Lionel from Mac Bidouille was kind enough to lend us his Crucial M4 256 GB while we were waiting for ours and we were able to run it through a few tests before we publish the full report to come.
The Crucial M4s are the replacement for the C300s, which were, up until recently, the fastest SSDs on the market. The M4s use new Flash MLC from Intel/Micron engraved at 25nm and have higher speeds. Availability is slated for end April.
If we look at the level of performance announced more closely, read speeds are up 16.9% at the same capacity and writes are up from between 26.7 and 20.9%. While random writes are also up (+11.1 to 33%), this isn’t the case with random reads: the C300 is at 60000 IOPS and the M4 at just 40000 IOPS. This is important because this is the score, linked to access times, that makes SSDs so responsive to use in comparison to standard hard drives.
When you open the SSD, you can see a Marvell 88SS9174, but in the BLD2 revision here while the C300 uses the BJP2 revision and the Intel 510 SSD the BKK2. It comes with 16 chips of 16 GB 25nm IMFT MLC Flash, as well as a 256 MB memory chip for the cache.
While we’re getting our forthcoming SSD report together, here are a few performance figures obtained using an Intel P67 Express motherboard in the meantime. We tested:
- The Corsair Force 120 GB based on the SandForce SF-1200
- The OCZ Vertex 3 240 GB based on the SandForce SF-2281
- The Crucial C300 256 GB based on the Marvell 88SS9174-BJP2
- The Crucial M4 256 GB based on the Marvel 88SS9174-BLD2
- The G.Skill Falcon II 128 GB based on the Indilinx Barefoot
- The Intel X25-M 160 GB based on the Intel PC29AS21BA0
- The Intel 510 250 GB based on the Marvell 88SS9174-BKK2
The tests were carried out in IOMeter, with random data, which is the least favourable for the Corsair Force and Vertex 3 models.
As announced, the sequential speeds are up on the C300. The M4 remains nevertheless a little bit down on the Intel SSD 510 and Vertex 3. In writes, the 510 is in the lead, with the M4 and Vertex 3 very close on its heels. Note, this example is the least favourable example for the Vertex 3 as with very compressible but unrealistic data, it manages 461 MB/s.
As expected, random access reads are faster on the C300 than on the M4. None of the new generation SSDs does better than the C300 or the ‘old’ Falcon II based on the Indilinx Barefoot, though this is THE value that makes SSDs so responsive to use. The M4 is nevertheless up on the Vertex 3 and 510 SSDs. In writes, the Vertex 3 is slightly up on the M4, while the 510 SSD is significantly down.
When we look at 8 simultaneous random accesses instead of 1, the gaps get bigger, with controllers using the increase in load to increase parallelism of accesses. The M4 is thus a good way in front of the Vertex 3 and still further in front of the 510. With compressible data, the Vertex 3 does better in writes, reaching 54,361 IOPS. Once again, in reads the C300 is faster.
As you’ll no doubt have understood, the new generation SSDs that are starting to come onto the market offer performance gains on the previous generation but not necessarily in the most useful areas. We’ll check in our next report, but it’s likely that above and beyond any benchmarks, the differences when it comes to practical usage will be inexistent. It is therefore the use of 25nm on the Vertex 3s and M4s that is particularly anticipated, as it is expected to reduce price per GB.
What should you go for between the Vertex 3 and Crucial M4? It’s still a bit early to say and we’ll have to see what the 120/128 GB versions give in practice. In terms of these 240/256 GB versions and if you exclude the factor of pricing, which is still not known, it seems that the Crucial M4 has a slight advantage because of its superior performance in random reads, but once again, only the practical tests will really tell us. In the meantime, if you find a C300 at a nice price, jump at it!