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Written by Olin Coles   
Tuesday, 09 April 2013
Table of Contents: Page Index
480GB Crucial M500 Solid State Drive
Overview: Crucial M500 SSD
Features and Specifications
SSD Testing Methodology
AS-SSD Benchmark
ATTO Disk Benchmark
CrystalDiskMark 3.0 Tests
Iometer IOPS Performance
EVEREST Disk Benchmark
PCMark Vantage HDD Tests
Crucial M500 SSD Conclusion

Crucial M500 Solid State Drive Review

Manufacturer: Micron Technology, Inc.
Product Name: Crucial M500 2.5-inch Solid State Drive
Model Numbers: 120GB: CT120M500SSD1, 240GB: CT240M500SSD1, 480GB: CT480M500SSD1, 960GB: CT960M500SSD1
UPC: 649528764195
MSRP: 120GB: $129.99, 240GB: $219.99, 480GB: $394.99, 960GB: $599.99

Full Disclosure: The product sample used in this article has been provided by Micron.

Micron Technology updates their product family with the new Crucial M500 solid state drive, which arrives in capacities ranging from 120GB-960GB for 2.5" SATA, mSATA, and M.2/NGFF form factors. Built upon the Marvell 88SS9187-BLD2 SATA 6Gb/s controller using custom Crucial firmware, M500 utilizes 20nm Micron-branded Synchronous Multi-Level Cell (MLC) NAND Flash components for an increased per-die NAND capacity that makes the entire more affordable. In this article, Benchmark Reviews tests the 480GB Crucial M500 Solid State Drive (model CT480M500SSD1) and compare it against the fastest SATA 6GB/s storage solutions available.

The first consumer SSD to offer SATA 6Gb/s support debuted back on February 2010, when Micron Technology introduced the Crucial RealSSD C300 solid state drive. Back then, Crucial's RealSSD C300 was able to reach 383/227 MBps read/write speeds in our lab tests. Then on April 2011 the Micron RealSSD C400 (aka Crucial m4 SSD) arrived with speeds up to 415 MB/s. It's been two years since then, and now Micron returns with the Crucial M500 Solid State Drive. Peak performance speeds reach 500 MB/s read and 400 MB/s write (for 480/960GB capacities), with 80,000 IOPS operational performance.

In addition to improved performance, the Crucial M500 delivers greater power efficiency through reduced 20nm NAND die process, hardware-based AES 256-bit encryption, IEEE-1667 and TCG Opal 2.0-compliant firmware, 'Hold-Up' capacitors to ensure data integrity in the event of power loss, and an adaptive thermal monitoring system with on-board thermistor and microcontroller to assist with temperature control in ultrathin and embedded designs. The Crucial M500 SSD also offers device sleep (DEVSLP), which increases system battery life while maintaining system responsiveness, a feature that enables this solid state drive to draw less than 5 milliwatts of power while the system is in sleep mode - a 93% power improvement compared to Crucial's previous-generation C400/m4 SSD. Micron protects consumers with a 3-year limited product warranty.

Crucial-M500-Solid-State-Drive-Kit.jpg

Solid State vs Hard Disk

Despite decades of design improvements, the hard disk drive (HDD) is still the slowest component of any personal computer system. Consider that modern desktop processors have a 1 ns response time (nanosecond = one billionth of one second), while system memory responds between 30-90 ns. Traditional hard drive technology utilizes magnetic spinning media, and even the fastest spinning mechanical storage products still exhibit a 9,000,000 ns / 9 ms initial response time (millisecond = one thousandth of one second). In more relevant terms, the processor receives the command and must then wait for system memory to fetch related data from the storage drive. This is why any computer system is only as fast as the slowest component in the data chain; usually the hard drive.

In a perfect world all of the components operate at the same speed. Until that day comes, the real-world goal for achieving optimal performance is for system memory to operate as quickly as the central processor and then for the storage drive to operate as fast as memory. With present-day technology this is an impossible task, so enthusiasts try to close the speed gaps between components as much as possible. Although system memory is up to 90x (9000%) slower than most processors, consider then that the hard drive is an added 1000x (100,000%) slower than that same memory. Essentially, these three components are as different in speed as walking is to driving and flying.

Solid State Drive technology bridges the largest gap in these response times. The difference a SSD makes to operational response times and program speeds is dramatic, and takes the storage drive from a slow 'walking' speed to a much faster 'driving' speed. Solid State Drive technology improves initial response times by more than 450x (45,000%) for applications and Operating System software, when compared to their mechanical HDD counterparts. The biggest mistake PC hardware enthusiasts make with regard to SSD technology is grading them based on bandwidth speed. File transfer speeds are important, but only so long as the operational I/O performance can sustain that bandwidth under load.

Bandwidth Speed vs Operational Performance

As we've explained in our SSD Benchmark Tests: SATA IDE vs AHCI Mode guide, Solid State Drive performance revolves around two dynamics: bandwidth speed (MB/s) and operational performance I/O per second (IOPS). These two metrics work together, but one is more important than the other. Consider this analogy: bandwidth determines how much cargo a ship can transport in one voyage, and operational IOPS performance is how fast the ship moves. By understanding this and applying it to SSD storage, there is a clear importance set on each variable depending on the task at hand.

For casual users, especially those with laptop or desktop computers that have been upgraded to use an SSD, the naturally quick response time is enough to automatically improve the user experience. Bandwidth speed is important, but only to the extent that operational performance meets the minimum needs of the system. If an SSD has a very high bandwidth speed but a low operational performance, it will take longer to load applications and boot the computer into Windows than if the SSD offered a higher IOPS performance.



 

Comments 

 
# The Next StepMugsy 2013-04-09 07:54
A bit of a disappointment that shows the limitations of the currently available technology.

Currently, the best way to improve the speed of SSD'a is to RAID-0 two of them together. But not a lot of people are competent enough to do this themselves. Think of the advantage this drive would have over the competition at (near) double the speed.

Until someone creates the next generation interface (SATA-4?), the next logical step in improving SSD speed is a single drive with TWO sata ports on it, doubling the bandwidth. The drive itself: essentially two physical drives "RAID'ed" together inside the same box. Basically, "plug & play RAID".

No need for the user to "create a RAID array" by hand. Firmware could be created so the computer sees only "one" drive despite having to SATA ports. This might be pricey at first, but just as with any new technology, the cost will come down in time.
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# RE: The Next StepDavid Ramsey 2013-04-09 08:31
Your idea of an "internal RAID" is widely used in the various PCI-E SSD systems available. We've even reviewed some of them.

However, putting two SATA ports on an existing SSD wouldn't make configuring a RAID any simpler, since it's exactly equivalent to having two separate SSDs: you'd still need to configure RAID on your motherboard to tell it to treat the two SATA connections as a single device.
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# RE: 480GB Crucial M500 Solid State DrivePete 2013-04-10 16:45
Why are you not comparing Samsung SSD anymore?
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# RE: RE: 480GB Crucial M500 Solid State DriveOlin Coles 2013-04-10 16:50
The quick answer is because they do not respond to our sample requests, and therefore do not ship any for us to test and review.
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# RE: 480GB Crucial M500 Solid State DrivePete 2013-04-10 17:02
Dang, because I remember the earlier tests where they scored right up with the intel's.!
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# RE: RE: 480GB Crucial M500 Solid State DriveOlin Coles 2013-04-10 20:33
Unfortunately the sour economy combined with lagging SSD sales have made it difficult for some companies to allocate many units towards marketing. I'll be making another attempt to gain their favor very soon.
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# Considered expanding?feralshad0w 2013-04-10 21:47
I started reading this site about 5 years ago and really liked the attention to detail and analysis. You guys were doing some thermal and sound tests before others had caught on. I think a lot of reviewers and company attention is moving to youtube reviewers because of its popularity. Have you guys considered making a youtube channel to accompany the benchmarkreviews website? No one does the line-ups and detailed reviews like you guys have done in the past with coolers and thermal pastes.

I think it could probably bring you a lot more views, it would be an additional revenue stream, and it would probably encourage companies like samsung to send you more products.

And I would love to see your reviews with videos of the products...
It's really a win-win for everyone lol
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# good pointresere 2013-04-11 14:47
agree. do it. need help?

In other words, stay profi as much as u can but use all channels u can.
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# RE: RE: RE: 480GB Crucial M500 Solid State DriveChris 2013-04-11 22:24
Olin, do you think that the declining PC market as a whole may be affecting SSD sales?

There seem to be many factors at work here
- Widespread belief that phones and tablets are replacing laptops and desktops
- Windows 8 was not well received and may be hurting new PC sales
- The state of the economy
- Average customer might not see the benefit (or even know what an SSD is)

Also, some of the SSD makers themselves (ex: OCZ) have not been doing so well either.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: 480GB Crucial M500 Solid State DriveOlin Coles 2013-04-12 08:04
Yes, I absolutely do think the PC market is impacting SSD sales. By the end of 2013, you will see fewer brands offering SSD products. Some of the brands we've known for years will disappear or exit the market.
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# State of solid StateFeralshad0w 2013-04-14 22:39
It's just my opinion, but I think it still comes down to cost. My techy friends and I have solid states, but when I try to explain the benefit and speed to my other friends and family they just say they don't mind waiting or they want to save the money.

The thing I haven't seen is the cheap production of older technology SSD's to make them more accessible. I think it is silly on the manufactures part to have not released these, but I can see some obstacles:

1) The production costs are similar to newer technology drives, which makes it not worth producing them and offering at a lower price point.

2) They want to keep a premium enthusiast price to make. Particularly the larger drives that mainstream users would buy such as 256-500 gb.
(I am thinking this is like the large LCD price fixing conspiracy)

I think a lot of mainstream would only use HDD as backup if there were 256+ gb for $100-150. I feel the mainstream market would jump on board quickly at that point.

What do you think?
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# RE: State of solid StateChris 2013-04-19 13:58
The reason why older drives prices are not going down is because well, they cannot make any money if they did. Margins for these products are pretty slim as is, from what I've been told (by industry insiders).

It's not like other products where you can sell the last generation for less. It's not really a conspiracy I'm afraid - SSD prices are driven by the prices of NAND Flash more so than anything else.

And it's not mainstream that matters. It's whether OEMs begin to replace HDDs with SSDs en masse - that is where truly widespread adoption will occur.
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# RE: RE: State of solid StateFeralshad0w 2013-04-19 14:19
Very good point. It's a shame there isn't the wiggle room in price then. I think that IF they could make a larger dent in the lower end gaming/mainstream market that they could see a demand raise in the OEM market to really make things take off.

But by your account, that is a big "if".

Eventually the industry will shift.. but its not going to be as fast as I would like. I guess I will wait a couple more years to replace my media and game drives. I already got an SSD for my OS.

Thanks for the response.
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# RE: RE: RE: State of solid StateChris 2013-04-19 22:28
An example of a company not making money would be OCZ - a pretty big player in the field. They were selling while Ryan Peterson was CEO near the end, their SSDs at a huge net loss.

But even the bigger players like Micron are having some issues from what I've been led to believe in making money.

Here take a look:
#investors.micron.com/secfiling.cfm?filingID=723125-12-156

They lost money in 2012 as a whole, but lets look at segments.
- In terms of NAND, they made $198 million in profits on $2.853 billion in sales. So for every $1 of NAND, they make about $0.07 of profit.

- For DRAM, they lost $500 million on $2.691 billion in sales. For them to break even, DRAM prices would have to go up by about 17.5%.

There isn't too much room to decrease prices. I imagine maybe Intel or Samsung would make more money, but it's not a high margin market by any means. That puts even more pressure on the smaller players too, because companies like Micron can leverage their vertical integration and the sheer volume of NAND that they produce.

It's not like GPUs where I think the higher end margins are like 30% right now for Nvidia.
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# RE: 480GB Crucial M500 Solid State DriveChris 2013-04-11 22:21
It's not the fastest SSD out there, but it does come very close to the top. Still, for the money, it's a good value in terms of price per gb, especially for the big version.

Good review.
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# Software Editoralan1476 2013-05-24 13:34
SSDs are the future, everything is getting smaller, desktops are disappearing,laptops are getting thinner and smaller, netbooks, tablets, all using solid state, it will take time but these are mainstream products, they are not a techy toy anymore. The prices will be at a level of affordability for the mainstream family. They are now.
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# RE: 480GB Crucial M500 Solid State DriveChris 2013-06-12 04:54
A well written review of an interesting SSD, thank you. I have noted that Samsung does not publish all specifications but omits to mention specs that they their drives lack. Buyer needs to figure out that on his own. Micron/Crucial appear to provide a more complete disclosure of technical specifications.
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