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Final Words

Crucial's m4 SSD Tested At 64, 128, 256, And 512 GB
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We see a slight performance improvement in our benchmarks from moving to 512 GB from 256 GB. Overall, though, the differences are too small to suggest upgrading for any reason other than needing the additional capacity. And in many cases, the 128 GB version of Crucial's m4 turns out to be faster than the 256 GB model. As a result, we continue to recommend that 128 GB capacity point. Not only is it nice and fast, but it's also large enough to be treated as a system drive, without forcing you to pick and choose your few favorite apps as you'd need to with a 64 GB SSD. Some folks don't mind the inconvenience of constantly bumping up against a relatively low capacity ceiling. For us, there's nothing more aggravating. 

Priced just over $200, a 128 GB drive should leave enough room in your budget for a beefy 1 or 2 TB hard drive to store user data. And shoot, if it means stepping down from a Core i7-2600K to a Core i5-2500K for $100 less, we consider that compromise completely worthwhile.

Unfortunately, those decisions aren't commonly available to notebook owners, who often have to choose between SSDs and hard disks as they populate their one and only 2.5" drive bay. The introduction of mSATA should help solve that conundrum, giving power users the option to mix solid-state and conventional storage in the same mobile platform.

SSDs are an expensive commodity. Even though prices continue to drop with the manufacturing advances that affect NAND, you're still looking at a price per gigabyte of at least $1.50. In relation to the history of SSDs, that's pretty impressive. But make a comparison to magnetic storage and you're still sure to get sticker shock. So yeah, hard drives are as much as 30 times less expensive than SSDs. However, in terms of real-world performance, the 64 GB m4 only cuts busy time by a factor of five versus the 500 GB Momentus 5400.6. Clearly, the performance difference doesn't scale linearly with price.

What you can expect from an SSD, though, is that when you spend two times more on a 128 GB drive versus the 64 MB model, you get twice as much space for important apps and files. The corresponding performance increase is icing on the cake. That's not the sort of situation about which we worry. Rather, we want the power user saving up for a 128 GB SSD to know about the performance drop he's experience if he decides 64 GB is enough.

Now, there's nothing wrong with a 64 GB SSD. In a majority of usages, it's going to be significantly faster than a hard drive. Just bear in mind that spending more on the 128 GB model doesn't just get you two times the capacity; you also see a measurable speed-up. That why we're giving our 2011 Recommended Buy award to Crucial's 128 GB m4. This 120/128 GB capacity point continues to be the sweet spot where we believe you're getting the most performance without entirely breaking the bank.

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  • 5 Hide
    wintermint , August 3, 2011 5:11 AM
    I've been recommending the Crucial m4 128gb to people, and after seeing this.. I'm glad I did :]
  • 6 Hide
    sceen311 , August 3, 2011 5:22 AM
    it'd be nice if they threw a 7200 rpm hardrive on the bench... We don't all have laptops ya know.
  • 7 Hide
    compton , August 3, 2011 5:25 AM
    I'm glad this was done. It's rare that you get the chance to stack all the capacity points up (as in never). I bought an Intel 510 120GB and a M4 64GB and my own testing showed that you'd never know the difference besides the capacity (in day to day use, besides lower max write MB/S). I kinda like keeping my system drive to a bare minimum -- just Win7 no swap or hibernate, Office, a few other apps, and then I keep my Steam folder on a separate drive. Simple. I will say that if you are building a new system, cut whatever you have to in order to fit at least a 64GB SSD -- the M4 is excellent at any capacity. I'd rather have to go down to an i3 from a 2500k than from a SSD to a HDD. I get tired of people saying "it's not worth it" and "they're not much faster than a 7200rpm". Those people must be doing it wrong.
  • 6 Hide
    beenthere , August 3, 2011 6:01 AM
    Now if they could only make these SSDs reliable, we could all enjoy some performance improvement. Intel, Micron, OCZ and Corsair to name a few have all had reliability/compatibility/firmware issues of some sort resulting in loss of data, which for me is simply unacceptable.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , August 3, 2011 6:17 AM
    Last month I got a 64GB for my laptop and a 128GB m4 for my desktop. So far no issues, and the speed is great. Glad I got the 128GB and not the 256GB.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , August 3, 2011 6:37 AM
    PCMark 7 Storage tests are just pathetic, they have messed some of them up on purpose it seems just to shrink the difference between systems containing SSD and the ones containing HDD only, useless bench from start to "finish"...
  • -1 Hide
    ubercake , August 3, 2011 9:38 AM
    These things are still too expensive.
  • 1 Hide
    mroanhaus , August 3, 2011 11:40 AM
    I picked up the 64 GB M4 two weeks ago on Newegg for under $90. I am so glad I bought it, the thing makes boot times lightning fast. I have Win7 64-bit, Photoshop, 3DS Max, Google Chrome, and a few little monitoring and Bitcoin mining apps on there and I STILL have 21 GB to spare. Don't buy the 128 GB unless you really need it, throwing Steam and other massive apps will be much better suited on a secondary HDD. SSDs are simply amazing and well worth the money spent, even if you're a cheapass like me they're still affordable. The time saved from having to wait around while booting your computer makes SSDs worth the money imo
  • -2 Hide
    burnley14 , August 3, 2011 12:59 PM
    Quote:
    See how they all hover pretty close to the same price per gigabyte, while sequential write and random write performance trend upward? Those are the spoils available to folks willing to spend more on higher capacities.


    This is true, but in 6 months when the whole lineup is outdated and the next generation of drives blows these ones away, those that spent more are going to have spent the extra money without much purpose.
  • 1 Hide
    cknobman , August 3, 2011 1:29 PM
    burnley14This is true, but in 6 months when the whole lineup is outdated and the next generation of drives blows these ones away, those that spent more are going to have spent the extra money without much purpose.


    Well going by your logic why should anyone ever spend money on anything in technology??? Guess its always a waste huh?

    Failed logic.
  • 1 Hide
    jerreddredd , August 3, 2011 1:30 PM
    the Reviews on Newegg have been really positive. no DOA or failures. the only issue i have seen is that some laptops have issues with the M4. this is probably a MB Bios issue or driver issue. I have a 256GB Phoenix Pro and my sees how quickly levels load and thinks he needs an SSD too. I am building his new system soon and the M4 is a strong contender for his build. The Vertex3 seems to have a lot of issues right now, which was the other SSD consideration.
  • -1 Hide
    burnley14 , August 3, 2011 2:39 PM
    cknobmanWell going by your logic why should anyone ever spend money on anything in technology??? Guess its always a waste huh? Failed logic.


    No, not failed logic at all. Go ahead and buy a SSD today, I already have, but why spend 8x as much money on a larger drive to get marginally better performance when everyone knows a better product will be out so soon? My logic would be that for the price of a single large drive, you could buy a smaller drive in this generation, the next, and the one following that for the same amount of money. And odds are that capacities will increase at the same price level in the future as well. Your performance would be substantially greater than just having today's single large drive while spending the same amount of money.
  • 1 Hide
    brenro , August 3, 2011 3:03 PM
    burnley14No, not failed logic at all. Go ahead and buy a SSD today, I already have, but why spend 8x as much money on a larger drive to get marginally better performance when everyone knows a better product will be out so soon? My logic would be that for the price of a single large drive, you could buy a smaller drive in this generation, the next, and the one following that for the same amount of money. And odds are that capacities will increase at the same price level in the future as well. Your performance would be substantially greater than just having today's single large drive while spending the same amount of money.




    The same could be said of every single computer upgrade you could ever do. CPU's, graphics cards, motherboards? By your logic I could never upgrade because something better will soon come out.
  • 3 Hide
    dgingeri , August 3, 2011 3:14 PM
    I have an outstanding question regarding SSDs that I've been trying to find for a while now: how does raid performance compare at the same capacity. In other words, I'd like to see the comparison between 4X64GB, 2X128GB, and a single 256GB to see which performs better for the money spent.

    I'm currently running a 2X120GB Vertex 2 setup, and I can tell you for certain that it massively outperforms a single 240GB Vertex 2. That was pretty plain with that generation of drives. It's not so clear with this generation, though. Also, since TRIM isn't an option for a raid config, how much performance is sacrificed after it gets used for a while? I haven't lost much at all with my dual Vertex 2 raid after over a year, but it is also only half used. I haven't run out of unused cells yet to see a difference.

    Since nobody else has written an article on such things, I would think such a thing would attract readers.
  • 0 Hide
    jacobdrj , August 3, 2011 3:16 PM
    brenroThe same could be said of every single computer upgrade you could ever do. CPU's, graphics cards, motherboards? By your logic I could never upgrade because something better will soon come out.

    Yeah. At this point, even a mid-grade SSD has balanced my PC out so much to the point that an upgrade will only happen if my computer dies in a lightning storm... A C2Q with an Agility 2 60gb and a RAID of 500GB Samsung drives with 8 gb of DDR2 RAM and Windows 7 x64 will last me a long long time...
  • 0 Hide
    stevelord , August 3, 2011 3:24 PM
    I run a few 128s and 256s at work. So far so good. Although a coworker had the freezing bug and had to update firmware. Beware of this. It is fairly common and allover Crucial's forums.
  • 0 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , August 3, 2011 3:25 PM
    I'm looking at the article page with the response time graphs. A human blink of an eye takes between 300ms and 400ms. It would seem then that average and maximum response times would appear to be instantaneous to a human being. What would a gamer or an enthusiast be doing with a ssd for the difference between 64GB and a 512GB ssd response times to be noticeable?
  • 2 Hide
    cadder , August 3, 2011 3:41 PM
    1. The recommended 128GB size has a lot of negative feedback on newegg, specifically freezing periodically.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820148442

    2. I wish Toms would come up with some real world benchmarks for testing SSD's. How long does it take for the computer to boot? How long does it take to load Excel? How long does it take to load Crysis? Things like that. I've seen tests other places that showed how fast a computer would boot, and the difference between the slowest hard drive and the fastest SSD wasn't all that much. I would like to see real world tests of these drives. While the artificial benchmarks show big differences, I'm betting in the real world the differences are very small.
  • 1 Hide
    X-Nemesis , August 3, 2011 4:48 PM
    Something tells me that over 90% of the users out there wouldn't notice a difference between a sata 6 ssd and a sata 3 ssd. Eventually all that will be available will be sata 6 but for now, buy a sata 3 last gen model for cheaper price.
  • 0 Hide
    jacobdrj , August 3, 2011 4:57 PM
    X-NemesisSomething tells me that over 90% of the users out there wouldn't notice a difference between a sata 6 ssd and a sata 3 ssd. Eventually all that will be available will be sata 6 but for now, buy a sata 3 last gen model for cheaper price.

    The problem is, while the last gen models are cheaper, they are not THAT MUCH cheaper... It has got to get to $1/GB... It really just has to...
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