Crucial M4 64GB: Solid-State on a Budget

Storage
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Noise

As solid state drives have no spinning platters or moving parts of any kind, they are effectively silent storage devices. It is possible that there could be a tiny bit of electronic noise (typically a high pitched squeal) being emitted, either intermittently depending on task, or continuously, but the Crucial M4 64GB was completely silent. In fact, the only SSD we've ever tested that made any audible noise was the Zalman S Series 128GB model which produced an odd high frequency squeal whenever it was accessed.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Crucial M4 64GB is arranged with only one NAND chip connected to each of the eight channels provided by its Marvell controller, preventing each channel from reaching its full write potential. The obvious alternative to this strategy is to use only four channels with two NAND chips each but this would have decreased overall performance, not just writes. For SSDs, read speed is generally more important, particularly on small capacity models, so it's hard to argue with their reasoning. Manufacturers want to use the latest, most densely-packed NAND chips for their high-end products and prefer uniform production lines using the same parts to keep costs down. Unfortunately this means that smaller SSD models sometimes end up getting the shaft.

If we look purely at the reads tests, the M4 64GB is fairly competitive with modern SSDs like the best SandForce SF-2281 drives and the Samsung 830 Series. However, the limited write speeds has a substantial effect on all around performance, making it look like a last generation product ported onto a SATA 6 Gbps interface to keep up appearances. Despite this, it's still a stronger overall performer than any hard drive on the market, even 10,000 RPM models like the WD VelociRaptor. If you're looking for an SSD primarily for quicker loading times, that is the one area at which the M4 64GB excels.

Unfortunately the pricing scale doesn't favor low capacity SSDs either — the M4 64GB doesn't provide much bang for the buck. Its US$70 street price is comparable to various 60GB SandForce drives but bigger SSDs are much cheaper per byte and faster as well. The larger 128GB version of the M4 for example, costs only $30 more and has much higher specified write speeds than that of the 64GB model. Unless your budget is severely restricted, it's advisable to pay for the upgrade even if the extra capacity will largely go unused.

Many thanks to Crucial Technology for the M4 64GB solid state drive.

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SPCR Articles of Related Interest:

Kingston HyperX 3K 240GB vs. Samsung 830 Series 128GB
Corsair Force GS 240GB: SandForce with Toggle-Mode NAND
Western Digital Red 3TB & 1TB Hard Drives
ADATA XPG SX910 128GB Solid State Drive
WD VelociRaptor 1TB and Scorpio Blue 500GB
Hitachi Deskstar 7K3000 2TB Hard Drive

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