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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

SSD Testing Methodology

Solid State Drives have traveled a long winding course to finally get where they are today. Up to this point in technology, there have been several key differences separating Solid State Drives from magnetic rotational Hard Disk Drives. While the DRAM-based buffer size on desktop HDDs has recently reached 64 MB and is ever-increasing, there is still a hefty delay in the initial response time. This is one key area in which flash-based Solid State Drives continually dominates because they lack moving parts to "get up to speed".

However the benefits inherent to SSDs have traditionally fallen off once the throughput begins, even though data reads or writes are executed at a high constant rate whereas the HDD tapers off in performance. This makes the average transaction speed of a SSD comparable to the data burst rate mentioned in HDD tests, albeit usually lower than the HDD's speed.

Comparing a Solid State Disk to a standard Hard Disk Drives is always relative; even if you're comparing the fastest rotational spindle speeds. One is going to be many times faster in response (SSDs), while the other is usually going to have higher throughput bandwidth (HDDs). Additionally, there are certain factors which can affect the results of a test which we do our best to avoid.

SSD Testing Disclaimer

Early on in our SSD coverage, Benchmark Reviews published an article which detailed Solid State Drive Benchmark Performance Testing. The research and discussion that went into producing that article changed the way we now test SSD products. Our previous perceptions of this technology were lost on one particular difference: the wear leveling algorithm that makes data a moving target. Without conclusive linear bandwidth testing or some other method of total-capacity testing, our previous performance results were rough estimates at best.

Our test results were obtained after each SSD had been prepared using DISKPART or Sanitary Erase tools. As a word of caution, applications such as these offer immediate but temporary restoration of original 'pristine' performance levels. In our tests, we discovered that the maximum performance results (charted) would decay as subsequent tests were performed. SSDs attached to TRIM enabled Operating Systems will benefit from continuously refreshed performance, whereas older O/S's will require a garbage collection (GC) tool to avoid 'dirty NAND' performance degradation.

It's critically important to understand that no software for the Microsoft Windows platform can accurately measure SSD performance in a comparable fashion. Synthetic benchmark tools such as HD Tach and PCMark are helpful indicators, but should not be considered the ultimate determining factor. That factor should be measured in actual user experience of real-world applications. Benchmark Reviews includes both bandwidth benchmarks and application speed tests to present a conclusive measurement of product performance.

Test System

  • Motherboard: ASUS P8P67 EVO (Intel P67 Sandy Bridge Platform, B3 Stepping)
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-2600K 3.4 GHz Quad-Core CPU
  • System Memory: 4GB Dual-Channel DDR3 1600MHz CL6-6-6-18
  • SATA 6Gb/s Storage HBA: Integrated Intel P67 Controller
    • AHCI mode - Intel Rapid Storage Technology Driver 10.1.0.1008
  • SATA 3Gb/s Storage HBA: Integrated Intel P67 Controller
    • AHCI mode - Intel Rapid Storage Technology Driver 10.1.0.1008
  • Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate Edition 64-Bit with Service Pack 1

Storage Hardware Tested

The following storage hardware has been used in our benchmark performance testing, and may be included in portions of this article:

Test Tools

  • AS SSD Benchmark 1.6.4067.34354: Multi-purpose speed and operational performance test
  • ATTO Disk Benchmark 2.46: Spot-tests static file size chunks for basic I/O bandwidth
  • Iometer 1.1.0 (built 08-Nov-2010) by Intel Corporation: Tests IOPS performance and I/O response time
  • Lavalys EVEREST Ultimate Edition 5.50: Disk Benchmark component tests linear read and write bandwidth speeds
  • CrystalDiskMark 3.0.1a by Crystal Dew World: Sequential speed benchmark spot-tests various file size chunks

Test Results Disclaimer

This article utilizes benchmark software tools to produce operational IOPS performance and bandwidth speed results. Each test was conducted in a specific fashion, and repeated for all products. These test results are not comparable to any other benchmark application, neither on this website or another, regardless of similar IOPS or MB/s terminology in the scores. The test results in this project are only intended to be compared to the other test results conducted in identical fashion for this article.



 

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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