review PCSTATS will be testing the 256GB Crucial M4 SSD, a
6Gb/s SATA III drive rated by the manufacturer for read speeds of up to 500MB/s
and write speeds of 260MB/s (sequential). Crucial's M4 SSD uses 25nm MLC NAND
Flash and the same Marvell controller that Intel relies on in several of its
better known solid state drives. In the hierarchical world of Solid State
Drives, Crucial's CT256M4SSD2 SSD slots into the upper-mainstream region - it's fast, yet it's not the fastest (or most expensive).
Looking at the numbers, Crucial's M4 SSD is spec'd for 4KB random reads at 45,000
IOPS and 4KB random writes at 50,000 IOPS -- placing it a hair slower than the OCZ Vertex 3
here. Under the Crucial M4's aluminum cover we find 256GB of
Micron Multi-Level Cell NAND Flash, 256MB of Micron DRAM for the cache and a Marvell 88SS9174-BLD2 controller.
The M4 drive supports RAID, SMART, NCQ, TRIM, self
monitoring and self analysis. Average access times are less than 0.1ms. Peak
power consumption is 0.15W, idle is a scant 65mW so this puppy can certainly
help extend the battery life of any notebook by replacing a spindle'd hard
drive. The 1.2 million hours MTBF rating on Crucial's M4 SSD is slightly lower
than other solid state drives PCSTATS recently tested, most of which have
averaged 2M hours. It's backed by a 3 year
2.5" M4 256GB SSD (CT256M4SSD2) retails for around $210 USD/CDN at Crucial.com, or about $0.82/GB. The M4 SSD family includes models ranging
from 120GB all the way up to 480GB capacity. The Crucial M4
is priced per gigabyte between the 240GB SanDisk Extreme which runs about $0.91/GB and the 240GB OCZ Vertex 3 which is pegged at $0.78/GB.
256GB Crucial M4
MLC NAND Flash
Garbage collection: Yes
Interface: 6Gb/s SATA
Formfactor: 2.5" (9.5mm
Price: $211 USD/CDN
Crucial's M4 256GB SSD comes in a standard die cast aluminum chassis,
painted gray with a large logo sticker on one side and detailed bar codes
/ serial numbers on the opposite. The SSD measures 2.5" wide and 9.5mm thick -
no adaptor plate, cable or mounting screws are provided by Crucial.
Crucial M4 256GB
measures 9.5mm thick.
Voiding the warranty for a peak under
the cover will reveal a green PCB with eight 16GB MLC NAND flash memory chips
per side, for a total of 16 x 16GB = 256GB.
(8x) MLC NAND flash and
the Marvell controller on one side of the
(8x) MLC NAND Flash and 256MB cache DRAM on
the other side of the SSD.
board controller is what makes or breaks an SSD -- it's responsible for balancing bandwidth, latency and reliability. Crucial's M4 uses a Marvell 88SS9174-BLD2 controller which supports a host interface of 6Gb/s SATA III and includes a range of passive flash management tools.
Marvell 88SS9174-BLD2 controller
The useable capacity of the drive is 238.5GB.
is equipped with (16) Micron 29F128G08CFAAB NAND chips and
a 256GB Micron 2SD22-D9LGQ DRAM (DDR3-1333) chip which acts as cache. The 25nm MLC NAND Flash
chips are 16GB apiece, the DRAM is 256MB in capacity.
Let's see how this SSD handles itself on the PCSTATS test bench, next.
Prelude to Benchmarks
The details of how the Crucial M4 256GB
SSD (CT256M4SSD2) test system was configured for benchmarking; the specific
hardware, software drivers, operating system and benchmark versions is indicated
below. Please take a moment to look over PCSTATS test system
configurations before moving on to the individual benchmark results on the next
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