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Crucial P2 SSD Review: Beating SATA Dollar for Dollar

Crucial’s low-cost P2 delivers SATA-breaking speed, even without DRAM

Crucial P2 M.2 NVMe SSD
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

Update 8/16/21 5:30am PT: Crucial has swapped out the TLC flash that powered the initial P2 SSD we tested with QLC flash, severely reducing performance. We've written an investigation into that matter, which you can read here, with our results showing that the 'new' drives are nearly four times slower at transferring files than the original, read speeds are half as fast in real-world tests, and sustained write speeds have dropped to USB 2.0-like levels of a mere 40 MBps. That’s slower than most hard drives. Unfortunately Crucial made the change without altering the product name or number or issuing an announcement. Crucial claims that the P2 will live up to its specs because the company baked the performance of QLC flash right into the spec sheet at launch. But those specs don’t match the performance you’ll see in numerous reviews of the originally-shipping drives.

As such, we do not recommend purchasing this drive. In this article, we have also inserted additional albums in each test category to reflect the real performance you'll get when purchasing this drive today.

Original Article:

In some ways the Crucial P2 is a step in the right direction, yet in others, it’s a step back. The P2’s single-sided form factor can slide into almost any ultra-thin M.2 NVMe device, and it sips very little power, earning our praise for its efficiency. With a long five-year warranty and NVMe performance, it scores an easy win over any of the SATA SSDs, too. If you’re looking for a cheap boot drive, Crucial’s P2 just may fit the bill depending on the price you catch it at. However, there are telltale signs that the P2 will likely see some hardware changes in its future, with QLC flash likely replacing the TLC we reviewed it with today. That means you could get slower performance with newer revisions of this drive. 

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

At 500GB, there is very little price variance between some of the fastest and slowest SSDs, making just a few dollars difference much more worth your while than it is at higher capacities like 1TB and 2TB SSDs – especially during sales. Crucial’s 500GB P2 is very affordable at $65, yet it’s a tougher pick if you consider the other NVMe SSDs out there. With low-cost hardware and a lack of onboard DRAM, Crucial’s P2 can’t hang with the faster and closely-priced competitors that have eight-channel NVMe SSD controllers with DRAM support. Samsung’s 970 EVO Plus, Adata’s SX8200 Pro, WD Black SN750, and Seagate’s BarraCuda 510 all tend to offer more performance for just a few dollars more.

If you can’t stretch your budget beyond the P2’s $65 price, the Silicon Power P34A60 gives the P2 a good run for $60 (at the time of publication). It has HMB tech, too, but is faster than the P2 at game loading and trades blows during mixed workloads. We have to give it to the P2, though, while it wasn’t so snappy to fulfill sequential read requests, it did much better than the P34A60 when we hit it hard with SPECworkstation 3’s prosumer workloads. 

The same goes for the P2 against the P1: While Crucial’s P1 delivers snappier performance under light loads with a DRAM-based design and a fairly large dynamic SLC write cache, its 64-Layer QLC NAND flash holds it back during mixed and write-heavy tasks. Crucial’s P2, with its E13T DRAMless NVMe controller and 96L TLC NAND flash, leverages HMB well enough to deliver more consistent sustained performance. And, with the increased endurance rating over the P1, we give the win to the P2 as an overall victor, for now. 

On the entry-level front, the WD Blue SN550 is the P2’s most imminent threat – the SN550 is the best DRAMless SSD we’ve tested yet. While we don’t have a 500GB sample on hand, based on our experience with the SN500, it should beat the P2 easily. At the same price, the WD Blue SN550 is a better value that should be more responsive due to its fast direct-to-TLC write performance, even after its small SLC write cache fills.

Downright ominous performance ratings don’t bode well for the P2’s future. Crucial only rates the P2 for up to 940 MBps write performance at the 500GB capacity, but it can clearly hit over 1.8 GBps. Random performance specifications are also missing from Crucial’s marketing documents. These are telltale signs that this product will likely see some hardware changes in its future, with QLC flash likely replacing the TLC we reviewed it with today. That means you could get slower performance with newer revisions of this drive. 

We have seen this in the past with the Crucial BX500 lineup. Originally, the company launched a 960GB TLC model and later phased it out for 1,000GB and 2,000GB models with QLC. We can’t say that we are too confident of the controller remaining once the shift occurs, either. But if, or better said, when changes occur, we will keep you up to date. 

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