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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

Marvell 88SS9174-BLD2 SSD Processor

The Crucial RealSSD-C300 was the industry's first SATA 6Gb/s consumer solid state drive, and also the first SSD to use ONFI 2.1 synchronous NAND flash. But with a 355/215 MB/s read and write speed rating from its Marvell 88SS9174-BJP2 SSD processor, the C300 is so circa February 2010. Micron equips the RealSSD C400 with the revised Marvell 88SS9174-BLD2 SSD processor. This controller is based on the same processor that powered the C300, but its been tweaked to output 90,000 combined IOPS based on Micron's own Iometer tests. In this article, we examine just how much has changed 'under the hood' with the new Crucial m4/Micron RealSSD C400 series.

Marvell's 88SS9174 (aka "9174") controller is used in the following solid state drives: Micron RealSSD C400/Crucial m4, Strontium SSD Matrix, Intel SSD 510 (BKK2 revision), Corsair Performance 3 (BKK2 revision), and many more.


Marvell's BLD2 revision of their popular 88SS9174 controller offers a few primary differences from the older BJP2 varient, and a few good reasons to consider their storage product over the competition. The 88SS9174-BLD2 offers faster transfer speeds, improved write IOPS, and support for Micron 25nm MLC NAND flash modules. The Marvell SSD printed circuit board (PCB) follows the same general design as several past products, with a familiar component layout complete with NAND flash modules, DRAM buffer, and Marvell 88SS9174 controller.


Marvell's solid state drive processor is joined by up to sixteen 25nm flash NAND flash memory arranged in an 8-channel design, and a single DRAM chip for buffered transactions. The Marvell 88SS9174 supports Native Command Queuing (NCQ) with 32 command slots. Similar to other modern SSD controllers, the Marvell 88SS9174-BLD2 processor was built to support native TRIM and Secure Erase commands. Additionally, the Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (SMART) command set is also supported. Bandwidth estimates for the Marvell 88SS9174-BLD2 SSD controller claim speeds up to 415 MB/s read-from and 260 MB/s write-to, however these are dependant on the flash-NAND and DRAM buffer used.


Our Marvell test sample was pulled from a Crucial m4/Micron RealSSD C400 SSD. Since Crucial is a Micron brand, it's not surprising to see Micron NAND used in their solid state drive. The flash NAND used on the 256GB CT256M4SSD2/MTFDDAC256MAM-1K1 model are built with 25-nanometer technology and utilizes Micron's high-speed ONFI 2.1 NAND interface for 166 MT/s with 512-byte industry standard sector size. Each 32GB Micron 29F128G08CFAAB MLC NAND module requires 3.3V, and yields a total NTFS formatted capacity of 223 GB in Windows 7.

In addition to Marvell 88SS9174-BKK2/BLD2 SSDs, this same 25nm Micron MLC NAND flash component is used on SandForce SF-2200 series SSDs such as the OCZ Vertex 3.


The ONFI 2.1 specification pushes NAND performance levels into a new performance range: 166 MB/s to 200 MB/s. This new specification is the first NAND specification to specifically address the performance needs of solid-state drives to offer faster data transfer rates in combination with other technologies such as SATA 6Gb/s, USB 3.0 and PCI Express Gen2.


After the SSD processor and NAND flash, all that remains is the DRAM buffer. While other 256GB Marvell-based storage devices such as the Intel SSD 510 and Corsair Performance 3 receive only a 128MB cache transaction buffer, the Crucial m4/Micron RealSSD C400 and Strontium SSD Matrix each get the benefit of a 256MB DRAM module. Micron's 256MB DDR DRAM module (ICD22-D9LGQ) offers decent cache performance for fast transaction buffering, which will become more important as SATA 6Gb/s transfers are observed.



# 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.

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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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