With prices falling, SSDs are rapidly becoming mainstream and are included in a vast number of new builds. The Crucial RealSSD M4 series of SSDs are the newest drives from Crucial, available in 64 GB, 128 GB, 256 GB and 512 GB models. Crucial have kindly supplied a 256 GB unit for review, along with a data transfer kit.
The drive itself came in an anti-static packet, as would be expected, and was accompanied by the data transfer cable and disc. Two quick install guides were also included – one for installing the SSD itself, and one for the data transfer kit. This product is currently priced (in the UK) at approximately £300 (without data transfer kit), making it around £50 cheaper than the OCZ Vertex 3 that we have reviewed previously. Across the pond prices come in at approximately $370 for the M4, versus $440 for the Vertex 3. This places the M4 towards the lower end of the price range for SATA 3 SSDs.
Crucial claims, however, that this drive is capable of some serious performance. Read speeds of 500 MB/s and write speeds of 260 MB/s are claimed, along with random 4k read speeds of 50K IOPS and a MTBF (mean time between failure) of 1.2 million hours. This is all topped off with a 3 year warranty, which seems to be about the standard length for this technology. Naturally, this warranty becomes far shorter – zero, in fact – if you open it up to have a look at the innards, so we have an image here for you.
The memory chips are, rather unsurprisingly, Micron branded. It can be seen from the photograph that the controller is a Marvell 9174 chip, unlike the slew of Sandforce-based units on the market.
The Data Transfer Kit
While I’m always keen on a clean Windows reinstall, I gave the included data transfer kit a go. There are instructions (on paper) provided, but the video guide from Crucial is more informative and easier to follow, not that it’s a particularly complex procedure. The process was painless; I plugged the SSD into the suplied USB gizmo before booting from the CD. Copying across the (admittedly not very full) Windows 7 install was quite quick and worked perfectly. This may well save some people a considerable amount of time, but for the rest of the tests here I used a clean Windows 7 installation. The data transfer kit is likely more useful for people who would rather not spend the time reinstalling Windows, or for people who would like to upgrade to an SSD in the most straightforward way possible.
The following hardware was used to test the SSD; all benchmarks were run at least twice, and scores are reported as the average of the runs.
- AMD A6-3650 APU @ 2.6 GHz (stock)
- Biostar A75MH motherboard; the A75 chipset includes the necessary SATA3 (6 Gbps) support to get the most out of this unit
- 4 GB (2x 2GB) Kingston RAM
- BFG MaxCore GTX 260 Video Card
- Antec CP-1000 PSU
- LiteOn BD-ROM
- Windows 7 Professional (64 bit)
- Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 320 GB HDD or Crucial 256 GB M4 SSD
|Test||IOPS||MB /s||I/O Response Time||CPU Utilisation|
|2 MB Sequential Reads||263||526||243 ms||249 ms||2.46%|
|263||527||243 ms||249 ms||2.73%|
|2 MB Sequential Writes||130||259||493 ms||517 ms||2.10%|
|128||256||499 ms||530 ms||2.21%|
|4 K Random Reads||17299||68||0.230 ms||7.198 ms||19.81%|
|17447||68||0.228 ms||7.494 ms||20.43%|
|4 K Random Writes||57721||225||0.554 ms||6.032 ms||30.73%|
|57729||226||0.554 ms||9.050 ms||30.65%|
Finally, some comparisons between the OCZ Vertex 3 and the Crucial M4, presented in graph form. These essentially summarise what has been said above; the M4 keeps up with the Vertex 3 in read speeds, but loses out when it comes to writes. This is most likely a consequence of the controller. Notably, the M4 shows often much better read speeds for the smaller transfer sizes.
Most results are plotted in megabytes per second, although some are plotted in terms of relative performance versus the M4.