Review: Crucial M500 480GB SSD

Posted December 12, 2013 by Sam Chen in Reviews
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Crucial Reliability and Solid Pricing – Meet the Crucial M500.

crucial-m500-480gb-ssd-custom-pc-review-2When your parent company is the owner of one of the largest NAND fabs in the world, it gives you some perks. Your cost of NAND is lower, your engineers know the NAND better, and you’re able to obtain creme of the crop NAND that, quite frankly, you don’t want anybody else to have. I generally refer to these lucky guys as Tier 1 SSD manufacturers and it pretty much only consists of Intel, Micron, Samsung, SanDisk, Toshiba, and SK Hynix.

Now a little more than two years ago, Crucial introduced their M4 SSD which was pretty revolutionary at the time. Most of the Tier 1 SSD manufacturers had little to nothing to show for on the consumer side, instead focusing most of their efforts on their OEM businesses. This left a good chunk of the market untapped and when Crucial unveiled the M4, it quickly became one of the best selling SSDs out on the market. While it wasn’t the fastest SSD out there, it had great reliability and low pricing – a winning combination at a time when SSD technology was still in its infancy.

Nearly two years after the release of the Crucial M4, Crucial unveiled the M500, which we’ll be reviewing today. The Crucial M500 now follows the exact same naming scheme used by Micron, so as far as I’m concerned the Crucial M500 and the Micron M500 are pretty much the same thing, similar to what we saw with the Crucial M4 and the Micron C400. As usual, the Micron M500 will generally be offered to OEMs and enterprise users while the Crucial M500 will generally be offered to consumers/end users.

Crucial M500 Specifications

Manufacturer Crucial Crucial Crucial Crucial
Model M500 M500 M500 M500
Model Number CT120M500SSD1 CT240M500SSD1 CT480M500SSD1 CT960M500SSD1
Form Factor 7mm, 2.5″ SATA 7mm, 2.5″ SATA 7mm, 2.5″ SATA 7mm, 2.5″ SATA
Capacity 120 GB 240 GB 480 GB 960 GB
Controller Marvell 88SS9187 Marvell 88SS9187 Marvell 88SS9187 Marvell 88SS9187
NAND 20nm Micron Synchronous MLC 20nm Micron Synchronous MLC 20nm Micron Synchronous MLC 20nm Micron Synchronous MLC
Sequential Reads 500MB/s 500MB/s 500MB/s 500MB/s
Sequential Writes 130MB/s 250MB/s 400MB/s 400MB/s
4K Random Read 62,000 IOPS 72,000 IOPS 80,000 IOPS 80,000 IOPS
4K Random Write 35,000 IOPS 60,000 IOPS 80,000 IOPS 80,000 IOPS
Interface SATA 3 6GB/s SATA 3 6GB/s SATA 3 6GB/s SATA 3 6GB/s
Warranty 3 Years 3 Years 3 Years 3 Years

Crucial’s M500 will come in four models ranging from 120GB all the way up to 960GB. This is possible because of Micron’s relatively new 20nm 128Gb NAND dies which allow them to cram a ton of capacity into a single drive. We didn’t get a chance to sample the 960GB edition, but instead we have the 480GB model which is rated at the same performance level as the 960GB model.

Unfortunately, going with anything lower than 480GB will result in a slight read and massive write performance drop as you can see in the performance specifications above. This is because Crucial/Micron is using slower, denser 128Gb dies across the board, which require fewer dies to reach the capacities. While this reduces cost, fewer NAND dies saturating fewer NAND channels results in lower performance. It’s a battle between price and performance, and unfortunately Crucial won’t let you have both – at least not yet.

Also notice that Crucial is now over provisioning the M500 beyond the standard 7% resulting from bits to bytes conversion. This is something that wasn’t required on the Crucial M4, but with the more error prone 20nm, 128Gb NAND used in the M500, more advanced error correction techniques are required. So, in addition to the default standard 7%, Crucial is also taking another 7% for RAIN, or Redundant Array of Independent NAND - a technology that’s been around on Micron’s enterprise offerings for a while, but something that’s showing up for the first time on Crucial consumer drives. For those unfamiliar with RAIN, it’s a bit like SandForce’s RAISE (Redundant Array of Independent Silicon Elements). By taking some additional spare area, Crucial is able to use that as parity (akin to RAID 5 or RAID 6) to recover bad blocks in the NAND. This allows for better data integrity, which is more Crucial (no pun intended) in more error prone NAND.

Let’s go ahead and take a closer look at the Crucial M500.


About the Author

Sam Chen

Editor-in-Chief