|480GB Crucial M500 Solid State Drive|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Storage|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Tuesday, 09 April 2013|
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Crucial M500 Solid State Drive Review
Manufacturer: Micron Technology, Inc.
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.
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.