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Crucial M4 256GB SATA 3 SSD Review – Unexpected Performance in a Small Package

The best part of reviewing SSDs is the ever changing atmosphere and pace at which things progress. As a reviewer, one never knows what to expect until a SSD is in our hands and that certainly is the case with the Crucial M4 SATA 3 solid state drive.

We were a bit surprised to learn that Crucials new consumer version SSD has now taken the branding of M4 vice following that of the C300 line of their former release.

For those unaware, Micron is Crucials parent company and will be retaining the C400 branding for their client SSD for oem line.  Admittedly, we couldn’t resist benchmarking the M4 as quickly as it was received and we soon learned that the name change wasn’t the only surprise we were in for.

UPDATE!!! The Crucial M4 has been released.  Pricing and info can be found here:

Crucial SSD

INTRODUCTION

If anyone has any concerns whatsoever as to what ‘Marvell controlled’ SSDs such as the Crucial M4 are capable of, forget them now. We will be the first to admit that we haven’t been thoroughly impressed with new entries of Marvell controlled SSDs as of late and we didn’t expect this review to hold much of a different outcome.  This SSD, however, is a bit special.

In fact, after our initial tests we had to e-mail Kelly Sasso, Manager of Media Relations,  and Justin Sykes, Direct of SSD Marketing at Micron, in order to let them know that their specifications were rather conservative compared to our results in evaluating the Crucial M4.  It wasn’t long before we received our response from Justin.

Why is the Micron Marvell Controlled SSD special?

“It is the firmware. Unlike others who are using the Marvell controller Micron has developed the firmware that controls the SATA interface and more importantly the NAND management or the FTL.  The FTL manages the wear leveling efficiency, error management, and efficient utilization of the NAND for performance.  The M4/C400 represents Micron’s third generation of FTL development.  This is a key piece of technology for an SSD supplier and is key to developing high quality high performance SSD’s.”

A good read of the following pages will, not only teach those new to SSDs one of the most important things that they should know in their SSD purchase, but also, the Crucial M4 is the perfect SSD to demonstrate the point first hand.

CRUCIAL M4 CHARACTERISTICS

The Crucial M4 SATA 3 SSD comes in capacities of 64GB, 128GB, 256GB and 512GB, different levels of performance specified for all but the two top capacities.  While all capacities are capable of 415MB/s high sequential read disk access with 40,000 IOPS, the 64Gb has a high sequential write performance of 95MB/s with 20,000 IOPS, 128GB at 175MB/s with 35,000 IOPS and the 256/512GB capacity tops out 260MB/s with 50,000 IOPS, all at 4k random write disk access.

A quick look inside the Crucial M4 256GB SSD shows us Marvells latest offering in the 88SS9174-BLD2 processor as well as 8 chips of Micron 25nm NAND flash memory (29F128G08CFAAB) on either side of the circuit board.  Each chip has a capacity of 16GB allowing for a total RAW capacity of 256GB before formatting.  A quick format leaves a total available capacity of 238GB for the end user. There is also a Micron DRAM chip of 256MB for all capacities except for the 64GB version which retains the original 128MB DRAM cache.

Heres what Crucial has to say on their new release:

The best just got better – Continuing the tradition of our award-winning solid-state drives, the Crucial m4 offers mobile and desktop users scorching-fast read and write speeds, groundbreaking SATA SSD computing, and unparalleled performance for the dollar.

Latest and greatest – Designed for client computing, the Crucial m4 SSD delivers faster boot and application load times for mobile and desktop users alike. Low power, lightweight, and durable, it empowers high-speed synchronous MLC NAND, advanced controller technology, optimized NAND management, and the second-generation SATA 6Gb/s interface. Together, that technology dramatically improves data transfers for bandwidthdemanding applications.

Memory Experts – Delivering on the highest quality based upon Micron’s leading-edge NAND media, the Crucial brand of SSDs has long been synonymous with reliability and high performance. And because we’re part of Micron, the m4 was bred and built entirely in-house. So you can rest assured you’ll get one of the highest quality products available from the company that knows memory.

Why an SSD? – SSDs provide many benefits over traditional hard drives. You’ll enjoy reduced power consumption, less heat generation. Because they have no moving parts, SSDs are quiet, more lightweight, and they’re rugged and reliable even in the most demanding operating environments or temperature extremes.

Guaranteed Compatible – Crucial m4 series employ a standard hard drive interface and dimensions, so it is an easy storage upgrade for most notebooks. We guarantee compatibility.

Pg1 – Introduction and M4 Characteristics

Pg2 – Benchmark Protocol and Initial Testing

Pg3 – ATTO and AS SSD Benchmarks

Pg4 – HDTune Pro Benchmarks

Pg5 – PCMark Vantage SSD Comparisons and Conclusions

Pg6 – Review Extras!

Join Our Forum Community Discussion Here!

  • Can u tell me please why for example the Adata Sata3 120Gb has higher read and write speeds and if it would make any difference speedwise between the two on Win7 I7 2720QM?

  • Hi, Can u tell me why the Adata 510s has higher write and read speeds then this. And which would be better speedwise? I am looking for a good SSD for a Win7 I7 2720QM and was looking at speeds around 500 MB/s i got offered this for a good price but i just wonder if it is just as fast as the 500 MB/s models. Oops posted twice sry lost my first entry i thought….

  • As someone who has actually owned this product, a Crucial 256 GB drive I can give an honest review of their product. Its simple, dont buy it! This drive barely lasted 4yrs. Despite all the assurances that I should get 10+ yrs out of this it wasnt even close. The drive was treated with kid gloves. After 1 month it was slower than a mechanical drive. The claims the vendor made on this did hold up!

    • It is unfortunate that you had this experience but this SSD has an incredible reputation with countless others running strong. You are, in fact, one of the very few who have spoken negative of this drive.

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