Our recent roundup of low cost mSATA SSDs would not be complete without the Crucial M500. The Crucial M500 has become a standard for a solid, reliable SSD at a low price point. It still uses MLC NAND giving it higher durability than TLC drives such as the Samsung 840. Crucial’s pricing has been extraordinary, regularly pushing $0.50/GB or less in 2.5″ form factors. Smaller drives like the 120GB versions provide less performance and cost a bit more per GB but at around $72 on Amazon it is a solid option.
We are using our SSD test bed for these drives for consistency purposes. To make all of our mSATA SSD series drives work in the platform we are using a nice Syba mSATA to 2.5″ SATA converter.
- Processor: Intel Xeon E3-1275 V3
- Motherboard: Supermicro X10SAE (Intel C226 based)
- Boot SSD: Samsung 840 Pro 256GB boot drive
- RAM: 32GB DDR3 ECC 1600MHz 4x 8GB UDIMMs
We are not testing these drives on our LSI SAS controller configuration for a simple reason: the mSATA form factor is unlikely to be utilized with LSI controllers in end-user systems. It should also be noted that we purchased two M500’s for this review. The first was DOA and Crucial was great on the RMA process.
The Crucial M500 120GB mSATA SSD
The Crucial M500 120GB drive we are looking at here is the 50mm mSATA model. Those are important figures as there are newer interfaces and various sizes for the newer form factor SSDs. With Intel’s Z97 launch and with newer notebooks, there is a transition to NGFF connectors and form factors. The takeaway is that one does need to be cautious regarding form factors.
Peeling back the sticker we can see a standard Marvell 88SS9187-BLD2 controller, two NAND packages and Micron (Crucial’s parent company) RAM.
On the rear of the SSD we two more NAND packages. Unlike many other solutions Crucial does have a capacitor array that seems to be write protection. Many modern SSDs write cache in RAM which can be lost if power fails suddenly. The Crucial M500 does have capacitors to allow RAM to flush.
Overall the Crucial M500 120GB mSATA drive comes in an industry standard form factor. Formatted capacity is about 111.8GB in Windows.
Crucial M500 120GB mSATA Benchmarks
It is important, especially with SSDs not to take a single test result at face value. One should look at a few different tests to get an idea of how the drives perform in different scenarios. To this end, AS SSD benchmark, CrystalDiskMark, ATTO all show different facets of performance.
AS SSD Benchmark
AS SSD is a solid benchmark that does not write compressible data to drives. The result is perhaps one of the best workstation SSD benchmarks available today.
Read speeds are fairly good but write speeds clearly lag the MyDigitalSSD BP4 SSD we reviewed recently.
CrystalDiskMark is another benchmark which gives non-compressible read/write numbers. This is in contrast to the ATTO Benchmark used by LSI/ Sandforce and its partners when they market a given solid state drive.
Again we can see acceptable but not great speeds. The overall objective of this testing was to find drives that could be used as small boot devices. The Crucial M500, while not the fastest, is adequate for this task.
The value of the ATTO benchmark is really to show the best-case scenario. ATTO is known to write highly compressible data to drives, which inflates speeds of controllers that compress data like LSI/ SandForce does prior to writing on a given solid state drive.
Here we get 430MB/s write and up to 520MB/s read speeds. Lower capacities of the M500 are known to perform poorly so these are more theoretical numbers rather than expectations of real world performance.
The Crucial M500 120GB mSATA drive is full of reasonable trade-offs. One gets solid read speeds but not the fastest write speeds. For many client workloads performance is adequate but not exceptional. What one does get is a fairly reliable drive (our DOA notwithstanding) at a low price. The power loss protection capacitors are a nice touch. For $72 on Amazon, these are certainly worth a look.