Today’s review of the Crucial M4 128GB SSD comes as a ‘readers choice’ review as it has made its way to our office only through the amount of e-mails received asking for its performance beside that of its big brothers and other SSDs of similar size.
The common theme with new ‘Gen 2′ SSDs is that higher capacity equates to better performance. Our M4 128GB SSD tests seem to contradict this and we believe that Crucial just may have found the ‘sweet spot’ for this SSD.
The Crucial M4 SSD family is available in capacities of 64, 128, 256 and 512GB and a quick price check shows them at $119, $259, $449 and $949 at post time of this report. This immediately earns Crucial the best price for a value SSD as well as the best price for a top capacity SSD as the 512GB M4 is almost $800 under the competition with 32GB more space available. Performance is listed at 415MB/s read and 175MB/s write which is just below that of its 256GB brother at 415MB/260MB/s but wait for it! Some of our benchmarks push the high sequentials over 500MB/s and we even saw randoms come close.
The case itself is relatively straight forward with the SSD and an installation manual that guide you through your SSD migration in a completely painless manner. Crucial has also seen fit to have a 3 year limited warranty for the product and their package speaks of the new M4 being compatible on both SATA 6Gbps and SATA 3Gbps computer systems.
The exterior casing of the M4 is of 2 piece metal alloy with a dark plastic sleeve and protects the printed circuit board (PCB) within. The back sticker describes the product number, serial number along with firmware revision and we should give you a heads up that any disassembly of the SSD immediately voids your warranty.
The PCB itself contains the heart of the drive which is the Marvell 9174 SATA 6GBps controller. There is also 16 x 25nm NAND flash modules (29F64G08CFACB), each being of 8GB capacity for a total of 128GB. Specifically, NAND flash memory is capable of retaining data even when there is no power present, unlike the memory in all computers which loses all data without power.
Although the total physical make up of the SSD is 128GB, formatting will reduce it to a user accessible capacity of 119GB. Crucial has also kept its massive 256MB on board Micron cache which we believe plays a large role in the excellent performance we will see shortly.
TEST SYSTEM AND METHODOLOGY
- Our main goal in testing is to ensure that all test results are as accurate as they can be and no anomalies slip through.
- We conduct all tests three times and, if necessary, we may conduct specific tests in Windows 7 ‘safe mode’ to ensure the OS has little to no influence on the end result.
- We prefer to use as many benchmark programs as possible to assist with confirmation of results and provide the reader with the actual tests as received to avoid any confusion when unexpected test benchmarks are received.
MOTHERBOARD: Gigabyte P67A-UD7 ATX LGA 1155 Intel SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0
CPU: Intel Core i7-2600K Sandy Bridge 3.4GHz (3.8GHz Turbo Boost) 4 x 256KB L2 Cache 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor
RAM: Corsair Vengeance 8GB DDR3 1600 SDRAM
GPU: MSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II OC Edition 1024MB GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0
POWER: Corsair Professional Series AX850 850W ATX12V v2.31 / EPS12V v2.92 80 PLUS GOLD Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply
CHASSIS: Fractal-Design Define XL ATX Mid Tower Silent Computer Case
CPU COOLER: Corsair H50 High Performance Water CPU Cooler
DVD: Sony Black 24X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 8X DVD+R DL 24X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 12X DVD-RAM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 32X CD-RW 48X CD-ROM 2MB Cache SATA 24X DVD Writer
Software used for our testing today consists of ATTO Disk Benchmark, Crystal Disk Mark, HDTune Pro, AS SSD and PCMark Vantage. Although these programs each serve a specific function, a basic knowledge of each is necessary as they do not always provide the result expected in consumer testing which leads to a great deal of confusion. ATTO and HDTune both test through use of raw data whereas Crystal (by default) and AS SSD utilize random data in testing which results in benchmarks below manufacturers specifications when testing SSDs that use compression in their storage such as SandForce.
SandForce does not recommend testing with random data and, for this reason, we might test with Crystal in 0Fill mode to demonstrate how manufacturers reach their specifications. Another interesting point to consider is that, although Crystal Diskmark and AS SSD both conduct the same test several times, Crystal will provide the highest reached as the end score whereas AS SSD provides the average of all tests.
Pg3 – HDTune Pro Benchmarks