It's great to finally be able to include the Crucial M4 series into our benchmark results suite as Crucial did not make the SSD available for a lot of the EU press for a long time. The end results are as expected, this Marvell 88SS9174 based solution is downright competitive with any other SATA3 SSD available on the market.
Especially the latest Firmware upgrade completely lifted the product into very high-end regions. On write performance we got stuck at roughly 200 MB/sec, that might sounds a little so-so even average but that has everything to do with the fact that we tested the 128MB model. The 256 MB model should bring you closer to 300 MB/sec on write performance thanks to the additional memory channels available.
None the less... The 128GB model is however the most popular model so the write performance at 200 MB/sec is really the only thing that is a fraction slower opposed to similar sized SandForce 2281 products, the read performance however is stunning.
Some overall recommendations then. Should you be in the market for a SATA3 SSD then we have a couple of hints though, we absolutely prefer the performance of the Intel Series 6 (H67/P67/Z68/X79) integrated SATA 6G controller over anything else available in the market. If you run an AMD chipset with the added Marvell 6G controller for example, you will see lower performance. The Asmedia controllers we spotted lately on motherboards are offering good performance, albeit still 25% slower than Intel. Also make sure you run your drive in AHCI mode, it does make a difference.
Prices HDD versus SSD -- well my advice is simple and I'll keep repeating this in each and every SSD conclusion; you probably should stop looking at the Solid State Disk technology as if it were a traditional HDD. We will all be old and grey before the two reach the same prices or top the multiple TB volume storage the HDD offers for less money. Comparing an SSD with an HDD is making a comparison in-between an integrated IGP and a dedicated graphics card, that last one will cost you a heck of a lot more yet you gain incredible overall performance. It is the very same with an SSD, use it as boot drive on Windows and applications and you instantly have removed a huge bottleneck, load and access times. It is a difference in-between night and day (in a proper system). For massive storage like movies, MP3 files and bulky data you do not access on a regular basis, sure that's where the HDD remains the winner.
The magic simply is finding a good combination in-between the two and balance things out. That's where the magic happens. I kid you not, all my test systems and work systems run on SSDs, not once have I considered going back to HDDs. The benefits of a good SSD are simply grand. But that doesn't mean I do not understand the budget and cost dilemma that many of you are facing though. There are still many variables and unknowns regarding life-span.
With Crucial being a part of Micron they can make the NAND flash memory themselves, and that gives the product an advantage, pricing wise as such Crucial will always have an answer to the competition, the 128GB model as tested today can be spotted in the 165 EUR price bracket and that alone already makes the M4 an excellent choice.
The firmware update released a while ago is golden, it really makes this SSD very high-end in its performance.
The choice for the Marvell 9174 controller combined with the 256MB data cache clearly was a good one as it delivers precisely what you guys expect, want and need. Whatever your choice in an SSD will be, the Marvell 9174 controller based M4 products are a massive plus in our book.
So yeah, this review can only compliment what a lot of you guys have been experiencing for a while now, top-notch competitive performance at similar competitive prices. The write performance on the 64 and 128GB models are a notch lower than I had hoped for, but then again ... we doubt that you'd even notice it as the overall experience is just extremely good. Combine that fact with the negativity that has surrounded the SandForce 2281 controller SSD based product and the M4 choice could be on your Christmas 2011 shortlist, storage is about price, performance and reliability. If anything the M4 series ticks all these boxes. We give the M4 our Top Pick award.
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