The Crucial m4 128GB SATA III SSD performed much better than I thought. The assumption of a slower product was based on the 256GB drive we received from Crucial a couple of months ago. Little did we know that our 256GB drive had been ran prior to us taking possession, so our apples to apples comparison with other retail products didn't pan out. We are currently retesting the 256GB model after getting the drive back into our controlled steady state. Look for a full report on the 256GB and 64GB m4 in a week or so.
What we learned today is that the Crucial m4 is a real competitor to the SandForce SF-2281 controlled drives with 25nm IMFT flash. That's not to say that the m4 is capable of the performance offered by the SF-2281 drives paired with Toshiba Toggle flash like the Vertex 3 Max IOPS and Corsair Force GT, but there is a huge price difference between those products offered. When it comes to the baseline Vertex 3 the Crucial m4 also has a price advantage, but as I pointed out, the real world performance differences are a lot smaller than I originally thought. When comparing products by cost the Crucial m4 128GB sits right across from the SandForce drives paired with 25nm async flash; this group includes the Agility 3 and Corsair Force 3. To date we've only tested the Agility 3 and found that when the drive has data on it, the Agility 3 performs at levels resembling last year's models and is much slower than the Crucial m4 128GB.
This position is new to Crucial. Last year the RealSSD C300 256GB was the fastest SSD money could buy, but this year Crucial is being a bit overshadowed by Team SandForce at the high end. I think e-tailers are doing the right thing and lowering the price of the 128GB m4 enough to undercut the faster top shelf SandForce drives and as a result also undercutting the mainstream SandForce drives. What we are left with is a next generation SATA III SSD that is more than fast enough for nearly all users and a very good value when compared to the competition.
At 209.99 there is no doubt in my mind that the 128GB Crucial m4 is a bargain. This time last year we were paying nearly 400 USD on the Crucial C300 128GB. Oh what a difference a year makes (and the introduction of 25nm flash).
The only thing that really bothers me at this point is Crucial's accessory package. There are very few SATA III capable notebooks on the market, so a majority of these drives will be planted in desktop systems. Crucial doesn't offer a desktop adapter bracket on their full kit product, so many users will need to add that item to their cart at checkout. This raises the overall cost by a few dollars and many people will simply not think about fitting a 2.5" drive into their desktop system until they are trying to do so.
Still, even without a desktop adapter bracket, the Crucial m4 128GB is a solid value and a great way to increase your systems performance across the board when moving from a spinner or previous generation SSD.