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Crucial M550 512GB SSD Review

Crucial M550 512GB SSD Review

Our final review in the M550 family brings us face-to-face with the 512GB model. With 128Gb NAND like the 1TB model, this one should perform really well.

@ChrisRamseyer
Published Thu, Apr 24 2014 9:00 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:32 PM CDT
Rating: 91%Manufacturer: Crucial

Introduction & Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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After looking at the entire M550 product line, I'm convinced the 512GB drive is the best for a large portion of our audience. Priced at just over $300, the 512GB M550 offers large capacity for game installations and the same high performance as the larger 1TB model.

The 512GB capacity size is the new sweet spot for capacity at affordable prices. When SSDs hovered around the $1 per GB mark, the price was out of reach for many, and the dollars didn't make sense. As drives moved closer to $0.50 per GB, this capacity size came to the top for capacity, price, and performance.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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The Crucial M550 hit the market in four capacity sizes: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and the flagship 1TB model. All four models use the same Marvell SS889189 controller and pair the controller with 20nm Micron flash. The two smaller drives use 64Gb die, while the two larger capacity size models use 128Gb die. This keeps write performance high across the entire product line.

Crucial rates the 512GB M550 at 550 MB/s sequential read and 500 MB/s sequential write speeds. Random performance is 95k read and 85k write. The M550 goes beyond just performance, though. The new flagship brings host power loss protection to the consumer market as well as TCG Opal and eDrive support for hardware encrypted data security. The M550 also supports DEVSLP for newer systems, a very nice power savings feature that can increase notebook battery life on supported notebooks.

Newegg has all four-capacity sizes in stock. At the time of writing, the 128GB was at $99.99, the 256GB at $168.99, the 512GB model at $334.99, and the large 1TB model at $529.99. All M550 models have a three-year manufacturer's warranty, ship with a 7mm to 9.5mm adapter bracket, and Crucial provides Acronis data migration software via a download.

PRICING: You can find the Crucial M550 (512GB) for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Crucial M550 (512GB) retails for $331.22 at Amazon.

Canada: The Crucial M550 (512GB) retails for CDN$336.99 at Amazon Canada.

Australia: The Crucial M550 (512GB) retails for $578.99 AUD at Mighty Ape Australia.

New Zealand: The Crucial M550 (512GB) retails for $616.99 NZD at Mighty Ape NZ.

Crucial M550 512GB SSD

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Crucial only released 'drive only' product SKUs for the M550, so don't expect an elaborate accessory package. This should keep the cost down though.

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Inside, we found the drive and a 7mm to 9.5mm bracket.

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Here we get our first look at the drive.

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The information label is on the top cover. The cover is exactly that in this case, just a thin sliver to protect the PCB. The other side of the case is a one-piece design that also doubles as a heat sink.

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The 7mm design allows you to install the drive in a new Ultrabook. Crucial includes a 7mm to 9.5mm adapter ring for systems with drive sleds that require the full height.

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Inside the drive, we found sixteen NAND flash packages, a Marvell controller, a Micron DRAM package, and capacitors for host power fail protection.

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The Crucial M550 is the first SSD on the market to use the new Marvell 88SS9189 controller.

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Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance

Desktop Test System

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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 tests as well as the real-world file transfer benchmark.

ATTO - Baseline Performance

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.34

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With drives in hand, we measured the 512GB M550 at just over 560 MB/s sequential read and 511 MB/s sequential write speeds.

Benchmarks - Sequential Performance

HD Tune Pro - Sequential Performance

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.55

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Blazing through the drives on the chart, we see the Crucial M550 512GB keeping pace with the fastest SSDs in this capacity size. The read test shows there is little variation when reading sequential data back from the drive.

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The write test on the M550 512GB shows impressive peak performance, but like nearly all consumer drives, performance does slow when we get off of the fresh flash.

HD Tach - Sequential Write Performance after Random Writes

Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0.4.0

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You may remember we had some issues with the smaller capacity M550 drives with write performance dropping considerably over the last one-third of the drive span. The 512GB model doesn't have the same issue, just like the 1TB model.

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 QD16.

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 can be used several different ways 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

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Incompressible Data

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The Crucial M550 works with both compressible and incompressible data the same way, so performance stays the same regardless of data type.

Read IOPS through Queue Depth Scale

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Low queue depth 4k read performance is very close to other leading drives in this capacity size. The M550 512GB achieves just over 8300 IOPS. At QD2, the IOPS performance nearly doubles and then nearly doubles again at QD4. At QD32, the M550 512GB delivers nearly 100k IOPS in this read test.

Scaling Write IOPS through Queue Scale

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All four M550 capacity sizes impress us with the 4k write performance, especially at low queue depths. The 512GB model rips through the QD1 test with 36k IOPS, and at QD2, that goes to 70k. By QD4, the drive has nearly reached its peak write IOPS performance.

Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage (Drives with Data Testing)

PCMark Vantage - Drives with Data Testing

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0

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.

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With 50 percent of the flash populated with data, the M550 512GB performs very well. Our Data on Disk test shows performance at empty, 25% full, 50% full, 75% full, and finally with all of the data deleted to show performance after a TRIM operation.

PCMark 8 Consistency Test

Futuremark PCMark 8 Extended - Consistency Test

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.0.228

Heavy Usage Model:

FutureMark's PCMark 8 allows us to wear the test drive down to a reasonable consumer steady state and then watch the drive recover on its own through garbage collection. To do that, the drive gets pushed down to steady state with random writes and then idle time between a number of tests allows the drive to recover.

Precondition Phase:

1. Write to the drive sequentially through up to the reported capacity with random data.

2. Write the drive through a second time (to take care of overprovisioning).

Degradation Phase:

1. Run writes of random size between 8*512 and 2048*512 bytes on random offsets for 10 minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat 1 and 2 for 8 times, and on each pass increase the duration of random writes by 5 minutes.

Steady state Phase:

1. Run writes of random size between 8*512 and 2048*512 bytes on random offsets for 50 minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat 1 and 2 for 5 times.

Recovery Phase:

1. Idle for 5 minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat 1 and 2 for 5 times.

Storage Bandwidth

PCMark 8's Consistency test provides a ton of data output that we use to judge a drive's performance.

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We made a couple of changes to how we report these tests. On this chart, we show bandwidth in three states: worst case, after 5 minutes of recovery time, and finally after a much longer period of recovery time. The recovery time test is the performance level that most users will find M550 performing at since it shows performance with long idle periods between tests, much like how most of us use our computers.

Storage Bandwidth All Tests

Here we see all of the tests plotted on the same chart. This shows the drive from worst case to steady and finally recovery performance.

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The M550 512GB has the rather large icons so that it's easier to spot. The drive wears down to low levels, but is capable of recovering to the highest performance we've tested in this capacity size.

PCMark 8 Consistency Test - Continued

Total Access Time

The access time test measures the total latency across all 18 tests. This is one of the, if not the most, important tests we run at this time for consumer SSDs. When your latency is low, your computer feels fast; it's just that simple.

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Here we see the access times for each test presented in the same manner. Latency is what makes your computer feel fast or slow. After idle time, the Crucial M550 512GB recovers well and allows your computer to complete an assortment of tasks at high speeds, but the drive does increase latency after a heavy workout.

Disk Busy Time

Disk Busy Time shows us how long the drive has to work to do the given tasks. The best scenario is high throughput performance with low busy time. The less the drive works, the less power it consumes. For the most part, this is an efficiency test.

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M550 512GB again shows great performance once the drive settles down from the garbage collection and high workloads.

Benchmarks - DiskBench

DiskBench - Directory Copy

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.6.2.0

Note: In this test, we use the Lenovo W530 Mobile Workstation and a SuperSpeed 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 transferred. The 15GB Block is the same data we built for the Data on Disk Testing and is a mix of compressible and incompressible data.

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The first of our mobile tests shows data transferring to and from the drive. Before we get too deep into the chart, I want to point out that our tests are all ran with a set time in between them and it never changes.

As you can see, the M550 write speed in the directory copy test is a lower than the other drives. The 256GB model did the same thing as did a few of the ADATA SP920 drives. We think our test comes too soon after some of the other tests and the drive is still rearranging data on the flash (garbage collection). When GC is taking place, the write speed drops.

Benchmarks - Power Testing & Final Thoughts

Bapco MobileMark

Version and / or Patch Used: 2012 1.5

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The Crucial M550 512GB scored in the middle of the pack in our notebook battery life test at just over 266 minutes on our Lenovo W530 with a six-cell battery. The Crucial M500 delivers the best-in-class battery life.

Final Thoughts

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A topic we discussed in the previous M550 articles is the fact that Crucial now has a two-drive approach for the SSD market. The notebook battery life test shows the M500's superior power handling, and in every other test we published today, the M550 features superior performance capabilities.

With the M550 clean and with long periods of idle time, the drive performs very well. In some cases, it's the fastest 512GB drive currently on the market. Then there are those other times when the drive is slower, with increased access times and with slow file transfers to the drive. Luckily, it's not every day we install large games or wear a drive down with massive data writes. Even then, after some idle time, the M550 recovers.

There is still one problem in this capacity size that will make potential M550 buyers think twice: its name is 840 EVO. Newegg shows the 840 EVO 500GB at $259.99 and the M550 512GB at $336.99. The performance of these two drives is similar, but there is a large price discrepancy. Crucial needs to close the gap in order to gain market share.

The only real thing really holding this drive back is the price. From a hardware perspective, the M550 delivers the goods. The hardware encryption and host power fail protection are very nice features if you need them. Everyone can benefit from host power fail protection; it's a nice insurance policy for serious users doing real work. Hardware encryption is also a nice feature, but not everyone can use it. Even though Microsoft added eDrive to Windows, other hardware components must be compatible as well, and we've found several that are not. It's something to consider when building a system.

PRICING: You can find the Crucial M550 (512GB) for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Crucial M550 (512GB) retails for $331.22 at Amazon.

Canada: The Crucial M550 (512GB) retails for CDN$336.99 at Amazon Canada.

Australia: The Crucial M550 (512GB) retails for $578.99 AUD at Mighty Ape Australia.

New Zealand: The Crucial M550 (512GB) retails for $616.99 NZD at Mighty Ape NZ.

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Chris Ramseyer started his career as a LAN Party organizer in Midwest USA. After working with several computer companies he was asked to join the team at The Adrenaline Vault by fellow Midwest LAN Party legend Sean Aikins. After a series of shake ups at AVault, Chris eventually took over as Editor-in-Chief before leaving to start Real World Entertainment. Look for Chris to bring his unique methods of testing Hard Disk Drives, Solid State Drives as well as RAID controller and NAS boxes to TweakTown as he looks to provide an accurate test bed to make your purchasing decisions easier.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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