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SSD 2011 roundup: Crucial M4, OCZ Vertex 3, Intel 510/320
by Marc Prieur
Published on June 23, 2011

Conclusion
With throughputs of up to 500 MB/s, the new generation SSDs are a mouthwatering prospect on paper. These sequential speed scores need to be put in context however and the dip in random access reads takes them below the Crucial C300s in terms of performance in this domain.


Overall, none of these new SSDs really stands out from the lot. The Vertex 3s give the highest performance in sequential reads but the SSD 510s dominate in writes once you move onto data that can’t be compressed by the SandForce controller, which is more realistic. Note for example the difference in the Vertex 3 120’s handling of the different types of data, going from an announced speed of 500 MB/s to 451 MB/s measured with highly compressible data and just 163 MB/s with incompressible data in our test files.

The Crucial M4 is a long way ahead of the pack with random reads, the 128 GB version having the advantage over the 256 GB due to the memory chip architecture (4 KB vs 8 KB pages). In random writes the Vertex 3s and Crucial M4s share the lead.

Note that we haven’t mentioned the Intel SSD 320s. This is because they are never the highest performance solution. Limited to SATA 3G, in practical tests its level of performance is lower than the X25-M, whether when reading small files or in the various applied timed tests. A part to avoid!

On the other hand, in our practical tests, the Crucial M4s, OCZ Vertex 3s and Intel SSD 510s are all pretty much on a par. This new generation doesn’t give much of a gain over the Crucial C300s when it comes to use as a system disk and the absolute gain remains very low even in comparison to the good old G.Skill Falcon II (based on the Indilinx Barefoot) and X25-M! As shown by our readings taken on a RamDisk, which is however 15x as fast, there isn’t much room for improvement: accessing the data is one thing but it’s quite another to process it when this doesn’t simply consist of reads / writes.

What new generation SSD can we recommend out of the Crucial M4s, OCZ Vertex 3s and Intel SSD 510s? You’ll basically have to see how these three excellent solutions are priced and make your choice accordingly. For the moment Crucial seems to have the advantage as the 128 and 256 GB versions cost €220 and €430 respectively, while the Intels and OCZs cost between 10-15% more for the 120/250 and 120/240 GB versions! Another positive when it comes to the Crucial M4s is that a 64 GB version is also listed, while such a capacity hasn’t yet been announced for the SSD 510 and Vertex 3 ranges.

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