Solid-state drives (SSDs) have improved considerably over the years, to the point where they're now a highly preferable alternative to traditional hard drives.
Indeed, a good SSD is usually significantly faster, and it consumes less power--a big consideration for laptop users. Also, because it has no moving parts, it's much less susceptible to damage.
Alas, SSDs still cost quite a bit more than hard drives. But they're getting a bit cheaper all the time, and here's a prime example: Newegg has the Patriot Torqx 2 64GB internal SSD for $54.99 shipped. That's after redeeming a $25 mail-in rebate (PDF).
Granted, 64GB is not a lot of storage. But that didn't stop me from swapping out the 320GB hard drive in my new HP Pavilion dm1z for a very similar drive just last week. The fact is, I don't need much storage in a laptop--and I wanted to see if SSDs lived up to the hype.
Yep. My drive cut Windows' boot time in half (literally--I timed it) and made programs like my Web browser load twice as fast. My only complaint? I paid $99 for it, not $54.99. D'oh!
However, that was a SATA III drive, and the Torqx 2 has a SATA II interface. That said, check the user reviews; looks like this drive is plenty fast--and still faster than virtually any hard drive.
The Torqx 2 ships without a 3.5-inch adapter, so if you're planning to install it in a desktop, you'll need to pick one up. Also, if it's going to take the place of an existing drive, you'll need a USB-to-SATA adapter (the most indispensable tool in my PC repair kit) so you can image that drive to the SSD before installing it.
Ultimately, I think this is a fine "starter" SSD for users looking to dip a toe into these waters. If you're looking to breathe new life into an old-ish laptop or want to experiment with running Windows from an SSD (while keeping data on a bigger drive), this is a mighty affordable way to get started.
Bonus deal: Game time! GameStop has the super-fun Mirror's Edge (Win) for $4.99. Run, jump, and fight your way across rooftops, ledges, and other dizzying locales. Well worth five bucks, IMHO.