Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
We recently published the Crucial P1 1TB review and found it to be a strong consumer SSD. The P1 series is Crucial's first SSD using the NVMe protocol over PCI Express, and the first to use the company's advanced 4-bit per cell (QLC) memory.
Crucial's target audience, mainstream users, likely will never need a full 1-terabyte of storage. That makes the smaller and less expensive 500GB model an even better buy for some shoppers. The easy way to tell what capacity you need is simply to check your current usage level in the My Computer panel. If you use less than 400GB now and have never deleted data to make room for more pictures, movies, music or other commonly stored files, then the smaller drive may be a better buy.
Many claiming affiliation with the so-called PC Master Race can also benefit from the smallest P1. The Micron flash used in this series comes has lineage to the 64-layer TLC that delivers exceptional random read performance. The new QLC was even slightly faster with smile-inducing random reads in our 1TB P1 test than the two of the fastest and most popular drives shipping today, Adata's SX8200 and HP EX920.
For two years we spoke of QLC like it was a terrible 100-year storm on the horizon; the F5 coming to take the fun out of SSDs. Now that it's here we realize it's a bright sunny day. QLC does have some faults that we will discuss. Endurance isn't that great right now but more than adequate enough for mainstream users. Writing a lot of data at one time can cause the drive to slow down for a short time, but the cache does a very good job of masking native QLC performance.
Our 1TB P1 review discussed the new series in broad terms, but today we will focus on the 500GB. This capacity sports 1,900 MB/s sequential read and 950 MB/s sequential write performance. Of the three capacities, the 500GB is the slowest with the largest reduction coming in sequential writes.
The random performance tops 90,000 IOPS read and 220,000 IOPS write. On paper, the drop to 90,000 read IOPS is a large cliff compared to the 170,000 of the 1TB model. In reality, the 500GB P1 still delivers more than 16,000 read IOPS at queue depth 1, and that increases to nearly 32,000 IOPS at queue depth 2. For most users, these two random performance numbers matter and the peak number are irrelevant.
Pricing, Warranty, And Endurance
We start with the 500GB in the pricing breakdown. This model currently sells for $109.99. That virtually doubles to $219.99 for the 1TB model, and we can only assume the 2TB drive will sell for somewhere close to $400 to $440 when it comes to market later this year. Crucial hasn't released the official price of the 2TB drive.
All three sizes carry a generous 5-year warranty limited by written data. The industry calls this a TBW rating or terabytes written. The 500GB P1 warranty allows users to write up to 100 TBW for the 500GB drive and that doubles for each model up to 200TBW and 400TBW.
Crucial gives P1 owners access to Acronis TrueImage software used to clone your existing data to the new drive. The company also has a strong management software in Executive Suite that includes monitoring and firmware update capabilities. The software also has a DRAM-based cache feature that increases performance and lowers flash wear when enabled. We don't recommend using the Momentum Cache feature on notebooks as it uses more power in some instances.
A Closer Look
The Crucial P1 uses the M.2 2280 form factor and the NVMe protocol over a PCI Express 3.0 x4 connection. The interface is faster than SATA but you need to make sure your computer supports the drive.
512GB Class Performance Testing
The P1 isn't a DRAMless design, so it's already a step above some products. The new QLC SSDs don't fall in a clear-cut category at this time. The entry-level NVMe space includes products like the Toshiba RC100 and other DRAMless SSDs like the HP EX900. The 500GB P1's low endurance keeps it from the upper class like the Adata SX8200, which just happens to sell for the same price at the time of writing.
The P1's closest competitor comes from drives like the Corsair MP300 and MyDigitalSSD SBX using the Phison E8 controller running on a PCIe 3.0 x2 bus.
Sequential Read Performance
The 500GB P1 meets and even exceeds its 1,900 MB/s rating in sequential reads but it's still not enough to challenge the drives using 8-channel controllers and 3-bit per cell media currently selling at similar price points.
Sequential Write Performance
Nearly every drive in the chart surpasses the 500GB P1 in sequential write performance. This is one of the weakest points for the new P1 SSD and one that Crucial can't fix with a simple firmware update.
Sustained Sequential Write Performance
Writing large amounts of data to the 500GB P1 can be painless unless you surpass the SLC cache. Crucial uses a dynamic cache that starts with around 20% of the user volume. As you add data, the cache shrinks. We never recommend using the full userspace on any SSD to store data, but with QLC SSDs the performance tax has a harsher penalty. We call the low performance area outside of the cache native performance for the particular media used. In this case, the QLC native performance is very lower.
Random Read Performance
Reading and writing sequential data is only a very small portion of most user's daily workload. Most users read random small block size data mostly with small bursts of sequential data mixed in. The Crucial P1 was designed for "most users" and thus has strong random read performance. The new 1Tb QLC die uses a slight higher bus speed compared to 64L TLC. The increases shows in our QD1 random read test where the P1 manages to outperform all of our 512GB class favorites shipping today.
Random Write Performance
The slightly faster bus speed also propels the 500GB P1 above the others in the random write test. The new MyDigitalSSD BPX Pro delivers higher QD1 performance, but by QD2 the P1 takes off and leaves the other drives behind.
70% Read Sequential Performance
The two low sequential results ensure the 500GB P1 will have a difficult time with sequential mixed workloads. This is where you read and write data at the same time. Compared to other NVMe SSDs the P1 trails, but the new QLC drive still delivers superior performance to any SATA SSD shipping today.
70% Read Random Performance
In workload that matter, the 500GB P1 delivers acceptable random mix workload results. As we increase the workload to workstation levels, the P1 levels off.
512GB Class Real-World Performance Testing
Game Load Time
There are several things "that matter" in 2018, and random read performance is one of them. The high random read performance allows the 500GB Crucial P1 to load our Final Fantasy: Stormblood game levels at impressive speeds.
PCMark 8 Total Storage Bandwidth
Not every application leverages random read performance as heavily in the game test. When you load photos, videos, music, and other large block size files into an application, you use sequential data, the P1's weak link. The PCMark 8 Storage Bandwidth test uses nine commonly used applications to perform ten tests to measure storage performance with an average, and easy to compare, result.
The P1 doesn't perform as well in this test, but the placement on the chart is more dire than the reality. The P1 is nearly as fast as the Samsung 970 EVO and Intel 760p while outperforming the HP EX900 DRAMless SSD and aging MyDigitalSSD SBX.
PCMark 8 Extended Storage Test
Each of the eighteen passes in the PCMark 8 Extended Storage Test use the same nine applications as the previous test and the same ten actual tests. The difference here is the preconditioning that wears the drive into a steady state condition where it is slowest.
In the 1TB P1 article, I explained why this type of activity is why what you actually pay more money for consumer SSDs in 2018. This is the shopping division point, stronger performance under heavy use or nearly identical performance under light use. You still get what you pay for, but you have to know what you are buying before you can make an informed purchasing decision.
SYSmark 2014 SE System Responsiveness and Power Tests
The BAPCo SYSmark 2014 SE Responsiveness Test shows that it takes more than strong random read performance to deliver the best user experience in an office work environment measured with real applications. As we mentioned, if you load media files you break into the slow zone for the P,1 and office work often involves manipulating pictures and video files. The P1 takes an extra performance hit when multitasking with the same file types.
Notebook Battery Life
In our Lenovo Y700-17 gaming notebook allows us to test both SATA and NVMe SSDs in the same system to compare the drives on equal ground. This is an older design but one that we are still comfortable with to test battery life. The Crucial P1 500GB delivers nearly five and a half hours of office-level activities on a single charge.
The 500GB Crucial P1 isn't the perfect SSD for all users, but it's not too far off from being a very good drive for many. The main issue with this drive right now is the price. The performance is better than we expected to see, but on the other side of the coin, the endurance is lower than we hoped to get.
The 500GB Crucial P1 is a strong SSD for most users, but it's not a design that enthusiasts want. Crucial wants this to be the new standard for entry-level NVMe, and we would welcome this level of performance in that role.
To successfully make that happen Crucial can't realistically sell the P1 for the same price as the Adata SX8200. In the two P1 capacities we've tested, the SX8200 with an 8-channel controller, TLC memory, and a 3x endurance advantage costs the same or only slightly more.
SSD prices have dropped around 50% since the start of the year, and the downward spiral will not stop in the near future. Every week a different drive either new or an older design will take the low price crown. The quality at the time will vary so shoppers should wait until the drive they want is at an acceptable price. At this time the 500GB P1 is simply not competitively priced with the other products on the market. We do expect that to change but only as we get closer to the holiday shopping season. We expect to see the P1 series sold with deep discounts.
For enthusiasts, the good news is that QLC has a future. The performance we saw today is much better than the early planar TLC from 2015 and even better than the last planar TLC that was so bad in some cases it plagued the reputation of 3-bit per cell media until we were two generations deep in 3D technology. If this is the worst QLC we will ever see, the technology has a bright future.
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