and offers a VPN-like over-the-Internet connection for remote users. Read the full review.

5. The 3TB hard drive

Josh Miller/CNET

The internal 3TB hard drive doesn't really qualify as an end-user solution since it requires some low-level setup, like opening up your computer's or NAS server's chassis, but it's the heart of all solutions mentioned above, except for the LaCie. Most of the hard-drive-based storage solutions require more than one hard drive, and you also want to keep a few as spares as well, in case one of them dies.

The Seagate Barracuda XT in the photo is just one of many 3TB hard drives on the market. For the most part these drives are similar and when used in a NAS or external solution, they generally offer the same performance. So stock up on them if you can find some good deals.

About the author

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews networking and storage products, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.

 

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