Crucial's m4 SSD Tested At 64, 128, 256, And 512 GB

Final Words

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.

  • wintermint
    I've been recommending the Crucial m4 128gb to people, and after seeing this.. I'm glad I did :]
  • sceen311
    it'd be nice if they threw a 7200 rpm hardrive on the bench... We don't all have laptops ya know.
  • compton
    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.
  • beenthere
    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.
  • 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.
  • 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"...
  • ubercake
    These things are still too expensive.
  • mroanhaus
    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
  • burnley14
    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.
  • cknobman
    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.