Crucial's M500 SSD hit high marks for capacity and price but failed to attract performance users back to the Crucial brand. Armed with Crucial's 20nm process with 128Gb dies, the M500 helped to change the SSD landscape that led to the current 50 cents per GB price point we enjoy today.
The 128Gb Micron dies worked well for the two largest capacity sizes, 480GB and 960GB, but hurt performance on the two smaller capacity sizes, 120GB and 240GB. This time around, Crucial increased parallelism on the smaller capacity sizes by moving to 64Gb dies. This doubles the number of dies and increases overall performance.
In this article, we're actually reviewing the new Crucial M550 flagship model, the big 1TB. Later today, we'll cover the 128GB, and we'll finish off the new M550 series tomorrow with reviews of the 256GB and 512GB.
You may notice the capacity size changes from the previous release. Rather than reserve capacity for background activity like the M500, the M550 gives users the full capacity of the flash, but the controller will use empty space for background activity. Let's take a look at the specifications.
Specifications, Pricing, and Availability
Crucial is bringing the M550 to market in three form factors, 2.5-inch SATA, mSATA, and M.2 SATA. The new model uses the faster Marvell 88SS9189 controller, an upgrade over the 88SS9187 used on the M500. Three capacity sizes dominate the product range, 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB, but the 2.5-inch form factor is the exclusive offering with 1TB, the model we're looking at today.
Crucial rates the M550 1TB at 550 MB/s sequential with 94k random read and 500 MB/s sequential with 85k random writes. With SSD performance up to 20 times faster than spinners, it's hard to squabble over performance at this level, but the M550 numbers represent enthusiast class performance.
Finding an SSD that reaches the upper limits of SATA III isn't all that difficult today, so manufacturers need to add features to stand out. The M550 series does just that. Crucial supports AES 256-bit hardware encryption that meets TCG Opal 2.0 and IEEE-1667 standards. Microsoft's eDrive is also supported as long as your other hardware also supports the encryption standards. M550 supports DEVSEP and even offers host power loss protection.
At the time of writing, the Crucial M550 wasn't listed at e-tail shops, but the M550 will be ready for consumption by the time you read this. Crucial did send over MSRPs for the 2.5-inch models. The 1TB SKU we're looking at today should list for around $530. The 512GB at $336.99, 256GB at $168.99, and 128GB at $99.99, all per Crucial's MSRP for a drive only kit.