by Robert Tanner on December 5, 2011 in Storage
It’s been a while since we last took a look at a Crucial product, so for the next one, how about we make it interesting? SSDs aren’t uncommon, but high-end SSDs that don’t feature a SandForce controller are – and of course, that’s what makes Crucial’s m4 notable. Does its lack of a SandForce controller hold it back? Let’s take a look.
The Crucial m4 is an interesting SSD. It is the highest performing drive we have tested that doesn’t rely on real-time file compression to achieve high levels of performance. Or to put it another way, there’s only two other SSDs that can deliver actual SATA 6Gb/s performance, the relatively new and unknown OCZ Octane and the almost identical 510 Series.
The closest competitor to the Crucial m4 is Intel’s own mirror design found within the 510 Series, however the 510 Series costs quite a bit more than the m4 for what turns out to be relatively the same performance and durability. It is impressive to see such performance without relying upon data compression, as not all data can be compressed.
SandForce drives have long been the darling of hardware enthusiasts given they are in a league of their own compared to other SSDs. Well, simply put the Crucial m4 is in the same league. In our tests performance was close to or a veritable tie with the comparable SF-2281 drives, and in a few cases even exceeded them. In particular the recent FW0009 firmware update has enabled the m4 to match those sequential read speeds.
As far as reliability goes, Crucial offers the standard 3 year warranty on its m4 series. The NAND is for all intents and purposes the same as that found in the competing 510 Series drives. SandForce’s reputation has a bit of a black eye still, and Intel has yet to produce a single generation of SSDs without running into some issue of its own.
After over eight months on the market the Crucial m4 hasn’t had any grievous issues or firmware problems come to light. The largest issue I could find was a potential problem for users sticking m4’s in Macbook Pros. Given the sheer number of ways for any make and model of SSD to run into some problem or another there isn’t any perfect record left, but Crucial is certainly faring much better than its competitors in the reputation and reliability category.
The Crucial m4 offers performance to rival that of SandForce drives with none of the compressible data caveats, and still manages to put forward a sterling reputation for reliability. It offers basically the same performance and hardware found in the Intel 510 Series, yet at a much lower price point. Therefore, unless uncompressible write performance is critical for the workloads that the drive will be seeing, the final decision will depend a large part on current market pricing.
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