We published a review of the Crucial M550 1TB already today, and we'll fill in the gaps tomorrow. In this review, we're focusing on the smallest capacity size in the M550 series, the 128GB. When Crucial released the M500, the big attraction was the new 20nm 128Gb NAND flash that allowed the company to manufacture large capacity SSDs at reasonable price levels. By doubling the capacity of the die, it took fewer die per SSD to reach the capacity points.
For larger SSDs, the strategy worked out great, but smaller capacity drives suffered performance issues due to parallelism, the number of die read and written to at the same time. The Crucial M550 128GB and 256GB drives still use 20nm flash but move back to 64Gb die sizes. This increases performance by allowing the controller to read and write to more flash at the same time.
Crucial now has a two-drive strategy for the SSD market. The M550 does not replace the M500; it compliments it. In our previous review, we learned that the 1TB M550 performed faster than the 960GB M500 but used more power at the same time. Offering a choice between value and performance opens the door for higher sales and gives power users a new choice when it comes to high performance SSDs.
Specifications, Pricing, and Availability
Crucial's 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. The 1TB model is an exclusive 2.5-inch form factor model.
Crucial rates the M550 128GB at 550 MB/s sequential read with 90k random read, and 350 MB/s sequential write with 75k 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.
The 128GB capacity class is interesting when it comes to performance. Some manufactures moved to 20nm 128GB die, some are on 20nm asynchronous die, and others are using 64Gb die from Flash Forward. The best performance comes from 64Gb synchronous or Toggle die, but most manufacturers don't advertise the flash used. To be honest, some manufacturers change the flash without changing the model number or product SKU, something that happened with a major manufacturer this year. With Crucial, you don't have to worry about that because they are part of a fab company; they make the flash through subsidiary Micron. Moving forward, this will become a larger issue as controller innovation slows and flash lithography advances.
Crucial supports AES 256-bit hardware encryption that meets TCG Opal 2.0 and IEEE-1667 standards. Microsoft's eDrive is supported as long as your other hardware also supports the standard. M550 supports DEVSEP also 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 128GB SKU we're looking at today should list for around $99.99. The 1TB model will list at $530.99, 512GB at $336.99, and 256GB at $168.99, all per Crucial's MSRP for a drive only kit.