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Written by Olin Coles   
Wednesday, 20 April 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
Crucial m4 Solid State Drive Tests
Crucial m4 Solid State Drive
Marvell 88SS9174-BLD2 SSD Processor
Features and Specifications
SSD Testing Methodology
AS-SSD Benchmark
ATTO Disk Benchmark
CrystalDiskMark 3.0 Tests
Iometer IOPS Performance
EVEREST Disk Benchmark
Proving Manufacturer Tests
HDD vs Hybrid Drive vs SSD
Crucial m4 SSD Conclusion

HDD vs Hybrid Drive vs SSD

It's been the same argument for over two years now: SSDs offer the best performance, but HDDs still offer the best capacity and price. Now that Solid State Hybrid drives are available, that argument changes. While the optimal blend of bandwidth speed, operational performance, storage capacity, and price value has yet to be delivered, products like the Seagate Momentus-XT offer an ultra-affordable start in the right direction Installed as a primary drive for notebook and value-conscious enthusiasts, the Solid State Hybrid Drive delivers up high-capacity storage space while starting Windows and opening programs like a SSD.

The last days of old technology are always better than the first days of new technology. Never has this saying been more true than with the topic of storage technology, specifically in regard to the introduction of Solid State Drive technology a few years ago. The only things standing in the way of widespread Solid State Drive (SSD) adoption are high storage capacity and affordable price of Hard Disk Drive (HDD) devices. Because NAND flash-based SSD technology costs more per gigabyte of capacity than traditional magnetic hard drives, the benefits of immediate response time, transfer speeds, and operational input/output performance often get overlooked. Like most consumer products, it wasn't a question of how much improvement was evident in the new technology, it was price. I'll discuss product costs more in just a moment, but for now consider how each new series of SSD product employs greater performance than the one before it, convincing would-be consumers into waiting for the right time to buy.

Crucial-RealSSD-C400-Micron-m4-SSD-Top.jpg

There's also a gray area surrounding SSD performance benchmarks that has me concerned. You might not know this, but SSDs can be very temperamental towards the condition of their flash NAND. My experience testing dozens of Solid State Drives is that a freshly cleaned device (using an alignment tool) will always outperform the same device once it's been formatted and used. A perfect example are Indilinx Barefoot-based SSDs, which suffers severely degraded performance when writing to 'dirty' flash NAND. The reason that all of this will matter is simple: the performance results reported to consumers in product reviews (such as this one) often report the very best performance scores, and the process used to obtain these results is not applicable to real-world usage. This is where garbage collection techniques such as TRIM become important, so that end-users will experience the same performance levels as we do in our tests.

Garbage Collection (GC) is the current solution for keeping flash NAND in 'clean' condition, while maintaining optimal performance. Windows 7 offers native TRIM support, and most retail SSDs also include this special GC function or at least offer a firmware update that brings the drive up-to-date. For anyone using an Operating System or SSD that does not offer Garbage Collection functionality, you'll be using 'dirty' flash NAND modules and suffering sub-optimal performance for each write-to request. A few SSD manufacturers offers free tools to help restore peak-level performance by scheduling GC to 'clean' used NAND sectors, but these tools add excessive wear to the NAND the same way disk defragmenting tools would. SLC flash modules may resist wear much better than MLC counterparts, but come at the expense of increased production cost. The best solution is a more durable NAND module that offers long-lasting SLC benefits at the cost of MLC construction. Adoption is further stalled because keen consumers aware of this dilemma further continue their delay into the SSD market.

Getting back to price, the changes in cost per gigabyte have come as often as changes to the technology itself. At their inception, high-performance models such the 32GB MemoRight GT cost $33 per gigabyte while the entry-level 32GB Mtron MOBI 3000 sold for $14 per gigabyte. While an enjoyable decline in NAND component costs forced consumer SSD prices down low in 2009, the price of SSD products was on the rise during 2010 and continued into 2011. Nevertheless, solid state drives continue to fill store shelves despite price or capacity, and there are a few SSD products now priced dangerously close to the high-performance storage solutions. Despite being less expensive, the cost of SSDs may still price some budget buyers out of the market. Sales prices notwithstanding, the future is in SSD technology - or possibly a high-capacity SSD hybrid - and the day when HDDs are obsolete is nearing close.



 

Comments 

 
# RE: Crucial m4 Solid State Drive TestsRobert17 2011-04-20 18:03
Good review, Olin; thanks for your efforts.

I saw no mention of any built-in encryption tools. Not on-board?

But did note that the pricing as listed seems relatively consistent with SATA 3Gb SSD offerings, so it looks like the 25nm design is showing it's production benefits if nothing else.
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# Price still an IssueEnigma8750 CMSSC Supreme Commander 2011-04-22 10:49
Unimpressive for me is all about the astronomical Price, as you mentioned in your Cons. Its really good that the Pharmacutical industry is not Manufacturing these things or we would be paying 20,000 dollar for ever hundred Gig.

Your Quote still gives me Sticker Shock, even though I can remember when VCRs were 1200.00 and a really good CD Player Was in Audiophile Magazine was $10,000.00 and my North Dakota, Gateway PIII 500 mhz was almost 2000.00, for the entire system.

"Micron will officially launch the Crucial m4 SSD on 26 April 2011, roughly one week from now. They current product pricing is as follows: 64GB Model $130, 128GB Model $250, 256GB Model $500, 512GB Model $1000. As soon as these SSDs reach retail shelves, we'll update this article with links to their online prices"

I personally would love the 256GB Model but "$500 dollars"? That is 70 to 80 percent of todays total build cost, without Mouse, Keyboard, Sound System and Monitor which I usually buy as I go, since I have most of those already.

Since the Speed of a System is also always equal to Weakest Link in the Chain having one of these Ferrari's in your system is a real boost to the system, but then you have to contend with the RAM only being able to deal with so much bandwidth or the processor is bottle necked because of a 1000 processes in the background or even worse the time it takes for the software to do its job can still bog a system down. I have a feeling that MS Windows 7 64 bit SP 1 would still take its time loading since it is loading so many files that the CIA could not handle it all.

Suffice to say, I want one of these Crucial or OCZ Drive, but when they get down in the Mid 2 hundred dollar level for 256 Gb if I have not died from old age by then.

Enigma8750
CMSSC COMMANDER AND CHIEF
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# RE: Crucial m4 Solid State Drive Testsdave 2011-04-25 02:11
qd 32...seriously, that's the best you could do
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# RE: RE: Crucial m4 Solid State Drive TestsOlin Coles 2011-04-25 07:38
Yes, , QD 32 is the 'best we could do', because that's as high as the settings on these benchmarks will allow.

What's with the trolls these days? They can't piece together a proper sentence, but they can complain about the color of money.
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# RE: Crucial m4 Solid State Drive TestsPaul 2011-05-05 18:51
Awesome review, Olin. It was very informative because I was looking to compare my C300 64Gb that I recently purchased to the newer gen Crucials. Smooth move with Dave's email address; #s will always be #s. People these days aren't appreciative of the hard work and effort it takes to do something like this. Ingrates.
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