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Inside Of Crucial's M550 SSD

The Crucial M550 SSD Review: Striking Back With More Performance
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There wasn't any reason to change the M550's chassis. It's not the nicest-looking enclosure I've ever opened up, but it's all-metal, and it works well. My biggest complaint is probably that the foil label scratches easily, making it hard to get a good picture.

The PCB (Front)

This is the 512 GB drive's PCB, and it looks pretty similar to the M500. Most notable are the eight placements of Micron flash. Each package hosts 32 GB of capacity, with two 128 Gb dies each.

The 256 GB model is configured with as many packages. But instead of utilizing 128 Gb parts, it's built on a foundation of 64 Gb dies. With all else equal, the two SSDs should perform pretty much identically (Crucial wasn't able to send a sample for testing).

The PCB (Back)

All of the action happens on the back of the PCB, where you see the other memory packages, along with Micron's data cache and Marvell's updated controller.

In a play to reduce power consumption, that cache is low-power DRAM. The 1024 GB M550 comes equipped with 1024 MB of LPDDR3, while the pictured 512 GB drive includes 512 MB. Crucial's 256 GB M550 also includes 512 MB, though it really only uses half of that. Most of the space is used for mapping anyway; only a few MB of the capacity goes to caching information.

A familiar bank of surface-mount capacitors provide the M550 with power-loss protection, which you don't always see on desktop-oriented drives. Intel's SSD 730 was the most recently-reviewed example of an enthusiast drive with this functionality, and its solution is stouter than Crucial's. However, it's also found on a drive that costs twice as much per gigabyte as the M500.

This is IM Flash Technologies' L85 NAND, used by both Intel and Micron.

Marvell's 88SS9189 controller is more of a black box. There isn't much technical data about it available, but we believe it's manufactured using a smaller process by TSMC. Almost without question, it exists as a refinement of the 88SS9187, and we know it helps propel the M550 to better benchmark results.

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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