Today we’re going to look at a new Crucial Solid State Drive, the M4 128GB. Crucial was the first company to introduce a SATA 6Gbps SSD last year, the C300. Now its predecessor has arrived: the M4.
The Crucial M4 uses an updated version of the Marvell controller used in the C300. Crucial isn’t the only company using this controller. Intel recently choose to use the same Marvell controller in their 510 SSD line. The NAND used in the Crucial M4 is 25nm IMFT NAND. To take full advantage of the performance of this SATA 6Gbps SSD a notebook with SATA 6 Gbps support is be needed. The latest Intel notebook platform called Sandy Bridge offers this support.
Crucial M4 Specifications:
- Sequential Read (up to) 415 MB/sec (SATA 6Gb/s)
- Sequential Write (up to) 175 MB/sec (SATA 6Gb/s
- Random 4k Read 40,000 IOPS
- Random 4k Write 35,000 IOPS
- Active Average Power 150 mW
- Idle Average Power <85 mW
To find out how the Crucial M4 performs I built it into our test system, a Toshiba Satellite C660 with Sandy Bridge chipset, Core i5 2410m processor and 4GB DDR3 Memory.
To get an impression of the synthetic performance I ran the SSD through CrystalDiskMark 3.0 to determine the maximum read and write speeds.
The sequential read comes close to the promised 415MB/sec. The sequential write is well above the promised 185MB/sec. 4K random performance looks well and at higher queue depths it looks even better. Good synthetic performance is nice but real world performance is what counts.
Real world performance
To find out the real world performance I installed Windows 7 64 bit Home Premium. Immediately after installing I ran into some difficulty. The system was freezing at times. Helpful members on the Notebook Review forum said that Intel’s Link Power Management service was causing these freezes. By applying a simple registry tweak, LPM was disabled and the freezes were gone. After that the system ran smooth.
For comparison I used the following hard drives:
- Toshiba MK3265GSX, a single platter 320GB 5400rpm hard drive.
- Intel X25m 80GB SSD, a previous generation SATA II SSD.
After Windows 7 I installed the Microsoft Office Suite, Adobe Photoshop CS5and the game Need for Speed Shift.
The Crucial M4 brings a nice improvement over the Intel SSD in installing Photoshop and especially Need for Speed. Traditional hard drives are a lot slower with installing. This is partly because of the much lower random write performance. Next I measured how fast these drives boot Windows 7 with the utility Boot Timer.
Crucial manages to boot the set system in an impressive 10.4 seconds. Intel comes remarkably close with 10.6 seconds. It’s clear that a 5400rpm hard drive boots slower. Considering the 5400rpm spindle speed 25 seconds is not a bad time for the Toshiba.
To get an accurate indication of file copy performance two folders were copied. The first folder contained many small program files, the second folder contained larger media files.
Crucial and Intel are close together with the first folder containing the smaller program files. The higher sequential writes of the Crucial make a difference with the larger media files, where the Crucial is about twice as fast.
To get an impression of application launching performance I opened up a large TIFF image and Adobe Photoshop CS4 64 bit together. Next was Microsoft Word and a large document containing text and images. After that I started the game Need for Speed and measured the time it took to load the first level.
Crucial opens the Word document and Word in 9.7 seconds closely followed by Intel. Opening Photoshop the difference is much larger, the Crucial opens the image 10 seconds faster than Intel. In loading the first level of Need for Speed, the hard drive seems to make little difference.
To measure multi-tasking performance three different tests were run. The first was opening a larger jpg image with Photoshop while a virus scan was running in the background. The displayed time is the time it took to open the jpg image and Photoshop. The second multi task test involved decompressing a large rar file with a virus scan simultaneously. The time displayed is the time it took to complete both jobs. The last multi-tasking test consisted of three tasks ran simultaneously: a folder was copied, a rar file extracted and a folder was scanned. The time displayed in the graph is the time it took to complete all three jobs.
In our testing the Crucial M4 brings a 10 to 15% improvement in multi tasking situation over the Intel X25-M. During heavier multi task situations the difference can be expected to become larger. As can be seen in the figure, a 5400rpm hard drive and multi tasking don’t go together well.
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