SOMETIMES LESS IS MORE
Crucial M550 256GB
CONCLUSION With the M550, Crucial finds a better balance between speed, storage and affordability.
Last year, Crucial debuted its M500 drive, which was the first SSD in the market to use Micron’s new 128Gbit NAND chips. Incidentally, Crucial is a subsidiary of Micron. The high density NAND allowed Crucial to offer high capacity SSDs at competitive prices. However, a downside was that the performance of its 120GB and 240GB models suffered because of decreased NAND parallelism.
Higher density NAND means lesser NAND die in the drive to maximize the performance potential of the controller. One can think of it in the same way as single-channel memory versus dual-channel memory. For example, if you wanted 8GB of RAM on a motherboard that supports dual-channel memory, going for two sticks of 4GB will give you better performance than just a single stick of 8GB. The same concept goes for SSDs as well.
As a result, the Crucial M550 is an incremental update of last year’s M500 model. Specifically, it has Marvell’s new 88SS9189 controller, which adds support for LPDDR (Low Power Double Data Rate) DRAM and is better optimized for DevSleep, which should make it more power-efficient - a boon for those intending to use this new drive in notebooks. Most importantly, for 128GB and 256GB models of the M550, Crucial has reverted to lower density 64Gbit NAND to increase NAND parallelism and boost performance. The larger capacity 512TB and 1TB models will continue to use 128Gbit NAND to keep prices attractive.
Performance is generally much improved. The old M500 drive offered decent read performance and the M550 was able to improve on that slightly. However, the largest gains were seen in the Crucial M550 overall write performance, especially on sequential and 512K workloads. Looking at its overall performance, we can say that the new Crucial M550 offers significant improvements over the old M500.
The Crucial M550’s key competitor in this segment is Samsung’s very popular SSD 840 EVO. The two drives are mostly even matched, with the Samsung drive holding a slight edge up at the start up until higher queue depth workloads where it exhausts its TurboWrite cache and then the Crucial drive takes the lead. However, the SSD 840 EVO still has a trick up its sleeves in the form of its RAPID caching technology, which greatly boosts performance of certain workloads.
Overall, the M550 is a welcome addition to Crucial’s stable and offers good all-round performance at a very attractive price. At $240 for the 256GB version, its price it below the magic $1 per gigabyte mark and is markedly more affordable than the competition. The Samsung SSD 840 EVO retails for around $269.
The drive supports the latest SATA 6Gbps interface.