The SSD market has a wide variety of offerings, while choice is always good for both the market and consumer it is hard to tell from a pure numbers analysis if the higher priced units will always be completely obvious to a real world experience. I am going to provide my own two cents comparing the value Kingston SV300 120GB against a higher priced Vertex 4 128GB on a standard SATA II controller. This best reflects what people will have if they bought their PC on a budget and because I cannot use my SATA III, the Marvell controller is unstable at best, thus it is disabled and will not be used.
The way in which I am testing these drives will also vary from standard benchmarking practices by providing numbers based on what I personally run when Windows starts up, generally benchmarks are giving a drive the best set of circumstances by having nothing extra running at the same time. I am basing my boot times after post so there is a small margin of error within 3 milliseconds, give or take, and both were used as the Primary or C drive on the same exact SATA cable and port.
I know what you're saying "how can that be fair?" First, the drives were freshly formatted or secure erased (based on manufacturers recommendation). Second, all of the same applications I have run at start-up or not, were identical on each drive, only variation is games installed on alternate drives which should have no impact. Third, both drives had all of the available Windows updates installed, including those for Office. Fourth, on start-up I have about 88 process running, which is approximately the same you will see on a pre-built PC.
Disclaimer and clarification: I am not saying other benchmarks are not through or reflecting the real world performance a drive can provide. I just haven't seen at testing methodology stipulate that the drive is being used with additional software running (Antivirus, Firewall, Steam and etc) or being used in exactly the same way, generally an image is used but it is hard to say if the same cable and SATA port was used. Thus, I chose to make that a point in my look at these drives because this is how I want to test them and inform you the reader, nothing more.
I am currently running Windows 7 SP1 and the rest of my system specs are listed in my signature, if you're curious. I had ran AS SSD to benchmark the drives after windows start up, there was no optional programs running (Firefox, Winamp and etc) and this is what I got for them:
Now, if we take these numbers at face value then the Vertex 4 wins hands down, so let's looks at the other factors like boot time and application load times. The Kingston booted up my machine in 15 seconds, the Vertex 4 did it in about 13.5 seconds, this is so close you wouldn't notice it just sitting there or if you get a cup of coffee when you first boot the machine. The next application I tested was Photoshop CS6 trial, the Kingston got it running in about 14 seconds, the Vertex 4 was 8 seconds. This was very obvious, though both drives loaded it faster the second time around I am giving you the first time it opened times.
I did test Skyrim with these SSD's and I used Steam Tool to move it over. I am running close to 200 mods for that game and I tested the load time from Continue on the main screen to when I was able to move in the game, the Kingston did this in 20 seconds and the Vertex 4 did it in 18, a traditional 7200RPM 16MB Cache HDD would load it in about 38 seconds. I won't disagree that games are kind of sticky subject here, because Skyrim isn't as robustly modded on the average gamers machine, hell not even some hardcore players either, but many MMO's do benefit from being on a SSD of any kind. Techgage's Rob Williams looked at the benefits of Lineage II on a SSD vs. HDD
The skinny of it is this, the Vertex 4 is faster on paper and it somewhat shows in what I consider real world tests but does this mean it is better than the Kingston? I honestly do not believe that is the case depending on how you plan to use it. I see the Vertex as one of the top of the line SSD's out there, but its speed isn't going to be noticed if you surf the web and play a few web based games. The best place for a Vertex 4 is a machine that demands absolutely the best speed possible, like for a hardcore gamer or someone who uses a lot of applications like Photoshop and are willing to fork out the cash for bragging rights, for everything else there is Kingstons SV300.
In the end, The Kingston SV300 is currently running almost $55 cheaper than a Vertex 4 on Amazon, this could mean the difference between a backup HDD with a new PC or not. The information I have provided should make the SV300 an easy choice for anyone looking to get off a traditional HDD. I know I plan to recommend it to friends and family if I am asked for a reasonably priced SSD and it should be on your short list as well.