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Results: TRIM Testing

The Crucial M550 SSD Review: Striking Back With More Performance
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Finally, I want to introduce a new test I've been working on using JEDEC's 218A consumer workload trace to create a TRIM benchmark. It's not a neatly-packaged little utility you can run at home. Rather, this is a test scripted in ULINK's DriveMaster 2012 software and hardware suite.

DriveMaster is used by most SSD manufacturers to create and perform specific metrics. It's currently the only commercial product that can create the scenarios needed to validate TCG Opal 2.0 security, but it's almost unlimited in potential applications. There are various hardware components associated with the platform, such as a SATA/SAS power hub that allows the benchmarked drive to be power-cycled independently of the platform. Much of the benefit tied to a solution like DriveMaster is its ability to diagnose bugs, ensure compatibility, and issue low-level commands. In short, it's very handy for the companies actually building SSDs. And if off-the-shelf scripts don't do it for you, make your own. There's a steep learning curve, but the C-like environment and command documentation gives you a fighting chance.

This product also gives us some new ways to explore performance. Testing the TRIM command is just the first example of how we'll be using ULINK's contribution to the Tom's Hardware benchmark suite.

The suite ships with some built-in scripts, but also contains its own scripting language for extensibility and customization. This particular test uses JEDEC's published master trace of consumer I/O activity (similar to our Tom's Hardware Storage Bench trace). The read commands are removed from the trace, leaving write, flush, and TRIM commands. After secure erasure and writing preparatory data, the test commences. The trace is played against the drive four times using NCQ with and without TRIM, and DMA with and without TRIM. IOPS are measured and averaged every 100,000 commands. 

On a 256 GB drive, each iteration writes close to 800 GB of data, so running the JEDEC TRIM test suite once on a 256 GB SSD generates almost 3.2 TB of mostly random writes (it's 75% random and 25% sequential). By the end of each run, over 37 million write commands are issued. If that sounds like a lot of storage traffic, it is.

The first two tests employ DMA to access the storage, while the last two use Native Command Queuing. Since most folks don't use DMA with SSDs (aside from some legacy or industrial applications) we don't concern ourselves with those. It can take up to 96 hours to run one drive through all four runs, though faster drives can cut the time in half, roughly. Because so much information is being written to an already-full SSD (the drive is filled before each test, and then close to 800 GB are written per iteration), SSDs that perform better under heavy load fare best. Without TRIM, on-the-fly garbage collection becomes a big contributor to high IOPS. With TRIM, 13% of space gets TRIM'ed, leaving more room for the controller to use for maintenance operations.

TRIM Testing

Here's the chart derived from our DriveMaster JEDEC TRIM test data. We have the new M550s, Samsung's venerable 840 Pro at 256 GB, Crucial's more mainstream M500 (240 GB), Plextor's M5P, and the 250 GB 840 EVO. Each device's NCQ-based test is plotted. The solid line represents average IOPS every 100,000 commands, but without TRIM. The hashed line represents performance every 100,000 commands with TRIM. In each case, the workload is mixed in with tons of small, random writes.

Since performance is measured over each 100,000-command segment, time is factored out of the above chart. This rolling average also hides the trace's peaky nature.

You can see the 512 GB M550 start out with lower peak performance in non-TRIM testing. Add TRIM to the mix, though, and it ends up as quick as Samsung's 840 Pro.

But I also want the instantaneous average of our TRIM testing. So, how does the drive fare servicing writes with and without TRIM during each 100,000-command window? The purple line represents IOPS across the entire trace, without TRIM. The teal line is with TRIM.

Notice that the peaks are higher with TRIM support enabled. This is how a desktop-oriented drive should behave. About 13% of the drive's span is freed by the command during our test, giving Marvell's controller more available blocks to write to. Without TRIM, the processor is stuck manually collecting garbage, juggling data in read/modify/erase cycles.

TRIM mitigates this, allowing the operating system to tell the drive when a range of LBAs is no longer needed. The alternative is letting the drive handle its own garbage collection as the operating system writes to LBAs already occupied by data.

This chart shows throughput in our TRIM-enabled test. The M550s do well, despite their lack of additional over-provisioning. See how soundly the 512 GB M550 routs the 480 GB M500?

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  • 2 Hide
    ikyung , March 18, 2014 2:44 PM
    Heard rumors of Samsung planning to market the 850 with aggressive pricing this year. Would like to see Crucial and Samsung duke it out in pricing.
  • 1 Hide
    _potts_ , March 18, 2014 2:50 PM
    I just splashed $250 (delivered to Oz) on a M500 480GB mSATA, eh, can't complain.
  • 0 Hide
    cryan , March 18, 2014 3:51 PM
    Quote:
    Heard rumors of Samsung planning to market the 850 with aggressive pricing this year. Would like to see Crucial and Samsung duke it out in pricing.
    They already have IMHO. The Samsung 840 EVO is significantly cheaper than it was at launch. It and the M500 have seemed to move in lockstep. Along the way, we've seen other manufacturers follow suit. Even Intel's 530 series, which has been on the more expensive side of mainstream products has been seen for just $140 for the 240 GB version here in the State.Regards,Christopher Ryan
  • -1 Hide
    venk90 , March 18, 2014 5:16 PM
    INSANELY GOOD DEAL ON AMAZON ! The 512 GB SSD is listed at 169$ incorrectly ! Grab them before they change it. I ordered 20 myself ! Will e-bay all of it or feel bad and return it to Amazon !
  • 3 Hide
    cryan , March 18, 2014 6:53 PM
    Quote:
    I just splashed $250 (delivered to Oz) on a M500 480GB mSATA, eh, can't complain.
    I hope Crucial continues to sell the M500 right where it is. The deals are just too good, and it'd be truly sad were Crucial/Micron to up the price on us.And they're not slow. I know it seems like they're sub par compared to some of the last few drives we've tested, but the reality is most users are never going to notice the speeds between different SSD models. The only exception is jumping from an older SATA II drive to a modern SATA III SSD. Even then, you'd need solid hardware in the system.Regards,Christopher Ryan
  • 0 Hide
    Ankursh287 , March 18, 2014 8:58 PM
    M500 available at $240 (amazon)..damn good drive for the price, performance difference between M500 , M550 & 840/840 pro won't visible to normal user.
  • 0 Hide
    Nada190 , March 18, 2014 10:55 PM
    When I look at SSD's I want price to performance because I won't even notice a difference.
  • 0 Hide
    Drejeck , March 19, 2014 2:56 AM
    Specifically for gaming which would be the best? All sort of tricks are allowed, from tweaks to samsung's magician (ram caching).
  • 0 Hide
    RedJaron , March 19, 2014 12:43 PM
    Quote:
    Of course, we're in the throes of post-launch pricing. In a few weeks, it's possible that the gap between M500 and M500 will narrow.
    Typo on the last page. One of those should be 550.


    Happy to see Crucial with this update. I'm with a lot of people, you don't see a difference in SSD performance outside benchmarks. Give me something reasonably fast with great durability and I'm sold. With all this talk of the maturing of 20nm manufacturing, I'd love to see an M500 V2 with less overprovisioning.
  • 0 Hide
    gizmoguru , March 19, 2014 2:29 PM
    Hay Tom's the chart for Sequential Reads Benchmark is labled "Random Writes", please correct
  • 0 Hide
    mapesdhs , March 19, 2014 7:05 PM
    I notice the PCMark Vantage graph's x-axis does not start at zero. This
    is very bad practice, please don't do it. The visual result is totally misleading.
    It makes the results look more differentiated than they really are.

    Ian.
  • 0 Hide
    game junky , March 20, 2014 6:12 PM
    I have had nothing but good experiences with Crucials M4s so this could be an exciting development depending on how they compete with Samsung. Keep 'em coming, guys
  • 1 Hide
    snakyjake , March 24, 2014 10:40 PM
    In terms of reliability and maintaining data integrity, how does this compare to SanDisk X210?
  • 0 Hide
    f s , March 29, 2014 4:29 AM
    M550 price doesn't match the performance unfortunately, $60 less would have made the difference.
  • 0 Hide
    cryan , April 1, 2014 11:00 PM
    Quote:
    In terms of reliability and maintaining data integrity, how does this compare to SanDisk X210?


    Most data integrity protocols for client/consumer SSDs are centered around maintaining data at rest. That is, once data is written to the flash, you want to minimize and counteract operations which can skew existing data. Things like Read Disturb Management fit this category, where reading one cell can affect the voltages of adjacent cells.

    That said, both drives have three year warranties. Both are made by fabbed SSD manufacturers, both have stakes in NAND foundries. Both use Marvell controllers and custom firmware/PCB packages. When SanDisk updates the X210 with the newer Marvell 9189, it's probably going to be awesome. The X210 is undoubtedly the most underrated drive in circulation. If you can get a good deal on one, it's probably the drive for desktop applications, assuming you want something that's been through its paces. The M550 is too early into its launch to know much about it yet, at least over more than a couple weeks.

    Regards,

    Christopher Ryan
  • 0 Hide
    frank5868 , April 14, 2014 1:24 AM
    Hi, Christopher
    Thanks for the nice review. I have some questions and wondering if you could offer some answers for them:
    Is the drive using AES encryption? 128 bit or 256 bit? How about the "Block cipher mode of action"? Is it ECB? CBC or XTS?
    Please dig as much as possible. I think the readers would be happy to be aware of the mode of action. As well known, the ECB isn't secure but the CBC or XTS is far better.

    Thanks.
    Frank