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Round-Up: 10 mSATA SSDs From Adata, Crucial, Mushkin, And OCZ

Round-Up: 10 mSATA SSDs From Adata, Crucial, Mushkin, And OCZ
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The first mSATA-based SSDs we reviewed wowed us with diminutive dimensions, but not as much with performance. Today's best efforts are a lot more like their desktop equivalents, though. We round up 10 models between 64 and 256 GB and nail down a winner.

The idea of a mSATA-based SSD plugged into your PC's motherboard is cool, but only insofar as the little drive is as fast as more familiar 2.5" models. And it needs to cost the same per gigabyte, too. Paying extra for a slower drive just doesn't make sense, even when it's a small SSD used exclusively for caching. With more and more standard SSDs falling under $1/GB, it's pretty easy to work at least 128 GB of capacity into most desktops.

Dell XPS 13, UltrabookDell XPS 13, Ultrabook

But in an environment where extra physical space is a luxury (and in some cases not an option at all), mSATA might be the only way to get solid-state storage at all. Ultrabooks are a prime example. With very limited room, you're looking at one 2.5" storage device, an mSATA-based drive, or some combination of the two. Paying a little extra for the functionality of one fast boot drive and a slower disk for user data might be very well be worthwhile in such a compact form factor.

In case you missed Intel SSD 310 80 GB: Little Notebooks Get Big Storage Flexibility, where we first introduced mSATA nearly two years ago, the physical connector we're talking about today looks a lot like mini-PCIe. However, mSATA employs native SATA signaling. Fortunately, some of the boards currently available have the multiplexers necessary to take full-length mini-PCIe cards or mSATA drives in the same slot. From there, you face a performance challenge: some motherboards, such as Intel's DH61AG, enable mSATA at 3 Gb/s transfer rates, handicapping faster SSDs intended for 6 Gb/s connections. 

All of that is to say pairing a platform to a compatible mSATA-based SSD is not always an easy exercise. Getting it right, however, can be rewarding. Beyond the interface's purpose as an enabler of caching (which is only of moderate interest to us nowadays), we really do like the idea of 128 GB or more of flash-based capacity and a 500 GB or larger mechanical drive for user data (like music, movies, and pictures).

Seeing that the selection of SSDs designed to drop into mSATA slots is pretty small, we rounded up as many as we could get our hands on from Adata, Crucial, Mushkin, and OCZ.

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  • 4 Hide
    trumpeter1994 , January 7, 2013 3:30 AM
    I just got a 256GB Crucial m4 msata SSD for the laptop I'm typing from. I love the thing its so nice to have in my y580
  • 2 Hide
    weatherdude , January 7, 2013 3:49 AM
    Nice to see mSATA SSD's performing so well. Looks like laptops can now benefit from SSD's without having to compromise on storage space by giving up HDD's.

    Also the award is something new. I guess the "Recommended" and "Approved" awards are gone for 2013?
  • 5 Hide
    cangelini , January 7, 2013 4:43 AM
    weatherdudeNice to see mSATA SSD's performing so well. Looks like laptops can now benefit from SSD's without having to compromise on storage space by giving up HDD's.Also the award is something new. I guess the "Recommended" and "Approved" awards are gone for 2013?

    Approved is still one of the awards we're using. Recommended Buy is replaced by Smart Buy to better-convey the emphasis on value, and Best Of is replaced by Elite to better convey the emphasis on "this is the best damn product in the segment that we can recommend." Elites will continue to be something you rarely ever see, except when we want to make a point to honor a piece of hardware.
  • 0 Hide
    abbadon_34 , January 7, 2013 11:04 AM
    Seems kinda underwhelming, seeing only 4 in the market, 2 of them years old. Ironically puts Intel's SSD and OCZ's in the same boat.
  • 0 Hide
    tsnor , January 7, 2013 11:23 AM
    Excellent article. Nice. Much better than typical.

    Some discussion of trim, and the effects of using drives with a few days of use would have been good. The assumption is that the 'clean drive' performance tested is a good indicator of what people will see when they've used the drive for a month needs to be tested, the perforamnce order might change sharply. A 6 hour random write workload would go a long way to showing what to expect. Especially given the broken TRIM on SF 5 firmware and the slow speed of the fixes to existing SF drives.
  • 2 Hide
    jaquith , January 7, 2013 12:35 PM
    Yep, no argument the Crucial m4 mSATA 256 GB stole the show. It's both the fastest & cheapest -- what's the catch? I hope none.

    BTW - $179.99 or $0.70/GB (Promo Code: EMCYTZT2757) NewEgg - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820148613 Just noticed the sale from a NewEgg email.
  • 0 Hide
    Onus , January 7, 2013 12:45 PM
    I've got a 256GB Crucial M4 in the little clip on my Maximus V Gene as the boot drive. It's been performing flawlessly there for months.
    That's a bit crazy I know, but I had originally had it on the underside of an AZRock Z77E-ITX board until that board died.
  • 0 Hide
    sna , January 7, 2013 2:21 PM
    May I ask why is the Samsung 830 msata drive not present in this review?

    as I recall it outperforms the M4 and all the drives here.

  • 0 Hide
    edlivian , January 7, 2013 5:02 PM
    oh great, now newegg and crucial are going to jack up the prices on the m4 line.

    I love the m4 drives, but now its going to get too much attention.
  • 0 Hide
    jacobdrj , January 8, 2013 8:28 PM
    snaMay I ask why is the Samsung 830 msata drive not present in this review?as I recall it outperforms the M4 and all the drives here.

    Because they are pretty much EOL with the 840 series out.


    I want to know when AMD laptops are going to start including msata slots... It is the budget laptop guys that would get the best benefit from msata with a standard HDD together...
  • 0 Hide
    bigcyco1 , January 11, 2013 1:53 AM
    Crucial m4 FTW!
  • 0 Hide
    hytecgowthaman , January 11, 2013 4:28 AM
    Intel is slower than crucial M4 and above 2$ per gb. Interesting !!!
  • 0 Hide
    acku , January 13, 2013 8:04 PM
    snaMay I ask why is the Samsung 830 msata drive not present in this review?as I recall it outperforms the M4 and all the drives here.


    Cause it's not available in retail.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
  • 0 Hide
    zilexa , January 16, 2013 8:06 AM
    I don't understand why a full blown Samsung 830 SSD needs HALF the energy power compared to Crucial mSATA 64GB.. The mSATA thingie is soo small but needs twice as much power (0.89watt compared to Samsung full SSD 0.4 watt) when idle!?

    Can anyone explain this please? Would be great if you could also test the Samsung 830 mSATA drive (it exists).
  • 0 Hide
    slicedtoad , January 17, 2013 10:54 PM
    ^different controller. Size is mostly unrelated to wattage in ssds. And anything under a watt is tiny.
  • 0 Hide
    Pegger 3D , January 20, 2013 8:33 AM
    my 2 cents:

    I think this comparison is flawed. The Mushkin SSD test is the Atlas model, which is slower and cheaper than the Mushkin DX-7 Deluxe. The DX-7 would be near or at the top of the list.

    Pegger 3D
  • 0 Hide
    Pegger 3D , January 20, 2013 8:35 AM
    Sorry,

    My bad, It is late and I did not see you were comparing mSSDs.

    Pegger 3D
  • 0 Hide
    medeiom , March 25, 2013 1:22 PM
    I'm still a bit puzzled as to why Crucial m4 is considered faster than the Mushkin and AData mSATA ssd's. Mushkin and AData have both Read/Write well over 500 MB/s....and the Crucial is around 500 Read to 244Write. How is that considered the best?

    Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
  • -1 Hide
    msahni , March 25, 2013 4:37 PM
    Hi there,

    I am contemplating buying mSATA drives 240GB-256GB range. It is really becoming confusing to purchase a drive considering so many different specs.
    My options are
    1) Crucial m4 mSATA 256GB http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820148613

    2) Plextor M5M 256GB http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820249031

    3) Intel SSD 525 240GB http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820167146

    4) Mushkin Enhanced Atlas 240GB http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820226321

    I have not been able to get a head to head comparison of the drives anywhere. Most of the tech spec shootouts are of these drives against SSDs or older models.
    Could you please advise which of these drives in your opinion would be the most eligible buy in a real world consumer scenario..

    Cheers....
  • 0 Hide
    Onus , April 2, 2013 5:37 PM
    The Crucial M4 has the advantage of not being a Sandfarce drive, so IMHO its reliability is likely to be higher. I am using one as my boot drive (yes, it's mSATA, on my Asus mobo's mSATA card), and it works quite well. Before putting it there, it was the boot drive on the underside of an ASRock Z77E-ITX, and worked well there too until that board died of unrelated causes.
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