Just days ago we rolled out our review of the Crucial M500 120GB SSD. We concluded that the flash was causing performance issues, but we didn't go into great detail on why. In our reviews, we show a picture of the flash and tell you how many packages a drive has, but rarely do we talk about the number of die in each package.
The M500 120GB has eight NAND packages (the black squares you can see) and inside each package is one NAND die. The Marvell 9287 controller is an 8-channel design so that means each channel is responsible for one piece of flash.
Today we're looking at the Crucial M500 240GB model. This model uses sixteen NAND packages with one die per package. The M500 240GB uses the same 8-channel controller so that means each channel connects to two NAND die. This brings us to interleaving or more than one NAND talking to each channel on the controller.
In the easiest terms to understand, interleaving gives us the same effect that double data rate (DDR) RAM gave us. It isn't so much the rise and fall of the clock cycle, but its more operations per clock cycle.
The Crucial M500 240GB doubles the number of die to each channel over the 120GB model. Let's see what that does for the performance over the next lot of pages.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
Crucial claims sequential performance of 500MB/s read and 250MB/s write. This is close to double the write performance of the 120GB M500. Claimed IOPS performance is 72K read and 60K write, also close to double the write performance of the 120GB model.
There are four capacity sizes for the M500 series - 120GB, 240GB 480GB and a massive 960GB model. The three smallest capacity sizes come in three different form factors - 2.5", mSATA and Crucial will soon release an NGFF form factor. We've already reviewed the 120GB and 960GB 2.5" models.
Not shown on the specifications list is Crucial's new encryption support. This works with various software packages like Microsoft's Bit Locker and other TCG Opal compliant packages, like Wave.
At the time of writing, the Crucial M500 240GB costs $199.99 at Tiger Direct. This is a drive only package that only ships with a 7mm to 9.5mm adapter. The M500 ships with a three year warranty.
Crucial M500 240GB SSD
Crucial put together an attractive package for the M500.
The package contents are labeled on the back of the box.
Here we see the top of the drive with the 7mm to 9.5mm adapter on top.
Crucial flips the label sides compared to every other manufacturer. The pretty label is on the bottom and the information label is on the top.
The 7mm form factor uses the same mounting points that the 9.5mm form factor uses.
The SATA power and data connectors are also in the same location so you won't have an issue using this product in your notebook ultrabook or desktop.
Here we get our first look at the inside of the drive. One of the first things you'll notice is the array of capacitors that works to flush the data in the buffer to the flash. This is important for host power fail protection.
There are 16 NAND packages on the 240GB M500, twice the amount found on the 120GB model, which we wrote about just a few days ago.
The same Marvell 88SS9187 controller was used throughout the M500 family.
To this point everything sounds really good, twice that of the 120GB model, but Micron choose to use the same 256MB DRAM buffer for the 240GB, the same used on the 120GB model.
The NAND packages are the same as the 120GB model, there's just twice the amount.
Benchmarks - Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance
Desktop Test System
Lenovo W530 - Mobile Workstation
We use two systems for SSD testing. The desktop runs a majority of the tests and the Lenovo W530 runs the notebook power test as well as the real-world file transfer benchmark.
ATTO Baseline Performance
Version and / or Patch Used: 2.34
ATTO is used by many disk manufacturers to determine the read and write speeds that will be presented to customers.
Crucial's specification sheet claimed 500MB/s read and 250MB/s write. We achieved nearly 540MB/s read and 275MB/s write performance in ATTO. It's always nice to get more performance than expected.
Benchmarks - Sequential Performance
HD Tune Pro
Version and / or Patch Used: 4.00
Developer Homepage: http://www.efdsoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com
HD Tune is a Hard Disk utility which has the following functions:
Benchmark: measures the performance
Info: shows detailed information
Health: checks the health status by using SMART
Error Scan: scans the surface for errors
HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has gained popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.
In HD Tune Pro we measured sequential read performance at 458.1MB/s average. The maximum and minimum read measurements were very close to the average score.
The average sequential write score was just over 200MB/s. The minimum was very close to the average, but the maximum spikes were much higher at 267.1MB/s.
HD Tach - Sequential Write Performance after Random Writes
Sampling at a higher block size, HD Tach runs after the HD Tune Pro random read and write tests. The lowest write speed measured was around 30MB/s. A majority of the reads and writes took place around 190MB/s, though.
Benchmarks - AIDA64 Random Access Time
AIDA64 Random Access Time
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.60
Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com
Product Homepage: http://www.aida64.com
AIDA64 offers several different benchmarks for testing and optimizing your system or network. The Random Access test is one of very few if not only that will measure hard drives random access times in hundredths of milliseconds as oppose to tens of milliseconds.
Drives with only one or two tests displayed in the write test mean that they have failed the test and their Maximum and possibly their Average Scores were very high after the cache fills. This usually happens only with controllers manufactured by Jmicron.
Access times are why SSDs feel so fast if your computer. When reading data, the M500 240GB does well, and delivers consistent read latency.
The new IMFT 20nm flash has higher latency when compared to older 25nm flash. The increase in write latency shows here in our write access test.
Benchmarks - Anvil Storage Utilities
Anvil Storage Utilities
Version and / or Patch Used: RC6
So what is Anvil Storage Utilities? First of all, it's a storage benchmark for SSDs and HDDs where you can check and monitor your performance. The Standard Storage Benchmark performs a series of tests, you can run a full test or just the read or the write test or you can run a single test, i.e. 4K DQ16.
Anvil Storage Utilities is not officially available yet but we've been playing with the beta for several months now. The author, Anvil on several international forums has been updating the software steadily and is adding new features every couple of months.
The software is used several different ways and to show different aspects for each drive. We've chosen to use this software to show the performance of a drive with two different data sets. The first is with compressible data and the second data set is incompressible data. Several users have requested this data in our SSD reviews.
0-Fill Compressible Data
Compressible and incompressible data works the same way on the Crucial M500 series.
Read IOPS through Queue Depth Scale
The M500 240GB reaches 84K read IOPS in our 4K read test at QD32, but we want to talk about the low queue depth performance, since most of us rarely hit high queue depths.
At QD1, the M500 240GB achieves 7111 IOPS and that nearly doubles at QD2. Aside from the Corsair Neutron GTX, these are the lowest numbers QD1 and QD2 numbers on the chart.
Scaling Write IOPS through Queue Scale
Just like the 120GB model, the C500 240GB nearly reaches peak write IOPS performance at QD2. Oddly enough, Vector 256GB is the only drive to outperform the M500 240GB at QD1 and QD2 writes.
Benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark
Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview
Developer Homepage: http://crystalmark.info
Product Homepage: http://crystalmark.info/software/CrystalDiskMark/index-e.html
Download here: http://crystaldew.info/category/software/crystaldiskmark
CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark software that allows us to benchmark 4K and 4K queue depths with accuracy.
* Sequential reads/writes
* Random 4KB/512KB reads/writes
* Text copy
* Change dialog design
* internationalization (i18n)
Note: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 Technical Preview was used for these tests since it offers the ability to measure native command queuing at 4 and 32.
4K reads nearly reach 30MB/s and the performance scales well from there.
4K writes are nearly 140MB/s and scale to QD4, but 4K QD32 falls back a bit.
Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage Hard Disk Tests
PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/pcmarkvantage
PCMark Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and high-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.
FutureMark has developed a good set of hard disk tests for their PCMark Vantage Suite. Windows users can count on Vantage to show them how a drive will perform in normal day to day usage scenarios. For most users these are the tests that matter since many of the old hat ways to measure performance have become ineffective to measure true Windows performance.
Vantage uses traces in a heavy read environment using applications that we all use daily. The M500 240GB has very good read performance and that comes through in these results with the drive empty.
Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage - Drives with Data Testing
For a complete breakdown on the Drives with Data Testing please read this article. You will be able to perform this test at home with the files provided in the article - full instructions are included.
- Brief Methodology
SSDs perform differently when used for a period of time and when data is already present on the drive. The purpose of the Drives with Data testing is to show how a drive performs in these 'dirty' states. SSDs also need time to recover, either with TRIM or onboard garbage collection methods.
Drives with Data Testing - 25%, 50%, 75% Full States and Dirty / Empty Test
Files needed for 60 (64GB), 120 (128GB), 240 (256GB)
60GB Fill - 15GB, 30GB, 45GB
120GB Fill - 30GB, 60GB, 90GB
240GB Fill - 60GB, 120GB, 160GB
Empty but Dirty - a test run just after the fill tests and shows if a drive needs time to recover or if performance is instantly restored.
With data on the drive, the performance changes, which is something that we've talked about for a couple of years now. The M500 240GB does very good at the 50% mark where we like to discuss performance in this test. This is a test of daily use applications that we all use nearly every day, but most are heavy read related.
Benchmarks - DiskBench
DiskBench - Directory Copy
Version and / or Patch Used: 188.8.131.52
Developer Homepage: Nodesoft
Product Homepage: DiskBench
Download here: http://www.nodesoft.com/diskbench/download
Note: In this test we use the Lenovo W530 Mobile Workstation and a SuperSSpeed S301 SLC 128GB SSD to move a 15GB block of data to and from the target drive. This is part of our real-world test regiment. Roughly 45GB of data resides on the target drive before the '15GB Block' is transfer. The 15GB Block is the same data we built for the Data on Disk Testing and is a mix of compressible and incompressible data.
In our real-world file transfer test, we see the lopsided read and write performance difference. We use the same 15.2GB block of data on all of the drives with a program called DiskBench to keep track of the score.
Benchmarks - Power and Thermal Testing
Bapco MobileMark 2012 1.5
Version and / or Patch Used: 2012 1.5
Developer Homepage: http://www.bapco.com
Test Homepage: http://www.bapco.com
MobileMark 2012 1.5 is an application-based benchmark that reflects usage patterns of business users in the areas of office productivity, media creation and media consumption. Unlike benchmarks that only measure battery life, MobileMark 2012 measures battery life and performance simultaneously, showing how well a system design addresses the inherent tradeoffs between performance and power management.
In our battery life test the Crucial M500 only delivers average battery life in our Lenovo W530 with a six-cell battery. This is something that surprised me in the other two M500 tests as well.
The Crucial M4 was magnificent at this test and delivered very good battery life, one of the better 256GB class drives we tested. The faster Marvell controller appears to consumer more power than the older Marvell controller used in the M4.
PCMark Vantage HDD Test - Power Draw
Here we see the power consumption during a PCMark Vantage run. The M500 doesn't hit the low power state that some of the other SSDs hit.
Thermal Test - BETA
This is another next generation benchmark that we're sliding into this review. At this time, it's still beta and needs a little work, mainly a mount and platform for consistent images.
The Marvell controller temp is just over 45C at idle, but increases to nearly 65C at load. Crucial uses a thermal pad to transfer heat to the case so it doesn't build up inside the case and transfer to the flash.
As we move deeper into process nodes of the flash, the temperature of the NAND becomes a bigger issue. Look for an in-depth article with tests in the coming weeks here at TweakTown.
What a difference one-process node makes. However, the Crucial M500 240GB does in fact still suffer from low write speeds, compared to other products on the market. The 240GB model does double the performance offered by the 120GB model, but it's not like Crucial has the only SSD on the market. Products from other manufactures don't have the same issue, even those with IMFT 20nm flash. The difference is in the controller, mainly Team SandForce manufactures, which are taking advantage of compressible data performance increases.
We've seen and talked about the mass exodus of companies moving away from IMFT 20nm flash. ADATA used to purchase IMFT die by the wafer and build their own packages, but we're starting to see ADATA SSDs ship with SanDisk flash. This increases the cost quite a bit and when the supply of IMFT runs out, the SX900 and SX910 drives will cost more at the e-tail level.
When the M in IMFT stands for Micron, Crucial's parent company, your hands are tied from using Toshiba/SanDisk Toggle 2.0 flash. Making matters worse, 25nm consumer flash is EOL. This process node is starting to look like a disappointment from many different angles, but Crucial has to just ride it out and hope yields increase, so they can drop the price of the M500. Increasing yields will also allow Crucial to make more 960GB capacity M500 drives.
Maybe stating it publicly will help reduce the number of emails I get. No, I do not know where to get a 960GB M500 for the MSRP. That said, the 960GB M500 is what many people want to purchase, but we're still getting a lot of questions about the 480GB M500. That review will come in a day or two. Stick around and we'll see if the 480GB can shake the slow write speed blues and deliver the performance we've come to expect from Crucial.