The year 2011 was quite complex in SSD matters. The industry finally made a move towards SATA3 (6 Gbps) and with that arrived a lot of new controllers and thus SSDs. Earlier in the year the most promising SSDs where based on SandForce 2281 controllers. Unfortunately for SandForce, they got haunted and plagued by firmware issues forcing people to reflash their SSDs, and that's just not ok... as 9 out of 10 times that also invokes your data being lost.
It was in a way too late in Q3 when the firmware bug finally got identified and fixed despite numerous fixes and updates. So though the SandForce 2281 based SSDs run fast as heck and are stable now, the reputation damage was done. SandForce products are no longer the #1 choice for end users.
As weird as it sounds, that firmware bug might be the best thing that could happen for the market really (not for your data though!). See, other players benefited from that massively. Take for example the new Corsair Performance Pro SSD drives that are Marvell based. Or OCZ for example all of the sudden they inject proprietary Indilinx controller based products, there's more players on the market now and that is great for competition, for us as tech-press it was an interesting dynamic to witness in the technology channel alright.
SandForce royally screwed up with the 2000 series versus firmware issues. And I really do want to make very clear that all latest firmwares are stable, for any vendor. But that doesn't mean that the word is out and the reputation of that controller simple is dented, keeping potential consumers away.
Rise and shine was then applied to the Crucial M4 series, being the perfect example, shine that is. People obviously prefer purchasing a 100% stable product albeit compromising a little on performance here and there.
We are still not there though, we expect a lot of shifts and changes in the SSD arena in the years to come. The SSD market could become a competitive slaughter fest as inevitably prices will go down, very much similar to the drop in memory prices. That means (well at least we think) only the players in the market that have proprietary technology and intellectual property in-house will survive this race. That means at the very least, have either your own controller technology or your own NAND Flash memory.
Hence Intel will be successful, Samsung, OCZ and of course Crucial ....
Crucial is part of Micron, and many SSDs review you have read here on Guru3D.com are based on Micron memory, a huge player in the business. Their Crucial M4 has been a success story ever since the beginning. Consumers lost trust in SandForce and Crucial played their card really well, making their own NAND flash allows them to insert their product into the market at very competitive prices. Combined with a Marvell controller they kick ass in both price and performance. And if things weren't successful enough, earlier this year Crucial launched a firmware update, improving performance by another 20~25% making the product nearly as good as what SandForce SSDs have to offer.
So without doubt the best selling SSD of the year 2011 probably has been the M4 series, and due to that hefty demand Crucial really didn't want to send out samples to press that much, these M4's where selling anyway so why risk anything really. After pushing a little earlier this month Crucial finally agreed to send out a sample, for which we thank them very much as we finally can add Crucial M4 results to our benchmark suite, something I know a lot of you requested.
Obviously the M4 series is nothing other then a success story, and with a lot of people not trusting SandForce (recently sold to LSI btw) anymore we'll have a peek, after which we'll dive into the technology behind it and obviously we'll present you a nice phat performance overview.
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